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  You might mention the drawers full of unpublished masterpieces, or explain why you write instead of doing something easier, like transplant surgery.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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What to Put in Your Writing Space (and What to Leave Out)

As one of the least tidy people, I’m not remotely qualified to tell you, but my wonderful writer friend Joni Rodgers knows exactly what a workspace needs and doesn’t need. It’s taken from a post she wrote called The Art of Upscale Downsizing, this is what she did. I hope it entertains and inspires you. 

Joni Rodgers, author

Earlier this month, the Griz and I moved into our new quasi-retirement digs (read Ageing Hippie Lakeside Love Grotto), between thunderstorms and flash flood warnings. As water continued to rise just a few hundred yards from our new place, the complex management sent out text messages warning residents to watch for snakes on the property, and in the spirit of encroaching apocalypse, I did something I’ve never done before: I made my office my first priority.

Typically, my office (or my cough “office” cough) has been the last room in the house to be finished. This time, my kids are grown, my life is my own, and the Griz is happy to share center stage with the work that keeps me happy and contributing to our solvency. I’m scheduled to dive into editing Orna Ross’s forthcoming historical novel about W.B. Yeats and his paramour Maud Gonne. It’s a beautiful, important book, and I wanted to be ready for it.

My new sun-room office in this one-bedroom apartment is just 8×10 feet–half the size of my upstairs office, with which I’d fought a major organizational/ housekeeping battle, in our old four-bedroom house. I was nervous about the drastic downsizing, but as I worked through the process, I made three simple rules, which turned out to be the three things I love most about my Woolfish “room of one’s own”:

1) Every object must earn its footprint. For me, that means everything in this room has to a) serve and purpose and b) make me happy. Utilitarian + Joy = worth it.

Making the cut: A Salvador Dali coffee table book doubles as a lap desk. A Dr. Seuss lunch-box that houses paperclips and pushpins. My great-grandma’s kitschy plaster cat, now in charge of pens and highlighters.

No longer happening: Furniture, wall art and tchotchkes that were nice to have and sometimes hard to let go of but didn’t pass a test of archival value (“Will my kids really want this after I’m dead?”) or serve a daily need.

Gorgeous thrift store china cabinet: no. Tiger oak chair rescued from a defunct VA hospital: yes. I could have made an argument for the usefulness of either one, but the chair earns that footprint. The cabinet served as a junk collector simply because it was there. No cabinet = no junk. Winning!

Joni's new workspace

2) Nothing but work happens in the workspace. It occurred to me that my most precious natural resources, time and space, are both limited, and my mindset for one naturally influences my mindset for the other. This small square footage is premium real estate, and it’s most valuable to me as clean, feng shui friendly floorspace. Cluttering it with plastic bins, file boxes and obsolete computer equipment detracts from the calm, creative vibe I’m striving for, and though a lot of that stuff is arguably work-related, it’s not the work I’m working on now, so it doesn’t earn a footprint in this space. 

Same goes for time clutter. A while back, I declared a “Facebook only while standing” policy, which immediately made me more mindful of the time I was wasting there. I try to justify social network activity as “platforming”, but in truth, 90% of that falls more accurately under “farting around”. So no more magazines or leisure books on the desk, and no more games or aimless net surfing on the office computer. (Isn’t that why God created smart phones?)

Old manuscripts, tax records, press archives, correspondence and keepsakes took up a huge amount of space in my old office and our over-spill storage unit. I invested in a NeatDesk scanner and opted into their whole system. I’m still working through the mass exodus of paper from the storage unit, but the bottom line is: everything that can be digital must be digital. And almost anything can be digital.

I’ll admit, I cried letting go of my kids’ school projects, which I’d been justifying as decor in my old office. I’m keeping a few framed pieces for the wall here, but everything else is being digitally archived. My plan is to compile a coffee table book for each kid, which will be equally feng shui friendly in their future homes.

