At a recent CANSCAIP (Canadian Society for Children’s Authors, Illustrators and Performers) meeting a woman commented passionately on how she had tried everything to get her son to read–then he met an author and everything changed. He grew to love books. It was wonderful to hear and I believe her. How many times have I listened to a passionate writer and needed to buy her book afterwards.
Describing my crossing guard character Mr. Ron In the foreground is Ping the dog played by granddaughter Jadzia. I am flanked by grandson Will and mentee and friend Tiffany.
Also I know I have been lucky enough to have this effect on my young readers too. One time I was in a restaurant grabbing some lunch between school visits on a tour of the Sudbury region and the waitress hugged me because I had hooked her daughter on one of my books. She had read it right through. First book ever.
So I venture out as much as possible, embarrassing myself as I call out to young customers at Chapters. “Want to have an autographed bookmark from a famous Canadian author?” I don’t mind the odd rejection (crazy woman in aisle four alert!) but I love engaging kids, telling them about my books and having fun with them. Two out of three times parents and young readers walk away dazed and amazed, saying how nice it was to meet a real live author. (We won’t talk about the other times.)
While I am genuinely autographing this book, the admiring reader is my grandson William. He thinks The Best Mistake Mystery is awesome.
But it’s even nicer to venture into a really beautiful independent bookstore. This Saturday I visited Blue Heron Books–a mesmerizing bright and colourful emporium with friendly inviting staff. On the advice of my writing mentee and friend Tiffany Short, I invited myself to host an event for March break: Solve the Dognapping. With prizes, props and script in hand, I brought along a guaranteed audience Jadzia and William Filipowicz, a couple of my grands. They’ve been to my launches but I wanted them to experience a more child-focussed event.
Seven other keen youngsters came and we enjoyed a wonderful time. Jadzia kept saying “I feel I have to tell everyone who did it!”
“Noooooo. Jadzia, Noooo!” She kept it in luckily.
I have had larger audiences but never a better one. Or more fun. Everyone was able to earn a prize either by trading their best mistakes with me, acting out scripts or hunting down the missing (stuffed) dogs. Tiffany participated and interviewed each participant to hear who they felt committed the dognapping. I loved watching her patiently discussing all the characters with them.The local newspaper photographer came and took photos and afterwards I was able to chat with the owner Shelley McBeth. It takes a whole village to raise a book lover.
Does that mean I turned any young readers on to reading? I think my participants were all readers to begin with. Still I did hear Jadzia tell my daughter she wants to be a writer when she grows up. But I guess I’ll judge my success by how fast Jadzia and Will grab for the next in the series, The Artsy Mistake Mystery.
Over two hundred readers crowd the room, some already lined up for an autograph. Phones flash, click, snap or whatever camera apps do. Books quickly disappear from a pile on the table, and your hand cramps up from signing. Obviously you’re Lawrence Hill.
But if you’re not Larry, then if you’re lucky (and I am) most everyone from your writers’ group shows up, some people from your gym class, a neighbour or two, a couple of bookshop devotees. You get 50 happy people, many of whom already own the book and/or have read several drafts. You sell 20 books. Congratulations, you’ve hosted the near perfect launch.
Since I have been so lucky several times, I have over 35 books published, I want to share with you the secrets of my success.
- Find a good place to celebrate. My goto is A Different Drummer Books. Ian Elliot’s store is cosy and he creates beautiful displays. In this store setting my attendees can buy other people’s books too (each others’.) Set your phone calendar alarms, November 5, I will launch The Artsy Mistake Mystery at the Art Gallery of Burlington.
- Ask your publisher for a budget. Shock of shock, they may have funds set aside for this.We didn’t serve this at the launch. But for a few moments there were Hollywood cupcakes.
- Plan for the best refreshments you can afford. Link or theme them to your novel, if you can. Make sure they’re a treat for you (in case you end up alone.)
- Let whomever’s left of the press in your area know. Email the editors everything you would like the public to read about the book and the event. I sent a long note to my community paper and they published it verbatim.
- Invite everyone with whom you associate, the mechanic, your hairdresser, preferably by a printed card. Usually not possible so resort to E-invite, Facebook event and individual emails. Individual is key. Each person should feel as though they are wanted. And they are! Your friends from Weight Watchers, your aqua fit crowd. They may not come but they may buy books at another time.
Favourite props on a couple of the grands, natural born puppies.
- Plan to talk for a few minutes about the story. Bring a prop associated with it, a cap, a box of secret letters. Think about the questions people usually ask and answer those–where did the idea come from,( not how much money you aren’t making these days, please, please buy the book) Read a short excerpt. Do it with energy and a smile–unless the dog dies in that scene.
- Have your friends take lots of photos and post them all over social media. My writer friends are naturals at this.
Share your launch with a good friend. Deb and I always have the best times.
- Enjoy yourself. No matter what the sales numbers end up to be, or whether your book ends up on awards list–this is a huge achievement and this book launch is for you.