At a typical book launch, this is what happens:
Someone does an intro; the author talks a bit and reads a bit; people buy the book; the author signs it; people mingle and eventually depart. There’s food and usually wine. A lot of launches happen at conferences, where new fans are everywhere… but mostly those potential fans ignore the launch and walk on past.
I hate book launches.
At a typical book launch, this is what happens (redux):
A desperate author silently screams for the fame and fortune that will never come. They dance like a chained monkey at the whim of social expectations and a necessary gamble.
An apathetic audience squirms inside, watching the slow death of dreams and wondering if the brie is still fit for human consumption (and if so, then for how much longer?) The cut-price chardonnay slowly warms to room temperature as the red wine and last hopes of artistic survival attempt to breathe.
Everyone (who knows what’s good for ’em) buys a book and the author signs them. There is an awkward pause, and then everyone goes home.
The above is not at all true of course; but that’s the experience as seen through a social anxiety disorder (combined with chronic illness and the associated financial problems laid on top of the pre-existing artist poverty). So, although book launches are legitimately fun, I just can’t handle them. There are only three possible social occasions more awful: a doomed wedding; a musical performance by someone I know (regardless of their talent level); a poetry reading.
One of the peculiarities of my anxiety disorder is that I’d rather BE the desperate author than watch them. I feel more in control; I am certain that whatever I feel is entirely delusion-free (even if I thought something quite different five minutes earlier); and adrenaline works with me instead of fighting against me.
In any case, with “Attack of the Clockwork Army” I decided to do things my way. So I had an epic book launch party that ran from 10 in the morning until 9 at night (that’s eleven hours) so people could drop in and drop out whenever. I hosted it at my own home, and welcomed both small children and strangers (an interesting combination). There was a room just for duplo, and a designated reading room.
In this picture there are phones (including one toy phone), ipads, and a kindle. It’s not even the reading room, and that was fine by me! (I did spent some time in the reading room with two people showing them the mechanics of ChoiceScript. They and I enjoyed it thoroughly.)
I prepared various foods in advance, and cooked several low-maintenance things during the party – a chocolate fountain, sausage rolls, a terducken roast (duck and turkey and chicken), pre-mixed cookies.
And, to my amazement, people actually came. Here’s some interesting (to me) stats on the attendees:
People related to me (not counting people that live here): 10
People from Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild (and their families): 11
Assorted friends and their families from various schools (including Louisette’s school): 9
Miscellaneous: 12 (including an ex, two complete strangers, one of Louisette and TJ’s babysitters, an ex-workmate, a role-player, a ballroom dancer, and someone I met at a party one time).
Total number of people in the house throughout the day: 46.3. And a cat. There was a moment after lunch when there was no-one there for about twenty minutes, and then the arvo crowd flowed in. Other than that, it always felt like a lot of people – but never so many that it was unpleasantly crowded (although in the morning there were 8 kids at once, which is a LOT – having a bucket of chalk outside was absolutely perfect.)
-People who’d never been to my house before (from the above lists): 16 (one of whom I hadn’t seen for over ten years)
-In costume: 8
-Kids: Twelve; all but one aged 5 or less.
I didn’t do any official reading of the book at all (but encouraged people to read the book for themselves – it’s very easy to find on any app store; you just search for “Attack of the Clockwork Army” and it comes up with gratifying readiness).
But. My writerly friend (pictured here showing off his “Cat in the Hat” tattoo while playing with play-dough) decided to do a live reading of the romance scene. He was reading it for the first time, and he happened to have chosen the character of a lesbian woman.
That was an unforgettable experience.
Not long after this photo was taken, Superman and Supergirl were having adventures outside when Superman decided it was That Kind Of Party and promptly got naked, immediately followed by Supergirl. Superman’s mum and I nearly died laughing.
As evening closed in, new clothes were applied and the party calmed down. TJ decided it was the perfect time to perform the famous “why-are-you-people-still-here-the-party’s-over” manoeuvre. He fetched his sister’s toy vacuum cleaner and got to work.
He and Louisette had a marvellous day; I discovered the sheer culinary glory of double brie dipped in a chocolate fountain (DO try this at home, if you possible can); people discussed interactive fiction, famously awful parties I’ve hosted in the past (the one with the fake guests was only the second-worst); steampunk, gaming, when plates were invented, and data collection laws; my historical food expert friend discovered terducken (and white chocolate raspberry sorbet); a few people left reviews of the book in various places; and I had fun.
Pretty sure that means it was a success.
Every book launch should have a chocolate fountain, a lesbian man with a Dr Seuss tattoo, and a pair of buck-naked superheroes.