Saturday, March 17, 2007

What I Learned From My First Book Launch

By Lynette Rees

A few years ago when I dreamt about my very first book launch, I imagined a huge, white limousine drawing up outside a large, prestigious building. A chauffeur opening the car door as I stepped out, dressed in all my finery, to a sea of cheering faces. Flashbulbs fired off instantaneously and people shouted out my name.

Then I woke up to the realization there was no book launch just a half written manuscript.

Anyhow, all of that was to change when I had my first book published last summer. I work as a counsellor for a local cancer charity in my home town of Merthyr Tydfil, South Wales, and thought it would be a nice idea to donate all the proceeds to our new building fund. I had no idea at the time that the local mayor would get involved, or that he would suggest the book launch would be held at Cyfarthfa Castle, a local historic castle once owned by 19th Century Ironmasters.

A couple of coincidences were at work here: number one, a castle featured strongly in my novel, and number two, the castle just happened to house the school that I had attended as a young girl. As I read out my speech, I was only yards away from the classroom where my English teacher had read out my stories to the class some thirty years previously!

I had never attended a book launch before and of course tried to read up on the topic beforehand, but I could not have been prepared for everything. This is what I learned on the day:

1. It doesn't have to be perfect

I used to be a perfectionist, but I'm all right now. I am all right, aren't I? Hang on a moment whilst I check.

Seriously, going back a few years ago, if things didn't go just as I wanted them to, I would get upset. The Christmas dinner had to be served for the family bang on 1:00 p.m. on Christmas day, my college assignments would be written and rewritten to the best of my ability, never mind that I was missing out on my favourite television programmes while I slaved over my work at the kitchen table.

Anyhow, on the day of the launch, five minutes after setting out in the car, I realized I had forgotten to put on my new bracelet that matched my necklace. I had purposely bought the bracelet so it would look good as I signed the books. Not only that, I thought I had forgotten my camera. The old me would have stressed and put herself in the dilemma of either returning home to get them, but risk being late for the launch, or carrying on but feeling she had let herself down.

This time, I thought, "So what? It's not the end of the world. The main thing for this signing is that I get myself there, with or without the camera and bracelet."

I guessed there would be others there taking photographs anyhow, and I could get a copy from them.

* * Moral of story:

It didn't matter one bit whether I wore the bracelet or brought the camera. In the end, I found out I had put the camera in my bag after all!

2. Things are going to be different to how you visualize them

In my mind's eye, I imagined the room and the people gathered watching me as I read out my speech. The room was the size of a big hall and I stood on a small stage, behind some kind of pulpit.

In reality, the room was a lot smaller; it was a bit of squeeze to get everyone in as the same room was used for the buffet.

The speech went a lot better than I thought it would, but I decided last minute to cut some of it out and I'm glad I did.

* * Moral of story:

Things will be different to how you imagine them to be. Be prepared to go with the flow.

3. Don't Assume

I assumed as the castle was booked for a book signing, that there would have been a table set aside specifically for that purpose.

I was wrong!

When I realized that everyone was queuing up for me to sign the books on my lap, I knew that something wasn't right. Someone tried to find me a table, but to no avail. In the end, we had to move back some tea cups from the beverages table and I sat on the end of that signing away.

* * Moral of story:

For the next book signing, I'll specify that I want a table! Or failing that, I'll just have to improvise again or bring my own folding one!

4. People are important

Give your time to people. They are your prospective readers. For example, one young lady had been queuing up for ages to get her book signed. I couldn't just shoo people away and tell them to hurry up. I took time to listen to each one individually and the young lady came back to the table later, where I signed her book. I took time to ask her all about herself and then went over to meet her grandmother who had been responsible for setting up the cancer charity many years ago.

* * Moral of story:

Authors need to be proactive and interested in their readers, it's a two-way process!

5. Time will fly

The afternoon was wonderful, but it went by in a whirl. I didn't have time to tuck into the food with everyone else. I just managed to grab a cuppa and a sandwich at the end. I'm just glad I took a bottle of cold water along with me.

