The glorious myth of the “book launch”
Well, it’s out. Officially. My book, that is. (Time Travelling With a Hamster.)
I know that because I have had a “launch party”, which – it appears – is something that everyone (myself included) assumes happens for every book that is published, more or less. And which, in actual fact, almost never happens unless:
- The author is famous writer or another sort of celebrity;
- The author is not a celebrity, but has loads of celebrity chums;
- The author pays for it him- or herself
Almost as soon as the words, “My book is being published'” were out of my mouth, my lovely friends, a bunch of freeloaders to the last, were saying, “Oh great, where is the launch party?”
It’s one of those enduring myths.
According to a fascinating chart on Wikipedia – here – there were 184,000 new books published in the UK in 2011. No wonder publishers cannot afford to give them all a launch party. This was put to me fairly bluntly when I raised the subject. Even if everyone who turns up – and there were about 80 people at mine – buys a book, that goes nowhere near covering the cost of the event and unless you fit into categories 1 or 2 (above) then journalists are simply not going to turn up. Think about it: why would they? It’s just a book. There’s 183, 999 others…
As it turns out, when I stated my intention to go down route 3, my lovely publishers at Harper Collins could not have been more generous with organisational help and booze provision. And Waterstones, Kensington High Street, provided an excellent venue.
We sipped wine, ate lovely canapés; there were speeches (mine was a little less polished than I had hoped owing to leaving it in the Uber car and having to wing it, but people laughed anyway. In a good way, I think); there was an old friend who endured an hour in a hamster outfit before revealing himself; and there was baffling magic by my friend Max Somerset who, in a final genius flourish, produced a hamster from nowhere to proper gasps of delight.
I think next time, though, I’ll launch a book in the kingdom of Oman. There, they publish only seven books a year, guaranteeing stand-out status!
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