3) I work at home; I do not live at work. In the past, when my office got out of control, I could close the door and keep the insanity to myself. My new sun-room office is open to the living room in our new apartment, so it has to jibe with the living room aesthetic, and that forced me to be more mindful of the way my work serves (or or doesn’t serve) the greater goal: a happy, healthy home life with this man I love. My work tends to take over at times, and I’ve learned that allowing work to hog all my time, space and waking thought actually makes me less productive in the long run, because I get fried and don’t allow myself to recharge.

While plotting books, I’ve always built out massive grids of sticky notes on the wall à la Beautiful Mind. I had stacks of books that were sent to me for reviews and blurbs. I tacked up Max Parish and Ansel Adams calendar art and scrawled notes on corkboards. The purpose of all that (in my head) was part organization, part inspiration, and it worked for me in that space, but it’s not what I want to look at when I’m sitting in my living room. Not working. (No, really, I’m not. Seriously! I really mean it this time!)

Going forward, I’ll be organizing writing and ghostwriting projects with Scrivener, which allows me to integrate research, character notes, and chapter material. (Try it! You’ll like it.) A Passion Planner satisfies my need to physically write things down and brilliantly brings all those random corkboards and creative impulses into an intelligent plan of daily, weekly and monthly actions that pragmatically serve my creative goals. Instead of keeping a file drawer for editing and ghostwriting clients, I’m streamlining editing and book doctor projects via a nifty online system called 17 Hats, which allows me to create typical work flows from first contact to client invoice.

Joni's snazzy wall art

So instead of a blizzard of flailing sticky notes, I now have one powerful, wall-wide work of art that genuinely does serve to inspire me and provides a super cool counterpoint to the more conventional living room art. I got this amazing canvas frame X-Men panel on Overstock.com for less than $100. (It’s actually a room divider.) It comes from “The Dark Phoenix Saga”, in which Jane Grey (now Phoenix) kicks the stone-cold keister of Emma Frost (aka the White Queen).

Her power is a song within her… a passion beyond human comprehension. She is more alive than she has ever been

Just the right vibe for a fiercely focused and beautifully functional creative workspace.

Crazy for Trying

You can find out more about Joni’s writing and other talents right here on her website.

 

Selfish Thoughts on World Book Night

No, I’m not doing anything for it either. Not giving out any of the 20 lovely books, or encouraging people to love reading. Nor (and thank you for reminding me it’s also St George’s Day and the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death) even reciting random sonnets while dressed up as a dragon. Though it might have been fun.

St George

I’ll be doing something far more self-centred. Writing two more books, and hoping that at least one of them will be done by the deadline without my turning into a dodgy fabric merchant. The worst thing about writing is that you become a recluse, as my family often points out. My husband is hovering as I write, holding up that dragon costume that will remain unworn this year, just as last. I may look up momentarily and point out that St George, if he slayed the dragon at all, slayed him in Lebanon, not England, before returning to my work in progress.

The second worst thing about being a writer is that you run out of time for reading. But all authors love reading. It’s what made them write in the first place.

Kathleen Jones

So I’m pointing you in the direction of a celebration of reading by the authors of Outside the Box: Women Writing Women, with Jane Davis, Joni Rodgers, Orna Ross, Kathleen Jones, Roz Morris, Jessica Bell and myself, along with a guest spot from bookworm extraordinaire Peter Snell. It’s all right here on Jane Davis’s fine blog.

Happy reading.

Carol Cooper

 

9 Reasons Why You Should Not Read These Books

In case you’ve somehow missed my bragging, seven of us indie authors have got together to create an ebook compilation called OUTSIDE THE BOX: Women Writing Women. Some literati types like Dan Holloway and JJ Marsh love it already, but what do they know? I think it’s only fair to slap on a great big warning and tell you it’s not for everyone. 

Warning about Outside the Box

Here are nine reasons why you might want to steer well clear of OUTSIDE THE BOX:

1 You don’t like reading.

Maybe, like Kanye West, you are not a fan of books.  Kanye adds, ‘I would never want a book’s autograph. I am a proud non-reader of books.’  If this applies to you too, you’ve read too much already. Stop right now and go rinse your brain with the finest hip-hop until you’re out of danger.

