You might assume that, as the sort of person who can happily devote hundreds of hours to sitting alone in a room making up stories, I’m unlikely to have much of the extrovert in me. Well, I don’t know if that’s just a stereotype, but if it is, it’s not one I could be said to buck. Hence my unease as my book launch drew nearer. Ah the horrifying prospect of a social event at which I’d be denied my usual refuge of (far too much) alcohol; one whose stated purpose was me!
With any luck, nobody would come.
But what if nobody were to come? That would be terrible.
My research had told me that, apart from a few high-end events, most book launches are relatively unimportant from the point of view of promoting a novel. They’re really just a chance for the writer to celebrate publication. So it wouldn’t matter if nobody came.
But what if nobody came? That would be awful.
Debut writers don’t tend to attract large audiences – nobody has heard of you after all. That’s why my publisher recommended I do my launch in the city where I live, so I could pull in favours, call on friends, colleagues, family, acquaintances… and thus (with luck) ensure myself a reasonable turnout.
And so, shamelessly – or rather with shamefaced determination – I set about pumping the upcoming event. To be fair, quite a number of people I know seemed excited by the novel, and interested in its central concept. Getting them out to a two hour event in a library on a Thursday evening, though, would be a different matter. I estimated that for every person who said yes to me, there would be two who wouldn’t make it. Twenty people would be reasonably respectable, I thought.
Then there were the practicalities. My publisher provided the wine, the library some soft drinks and cakes. I bought in fresh-made Indian finger food from a local shop. Since my novel is set in the 1960s, asking my friend Andy to put together a trio to play songs of the era seemed a nice idea.
Matt, the lovely community librarian, and his team of brilliant volunteers organised everything else. I wrote a talk, decided which bits from the book might make for good readings. Debbie from our local independent bookshop arranged for two members of her team to run a stall selling copies of the novel.
It went well. We sold out on the bookstall, the audience (about thirty in the end, including many people who didn’t know me) seemed to have a good time, and I now have a talk I can revise for use at future events. I won’t be looking to set myself up as a party planner any time soon, but I feel pretty good about it all.