How to Launch a Book

Launching a ship requires a goodly crowd and a large bottle of champagne. Exactly the same principles apply to book launches, though without all the sea-water.  

Daunt Books, Hampstead Heath

I’ll skip the question of whether you “need” a physical launch. I didn’t have a launch for any of my non-fiction books, unless you count one publisher’s lavish effort with a bowl of peanuts and about three people.  

Here’s what I learned from the launch of my novel Hampstead Fever earlier this week.

1 My best tip: share the launch with another author. But no sailing under flags of convenience.  You must like the other author and their book.

I shared Wednesday evening at Daunt Books, Hampstead Heath, with my fellow author Christine Webber. It was her second novel and my second novel, and we’d both had around 12 non-fiction books published already. While Who’d Have Thought It? isn’t much like Hampstead Fever, it’s in the same genre and both make good summer reads.  

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2 Invite people because you like them, not just because they’re “useful”. The second type has a disconcerting habit of finding something more interesting to do on the night. Besides, you’re celebrating your achievements, so you should enjoy the proceedings.

3 Don’t be ill.  I got this terribly wrong last week. On the plus side, some people thought it was a clever marketing ploy.  “So,” said one waggish author friend. “I suppose you’ve got Hampstead Fever?”

4 Have plenty of food and drink. Especially drink.  If you can, have someone to serve people wearing white gloves. Class.

Fron L to R: me, Orna Roass, Jane Davis

From left to right: me, Orna Ross and Jane Davis

5 Take a pen. Of course you’ve already practised your authorial signature and worked out what to write by way of dedications, but something to write with does come in useful.

6 Get someone to take photos. Even better, ask several people, just in case. Make sure they capture the really important shots, eg with your family.

Christine with some friends

Christine Webber with some of her friends

7 Say a few words about yourself and your book.  You might mention the drawers full of unpublished masterpieces, or explain why you write instead of doing something easier, like transplant surgery. Thank key people, but remember it’s not an Oscar acceptance speech. Five to seven minutes will do, especially if more than one person speaks. Christine and I didn’t do readings, but many authors do. At a recent multiple launch, authors from the Triskele collective had others read excerpts aloud, to great effect.

7 Consider getting someone to introduce you and/or field questions from the audience. Someone might want to know how you write (“Is it true that you do your best writing in a rainy orchard with nothing on?”) or whether that scene is based on real life. On second thoughts, skip the questions.

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8 Consider merchandise (bookmarks, pencils and other trifles) or a draw for a book-related prize.  You could also have a slide-show or a book trailer running. The sky’s the limit, really, but it can become tacky, look desperate, or interfere with sheer enjoyment of the event.  

Concentrate on essentials like chilled fizz and plenty of copies of your book, and you’ll have a great send-off for your new title.

Pippa and Bethany of Daunt Books

Pippa and Bethany of Daunt Books

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A Bit of a Smokescreen

Not with real smoke, obviously (I gave up years ago and you should too).  Just a smokescreen to conceal what’s on my mind.  So today I’m letting Dorottya from One Night at the Jacaranda do her thing.  If you’re acquainted with Dorottya, you’ll know how appropriate this is.  And she lives on Bensons.

Dorottya tossed her long black hair over one shoulder and lapped up the attention she always got, especially when she wore bright red lipstick and a Romany-style scarf.

red print scarf

She had removed her wedding band, although she doubted if any man would have noticed had she left it on. Men were such idiots, she told herself while bestowing a dazzling smile on the congregated males.

This she had suspected from a young age. Her theory had been confirmed on leaving her home town of Szeged and going to work for her first family in England. Then, her hair had not been so glossy or so black, nor had her teeth been so white, but modern science could do a lot for mousy girls with stained incisors. English lessons helped, though progress was less about pronunciation and more about fluency in body language. By her third au pair job, she had reinvented herself as a femme fatale, albeit one with impeccable references when it came to looking after young children, helping them play creatively, cooking nourishing meals and keeping house. This last au pair posting was a huge success. So successful that she had been promoted to stepmother. 

“Can I get you a drink?” asked a short man whose eyes were too close together.

As usual the women were much better turned out, thought Dorottya. She giggled strategically and replied “I’ll have pink champagne.”pink champagne

“Bubbly, eh? Just like you.”

She could feel his desperate breath as he handed her the glass.  “Thank you.”  He was repulsive and there was no way she was going to hook up with him, as the English expression went.  Still she lowered her eyelashes as she took a sip. He was no accountant, she thought, because you could end up buying lots of expensive drinks on a night like this without seeing a return for your outlay.  And he obviously hadn’t been speed-dating before, unlike Dorottya.

She sighed.  One was forced to find a little fun from time to time. 

Seven Lessons from a Honeymoon

Honeymoon Mark II got off to a promising start.  For one thing, my mother didn’t come along this time.

The years since my first marriage had rolled forward like breakers on the shore, too many to count, so there were other changes too.  I learnt a lot in just one sunny week in the Med.

1.   It’s a good plan to tell the hotel it’s your viaggio di nozze, not least for the complimentary fruit and fizz in the room, plus free entry to the spa.IMG-20130927-00545

2. Italian is a language that comes back easily, even if you never studied it before.  New Husband went native.  By day two, he could say ‘Bon Jovi’ and pinch my bottom at the same time.

3.  Russian is a must if you want to chat to fellow hotel guests.  It had been a few years since I’d stayed in a resort hotel.  Nobody told me the oligarchs had bought Italy.

4.  Champagne can be sold out even when it costs 5,000 Euro a bottle. Yep, conspicuous consumption is the name of the game, and they don’t just drink vodka.

5.   Someone’s changed the print on every single map, menu and guide book.  We should have brought a magnifying glass.  It would also have been useful after a rash encounter with a prickly pear, especially if we’d packed tweezers as well.

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6.  It was low season for humans, though not for insects.  Without repellent, female mosquitoes zoomed in on New Husband’s legs and feasted on a lavish buffet.*  More gorged themselves next day.  Had the mozzies given him a rave review on TripAdvisor?

7.    It’s not such a good idea to hot-brush your hair when your other half is feeling romantic.  Your hair wand could singe his, er, wand.

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Although my mother wasn’t with us, we managed to entertain ourselves.  Every morning, a date palm burst into activity as parakeets squabbled until they evicted one or more.  But you know what large families and overcrowded flats are like.  The respite was temporary.

People-watching came into its own at dinner.  When not admiring Russian molls in their pink patent platform heels and the worst of Cartier’s excesses, we were amused by Monsieur Langouste.  Moustachioed, combed-over, and looking for all the world like a TinTin character in his black vest, he began every meal with five lobsters, which he’d repeat for the main course.

Most people took advantage of the extensive menu, piling their plates high with rack of lamb, aubergine parmigiana, sea-bass, Brussels sprouts, tuna carpaccio, pizza, plus a side salad.

Oh, wait. That was us.  Which may explain the souvenir we brought home.  Excess baggage.

* Link to Are You a Mosquito Magnet?  http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/are-you-mosquito-magnet

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