Kathleen Jones

2 You only read books written by men.

Well, that’s your prerogative. As far as I know, there’s no book police yet, though there are traps like the works of George Eliot, George Sand, Ellis Bell, AM Barnard, JD Robb, Isak Dinesen and JK Rowling/Robert Galbraith

Jessica Bell

3 You like one-dimensional characters.

In that case you will probably hate the woman who’s accused of killing her father, the young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother, the prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter, the wife of a drug lord who attempts to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son, or any of the other unforgettable people featured in OUTSIDE THE BOX. This, it should be noted, is fiction about independent-minded, unconventional women. (Though you will also find quite a lot about the lives of men, children and animals.)

Carol Cooper

4 Strong language offends you.

Or maybe you think ‘sex’ is what goes on a form when you’re asked whether you’re male or female. As there isn’t the equivalent of a British Board of Film Classification, there should be an alert here. These books include swearing and even scenes of an intimate nature. The authors did not write these books to please their parents or Mother Superior.

5 You only ever read books in one genre.

Oh, dear. Authors like Joanne Harris and Jane Davis have seriously over-estimated you because they believe readers like a diversity of writing.

Jane Davis

6 You avoid books by independent authors.

Maybe that’s because you haven’t read any yet? More and more books are self-published. Literary agent Andrew Lownie believes that in five to ten years, 75% of books will be self-published. The revolution in publishing has brought a brand new crop of indie writers willing to take risks. We’re no more alike than are authors published by the Big Five. But, as Roz Morris says, we seven have all proved our worth already with awards, fellowships and, of course, commercial success.  Now’s your chance to get a toe wet.

Roz Morris

7 You fight shy of weighty issues, even when they’re lightly treated. 

Caution: this box set covers the full spectrum from light (although never frothy) to darker, more haunting reads that delve into deeper psychological territory. Maybe best stick to books where the biggest crisis is a broken fingernail or a scuffed Manolo. 

Joni Rodgers

8 You have way too much to do as it is.

Perhaps you’re busy creosoting the fence, bathing the kids, or honing your Oscar acceptance speech. I hear you. Luckily a book is like a true friend, one who knows you sometimes need to be elsewhere, who doesn’t make demands but is there for you whenever you find the time.  By the way, Eddie, your copy is on its way, and we’re rooting for you on Sunday.

9 You prefer comic books.

POW! Nuff said.

For those who haven’t been put off, Outside the Box: Women Writing Women is an e-book box set of seven full-length novels for £7.99 (or about $9.99). It’s available from February 20 for just 90 days.

Orna Ross

 

Related posts:

Self-Published Authors, eh? What are they LIKE?

Are You Ready to Venture Outside the Box?

The Magnificent Seven

Are You Ready to Venture Outside the Box?

Meet a cast of characters you’ll never forget:

A woman accused of killing her tyrannical father.

A young woman fleeing from the shadow of her infamous mother.

A bereaved biographer who goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of a celebrity artist.

A gifted musician forced by injury to stop playing the piano.

A prima ballerina who turns to prostitution to support her daughter.

A journalist who must choose between an easy life and a bumpy road that could lead to happiness.

The wife of a drug lord who tries to relinquish her lust for blood to raise a respectable son.

And here’s the best bit: you can get to know them all without leaving your warm and cosy home.

Apologies for the advert. I don’t normally have a whole post about a book, but I can’t resist because I’m so proud to be part of this project. In fact, grinning from ear to ear.  Women-Writing-Women-Box-Set-Cover_finalJPEG (1)Besides, it’s much more than one book. Outside the Box: Women Writing Women brings all these unlikely heroines together in a limited edition box-set of seven novels. It’ll be published in e-book format on February 20 and available for just 90 days.

Why mention it today? Because you can pre-order it from Amazon now (other outlets to follow).

