Friday, 21 October 2011

Anatomy of a Book Launch

I had my first book launch last Saturday in London - it was on the back of a Writers Workshop event in a fabulous old colonial building (the Royal Overseas League, behind the Ritz), and there were already about 90 people there (would-be writers and writing coaches, plus some friends (two of whom came all the way from Paris). Three of us who had been published were asked to say a few words, which we did - mainly about the importance of writing the best novel you can, since most people present were unpublished writers. I then had a table with my books stacked up in several piles facing away from me, and nabbed any passers-by.

People were genuinely impressed by the book cover (jacket), and I had some same-design bookmarks made up for the event which went down very well. I tried to keep my signature stable, and made sure people spelled out names for all the dedications (the most frequent of which was simply  "Hope you enjoy it"). About a third of the books were being bought for people not present whom the people there knew liked SF, for gifts and as Christmas presents. In the end I sold 30 books, which was nice, and then another ten in the couple of days which followed.

I had one unusual moment, when a book doctor (a published writer who advises other writers on their manuscripts) stopped at my desk. She said: "I read the first page and straight away knew that this was good enough to be published." Not knowing what to say, I simply said "Thank you", all the time thinking of the many, many rejection slips I'd had from agents and publishers who said it wasn't good enough. I'm not sure what the opposite of a Faustian moment is, but this was it.

That left me with three books in my stockpile, that went straight into WHSmith bookshop in Paris. Interestingly, it was their buyer who asked me to make a pitch in just three sentences, which I had prepared for the official launch but not used. The shop, which is right near Concorde, went a bit quiet and the manager and assistants all turned to listen... I said:

"Fifty years from now we discover a new habitable planet called Eden. It seems perfect, but the first two missions there have failed to return. This book is about the third mission."

They took the books. Again, the buyer seemed happy with the design and quality of the cover, and went to place it on their Science Fiction & Fantasy central table. I pointed to a gap next to a Peter F. Hamilton tome and said "there's a space there."

I realized two things during the book launches. First, as I said at the launch, despite it taking seven years from its first inklings as a short story to having the paperback version in my hands, that it was worth it, holding it in my hands with a cover I love and text I'm happy with. Second, people who like books like to buy them from an author if they get the chance. There is something about the exchange which I can't quite put my finger on, but it's a nice feeling both ways.

Now comes the hard part of selling on Amazon, etc. Oddly enough, the event has triggered some sales of the Ebook. In any case, I'm going to plan some more launches...

Photos from the launch are available on:

The Eden Paradox is available as an Ebook and as a Paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble,  Waterstones, and in WHSmith in Paris (see my 'Books' page for links).

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