Lately I’ve been attending many birthday celebrations, lovely events, unique in that they are celebrating the birthday of a book.  Today on the celebration of my own birth, I attended Gillian Chan’s launch of A Call to Battle, Scholastic Canada.  If you read nothing else on the war of 1812, you must read this young boy’s diary of his experiences in the battles.  What is lovely about a book launch is you meet so many different authors. I decided to survey some to find out what tips they might offer to hosting such an event. 

 Tip 1  Rukshana Khan (author of Wanting Mor)   Don’t have one! Use the money on a mailing list to a school.  Lest that sound too grumpy, other writers, Jo-Ellen Bogart for example, agreed that these events were fraught with anxiety (will anyone come?)and expense and that at the very least you shouldn’t have a launch for each and every book.  Hard, books are children, which ones do you favour, which ones aren’t allowed to have a party. 
 Tip 2  Gisela Sherman (author of Grave Danger) Use it as an opportunity to celebrate an achievement with friends and don’t worry about sales. See already we have controversy.  Writers are just like that.  Being a party girl myself I agree with Gisela.  Who wants to do a mailing list?  Where are the cupcakes in that?
 Tip 3  Lena Coakley(Witchlanders)  Don’t host your launch to coincide with the actual release date. Oh man that’s a good one.  I would add don’t plan one too far in advance.  You really need to have the books available.  Pub dates can be moving targets. Often books are late or held up somewhere. My latest Crush. Candy. Corpse was available two weeks in advance of the March 12 release date and to be safe I planned my launch for April 1.  By that time, curious friends and family could have bought their copies already.
Jennifer Maruno created a stunning display of Cherry Blossom Winter and cupcakes at a Different Drummer Book Store launch.
Tip 4 by Marsha Skrypuch(One Step at a Time) Don’t marry your launch to a book store.  She launched her latest at a train station in Brantford.  I loved it.  Trains thundered in dramatically in between questions and readings. Jo Ellen Bogart (Big and Small, Room for All) noted her favourite launch was in a one room old school house in Toronto for a book called Jerimiah Learns to Read, very well attended she thought at least in part because it was on a Toronto subway line.
Tip 5 by Anne Gray (Healer’s Touch) of course feels the opposite way.  Host your celebration in a lovely intimate bookstore like Bryan Prince in Hamilton the way Gillian Chan did or in A Different Drummer, the way Jennifer Maruno and I did.  That way your attendants can look at all the books while they’re milling about.  I also think there’s a possibility of a drift in audience coming and purchasing multiple copies too.
Gillian Chan dresses in authentic custom made clothing from the era circa 1912
Marsha Skrypuch brings tears to my eyes when she describes Tuyet’s experiences as a Vietnamese orphan.

Tip 6  Jo Ellen Bogart says to invite your illustrator.  It helps if she’s famous like Babara Reid (Picture a Tree). The illustrator then brings all her friends and family.  Some writers I know join with other authors to have larger launches for just this reason.  If you’re an Ontario librarian, watch for the CANSCAIP Mass Book Launch to be held at the OLA Super Conference, Friday, February 1 noon till 2ish.

Tip 7 Me,  Use social media the way the dental receptionist uses her phone to remind you about your appointment.  Facebook and tweet the date, time location, etc. frequently, so your friends and family don’t forget to come and also so you get more joiners.  I would print up a written invite for the luddites in your world.  Hard copy lingers on the fridge.

Tip 8 Me again.  Avail yourself of different listings.  CANSCAIP and Canadian Children’s Book Centre have events pages.

Tip 9  Gillian Chan (A Call to Battle)  Okay she didn’t tell me this directly but she thanked the Dundas Star on Facebook.  I will say approach your local newspaper to try to get some free publicity.  In a perfect world, they announce the event in advance, send a photographer and write up a piece about the event afterwards.  We’re trying to create a buzz here people.  Everyone needs to read about your work at least three times in order to be nudged into buying.

Tip 10  Me again.  Supply some goodies.  They can link to what your characters ate in your book or just be your trademark cookie or square. Announce them on your various Twitters and Facebook invites.  Wine isn’t necessary and requires all kinds of permits.  Have that at home later with your feet up.

Ten+ top secrets, where’s the + you’re asking?  Some pithy wisdom as a long time writer:  there are no secrets to a great launch.  So many wonderful ideas fail spectacularly due to the weather or a random parade or sale at a store nearby.  Try to have fun bringing your literary child into the world so that if everything falls flat at least you didn’t strain yourself.

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