10 Do’s and Don’ts For Your First Book Launch
Writing a book is like having a baby. You nourish an idea for months, feeding it from your own blood, sweat and soul (sometimes even tears in case Writer’s Block comes looking) and then, somehow, by some miracle, your baby is conceived – you finish writing it.
Now comes the gestation period – the period of sending it off to agents and publishers, hoping for that all-elusive yes. And then…then…it comes. The yes. The signing of the contract. Editing and refining your MS, adding a sexy, eye-popping cover and months (for some, it’s years) of waiting comes to an end with a screech.
You are now faced with the dreaded R word. Release Day. For some, this is an online affair to be celebrated and feted and urging friends and foes alike to consider supporting you by plunking down $0.99 for your baby. This is called a soft launch, when the books are arriving in stores and warehouses, making their way into the display racks at Crossword and Kitaab Khana (if you’re fortunate to have an awesome, pushy publisher) and many others and you dance a happy little jig because the moment has arrived.
Your baby is out in the real world. It has arms and legs and, god, you hope it has the heart to hold the attention of readers and reviewers alike.
So then you take yet another step. After months and months of plugging and talking about your book, reliving the good and not so good parts of it, hearing what commentary is attached to it…you decide to give it one final push.
You want to have a Book Launch.
And this is where things get tricky and interesting.
I remember talking to Amrita Chaudhary, my publisher at Harlequin who told me point-blank, “Aarti, it’s great you want to do a book launch. But unless you can draw in eyeballs, no point in it. You need a celebrity, someone well-known if you want the press to cover it. And you need the press to cover it.”
And there it was. My learning curve, which already seemed like miles-long started stretching again. And I nodded my head and started jotting things down in my trusty notebook. Long story short, I had the book launch (Kingdom Come, July 17, 2014, Sapna Bookstore, Bangalore) and it was fantastic and I enjoyed myself immensely. Did the press cover it? Yeah. Did it give my ego a nice little boost? Yeah.
But the road to getting there was a fun one and my understanding of how the industry works changed for the better at the end of the launch affair. Here are a few of my personal do’s and don’ts in case you decide to give your baby a nice little birthday party too!
Consult With Contemporaries
It is always nice to have someone who’s been there, done that showing you the ropes on how it’s done. This doesn’t mean you don’t do your own due diligence, but having an author pal give you a blueprint does take some of the stress out of the project.
And, failing that, consult with professionals leveraging your network to get someone who knows how to manage events and will do so gratis (if you cannot afford to pay ‘em. In my experience, donuts work as much as hugs and real money. Although real money works the best!)
Collaborate With The Bookstore (Or Whatever Venue You Choose)
So back in May 2014, when I was still a greenhorn author (in many ways I still am), I had what was called a book signing – and it was exactly what the term means. I go to bookstores, sign books and leave. There is no fanfare, no trumpets blowing and definitely no celebrity sightings.
This is NOT your book launch. At your book launch, there will be people who have come for a reading, the bookstore manager will treat you extra nicely and, praise god, there will be coffee if not wine!
Plan Your Outfit Carefully
They say that the best writers let their writing speak for themselves, but the ugly truth is that beauty matters. Putting your best foot forward for the paps and selfies requires you to clean up and wear ironed jeans at the least or shake off those high-heels and LBD (whatever is your version of the LBD sari/pants/a cool breezy anarkali) if you are a female author. For dudes, sport coats and no slip-ons?
A sharply dressed author makes a better impression than one who spouts Kafka and doesn’t bother to comb their hair. Appearances matter, make yours shine.
(At my ill-fated book signing in 2014, I wore these amazing, PAINFUL pair of Charles and Keith shoes that were slightly older than their sell by date. By the time we reached our final destination after a whole day of roaming around bookstores battling Mumbai traffic, the faux leather shoes had started flaking and I was in absolute tears. Another side note for the lovely ladies: wear comfy shoes while traveling and only slip into your three-inch slingbacks when you walk into the launch/bookstore.)
