In the first part of “Book Launch Season,” I talked about how to enter this period of time as an author. Writers are (I hope) readers. As a poet especially, going to readings and sitting there as an audience member is a huge part of my “career” as a poet. You’re going to be in a book launch season as an audience member more often than you will be as a writer launching a book, so I wanted to share the other side of it.
Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t attend every event out there
There truly is an astounding number of great literary events that happen in a city at given time. There have been ones I’ve had in my calendar for weeks, I’ve shared how excited I am to be going, but when the day arrives, I’m not able to make it. It could be sickness, a long day at work, the weather, and so on.
On a post about going to literary events, I wanted to put this as the first one just because I’ve tried to stop FOMO from making me feel like I absolutely need to be there when I just don’t want to. This was something I learned from being an author during book launch season when I just did not have the spare energy to make it to events, and it’s something I carry on now. Go to what you can, but also remember that self-care extends all the way around.
Share about an author’s launch on social media
This point is obviously geared towards those who have social media, but if you clicked this article’s link from some platform, chances are you do. Posting about an author’s event either before or after creates a sense of joy and community that can extend beyond the event itself. Someone who didn’t attend might see the post and pick up the book, or someone might keep your post in mind and go to a future event.
I know in the previous point I talked about not letting FOMO get to you, and I’m contradicting myself almost immediately. However, buzz about an event is helpful to an author! If they’re applying for grants for book tours, endorsements from audience members can be very useful in justifying in applications what the community benefit of the tour is—I know it has been for me.
Tell the reader(s) you enjoyed their work—but be mindful of others who want to do the same
Events are tricky. There isn’t a one-rule-fits-all for them when it comes to the etiquette of talking to performers and readers afterwards. Packed events are overwhelming for readers. So many people come up to say congratulations or to ask for a signed copy of the book.
Definitely congratulate a reader and have your book signed if you’re there and you want to, but it’s also important to give everyone a chance to do so before the time at the venue runs out. It’s courteous to not be talking to a writer for 10 minutes straight when there are only 15 minutes for signing in total. If you look around a room and there aren’t that many people there, then you might be able to squeeze in a bit more time talking to the reader.
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Give readers space to collect their thoughts and emotions before approaching
At smaller bookstore or café venues, there isn’t as great of a separation between the performers and the audience members. It’s very easy to go up to them and give them the congratulations afterwards—but give the reader(s) a few moments before doing so. Let them put away their reading materials, use the washroom, and drink some water. You’ll get a better conversation if they’ve had a chance to calm down from the adrenaline of being on a stage first!
There’s more to being a supportive audience member than buying the book—of course that’s helpful, but it’s not always possible. When you’re able to be on the relaxing side of things, I hope the tips on this list are helpful!
The views expressed by Open Book columnists are those held by the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of Open Book.
Manahil Bandukwala is a multidisciplinary artist and writer. She is the author of Women Wide Awake (Mawenzi House, 2023) and Monument (Brick Books, 2022; shortlisted for the Gerald Lampert Memorial Award), and numerous chapbooks. In 2023, she was selected as a Writer's Trust Rising Star. See her work at manahilbandukwala.com.