I had begun to write Empire’s Heir, the book I thought would be the next in my series, set about 18 years after the end of Empire’s Exile. The narrator was Gwenna, daughter to two of the main characters in the previous series. Early on, she was mentally describing another character, Sorley, and in that unfiltered flow that happens sometimes, from subconscious brain to keyboard, she told me something about him that made me stop and say “What? How? When?”
So then I had to tell his story, because it was important.
But because I hadn’t known I was going to, so I hadn’t thought about this story at all, it took a long time to take shape. I scrapped the first draft at 80,000 words and started again. At 130,000 words, I excised 40K to become the novella Oraiáphon. I wrote a bunch more, revised, cut, trimmed….and it still wasn’t right. Then one day I wrote one paragraph…and suddenly it WAS right.
It went out to beta readers and my developmental editor. Beta readers loved it, with some wise suggestions. The developmental editor did not, for both structural and story reasons. I listened, accepted some structural revisions, ignored the story reasons – because what he hated was the thing I hadn’t known, the thing the character Gwenna had told me way back when. (He still doesn’t like it, but we’re agreeing to disagree.)
So today the book that nearly wasn’t is out in the world, and some people will agree with my beta readers, and some with my developmental editor, and some will be in-between. That’s ok, because no book is right for everyone.
A deep breath, a few weeks to relax, and I’ll start (again) on Empire’s Heir.
You can read the first chapter of Empire’s Reckoning here…and hear Paths Untrodden, Sorley’s song for Cillian.
Available from Amazon in both Kindle and paperback formats.
Also available in e-pub format for Kobo, Nook, and other e-readers
This past Sunday night, one of our indie press’s authors had her first book launch. This was only the second launch by the press, so we’re far from experts. But by almost all measures the launch was an overwhelming success. I’m going to take a look at why.
What are our measures of success?
75 people attended.
sold out all the paperbacks we’d ordered, and we sold another 17 in advance of
the next shipment.
other two authors who also read sold books too.
musicians sold a bunch of CDs.
the food was eaten and the bar did good business.
buzz in the room told us people were having fun.
Book launches, unless you are a famous author, are primarily for the
family and friends of the author to celebrate their success. It’s a little like
a graduation. Judge the number of people who will come by that measure. Keeping
that in mind, what can I share about a successful launch?
Location. We chose to go with the upstairs bar at our indie bookstore for several reasons. The space is frequently used for book launches: it has a stage, a sound system, and staff familiar with the entire process. By holding it there, it guaranteed free advertising on their website, and the book in their new releases section, and, the week of the launch, in their front window. There is a charge for the space, but for us the benefits were well-worth the cost.
Even though the space is downtown, on a Sunday
night there is plenty of free parking, and it’s close to public transit, both
Day and Time: Because our author had friends and family
coming from some distance, a weekend was ideal. Saturday night looks good at
first glance, but there is competition for the space, for parking, for the musicians’
bookings. So we chose Sunday from seven to nine p.m: after dinner to not too
late. Sunday afternoon worked well for another of our authors last winter, for most
of the same reasons.
Format: The author’s book and her reading were the
focus of the evening, but not the only entertainment. Two other authors with
our press did very brief readings, and there were live musicians. Between the readings
by the ‘warm-up act’ readers, and the author, the duo played two songs specific
to the era and location in which her book is set, taking those of us old enough
to remember (most of us) to Montreal in the late 60s.
Other readers help reduce the author’s anxiety,
and it also encourages friends and family of those people to attend. Reading
before the author means that any adjustments to the sound system or the lights that
weren’t picked up in the sound check don’t fluster the author, and it settles
We had an MC, a member of our press collective who
is trained in drama and improv, but any outgoing person who can think on their
feet can take this role. We also had a schedule, and she did a fine job of
keeping us to it.
Book Sales: at the back of the room, with the author’s signing table well away from it to not block the flow of people. Once someone has the book in their hand, they’ll wait for the signing, whereas they may get impatient with waiting to both purchase and get the book signed. I suggest a tablecloth, stands to show off the books, clear pricing, plenty of small bills for change, a receipt book, bags for the few who want them, and, if possible, the ability to take credit and debit cards. We use the Square, and having it meant we sold a third more books than we would have otherwise. We’d also anticipated (too late) the possibility of selling out, so had created vouchers for people who wanted books but couldn’t get one.
Food and drink: We’d advertised hors d’oeuvres and a cash
bar. The venue has a finger-food menu for these events, but it’s not necessary
to feed people immediately after the dinner hour, if the budget doesn’t run to
What didn’t (on the surface) work?
