A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away I got roped in by my publisher to help with launching Rough Guides as a travel guidebook series in America. I say ‘roped in’. I mean ‘flown to New York, put up in a swanky hotel and asked to drink white wine with beautiful people’.
I did the launching rather well I thought. I bought a suit and everything. I rode in a proper yellow cab, and ate canapes and chatted to editors, and drank simply enormous amounts of white wine, because it would have been rude not to. I may have made a speech which, after that amount of wine, may or may not have been about the marvellousness of Rough Guides, and then I flew home again, with a simply enormous hangover, thinking how fabulous and easy launch parties were.
None of which has been any help to me whatsoever in planning a book launch for ‘Takoradi to the stars (via Huddersfield’).
I have had to have a stern word with myself
On this occasion, I am my own publisher, and I have had to have a stern word with myself regarding resources and financing. The flight to New York, sadly, is out. As are the swanky hotel and canapes. Something to do with cash flow or profit and loss – Publisher-Me was not very clear with Author-Me on this matter.
I do have a venue though – a rather lovely café in my small local market town in northern England, where they are used to me sitting for hours taking up space while not really adding any value to their business. A self-organised book launch by an unknown, unsupported author is going to provide exactly the sort of income boost they’re used to when I come through the door.
There is at least to be white wine. Lashings of it. I’ve checked and this is actually a legal requirement at book launches. It’s usually served warm for a more authentic publishing experience, but I am going off-piste and having it served from the chiller cabinet. Moreover, I am going to drink excessive amounts of it, since Publisher-Me has made it clear to Author-Me that this is only perk I am going to get until the film rights are sold. (I distinctly heard Publisher-Me saying ‘yeah right, dream on’ at this point, but am not clear what I meant by that.)
However, I do have a book-launch problem that simply didn’t exist in New York, where I sat behind a huge pile of Rough Guides and gave them away for free. I signed many, many copies too that night – again, it would have been rude not to – with the result that if you can find an unsigned copy of a Rough Guide today in a New York secondhand bookshop, you’re sitting on gold I tell you.
But, as Publisher-Me pointed out to Author-Me, I have foolishly written an e-book – a virtual book, one that exists in the ether, one without actual pages to sign. This has put a surprising number of people’s backs up right from the off, and I have been made fully aware of the many and varied prejudices against e-books, Kindles and e-readers, as if somehow it’s my personal fault that bookshops are closing daily while the world goes to hell in a handcart.
Well excuse me, all I did was actually write an actual freaking book. I’m pretty chuffed about it, as it happens.
Anyway, I digress. The important point is that people come to a book launch hoping for signed copies and freebies, so the absence of copies to sign could be an issue. There is the white wine of course, but I am going to be drinking most of that.
I have come up with two solutions to this problem, which I think might be useful to anyone planning a similar launch. First, as long as you’re signed up to their KDP Select programme, Amazon lets you give away your book for free for a certain amount of days. So I am timing this free giveaway promotion to coincide with the book launch, which seems like a neat way to reward anyone who has been kind enough to turn up and fight me for the white wine.
No actual book? Free postcards!
Second, I have produced a promotional postcard – and this is what I intend to sign, if anyone thinks that having my signature will improve their life. I have ordered a bold one thousand of the little blighters, because they were on offer rather than any great optimism, but it does mean that I have physical evidence of the book to press upon people. No one at the launch will be allowed to leave without a postcard, I can tell you that. In fact, try meeting me at any point in the next year and not having one forced upon you. You’re welcome.
In the meantime, I have had a word with my publicity department and PR-Me is currently all over social media with varying results:
Me: I’ve written a book! Come to the launch!
Me: RT if you love travel books and travelling, and want to read a great new travel book about travelling.
World: Ooh, look, a cat video.
The blog publicity is going better. PR-Me told Author-Me to write a blogpost about organising a launch event. Make sure you include some lessons, so that other people might be able to learn from your mistakes, I instructed myself.
What mistakes I said?
You know, not being very good at Twitter, and not having a print version of your book, and living in a small market town rather than a big city where people might actually want to come to a book launch, I said.
Oh, I said, those mistakes. Fair enough.
So here is my promotional blogpost about my e-book launch, to which I invite you from far and wide. If you can’t make it – and really, I understand, I know you tried your best – then please join me at the virtual launch party by grabbing a copy of the book off Amazon while you can. Let me know what you think – in the comments below or as an Amazon review (I love those!) – and I hope that one day we’ll meet in person over a glass or two of white wine to talk about travel and travel writing.
You won’t be getting away without taking a postcard, so don’t even think about it.
I’d love to say ‘by popular demand’ – oh why not, by popular demand, dammit! – my book is now also available as a paperback.
To buy the book, just search for ‘Takoradi to the stars’ on your local Amazon store – and, if you haven’t already, please do leave me a review on Amazon, I really appreciate it!
Image: GustNudo 2013 by Revol Web, Flickr, CC BY SA 2.0