Years ago when my first book (non-fiction) came out, the question to have or not have a book launch never crossed my mind. Of course I was going to have one. Book launches were de rigueur; all the best people had one.
It was fun. I made a dress, had my hair done, etc. A bunch of congenial people crowded into the second floor of a local bookstore. I read, they listened. They asked questions, I answered them. We had nibbles. Some even bought books.
What sent my heart racing wasn’t that people were buying my books, but that some of the people buying my books were strangers. It’s one thing to sell to someone I knew. It was a whole other ballgame to realize that someone I’d never met lay down hard cash for my words.
By the time my first mystery came out, the world had changed. One big difference was that my non-fiction publisher was Canadian. I didn’t have to bother with cross-border ordering, exchange rates, etc. That made it easy both to get the books and price them at a reasonable rate.
On the other hand, my fiction publisher was in the States. The bookstore owner that I talked to about a launch laid out the economics for me: hardback price plus currency exchange plus Canadian tax meant that he would have to sell the book for $50.
There was no way I was going to ask friends or strangers to pay that kind of money.
There were other options. Eliminate the bookstore. Have the launch in a church hall or community center. Price the books myself, but by that time I’d learned the numbers. For every hundred strangers or every ten people who knew me and saw publicity about the launch, one would be interesting in attending. For every ten people who attended, one would be interested in buying.
So to sell, say, thirty books, I’d have to get the word out to three thousand strangers or three hundred people who knew me or a combination of those numbers. I didn’t have three hundred friends locally and I sure as heck didn’t know how to get the word out to to three thousand strangers. So no book launch, not for any of books one through four in the series.
Here comes mystery number five. To launch or not to launch? Once again, the world has changed. What I know now is that the purpose of a book launch isn’t to sell books. It’s a party and I feel like celebrating this milestone in my writing life. Now I know my way around the business well enough to have worked out a lower price deal. I’ve got a bookstore all lined up. I’m sending out lots of e-mail notices, and using Twitter, and doing other e-marketing. Sure, I’d love a huge crowd and lots of books sold that night, but if it doesn’t happen, me and however many people show up are going to have a fun.
I going to read; hopefully, they’re going to listen. They’re going to ask questions, I’m going to try to answer them. There will be nibbles. Maybe some books will be sold. And a good time will be had by all.
And the next day, I’ll be back at the computer, writing the work in progress in the morning, and do e-marketing like mad in the afternoon.
Publisher's release date November 14th.
Tell a librarian.
Quote for the week
The unread story is not a story; it is little black marks on wood pulp. The reader, reading it, makes it live: a live thing, a story.
~ Ursula K. Le Guin, author, poet, and essayist