What’s it really like to have a book launch?

11667980_10101219432734189_1839071074_nIf you’re anything like me pre-publication, you probably spend a lot of time day-dreaming about this moment. You’ll be drifting about in a fantastic outfit, accepting congratulations with a humble smile, having fun….Everyone is there, from your parents to your friends, to your worst enemy (magnanimously invited to see your triumph), and is that Salman Rushdie over there chatting to Jilly Cooper? The fantasy book launch up there with the other golden moments- getting the book deal call, seeing your book in your hand for the first time, going on This Morning and realising Philip is totes flirting with you….(just me?)…. But does this live up to reality?

I had my first launch, for The Fall, in 2012. This was held in Goldsboro books, which is tucked away on Cecil Court near Charing Cross, and specialises in signed first-edition hardbacks. I got my hair done, bought a new frock, wrote a speech on index cards (which I then left in the taxi). I worried quite a bit. And lots of people came, and it was lovely.

Book launches are no longer routine these days, so you may not have one at all. Or you might decide, you wrote a book, why not organise a party anyway? You will need:

A venue – some bookshops will hold them if you provide drinks, or you can hire an area in a bar, often for a minimum spend

Guest list – invite people by Facebook or email, no need for paper ones (though these were still being sent out up to about two years ago)

WINE – essential for wetting the book’s head. Also beer is nice. And cake. Cake is always appreciated. No need for canapes, I don’t think. I always think they look nice then end up looking for somewhere to get rid of a load of cocktail sticks, or with bits of Parma ham in my teeth.

Short speech/reading – aim for something funny OR a bit of sex. That is a top #pro tip there for reading aloud. People get bored stunningly fast with live readers, especially for authors who usually aren’t trained public speakers. Thank your family/partner if you have one, agent, publishers.

PEN – do not forget this, for signing books. I, who usually have at least ten on my person, came out without one for my last launch. Stressed, moi?

Mic/playlist? If the venue has a PA, try to use a mic as people can never hear you at the back. I usually also have to stand on a chair as I’m 5 foot 3. My last launch featured a Beyonce-heavy playlist and this was fun to put together. We even had a small dance (see WINE).

Photos – ask someone with a decent camera or phone to take some, as you’ll never remember.

Last week I launched my new book, The Thirty List (as Eva Woods). This time it was in a bar, with books for sale, and cake and wine etc etc. It was lovely, but I was very anxious on the build-up to it. What if no one came? What if they came but didn’t have a good time, and never spoke to me again? (My anxieties take a weirdly specific form). What if everyone hated the book? Because that’s the thing about book launches – in your head they are shiny and sparkly and lovely, but it also means your book is OUT IN THE WILD and ready to be judged. And that can be quite anxiety-making. Which is where the wine comes in.

I wish you all future book launches full of fun and words and wine. If you write, you might like to check out this summary of a ‘how to get published’ event I did at my university, City London, a few weeks back. If features tips from me, one of my published students, and a top editor and agent (AKA my friend Katherine and my agent Diana). Enjoy! And thanks to everyone who came to mine, especially Anna my editor and Diana. Oh and to my boyfriend who put up with me almost being late to my own launch and a last-minute panicked message to ‘just bring pens….loads of pens!’

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