* * Moral of story:

Ask someone beforehand if they will bring you a cup of tea or coffee and keep a small plate of food for you [if refreshments are provided]. If not, bring along your own to keep your strength up! Above all, the time goes so quickly, relish it! Write about it afterwards. It doesn't happen every day!

Visit Lynette's website here:

Return to Winter coming soon to The Wild Rose Press


Edward Yates said...

Congratulations! Glad to read that it all worked out, even if a number of things did not go as expected. I also enjoyed reading of your generous offer to donate some of the proceedings (from the signing I assume...) to the cancer charity that you do some work for. My mum had cancer and it is not good way for a person to die. I guess the whole perfectionist thing is also a little like what I used to be like, but at some point I might of actually swung too far in the other direction and sometimes don't plan or polish something enough. So it is not necessarily a bad thing at all, if it means you get things done.

Lynette said...

Thanks for the congrats, Edward! Our new cancer centre is going up as we speak. People in the local community have been fantastic holding fund raising events and now we have secured funds from the national lottery, too.

Sorry to hear about your mother. I lost an old friend to cancer the year before last. I attended her funeral on my birthday [3 days before Christmas], so that will always have that memory for me.

Yes, I agree about the perfectionist stuff. I think to a certain degree it can be good, but at one point when I was at college, I ended up burning myself out, trying to get things 'just right'. I learned a lot from that experience and have never allowed myself to get like that again.

It was a positive experience in a way as my career then took a different route. :)


Edward Yates said...

It is great that your surrounding community has organized for a cancer center to be built. I hope the center also deals with prevention through healthy diet and lifestyle, as well as information about early intervention-screening, and perhaps support for family and friends who might want it. But none of these things sometimes make a helluva lot of difference depending on the person. Three days before Christmas is not good timing, but speaking from experience no time really is.

I forgot to write in my last post that it was good to hear that you took time with each person who came to your launch. Neil Gaiman, who I'm a big fan of, is very personable and genuine with his fans and extraordinarily giving of his time. I think it makes a difference especially with the people who really like your work and who show up to readings or signings or launches to spend that time with them, as these are the folks who aren't just ambivalent about your work, but who actually really like your writing.

Lynette said...

Yes, preventative advice is always a good thing as you mentioned, although sometimes people do all they can and still get cancer of course.

At Cancer Aid we see clients with cancer and their families. All are entitled to counselling, aromatherapy, reflexology etc. We also provide free transport for clients to attend their appointments both at the centre and at the hospitals involved.

We also hold support groups and have speakers in like dieticians, beauticians etc.

It really is a special place, I've never worked anywhere quite like it before. Our manager is so passionate about the place. I dedicated the book to her and while the main character in the book is not my manager, she's someone a lot like her with the dedication she has towards the charity. :)

Lyn said...

Congratulations Lynette, what a lovely place to do a book signing. I wish I could have been there, but unfortunately I live a long way away these days. Anyway some good tips, which I'll try and remember when I come to do my own booksigning. (Still waiting for things to get moving with my book, but I'm trying to be patient, I know these things take time!)

It was a wonderful gesture to donate to the Cancer Centre too, I'm so glad it all went so well.


Lynette said...

Thanks, Lyn. The book launch was last summer but I thought it would be useful to publish it here in case any one was wondering what it's like. I didn't know anyone who had a book launch before mine and so was constantly looking out for articles about the subject.

There is another Wild Rose author I know who lives in your vicinity, I think. I met her once at an RNA meeting two years ago. It would be great if the three of us could meet up sometime. :)


Michelle said...

I worked at a cancer treatment hospital for a number of years before having my children; I can relate to your dedication. During my training I remember one of my teachers emphasising the importance of connecting with the person, and not just seeing the disease. It was a lesson well-learnt.

Great to read about your book launch, and in such a remarkable venue.

Here's to further success.

Lynette said...

Thanks, Michelle. I think you hit the nail on the head there, at Cancer Aid we are all about people. I think that's why clients like coming to us.
Thank you for your thoughts on this topic. :)


Alisha Paige said...


Thanks for all the tips! It sounds like the event was a huge success. How kind of you to donate to the cancer center. Romance authors have such huge hearts!

Lynette said...

Thanks for your comments, Alisha. :) Glad you found the tips helpful.