I had two launch parties for Girlish—one in my hometown of Rochester, NY, and one in my current town, Cleveland.
Old Hometown Launch
Venue: Writers and Books (a writing center)
Food: Beautiful appetizer and dessert trays, which remained largely uneaten. Two kinds of wine + bottled water, most of which remained largely undrank.
Agenda: chatting, signing, and general milling about. I did a 10-minute reading from Girlish.
- People don’t care as much about food as I thought. Also, I didn’t dare eat since I had to sign books. People didn’t drink much—maybe because it was a Tuesday, or maybe since I wasn’t drinking much myself since I didn’t want to slur my words during my reading they were following my lead, or maybe my beverage choices were lame.
This was a do-it-yourself venue, so I had to arrange food, wine, plates, glasses etc., plus haul a case of books. The pro of the do-it-yourself gig was that it allowed me to spend a lot of time online planning things out which was a welcome distraction in the months prior to my launch. The con was that I was left carting out all the uneaten food, wine, etc. and apparently I overbought.
- One thing I learned after my divorce is that there will always be people that won’t show up for you whom you thought you could rely on, and conversely, people who weren’t even on your radar will appear. This is true for book launch parties as well.
Several people that I thought would unquestionably attend were no-shows, but there were several other people I hadn’t seen in decades who took their places. It all worked out—all love, no disappointment. After all, I’m sure I’ve been on both of those lists for others at some point in my life, as well. As with weddings, graduations, and all over life events, I learned that I didn’t have time to talk to anyone in a significant way—there were too many people to talk to.
Current Hometown Launch:
Venue: Visible Voice Books (bookstore with its own bar, conveniently located above a pizza shop)
Food: I ordered appetizer and dessert trays through the bookstore. Guests were given drink tickets, so they could choose their own drinks and we only paid for what was actually consumed. The bookstore ordered books and I didn’t have to lug anything besides my kids and my brand-new purple book-signing pen—which I forgot at home. The pen, not the kids. I brought the kids whom even showered willingly and didn’t complain about stubbed toes or wearing non-sweatpants.
Agenda: I invited two other local writers to read with me—Ken Schneck and Bernard E.P. Harris. We each read about 8-10 minutes.
For me, this was the perfect venue because not only did it have that wonderful new-book smell and made everything so easy, but my kids were able to go down to the pizza shop and skip my actual reading—which was not safe for children. The reading, not the pizza shop. The reading was about making a penis sculpture in 4thgrade art class. The pizza shop was about pizza.
I am so glad I asked Bernard and Ken to read with me. It both made it feel more festive and event-like and also took some of the entertainment pressure off of me. It also gave me something to talk about with the attendees besides myself and my book.
I felt like the event was a partnership with the bookstore. Visible Voice Books advertised this event on all of their social media and were just wonderful to work with.
I was on the local NPR radio program that week. A few media-type people told my publicist that they “might” come and cover the event. I included the words “free wine” on my event page, which sort of terrified me. I secretly envisioned hordes of memoir-lovers descending on the bookstore. It didn’t happen. One person came because she heard me on the radio, everyone else was either a friend of mine or a friend of a friend. Luckily, I had enough people to have a good-sized event and the venue was small enough to look really packed with the number of attendees we had.
Again, I didn’t get to eat anything because of the need for clean hands.
I didn’t know what to write in people’s books. I was terrified I’d misspell someone’s name. I felt my signature was disappointing since it isn’t particularly legible. I realize these are all stupid things to stress over, but if you are a debut author stressing the actual physical signing of books, just know you aren’t the only one.
What I’ll do differently when Mama, Mama, Only Mama! releases March 5, 2019:
- Have hometown event somewhere that provides food/drinks to reduce lugging.
- Remind people about the event the day before.
- Assign someone to take pictures.
- Eat first.
- Remember to bring pens.