Some have seen the anthology already. Dan Holloway, columnist for the Guardian books pages and publisher, says

The authors of these books are at the forefront of a strong cohort of ground-breaking, boundary-pushing women writing and self-publishing literary fiction. I cannot recommend this collection highly enough.”

The project is the brain-child of Jessica Bell, Australian novelist, singer/songwriter and Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal. There’s no one genre in this set. Each full-length book is a page-turner. 

Blue Mercy by Orna Ross

OrnaWill you identify with mother or with daughter? When Mercy Mulcahy was 40 years old, she was accused of killing her tyrannical father. Now, at the end of her life, she has written a book about what really happened that fateful night of Christmas Eve 1989 – and she desperately needs her daughter to read it.

Orna Ross is founder-director of The Alliance of Independent Authors. The Bookseller calls her one of the 100 most influential people in publishing.

Crazy for Trying by Joni Rodgers

joniIn 1970s Montana, a female voice on the radio is unheard of, but seeking to escape the shadow of her infamous mother – a radical lesbian poet who is larger than life, even in death – bookish Tulsa Bitters heads west, determined to reinvent herself as a late-night DJ.

Joni Rodgers lives in Houston, Texas and is the New York Times bestselling author/co-author of over a dozen books, including book club favourite Bald in the Land of Big Hair.

My Memories of a Future Life by Roz Morris

RozIf you were somebody’s past life, what echoes would you leave in their soul? Could they be the answers you need now? When concert pianist Carol is forced by injury to stop playing, she fears her life may be over. Enter her soul-mate Andreq. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can he help her discover how to live now?

As a ghost-writer, Roz Morris sold over four million books writing the novels of other people. She is a writers’ mentor and a radio show host, and teaches writing masterclasses for The Guardian newspaper.

The Centauress by Kathleen Jones

KathleenBereaved biographer Alex Forbes goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of celebrity artist Zenobia de Braganza and finds herself at the centre of a family conflict over a disputed inheritance. She discovers a mutilated photograph, stolen letters and a story of indeterminate gender, passion and betrayal. But can she believe what she is being told?

Kathleen Jones is a Royal Literary Fund Fellow. She is best known for her award-winning biographies, and has also written extensively for the BBC.

An Unchoreographed Life by Jane Davis

JaneBallerina Alison Brabbage turns to prostitution when pregnancy and motherhood forced her into retirement. Struggling from day-to-day, the ultimatums she sets herself slip by. But there is one time-bomb she can’t ignore. Her daughter Belinda is growing up. Soon she will be able to work out who Alison is – and what she does for a living.

Jane Davis won the Daily Mail Award for her first novel, which secured her a publishing contract. She has now gone on to self-publish four other novels and isn’t afraid to tackle the trickiest subjects.

White Lady by Jessica Bell

JessicaSonia Shâd, the wife of Melbourne’s leading drug lord, yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she’s separated from her husband and rehabilitating herself as a “normal” mother and mathematics teacher, it’s time to stop dreaming about slicing people’s throats and raise a respectable son. Easier said than done. Especially when she discovers her husband is back in town.

Jessica Bell is an Australian novelist, poet, singer/ songwriter /guitarist who lives in Athens, Greece. She is Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and author of the bestselling Writing in a Nutshell series. 

One Night at the Jacaranda by Carol Cooper

Carol CooperOn a hope-fuelled night in London, lives intersect as a motley group of singletons meet in their quest for someone special. Undercover journalist Harriet is after a by-line, not a boyfriend, but soon she has to choose between the comfortable life she knows and a bumpy road that might lead to happiness.  

Me, you already know. I’ve only produced this one novel so far, so I’m honoured to have it included in such stellar company.

There’s more about the books, the authors, and the swag on Outside the Box: Women Writing Women.

Happy reading!

WWW head shot banner

Related post :

Self-Published Authors, eh? What Are They LIKE?

Easy tweet:

“7 genre-busting ‪#‎novels in a limited edition box-set OUTSIDE THE BOX. Avail just 90 days! http://goo.gl/D1fyqW #WomenWritingWomen”

 

Self-Published Authors, eh? What Are They LIKE?

