By Sarah Ayoub
Planning the launch of your first book is probably one of the most exciting things on the first book journey. Not only does it seal the deal in what is often a long and tiresome process, but it also heralds the time when your big work goes out into the real world: into libraries and bookshops, schools and handbags, bedside tables and home bookshelves. Here, I share some pointers about launching a novel based on my own experience.*
1. Decide on a date: You’d think this part would be the easy one, but the people you want to be there are either going on holidays, or are away for work trips, or have functions on that night. Work out with your agent and publisher to be just before, or right around (the week of, or week after) on-sale date.Especially good to drum up hype on social media to coincide with press and promos, and of course, displays under the ‘New Releases’ in a store.
2. Secure a venue: You can have your book launch where ever you like, but for a debut author, a book shop is ideal. Why? It gives people the perfect opportunity to purchase the book and have it signed on the night, especially if they are customers who just happen to be in the store at the time (which is once again why Thursday nights are ideal). I had a fair amount of street traffic at my launch, which actually did translate to sales. One couple were from Canada and though they had never heard of me (or the Cronulla Riots that inspired my storyline) they figured they’d buy a book because it’s not every day they can get a first edition signed copy. Win for you, win for reader, win for store. You can choose any bookshop you like – sentimental reasons, proximity to the CBD, a store that’s in a suburb where your book is set or whatever. I choose Kinokuniya in Sydney’s Galeries Victoria for sentimental reasons: as soon as I was old enough to go to the city by myself, I would go there all the time and whittle away time browsing the shelves. It was a wordsmith wonderland. Anyway, the staff there were very helpful and provided tables, chairs, a decent amount of space and really promoted the launch for me: placing stacks of the book at the front of the store and sharing news of the launch on their newsletter and social networks.
3. Find someone to launch it: Yes, you need someone to officially launch the book. I chose Sarah Tarca, editor of Girlfriend magazine, because she was also the person whose quote I put on the cover. Her word was gospel to my teen demographic, I shared her passion for inspiring and empowering teenage girls, and I really loved what she did on the magazine, which is why my character Sophie read it. That said, you also need someone to introduce the launcher – that’s usually your publisher, someone close to you who can share some insights about the book, or even a hired MC. The protocol on the night:Someone to introduce the launcher, the launcher saying a few words and launching the title, and you saying your own words before you plonk yourself down in a chair and sign copies for all your adoring fans. My agent has been in the industry for decades and to her, this last thing was absolutely paramount.
4. Send invitations: With all those minor details locked in, you can send out invites. Sometimes your publisher will do it (as they did it in my case) designing some great invites that matched the cover and handling all the RSVPs. I invited friends and family, and I let them handle all the ‘necessary’ invites – which mostly went to YA bloggers who are usually quite supportive of Australian authors. I met some lovely ones on the night who really made my first publishing experience better than I could have hoped. They know who they are, but I would especially like to thank the girls at Ladies of YA for being AWESOME.
5. Catering + Champagne: You can’t be the toast of the night (and neither can your book) if there’s nothing to toast with. The catering aspect should be the most fuss-free portion of the evening, but usually it’s not. Remember a launch is not dinner – just some light canapes or cupcakes or macarons. Or great cookies with the cover on them (if you have a decent stream of money). Something tiny to nibble on during the mingling or the talks. I went with traditional Lebanese fare which corresponded the wording on the cover and some mentions in the book – and it went off. A lot of people loved it, probably because my mum made it. There were vegetarian options, and I also made sure there were some Lebanese sweet treats and some lollies. Having non-alcoholic beverages on hand is also essential, but I didn’t want my guests fussing with bottles of different brand drinks and waters the whole night. The best (and most elegant solution) was to provide them with Santa Vittoria waters and sodas in glass bottles. The sodas came in four different flavours so there was a lot of variety, and it meant my guests could just grab them off a tray instead of pouring things for themselves. (I had also hired two waitresses to work the crowd – this minimised fuss during the speech and gave the event a more professional feel – however that is entirely optional and totally dependent on budget).
6. Hire a photographer: Your first book launch! Exciting, right? So you’ll want to commemorate the occasion. I hired photographer Shayben Moussa, who works at Hair/Fashion/Culture mag The Journal, and the great thing about having a professional there was him snapping away in the background without me needing to worry about anything. And I got my images in my dropbox the very next day.
7. Celebrate: I bet you don’t need pointers from me on this part right? After years of writing, editing, publisher-scouting, thumb-twiddling and whatever else happened while you waited for your manuscript to manifest in a real life book, you can finally breathe. Having everyone who was there on the journey to celebrate with on the night is a massive highlight, and overall, launch night was not one I think I will ever forget.
*Buying a dress that matches your cover is entirely optional.
Sarah Ayoub is a freelance journalist and commentator based in Sydney, Australia. Her work has appeared in various print and online publications including Marie-Claire, Madison, Sunday Magazine, ABC Unleashed,Notebook, The Punch, Shop Til You Drop, Cleo, Frankie,Yen, Girlfriend and more, and she has spoken at numerous industry events with the Emerging Writer’s Festival, NSW Writer’s Centre, The Walkley Foundation, Vibewire and more. Her first book, Hate is Such a Strong Word was released this year. This article was first published on Sarah's website, Wordsmith Lane. You can follow Sarah on Twitter here.
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