A couple of years ago, I finally admitted something to myself:
I hate organizing launch parties.
Like, completely just no.
I love coming up with ideas for them. I love talking about them. I love making posters or flyers for them. I love figuring out what will happen at them.
But I have the pressure that goes along with getting people to come out.
Maybe that’s the price of living in a big city. Sure, we have so much freedom when it comes to running with our ideas and making things happen. But we’re also competing with every other event that’s happening every single night.
Not to mention the fact that people can only go out so much. Not only are events in competition with each other, but they are also in competition with regular life: Those long days at work, early mornings, lunches that need to be packed, and the unquestionable need for some serious downtime.
So while I love coming up with concepts and ideas for things that can happen, I really hate the part about getting people to actually show up. Because there is nothing worse than hosting an event and wondering when – or if – anyone is going to trickle through the door.
But I also realized I was thinking about launches all wrong. I thought they were part of an author’s promotional obligations. Instead, I realized I was missing the point: They’re supposed to be fun. And if you aren’t having fun, then why bother?
Which is why I decided I am not organizing book launches for myself anymore. If I want to have a party and celebrate a new book with my friends and family, I’ll pick a bar somewhere and we’ll all go out for dinner and drinks and that will be that.
There will be no readings. There will be no Facebook event page. There will be no event listings in Now Magazine or BlogTO or any other decisions to be made outside of where, what time, and what’s on the menu.
This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed my past launch parties and been super grateful to everyone who attended.
But at some point I also started to feel…self-indulgent. I knew I was asking a lot of my friends and family to come out and support me. And sure, that’s what friends are for, but I also started to realize that I didn’t need to organize an official launch party for those familiar faces to come out. We could have just met up at my place and had some drinks.
Because what I also started to realize was that a book launch does not make or break a book. Sure, it can be a really fun experience and it’s totally worthwhile if you really just want to celebrate.
But did my launches make a big impact on my book sales? No.
Did they bring any new opportunities for me? No.
Did they lead to anything other than some great memories? No.
And that’s okay, because I know now that that’s not what launches are supposed to do.
I used to feel like it was something I had to have a launch party. Like I would be missing out on some kind of opportunity to promote my work, or like I wouldn’t be trying hard enough to get my book out there.
Sure, I sold a few more copies of my books at those parties, but I also learned that if someone really wants your book, they’ll buy it anyway. Most of the books I own were purchased in stores or online, not at launches, and I would think it’s a very safe bet to say that that goes the same for most readers out there.
No, the purpose of a book launch isn’t so much about promotion. It’s about celebration and bringing together the people who want to wish you well. But you don’t need to organize anything big around that.
Sure, if you want to have a band play your launch, or host some trivia, or do a reading or a talk, go for it. If you want to make a splash, you definitely can – just don’t expect that a party is going to be what gets your book noticed.
Because the people who show up to that party are probably already fans of yours in some capacity, so you’re not making any converts with a launch.
That being said, group launches can work really well because they give you exposure to a whole new group of people who you might not otherwise get in front of. Plus, it helps to not have all the pressure on yourself to bring out an audience.
If you really want to get your book out there and get it noticed, focus on getting press, guest blogging, submitting for awards, and anything else that’s going to bring attention to your work outside of your area code.
Remember, the world is big and books often start small so if you are trying to decide how to best focus your energy and attention, a launch party might not be what you need.
But if you just want to celebrate with some of your favourite people, then party on by all means. Especially if it's your first book. Definitely celebrate!
When you’re clear about the intents and purposes behind a launch party, it’s a lot easier to kick back, relax, and enjoy the ride without the pressure.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book: Toronto.
The views expressed in the Writer-in-Residence blogs are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Liz Worth is a Toronto-based author. Her first book, Treat Me Like Dirt: An Oral History of Punk in Toronto and Beyond, was the first to give an in-depth account of Toronto’s early punk scene. She has also released a poetry collection called Amphetamine Heart and a novel called PostApoc. You can reach her at http://www.lizworth.com, on Facebook or Twitter.