Launch Night Bliss (and Launch Night Tips)

I am alone among the Debs in that I don’t have to fantasize about my book launch: I have already lived it.

Louise wrote beautifully about her upcoming book launch. She said, “I have realized that the party is not just to celebrate the novel being published—it’s my chance to say thank you to all the people that made it possible.”

I love that about Louise. She’s a generous, caring person. That sentiment is so kindhearted to the people in her life.

And it’s not at all how I approached my launch.

As I told my husband the night of my launch party for MODERN GIRLS, as everyone congratulated me, fawned over me, told me how wonderful I was and how excited they were to read my book, “This is like our wedding! But better, because I am the total center of attention, and I don’t have share the spotlight with you!”

Don’t you wish you were married to me?

My party was the night after my launch. I spent the day of launch on social media, basking in the photos people were posting, fielding congratulatory e-mails, enjoying the champagne my husband brought me.

The next night was my reading at Porter Square Books. I was on cloud nine. For starters, Porter Square gave me a special water bottle and no one in my family is allowed to drink from it except for me! (That is not a joke. Someone reached for it once, and I nearly bit her hand off.) The store has an exquisite corpse story going from authors who have read there, and I was asked to add to it. (Did I read it the entire story after I had written my line? That would have been so smart! But I was so nervous, I completely forgot to look.) The room was packed with friends. My reading was one big blur, but I know I enjoyed it and the line to sign my books was filled with people I love.

And then there was the party. It was held across the street at a restaurant I like, which has a private upstairs room. I had themed cocktails (the Modern Girl Manhattan, Dottie’s Downfall [a whiskey sour], and the Park Ave [a champagne cocktail]), a book cake, and my adulatory friends.

Could it have been any more perfect? Not even a little bit.

In the spirit of Louise’s generosity, I do have some takeaways from the night to share with others approaching their launches. Here are some thoughts, which you can take or leave:

    ♥  Plan lots of time to answer e-mails and respond to Twitter and Facebook well wishes starting the day before the book pubs. Seriously, big chunks of time. This isn’t something that can be squeezed in between other work. I had a ton of people excitedly send me their shipping notices from Amazon (which was thrilling for me too). Then the day of, every time I went back to Facebook, I had 25 more notifications. It’s a great feeling, but it’s easier to keep up with them throughout the day than to try to tackle a hundred or so at once.

    ♥ A book cake is quite impressive. I don’t know how many photos of that cake were taken, but it was definitely worth getting (and it tasted as good as it looked!).

    ♥ I didn’t know who to invite to the party, as I had no idea who might come to the reading, and I didn’t want to send an evite out to 200 people. Instead I invited via e-mail/evite those who were my core support group. I had an open invite to the reading on Facebook, and as folks responded there, I tried to keep up with inviting them to the party. The night before the launch party, I sent out a message basically saying 1) don’t wait for me to head to the bar for the party, as I’m going to be signing books and there’s no reason you can’t start eating and noshing before I arrive, and 2) this is a private event, not an exclusive event, so if you see people from the elementary school or Grub Street or anyone you or I know personally, please make sure they know to join us. This made me feel less worried about wondering if I had remembered to invite everyone.

    ♥ Do make sure people know to go to the party before you. Signing books can take awhile and folks will have more fun hanging at the party rather than waiting around for you to finish signing. You won’t feel rushed knowing everyone is already having fun and not standing around awkwardly at the book store.

    ♥ I had my daughter pass out Post-it notes and hand people a pen to write the name they wanted the inscribed in the book. Not only did it help with awkward “I can’t remember how to spell your name” but when I went back to Porter Square Books, a saleswoman who hadn’t been there told me she heard about my daughter helping and thought it was so cute and smart.

    ♥ Have some ideas of things to write in books before launch night, so you’re not struggling each time someone comes up, book in hand. A few phrases you can rotate with a short personal message is perfect. Keep them short! I had some great Yiddish phrases I wanted to use, but I realized as the line grew that they were too long to write. And get yourself a decent pen. Try it out first!

    ♥ Before the launch, I said to my husband, “I feel kind of silly, but stick a box of my author copies of the book in the trunk of your car.” Sure enough, halfway through the signing, he came running up to me. “They sold out!” I reminded him of the books in the trunk. The book store (and I!) were quite happy to have those extra books.

    ♥ Also before the launch, I asked if there was a way for people to order signed books who couldn’t come to the reading. Porter Square books allowed folks to order online and note in the comments they name they wanted it signed to. It was fun to come into the reading (early) and have books to sign. It helped calm my nerves. Since then, Porter Square has given me a link for folks to directly order a signed copy (they call me and I come down to personalize it).

Launch night is long behind me now. But I still think of it and smile and I’m still excited when people send me photos of themselves reading the book. I’ve had photos taken on beaches, in parks, in hotel rooms, in living rooms. All are wonderful. (Is that my less-than-subtle way of saying I’d love to see more pictures? Why, yes it is!)

I’m excited to experience launch again through the experiences of the other four Debs. But let’s be honest: I’m really dreaming about the launch of my next book. Because it’s going to be epic. And because I hate sharing that spotlight.

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

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