Every writer dreams of a book signing. It is payback for all the time spent writing in obscurity. It is the essence of being done with writing a novel. I needed a book launch so I could sign books.
But I was terrified no one would show up.
So I prepared for everything the way boy scouts plan for disasters. I hired Booksparks and they sent wonderful graphics that I posted in a continuous stream. Posting the graphics made me uneasy. It felt so self serving. It was. I reframed how I saw myself. I was a start up company and nothing was going to happen until I sold a book.
I used Facebook and Twitter to invite absolutely everyone I knew to my book launch. This included a board member ( I am a teacher), the judge whose court I had observed, lawyers who read transcripts of court cases with me, friends who had read my book ten years ago, my children’s teachers, my children’s friends and my children. My principal was there to introduce me. Oh, I also invited the young woman who sold me the jacket I was planning to wear for the launch.
I found a coach in fellow She Writer, Betsy Graziani Fasbinder, who made it her goal to get me to hand over my Power Point clicker without her having to pry it from my hand. I ordered cookies and turned the whole event into a beach theme party with sand castles, buckets and shells on beach towel covered tables. I asked a friend who is a photographer to take pictures. I went to the bookstore ahead of time and practiced with the microphone. My friend and I made book marks with sand castle charms. Beading is a soothing thing to do when your stomach is in your throat. As we beaded, my friend, an EMT, reminded me to breathe to the count of four and exhale. And then she would tell “Don’t hyperventilate!”
Everyone told me, “You’ll be in front of friends, you’ll be fine.” I couldn’t even get that far. I was afraid no one would show up or worse some would show up out of guilt and I wouldn’t be gracious and cover up my disappointment. I felt I was nine years old again and on the high dive. The ladder was full of wet, shivery kids who were not going to let me climb down. I had to close my eyes and jump.
People did come. We set out forty chairs and as people poured in, we set out twenty more. Friends still stood around the edges of the crowd. The constant publicity, which embarrassed me, paid off and people cleared their calendars and showed up. My practice paid off and I rarely referred to my notes but was glad I had them. I sold out of books. (very cool!) My principal was charming and made it easy for me to start talking. I cut the readings to three, two minute readings. I used one to set up the conflict, the other two to introduce characters. People were generous and bought two and three books. I learned I needed to shorten what I wrote in their books to “Family!” or “Enjoy!” and then my first name. The cookies made the event into a party and caused people to hang around which I enjoyed. My friend, the photographer, gave me pictures to put on my website.
Lessons learned: Writing is an art but in order to sell a book, you must promote it so people know it exists. Social media is a writer’s friend. Use it.
There is a Golden Rule for Writers: Treat others’ work they way you want yours to be treated, read, write blurbs, review, share, and Tweet; but most of all, show up for each other.