Ensure Your Books Are Displayed
Whatever you do, I cannot stress this enough, PLEASE make sure that your books arrive at the venue on time and in good condition. I have heard instances of authors showing up for the launch and the books are stuck in transit, or their POs haven’t been fulfilled. Or the staff is just too lazy to have coordinated for the same. BE ON TOP of making sure the product arrives. Trust me, selling an invisible book is not as easy as it looks.
Network For The Celebrity
Sure, there are instances of people paying outrageous sums of money to get SRK or Kajol or whoever on stage and reading from the Great Indian Novel. And sure, when the invite has a B-town A-list celebrity on the cover the press gets a lot more excited, but it would be advisable to utilize the money you’re going to throw in this direction for some subtler marketing (Facebook ad spends, making a worthy book trailer etc.)
Ask around in your personal and professional networks. In this extremely connected network that we live in someone will know someone who works with someone famous. Leverage your connections to get a billing and work your own magic on the crowd. It will be way more worth it.
Advertise, Advertise, Advertise
Plan for the launch atleast a couple months (if not more) in advance, which gives you adequate buffer time to start talking it up everywhere. Unless you have 500 people on speed dial who will all show up on asking, building buzz around the event and giving it FOMO (fear of missing out) helps a lot when it comes to attracting a crowd of readers, well-wishers and event-goers. Use the usual channels Social Media, Dancing on the streets, adding a cute little email signature, mentioning it to your masseuse, your dogwalker, your neighborhood sabziwala…
Location Matters (And So Does Food)
Real estate, as they say, is everything when it comes to the book launch. Be it a bookstore, or a posh hotel or you’re doing it at your neighborhood library. Ensure that the place is well-ventilated, has enough seating for more people than you invited (if 25% of the crowd you invited shows up take the win!) and the MC knows the order of things.
And, do not forget the food. Cookies, coffee and tea. Or wine and cheese. One book launch I attended had a whole dinner buffet laid out, (with free beer!)
Feed the people at your launch. They’ll be more inclined to pay for the privilege of owning a signed copy and you’ll see your sales numbers increase! Hungry people are unhappy people and unhappy people do not shop.
Being The Author
You are the star of the evening. People are all there to see YOU – in all your defenseless, charming glory. So own it. Smile. A LOT. Take pictures and personally welcome everyone who shows up. These people readjusted their schedules for you, they prioritized your event instead of Netflix and chilling. Make them feel important. It’s the least you can do, right?
If there is a Q and A session, be impromptu but do know that you’re being filmed if by no one else but your mother (father, spouse) so be articulate too. Talk about the things you know and be graceful while admitting ignorance.
If you’re truly nervous about speaking in public (and let’s face it, most of us are), have a prop in hand. A glass of water, your glasses, the book in your hand, something that you can fiddle with without making it seem too obvious that you’re nervous. Take a deep breath as it helps clear your mind and go for it. Whatever you say is the right thing to say.
So yeah it took ages to plan. And you don’t know if the reviews are going to slam you or laud you. You feel sick to your stomach as you walk onstage, with your baby in hand, waiting for the world to lay you open. Yes, it’s hard. Impossibly, incredibly hard. But it’s also fun.
The trick is in knowing that the book launch is all about you as much as the book. So shine, smile, preen! Have your moment in the spotlight. Take a bow.
Congratulations, you made it. You’re an author now. 🙂
Article Contributed by: Aarti V Raman
Aarti graduated from Mumbai University in 2007 with a degree in Mass Media focused on Journalism. She has also worked as a copy editor, social media consultant, commercial content writer-editor.
Aarti’s ambition of honing her craft and writing stories, particularly romances that have strong characters and stronger plots that remain etched in the reader’s minds, grew when she sold her first novel White Knight (Leadstart Publishing), in 2012.
In 2013, her work was excerpted in the Tamil Edition of Mills and Boon novels. And in 2014, her short story Post-Coital Cigarette was chosen to be part of the Rupa Romance Anthology An Atlas of Love curated by bestselling author Anuja Chauhan. Her last novel Kingdom Come (Harlequin MIRA) has enjoyed a brief stay at the bestseller lists in Amazon India. Her third book With You I Dance (Fingerprint! Publishing) released in April 2016 and debuted on the Amazon India Romance Bestseller list.