Now that I’ve had my first book launch–which everyone tells me went very well, though I was so nervous it’s a bit of a blank–I thought I’d pass on three bits of advice for future launchers.
First, you need more set-up helpers than you think. Bank on unforeseen delays. (It took me half an hour to cart everything from my car to the party room.) These delays will leave you twenty minutes to set up a room for a party of sixty people. Not good for stress levels.
You don’t want to have to choose between laying out refreshments and hanging up decorations. You need extra pairs of hands so that you can do both. Over-preparing works well–with several activities for children, a variety of refreshments, lots of things to read and admire on the walls–but it requires a lot of set-up time at the venue itself, not just at home in the days beforehand. Ask several friends to come early.
Second, you will be stuck in the book-signing chair for pretty much the entire event. This does feel special, but it means that you’re not out in the room mingling with your guests. Don’t think of this as a regular party where you can pair people up and introduce friends with common interests and catch up on things with your old colleagues. Forget it–you’re in a chair absolutely clueless as to what else is going on in the room. Your great-aunt who takes a pottery class may or may not meet your neighbour who teaches a pottery class. It’s out of your hands. Plan on an after-party if you want to make this a social event for you.
On another note, though, don’t feel bad for those guests who came out of their way to your launch but never really got a chance to talk to you. (If they buy your book while they’re there, they can talk to you in your book-signing chair.) It’s the nature of book launches. A quick hug and “thanks for coming” before you’re tied to the chair is all they can expect.
Third, this is definitely a social event for everyone you invite and, as tends to happen when people are not paid for their labour, the friends you assigned duties will forget about them entirely once they’re having a good time meeting people. Your cake-cutter will be flirting while your cake sits intact and uneaten. Your photographer will crack jokes with the camera around his neck still in its case. Children will help themselves to coffee (double doubles) while your server catches up with an old girlfriend. And whoever you put in charge of the kids’ table will be on the opposite side of the room while stacks of colouring pages and mazes lay undiscovered by the crowd of children.
And, strangely, it’s all good. It will all sort itself out. Someone will eventually beg you to cut the cake. Someone else will take a couple of great photos and email them to you later that evening. The kids will be so happy drinking coffee they won’t care that they missed a few activities. The mixed CD you forgot to play will be the perfect background for cleaning up. And you’ll realize that those few things you’d planned to do but totally forgot weren’t really that crucial after all. Everything sorts itself out.
Then you’ll go home feeling high. A few hours later, one of your guests will call to tell you she just started reading your book and she loves it. The next morning you’ll get an email from another guest who read it all the way through and loved it. You’ll run into someone in the grocery store whom you didn’t even know was at the launch and he’ll tell you what a good time he had and how he loves your book.
And you’ll feel satisfied, and ready to finish your next book.