Unless you’ve been in Siberia for the last few years, you’ll know that publishing has changed with the rise of self-publishing.  Indie authors, self-published authors, author-publishers – call them what you will. Their distinguishing feature is that their books bypass mainstream publishing houses.

Some publish themselves in the strict sense of the word, while others use small publishing outfits. What are they like?  ALLi LBF14

A number are hybrids like me: my non-fiction is traditionally published for good reasons. I can’t see a textbook for medical students gaining much traction without the backing of educational big guns like Wiley-Blackwell. On the other hand, I’m very happy self-publishing my fiction like my novel One Night at the Jacaranda.

One thing to make clear: self-publishing is not vanity publishing, where someone is so desperate to appear in print that they exchange a fat cheque and an unreadable MS for a garage full of books nobody wants to buy.   garage full of unsold books

Authors go the indie route for various motives. Most often there’s the desire to have full control over their work: the cover, the blurb, the price, the royalty rate, the timing of publication and so on. As Orna Ross, director of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi), says, indie authors “see themselves as the creative director of their books, from inspiration to publication.

Orna at London Book Fair 2014

Orna Ross at London Book Fair 2014

When you read a book by an indie author, you’re getting what the writer intended.  If you’ve never come across a book by an author-publisher, you’re probably thinking “What, typos and all?”

No, of course not. That’s because ‘self-publishing’ is something of a misnomer – it takes a team to make a book the best it can be.

You can self-publish all on your own without spending a cent, but you need a bit more to produce a quality product fit for discerning readers (and your English teacher from college).

If you haven’t come across any of the 18m self-published books bought in the UK last year, you may still be thinking of indie-authored fare as pale imitations of ‘proper’ books.

Like, say, a cut-price Ian McEwan or a downmarket version of a Julian Barnes. Or maybe a Maggie O’Farrell with spelling mistakes. A Ruth Rendell minus the mystery. Gone Girl without any suspense. Perhaps even Jeanette Winterson with random capitals and grocers’ apostrophes. You know the type: potatoe’s, lettuce’s, Orange’s aRE Not The Only FRuit.   farmers' marketAs it happens, more than one commentator describes the indie scene as a literary farmers’ market (see posts by JJ Marsh  and Lynne Pardoe.

Tesco they’re not. These authors are individuals and they provide fare you can’t easily find elsewhere.

So it’s tough to generalise about what they’re like. Indies are poets, thriller writers, romantic novelists, and a lot more, but some things unite them.

Jane Davis' novel 'I Stopped Time'

Jane Davis’ novel ‘I Stopped Time’

  • Their books may defy genre, which is one reason why they may not sit well in a supermarket.  You’ll see what I mean if you check out the work of Dan Holloway, Orna Ross, Rohan Quine or Alison Morton). 
  • Author-publishers relish the control they have over their own work. They may have turned indie after their publisher insisted on changing the title of their book, or made the titling pink and loopy to shoe-horn it onto the chick-lit shelf.
  • They know readers deserve first-rate content and presentation, so they’re increasingly professional. The best author-published books are on a par with high-end products from big publishers.  And many of them have accolades that say so.
  • That’s because they take it on themselves to produce books with care, but they do so with the help of editors, designers, beta-readers and so on. No author, even an indie author, is an island.
  • As you might have guessed by now, they’re not all sitting by the phone waiting for one of the Big Six to call.  But indies aren’t all fed up with traditional publishing either.
  • Most write for love. Indie authorship is not a get-rich-quick scheme, though some have done spectacularly well.

I think all this choice makes it a very exciting time to be a reader.

So, what are indie authors like? Come and see. You’ll find about 40 of them at the Indie Author Fair in Chorleywood, Herts on November 16.

Indie Author Fair 2014

 You may also like to read this informative book from the Alliance of Independent Authors which gives a great overview: Opening Up to Indie Authors.