Tuesday, February 13, 2024

“Invite me to your book launch (and I’ll invite you to mine)” by Gail M. Murray

Experienced any book launches lately? Recently, I attended the launch of good friend, Liz Torlee’s second novel, In love with the Night, organized by her publisher Blue Denim Press, held in a charming bistro along the Danforth in Toronto.

Slow on a Sunday afternoon, many bars and restaurants will rent out space or small banquet rooms for a nominal fee. Your venue could also be a public space such as library, book store, church basement or even your living room, depending on numbers.

Liz shared the podium with debut novelist Pam Royl, (who got me so interested in her novel, The Last Secret, that I promptly bought a copy), and writer/publisher Shane Joseph. Joseph retired from a lucrative marketing career and found publishing to be second nature as well as an outlet for his prolific writing talents. I’d first met Shane in our salad days at a critique group, East End Writers, and have since followed his writing exploits which is how I met Liz. It’s all about networking and connection.

So why have a formal launch? You’ve just spent a year or more of hard work and discipline, researching, writing, editing, and revising. Don’t you deserve to socialize, celebrate your achievement?

Perhaps one can compare it to labor. “It’s an announcement to the world like a christening party” says Joseph.

“The launch is a celebration that, not only brings closure to the endeavor, but allows you to howl about your work, ride the wave,” says author W.L. Hawkin. “Writing is isolating and those moments of socialization where we hear the applause give us the courage and inspiration to lock ourselves away again for another few months or years.”

 It was great to be able to truly celebrate,” says Liz. Celebrate she did as friends who could not make it sent champagne. Corks popped amid laughter. It was lovely to see the smile on her face as she greeted friends and colleagues. What a high.

Launching is thrilling, generates creative juices and builds momentum. It’s part of marketing, and now you’re practiced and ready to present in libraries, book stores, university ladies clubs, historical societies, just minus the food and drink.

And you sell books. During Liz’s two-hour launch, her publisher made over one thousand dollars in sales. Mostly you feel great!

As an attendee at a launch, you show support and admiration for your friend. You’d go to their game and cheer them on, wouldn’t you? And if you really can’t make it, champagne and flowers are appreciated. 

As a writer, you’re cheering on a colleague and taking one step closer to standing on the podium yourself. It’s an opportunity to commiserate with other writers, find out about critique groups and pick up marketing tips and ideas for your upcoming launch.

To prepare for your own launch, cast a wide net. Advertise. Remind people a week before. At some launches, the author will charge an entry fee which covers the cost of the novel; others don’t charge but widely display their wares, take cash or credit card and sell the novel for less than retail.

When celebrated Canadian author, Jennifer Robson, launched her fifth novel The Gown (2018) at the Royal York Hotel at a cream tea in a private room, the event sold out in an hour on her Facebook page. Tickets were limited to the first one hundred. Luckily, I follow her on Facebook.

Jennifer, along with Kate Quinn (The Huntress) were formally interviewed by a local radio personality then circulated, sitting at each table for a ten-minute Q and A. Given the $35.00 price tag for two novels neatly tied in white satin ribbon and a three-tiered cream tea of fancy cakes, we surmise that their publisher HarperCollins picked up the brunt of the tab but think of all the marketing those delighted guests will do!

At her launch, my colleague Susan Siddeley (poet, author, workshop leader) read a portion of her charming memoir Home First from a bar stool in a Cabbagetown neighbourhood pub – very low key, while friends ordered, paid for and enjoyed a beer or glass of wine.

Novelist Ian Shaw joined a bevy of authors on the Supermarket Restaurant stage in Kensington Market, organized by Guernica Editions. We sat at small tables sipping cappuccino as one by one, authors took to the stage for their fifteen minutes of fame.

As a reader I love to hear the back story. Writers are fascinating, creative people. How did Robson persist and get that first novel published? Timing is everything. Robson completed her first novel, Somewhere in France in 2009, receiving little interest from publishers. After the success of British TV drama series, Downton Abbey on PBS in 2011, she resubmitted her manuscript with the pitch Downton Abbey meets M.A.S.H. and the world was her oyster. There’s a lesson here for all writers.

I enjoy connecting with the author, even more now that I am writing and reviewing myself but even non-writers enjoy being in on the inside scoop. Celebrate and celebrity do come from the same root word. How much of the author is in the characters they create? Do they plot it out or write intuitively? Where do ideas come from? It makes the actual reading of the novel so much richer.

So whether you self-publish, work with a small publisher or large publishing company, invite me to your launch!


Gail M. Murray was an English teacher and teacher-librarian with a focus on drama and literature. Gail’s writing is a response to her natural and emotional environment. Her poems have been published in Written Tenfold, Blank Spaces, Wordscape, Arborealis, The Banister, and CommuterLit.com.

Her creative nonfiction has appeared in The Globe and Mail, Heartbeats, Renaissance, The Ontario Gardner Magazine, Blank Spaces, Just Words Volume 2, Stony Bridges, Ottawa Review of Books, Historical Novels Review, Our Canada, More of Our Canada, Devour, and Our Canada, Our Country, Our Stories.

Gail will be having her own book launch for her poetry collection Reflections & Reveries on Sunday, April 14, 2024, 2:00 – 4:00 p.m. at Stone Cottage Pub in Scarborough, Ontario. RSVP: gailmurray73@hotmail.com

If you can’t make the launch, Reflections and Reveries is available on Amazon here.

For more essays and other pieces about reading, writing, and the writing life, see here (and scroll down).

For information on submitting to Blue Denim Press, see here.

See Brian Henry's upcoming weekly writing classes, one-day workshops, and weekend retreats here.

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