We did a lot of (free) publicity for this event,
through the events section of our local print and on-line papers, and through
the indie bookstore that hosted the event in their upstairs bar. But nearly everyone
who attended was a friend of the author, through work or community. On the
surface, this looks like it wasn’t worth it. But looking at it more closely,
that advertising means a lot of people in our town have seen an image of the
book, and when they go into the bookstore and see it on the new-releases
shelves, they’re a little more likely to pick it up. It’s familiar. (The
bookstore has told me it’s selling.) So while this tactic didn’t bring in
people on the night, it may have longer-term benefit.
A few other ideas: name tags for all the people
helping out are useful. Make sure the MC points out washrooms, coat rooms, and any
other ‘housekeeping’ type announcements. Tip the bar staff. Send thank you
notes to everyone involved the next day.
And a ‘graduation’ present for the writer, especially if it’s a first book, is a nice touch. I suggest a bottle of Writer’s Tears Irish whiskey, personally.
And the book we were launching? Nikki Everts’ Evidence of Uncertain Origin, a mystery set in Montreal in the late 60’s, against the backdrop of FLQ violence. Published by Arboretum Press, it is most easily available in wide release from Amazon, in both paperback and ebook formats.
Friday – yesterday, the day after my book launch for Empire’s Hostage – I was an exhausted wreck. Partly due to only four hours sleep (more on that later); partly due to the adrenaline-overload aftermath. The launch was beyond-my-expectations successful. The room was full, the applause after the readings generous, and I sold a lot of books.
So how did this happen? I put posters up in all the cafes downtown, and did lots of Twitter and Facebook promotions, which were generously retweeted and shared by a lot of people and organizations in our town. The local arts council put the event on their calendar, and did their share of advertising. The bookstore in whose upstairs bar the event was being held did their share with an in-store display and advertising on their website. And then I crossed my fingers, ordered nibbles for twenty-five people, and hoped for the best.
I had asked a couple of my writing friends, one a poet with a newly-published book, one an established writer of genre fiction, to read that night as well. That broadened the appeal a bit, I hope, and provided some new exposure for both of them, as well. Anyhow…it all worked. I could have ordered a lot more food; the beer and wine flowed nicely at the bar, people stayed for the whole evening. I signed my name on title pages many times. It felt like a good night.
But I am not a night person. I start falling asleep about 8:30 most nights, and struggle to stay awake till 10 pm. The first thing I’d done when arriving to set up at 6:30 was order a coffee. It was quite a large coffee, and I drank it all. So I was very awake for the whole evening…and the late evening….and the early morning…. Even the pint of beer I’d had after my reading didn’t help. I finally fell asleep about 2 am, and slept till 6 am. Yesterday felt like the day after an overnight flight. I managed to send thank-you emails and twitters and facebook posts. I organized breakfast for my overnight guests (even baking muffins); I remembered our appointment with our lawyer to sign our wills. I went grocery shopping (and didn’t forget anything). And then I crashed. The day is a blur from early afternoon onward.
Would I do it again? Definitely! But next time (perhaps when Empire’s Exile comes out) I won’t drink a large coffee at 6:30 pm. Mid-afternoon might be better….
Here’s the link to the books on Amazon. The e-books are free through Sunday the 28th.
(The less-than-wonderful photo is a friend’s phone shot.)
This evening is the official launch of Empire’s Hostage, Book II of the Empire’s Legacy series. It’s being held in a bar downtown, one that is part of an independent bookstore/cinema/restaurant complex that hosts many cultural events, from book launches to indie bands to art shows to indie filmmakers. I’ve invited a couple of other writers to share the stage with me, a poet and a novelist. (I figured that way their friends would come too!)
So how do you spend the day prior to a book launch? I practiced the excerpt I’m reading one more time. I packed bags with books and cash, raffle tickets, tape, pens, business cards, bookmarks, a receipt book. That took maybe an hour. Otherwise…
I went grocery shopping. I did laundry, and made beds. I cleaned bathrooms and bedrooms and the kitchen. I made cookies. Because I have family coming for the launch, and staying overnight, and needing dinner and breakfast. I’m not complaining….but I am curious. Were I a male writer, would I be doing all this? Share your thoughts!
And in honour of the official launch, the Kindle editions of both Empire’s Daughter and Empire’s Hostage are free on Amazon until Sunday, August 27th. Grab them both while you can!
Meanwhile, I still have to figure out what to wear…