I am happy to say I’ve done it. If I can just cross bungee jumping off my bucket list my life will finally be complete.
I’ve had a book published, and hosted a signing.
Now, due to popular demand – and by ‘popular’ I mean, like…three people – here is the process I went through to arrange and host my first book signing/launch party.
The most important thing, I found, was figuring out how to sign my own name.
I have been to several book signings, but all on the other side of the table. And every time I’ve seen an author – and I mean a real author, not a hack like me – write a little blurb to the reader and sign their name, it was always done with smooth flourish and professional ease.
Me? I had to practice so I didn’t screw it up.
Once that little feat had been conquered, the rest was relatively easy.
As I’ve discussed in previous posts, I was unable to have my book launch in a big name book store due to cost and circumstance, but I found a pub that was more than willing to reserve a bunch of tables for me, in exchange for the promise of bringing a couple dozen people through their doors to drink their beer and eat their food. This little event was a success for everyone.
I had about 40 to 50 people show up, and I sold 34 books; not quite the number I’d hoped for, but, I gotta say, it was a lot of fun. Friends and colleagues showed up, shook my hand, bought a few books, and listened to me talk about my story a little. We had a few beers, something to eat, and shared a significant quantity of laughs. One of my friends even got roaring drunk and professed his undying love for me.
Okay…that was a little weird, especially since my wife was there, but despite that a good time was had by all.
A few lessons were learned during the entirety of the process, however, and they may be of use to someone who might find themselves in a similar position in the near future.
First of all, before you order a large quantity of books thinking you’re going to have a big party in a book store in front of your adoring public, ask what the consignment rate is. Depending on how much it costs you to get your books in, whether you’re getting them from your publisher or having them printed yourself, it might not be viable to have the launch in a book store and you’ll have to find an alternate venue. A pub, I found, was a simple, easy, and readily available alternative. It didn’t cost me a dime, and the book signing led into a healthy party that made the event fluid and easy.
Second, make a realistic determination of how adoring your public is going to be, and then order books accordingly. One of my main advertising platforms was Facebook (because it’s free), and I had well over one hundred people confirm their attendance. Of those hundred that confirmed, about 15 actually showed up. The rest of the people who came did so through word of mouth, or personal invitation through other means. This isn’t a complaint, it’s just an urging to take a realistic look at your numbers before you bring in books. I brought 100 copies with me to the pub, and took two thirds of those home. There will be other venues and opportunities to sell them in the future, but I was a little disappointed.
Third and finally, have fun with it. If you’re launching your first book or your fifteenth, it really should be an enjoyable process, not an exercise in stressing yourself out and making the people around you miserable as they bask in the stench of your worry.
When you write you should be writing for you, telling a story that you want to tell because you’re compelled to tell it, not because you’re hoping to make a buck off the words you’re cranking out while praying that someone is going to want to buy it. I’ve been told that the average first Canadian novel sells approximately 90 copies; if that is the case then you cannot expect your first book to be lucrative. Exceptions will be made, of course, but averages don’t often lie.
Once I got past the stress and worry of buying the books, finding the venue, and coaxing people to come, I found it was actually really cool to share my book with the friends who came out to support me. It was not huge, but it was good.
Take the whole thing lightly, and it will be good for you too.
As long as you can figure out how to sign your name.