Tuesday, November 13, 2012

To Launch or Not To Launch?

Sharon Wildwind

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


Janet C said...

Happy birthday to me! It's always a treat when one of your books comes out, but this time it's on my birthday. It's like getting an extra gift. Looking forward to it.

Anonymous said...

How wonderful! Wish I could be there! Your NYC friends will be there in spirit! Thelma Straw in Manhattan

Steven M. Moore said...

Hi Sharon,
Congrats on mystery #5. I'm assuming you're extroverted, so a book release is an excellent excuse for a party!
As an introverted author, these traditional "book events" are not fun for me, though. I've taught big lecture classes of 200+ students, but the book events are more intimate and less formal. I have to work on that.
That's why I echo your reluctant enthusiasm for e-marketing. Modern publishing allows even introverted authors like me to market their books. I don't dedicate half a day to it, but I do spend most Fridays. We have to do so in order to find readers.
All the best,

Anonymous said...

Thanks, guys and gals.

Steve, like you, I'm more introverted, but I learned to go "on stage" a long time ago, strangely because of nursing, not because of writing. As long as I don't try to do it too often, I can hit the "perform" button, do what needs to be done, then get the heck off the stage. I'm so glad there are do at home things via the Internet that also work for publicity.