Regular readers of this blog and those who subjected themselves to all 110,000 words of Self-Printed (edition 2.0, coming at the end of this month!) will know that although I really enjoyed my Real Life launch for Mousetrapped, having it made no business sense. Since I also had it during the volcanic ash cloud debacle and left ordering my stock until the last minute, it also made the days leading up to it some of the most stressful of my entire life. But there’s no denying that it satisfies what is probably the main reason we’re all doing this crazy self-publishing thing—having a launch does make you feel like a “real author”. Sometimes that—and the publicity having a launch can bring—make the cost worth it. But how do you decide whether or not a launch is for you?
Alison Wells recently had a Real Life launch for her novel, Housewife with a Half-Life, so I asked her to share her thoughts (and her pics!) on the day. Welcome (back!), Alison…
Why I’m glad I did a bookshop launch
Followers of Catherine Ryan Howard’s ebook adventure and readers of Self-Printed will know that Catherine enjoyed the book launch for her first book Mousetrapped but all in all felt that she wouldn’t go that route again.
When invited to hold a bookshop launch for my debut self-published book Housewife with a Half-Life in a local store, I thought about the pros and cons. I’m here to say why, on balance, that while there are many arguments against a bookshop launch for the self-publisher, I’m glad that I went ahead.
First, the facts in black and white:
Having a bookshop launch is exhausting.
These are some of the tasks that need to be done ahead of time:
Organise books: While CreateSpace, the POD company I used, have many distribution channels, the Irish ones are not included in this. So it was necessary to send off (and pay for) a consignment of books upfront and then organise to get them to the bookshop.
Arrange publicity: I created a press release and emailed as many of the local papers, radio stations etc as I could. I also sent a copy of the book out to selected media people. I invited people through text, email and social media. This was a big job. I also organised a speaker, some refreshments etc.
These activities were all done in tandem with an online launch and blog tour marketing and publicity were all encompassing.
Having a bookshop launch is not lucrative.
The margins on self-published paperbacks are very tight but once the bookseller has taken their percentage of the recommended retail price (anything from 40 to 50 percent) then the profit margin on your book from any sales on launch day will be very slim even if you get lots and lots of people to come. I also ordered invites and postcards which cost quite a bit.
Publicity does not always work.
I did not get the local paparazzi arriving or a write up in any of the papers (that I know of). Perhaps they had other things to go to on a Friday evening. I was so exhausted in the followup that I haven’t yet got around to sending them a picture of the launch.
Why on earth do you think a bookshop launch was a good idea then?
The fact that I had been asked to have the launch in the first place by a well-known local chain (Hughes & Hughes in Dublin) allowed me to approach other bookshops and I was later able to stock my book in another local shop. The prestige of having a launch in a well-known shop also added credentials to my self-published venture, especially since this was my debut launch.
I have since been asked to go on a radio show. My book also received a mention in the beach reads of a National Newspaper following a launch invite. Hughes & Hughes books also did a lot of promotion pre-launch including a write up on their own website, Dundrum shopping centre website and public information boards.
By having an actual real world event and a paperback that I could carry around with me it was easier to explain to real world people that I had a book out. Many people who knew me did not know I was a writer but coming up to the launch it was obvious the word had got around and I was congratulated on the street. Being a mother of young children, the strength of the network of women (many book club members) in my local town became obvious. Many of these people came to the launch or purchased the book subsequently. Although the self-publisher is often looking to breakthrough in the online world, I think that the word of mouth factor is also important and I was able to utilise that in a large real world network. The launch was a fantastic event, my guest speaker (Irish bestselling author Colette Caddle) was wonderful and having a wide variety of people there to celebrate my first steps as a published writer was a great boost for the future. I also sold (and signed) about forty books that I may not have otherwise have sold. I was able to build relationships with booksellers and become known as a writer.
You won’t make money out of a book launch, you may even lose money if you don’t watch your costs. However if you look at a book launch as a profile builder and marketing tool then you can see it as an investment for the future and its value will be harder to quantify. For many first time self-publishers breaking even after editing, design and launch costs might seem a failure but if you have raised your profile and forged relationships it might be an investment worth making.
Thanks, Alison and great pics! So what you do you think—to launch or not to launch?
Alison Wells is a psychology and communications graduate and Irish writer of flash fiction, short stories and novels. Her short stories have appeared in many zines and anthologies including National Flash Fiction Day’s Jawbreakers. Her comedy novel as A.B. Wells Housewife with a Half-Life is available in Hughes & Hughes and Dubray Books, Bray in Ireland, Amazon Paperback and Kindle US/IRL and for Kindle UK. Her new short story collection, Stories to make you go ‘ah’, is available now from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk. She blogs at www.writing.ie in Random Acts of Optimism and at www.alisonwells.wordpress.com.