I’m a great believer in celebrating success – especially in a job as rife with rejection as writing is. So whenever I or anyone I know is able to have a book published, I want to party! But like all good parties, book launches need planning, and the first question is where should the launch be?
There are several ways of looking at this, I think. The first is the traditional idea of launching at a bookstore. I’ve been to launches in outposts of large chains like Waterstones (I actually had one of mine there) and Borders (ahh..remember them?). And I’ve been to launches in small indie bookshops like The Big Green Bookshop and The Calder Bookshop. Both settings are great. You certainly can’t beat the feeling of launching a book surrounded by other books which have paved the way for you. Plus, these venues are run by knowledgable readers who know how to run a launch, how to get people in the door, and how to handle book sales. This type of venue also has the benefit of attracting the public, those unsuspecting book lovers who may just happen to be in the store at the time and so may just happen to buy your book, a book they never even knew existed. And that’s a huge plus.
Then there are the private, more personal venues, places that are important to the writer or to the specific book they have just written. For example, my first novel, “Tangled Roots,” being about a physics professor among other things, was launched in the wonderful Victorian library of London’s Science Museum. “A Clash of Innocents” which is set in Cambodia, was launched at Asia House. I see this sort of venue as the midway point between the three types of three launch sites. These places are usually proper venues with their own caterers and organisers, often also with their own membership or newsletter. Although they may be just as used to staging weddings as book launches (and so are sometimes more expensive, but not always), they know what they are doing and can take much of the burden off the shoulders of an already nervous writer. Such places can also open the event up to a semi-regulated public, i.e. people you may not know but who already share a common interest. That in itself is a great way to build a readership. These are the sorts of places where I have held my own launches and, to be honest, they’ve been great. They’ve felt like big parties and let’s face it — after years of writing the damn things alone in my room and my head, I know I’ve wanted to be in a big wine-filled room full of people unreservedly singing my praises. But hey — that’s just me.
The third type of venue is like the one I went to Tuesday night. I was thrilled to make my way into East London to The Commercial Tavern to celebrate the launch of Joe Stein’s latest crime novel, That Twisted Thing Called Truth. I loved Joe’s first two novels and have been eagerly awaiting this one. He has created a character and a world which really stays with you and makes you feel like “but for the grace of God go I…” But more on his new novel at a later date. First, the launch. The Commercial Tavern is a great old pub that has been around for many years and has gone through many iterations. It’s packed full of local characters. It has lots of local character. The upstairs room where we were even had a wall full of unrelated jigsaw puzzles. East London and this pub in particular is clearly special both to Joe’s life, work and writing and Tuesday night became an intimate — though not small –party. Alas, poor Joe had recently hurt himself and was on a crutch and full of prescribed meds that the underworld characters he creates probably know too much about. But that didn’t stop him from making a lovely welcoming speech, despite the pub din all around us, selling and signing lots of books, and being a great host. And so this felt especially personal and we who were there felt privileged to have been asked. A very special type of launch, indeed.
Now there may be other types of launches, but these are the three that I know of, and each one does the trick but in its own way. I’m sure for the publishers, these are marketing events. But for the writers, they are much more than that. They are a celebration of their life’s work, and a statement of belief in their future. So which type would you choose? It’s fun to think about, to be sure.