“It’s a bit awkward”, someone pointed out to me, “it’s like organising your own birthday party!” Sure it is but let’s face it, organising your own book launch has a number of advantages. Here are some tips I learned along the way:
1. Never assume
Don’t assume that your colleagues have the time or inclination to organise a book launch for you. No doubt they are happy for your publishing success but that doesn’t mean they have time to get quotes from caterers! Take control of your own book launch, organise it yourself, and invite your colleagues so they feel really guilty.
2. Check the post
There is nothing worse than being left high and dry at you own book launch without a copy of your book to wave around. So contact your publisher, pester your publisher, ask for your book to be sent by courier not ordinary mail, tell them that you have scheduled your book launch for a specific date, and get them to swear on their first-born child that your book will arrive in time.
3. Flyering, what’s flyering?
Your publisher will usually send you a flyer for your book or can do so on request. This is a great way to advertise the imminent arrival of your book and to advertise the promotional discount! Post the flyer on your door and on noticeboards, send it around by email and paste it on people’s heads (no, not the last one).
4. Location, location, location
As far as venues are concerned, classrooms and staffrooms are a turn-off (there is something about that stale sandwich smell) and it’s just weird to use your own office as a venue (even if it is unusually large). Try to pick a venue for a smallish-sized crowd. One hundred empty seats really isn’t a great look. Library spaces, gallery spaces, museums and of course bookshops are usually the best choices.
5. The food=love equation
Ask your Department about funding support for catering. There is often a small budget set aside for such things. This can help cover the cost of the hot canapés, leaving the cheaper items (the vege sticks, bread and dip) to you. Food = love. Simple.
Champagne for everyone! And no plastic glasses please. Bad for the environment, and bad for style!
7. Invite your family (yes, the whole family)
Gone are the days when academics went to great lengths to pretend that they had no spouse, partner or children and that they are a robotic race of self-generated individuals without any family connections. And frankly, if you have managed to publish a book at the same time as having a spouse, partner and children, it’s damn well time you got some credit for it. So bring them along, bring all of them along, aged zero to one hundred, and show the world that you wrote a book with one foot rocking a bassinet, one hand on a cup of coffee made by your dearly beloved, and one ear on the phone to grandma.
8. Manage your excitement
There is something really liberating about a book launch – the culmination of years of effort, sweat and tears. There is something about the word ‘launch’ that might make you want to wear pink sequins and a feather headdress, or maybe belt out a karaoke version of ‘Eye of the Tiger’, or actually to launch something (or someone) in the air, but please, contain yourself. Save all of this for going out afterwards!
9. Short and sweet
Find someone really nice to give you a smashing introduction. Keep your own blurb nice and short. Tell the audience about yourself. Convey your passion. Thank people meaningfully. Tell them enough but don’t tell them everything – you want them to read your book, don’t you?
10. Don’t stop
Keep promoting your book even after the event – on social media, on radio, through lectures and events. Just because the launch is over doesn’t mean you should stop talking about yourself (and your book).