"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times

Monday, March 9, 2009

Countdown to Launch

When Karen Syed (publisher extraordinaire) first talked about my book launch party, I had visions...

Dream One was an enormous gathering of family and friends at the local Italian restaurant, which is featured in the book. We'd have food and drink and Dean Martin tunes, while I sat and signed books.

Dream Two's setting was the Barnes & Noble that sits on the site of my old workplace, Hughes Aircraft. Now Raytheon, there is a single building left on the hill where many of my former co-workers still toil away. It seemed like the perfect place to draw an audience.

Then Karen told me what a launch party really looked like. "You need to invite at least 300 people," she told me. "About 100 will actually show up."

There were more instructions. Serve cookies and punch, invite the media, get one of your friends to sit at a table and sell books, etc. But there was one little piece she left out, probably because she assumed I'd know this: Make it fun. People should want to come and find out about the book, and leave with a copy in their hands that they can't wait to read. They should want to tell their friends, "I met the author and she signed my copy and it's just so cool!"

Okay, any suggestions on how I make this fun?

Here's what I'm planning so far:

1. Launch party location - The Backs Building at Kraemer Memorial Park in Placentia. This is a community building that I can rent, supercheap, and it's where the first body in my book is found. I thought it would be nice to tie in an actual location with the "fictional" location. I also thought I'd have an after-party at my house for friends and family, where I can serve some real food and drinks.

2. Decor/ambiance - Haven't quite figured out a decor, but I definitely plan to have a soundtrack of Dean Martin songs (the object of Benny's obsession), plus a few of the things Peri likes to listen to. I'm also in negotiations with my singer-guitarist son to provide some live music. Peri loves to watch old movies, so maybe I can do something with that, decor-wise.

3. Media - Since I write for the Placentia News-Times, I'm going to try to get coverage from them, even if I have to throw myself under a bus to do it. I think I'll also engage my friend, Robin, in a mock-interview, to be videotaped and used for my website, advertising, etc.

4. What else? Here's where I could use some ideas. I have one so far. Here's a picture of the back of the Backs Building:

Now then, here are the first couple of pages that take place in this location:

The red lights from the squad cars were barely visible in the midday sun. Peri saw Skip dig his way through the crowd as they swarmed around the yellow police tape barricading the corner of the Backs Building. She took her time getting out of the car, excited about investigating a murder, but anxious about the scene.
Peri wound through the curious onlookers and slipped under the tape, stopping on a rise of grass, where she could watch Skip and Blanche work. She couldn't see the body clearly, but could only discern a tangle of dark hair and a golden covering, either a blanket or a coat. Blanche knelt beside the body, pointing and speaking into a digital recorder. Skip stood to the side, looking down at Blanche and taking notes.
After a few minutes, Skip waved Peri over. She hesitated; she had never seen a dead body, except for relatives in their caskets. Even from a distance, she could tell this one needed brighter lipstick. As she moved closer, she saw the skin looked dark and pocked, decomposed from daily watering. Although it fascinated her, Peri did not want to showcase her inexperience by suddenly fainting or throwing up.
"What's it look like, Beebs?" Skip asked.
"I'll know more when I get her back to the office, but it's definitely a young female, dead at least a day, or two."
Peri had finally joined them, looking over Blanche's shoulder at the corpse. Still tucked against the building, the body looked as if she had laid down for a nap, a rich, golden coat buttoned and smoothed over her legs, her arms crossed in front, modestly hiding the fact they had no hands. Peri could smell a combination of rotting meat, wet dirt, and general compost, not as horrible as she had feared. Neither was the sight of the darkened skin, patchy from deterioration. Even the face, missing lips, and most of the nose, didn't creep her out as much as she had imagined. Peri relaxed and listened to the conversation.
"My first guess is blunt force trauma," Blanche said, pointing to a dark spot in the victim's forehead. "I'll get you results as soon as I can. By the way, Peri, thanks for your insights about Dani the other night. Turns out, she's been seeing a Goth saxophonist who dropped out of college. We're having him over for dinner on Tuesday. Wanna come?"
Peri laughed. "Wouldn't miss it for the world. Maybe I should try to corner the 'moms with teenagers' market. I'll bet they could use an investigator sometimes."

As you can see from the text, I took some liberties with the location. Do you think it would be fun to read this passage, then talk about why an author sets their story in a real location, only to change it?

If anyone has been through this before, I'd be interested in knowing what you did for your launch to make it a fun and entertaining party. What worked? What didn't? What would you do differently?


Teresa Burrell said...

I think the idea of using a place in your novel for your party is a fabulous idea.

I would love to hear comments on what others have done for their launch party as well. So, you seasoned authors, please help us out here. Tell us your secrets.

Diana Black said...

I agree, the location for the party is perfect! If you were NOT hosting it, what would make YOU walk away at the end of the party with a big smile on your face? The celebration is all about you and your great achievement...but I also know you want people to come and have, as you mentioned, fun! That will involve them feeling...
involved! So, if you were a guest, what would make you happy? What would make you feel special and appreciated for showing up.

I ramble, but maybe it will trigger a thought?!?!?


Anne Carter said...

First off, congrats on the new book! Wow, a launch party! I'm so excited for you.

While I would have liked to have had mine in a real lighthouse, we don't have many of those around here. So a friend threw a brunch for me in her large estate home. We had great food, music, and eventually, me, reading a passage from the book. Afterward, everyone got up and stood in line to buy it (and some copies of my backlist books) - it was a hoot but nothing as grand as you are planning.

Your plans sound dead-on. The only thing you could add would be a corpse. LOL.


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