Inside a writer’s mind at her first book launch

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Thursday night saw the launch party for my second novel, Dead Write.

I never had a launch event for my first book, Dead Letter Day, so I was a little unsure of how I should set the format of the evening, as well as nervous as to whether anyone would actually show up.

Being a girl who likes her wine, I chose a city pub as my venue. I wanted the evening to be relaxed and fun, a chance for everyone to mingle, have a few drinks, maybe buy one of my books and eat cake.

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Yes, I went all Marie Antoinette and let my guests eat cake.

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These were courtesy of my great friend, Vanessa Hagg, of My Sweet Williams, who produced a fabulous giant chocolate fudge cake in the shape of my book, plus dozens of cupcakes.

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The day of the launch party arrived. I was excited and a little nervous. My publisher and Iceni Magazine were both going to be there to support me, as well as a few of my fellow authors. I had family travelling up from Suffolk who I hadn’t seen in years and lovely readers coming who had been engaging in my Facebook author page, but who I had not yet met.

And then there were the niggling doubts still there. What if none of them came? What if it was just me sat in the pub with a stack of books and enough cake to fill a bakery?

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And throughout the day as I sat in the hair salon having all those pesky grey bits covered up ahead of my big evening, the texts and email came, people sorry that they were unable to make my event due to illness or unforeseen circumstances. I had expected a few such messages, as I know there is a lot of sickness around at the moment. These things can’t be helped and I know many of those affected were genuinely disappointed they couldn’t come, but I hadn’t expected so many last day drop outs.

As my phone continued to bleep with apologies, I began to wonder if my niggling doubts would prove to be true and it would be a book launch flop.

Gulp!

So I arrived at the venue with my mother and my aunt. It was still packed out with after work drinkers as we carted in boxes of books, then Vanessa arrived and brought in the cakes. One drinker glanced across at our eateries before informing his pals ‘reckon they must be having a funeral party or something.’

Well, people do die in my books, so I guess he could have been right by a very big stretch of the imagination.

Eventually the pub cleared out and we were able to set up.

My mother glanced around at the small number of us and helpfully said in that wonderfully pessimistic way of hers, ‘Maybe this is it and no one else is coming. Oh well, your brother and sister should turn up later.’

Yup, thanks for that, Mum.

And then I spotted a couple of familiar faces and the shadow of doubt lifted slightly.

By the time the books were laid out and the cupcakes set up, the room was packed out.

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‘Yes.’ I thought silently. ‘Take that pessimistic mother.’

And from that moment on the evening passed in a bit of a blur.

I said a few words, thanked everyone for coming and for their support. I sold and signed books, people ate cake and a good time seemed to be had by all.

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For one evening I had glam hair, delectable cupcakes and a fantastic crowd of people celebrating the release of my second novel. I felt like the belle of the ball.

If only those same people could have seen me the next day, dressed in sweats with tousled hair and no make-up, washing dirty dishes, scooping up cat poop and taking out the trash.

Oh the heady life of the writer.

 

Why the most important thing about your book is the person reading it

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A fellow author shared a joke with me a couple of days ago about how social media has made it easier and more acceptable for fans to stalk their favourite writers on a daily basis.

The joke was very amusing, though it did get me thinking about the people who follow this blog, my Twitter feed and my Facebook author page. So far I have published one novel and my Facebook fan base stands at around 220 followers, which may not sound huge, but several of these people interact on my page on a frequent basis and many of them have not only read and loved Dead Letter Day, but have gone the extra mile to recommend me to all their friends and family.

A writer is nothing without readers and that social media has made us so accessible to them is, in my opinion, a very good thing. Here are my reasons why.

1/ Having social media pages can give readers an insight into who the author is. Previously, writers were something of an enigma and unless they were very famous, the only clue you had to the person behind the name on the front cover was a mini biography and, if you were lucky, a snapshot of them somewhere at the back of the book. Giving readers a chance to engage with an author creates an opportunity to build a stronger fan base.

2/ Writing a novel is a lengthy process and it used to be a case of out of sight out of mind, but this is no longer so. Authors are able to keep in touch with their readers by regular blogging, letting them know what they are up to and whetting appetites before the release of the next book.

3/ Fans who are regularly interacting with an author and getting to know the person behind the books are more likely to keep recommending your work and spreading the word to friends and family. You can advertise all you like, but nothing beats personal, word of mouth recommendations.

4/ Knowing people are enjoying your books is the best feeling in the world and I believe this is the same for any author. For me personally, my confidence in my writing was at an all-time low when I entered the Rethink Press New Novels Competition. After years of knockbacks I had clawed my way back and was on the verge of a deal with a major publishing house, only for them to decide my book wasn’t for them. Even after winning my contract with Rethink there was a part of me convinced that people wouldn’t like my story. It is thanks to my fans (and a couple of great critical reviews in local press) and being able to hear from them personally how much they have enjoyed reading Dead Letter Day, that my confidence has been restored and I truly believe I can do this writing lark.

Whatever your view on the positives and negatives of social media, I think it is worth remembering that a writer is nothing without their readers and it is important to make time for your fans.