Monday, March 12, 2012

And now, to sleep for a week

Your next chance to win TWITTERPATED is at the fabulous Donna Weaver's blog. Just hop on over and comment to win.

This weekend, I did the launch party for the book at my friend Brittany's house. Three different launch parties, three different experiences. 

Right off the bat I'm in a slightly odd situation compared to most LDS writers in that we are nowhere near an LDS bookstore. We don't even have an independent bookstore of any kind in town or anything, so I'm already in that "do something unconventional" place by default. 

My first book to come out was The List and my husband insisted that we do a BIG party. This made me nervous for a few reasons. My thing with parties: I love having them, I love entertaining, but I hate the rejection side of things. So to invite 100 people to something = massive potential rejection.

But he insisted. He was so proud of me and that book and he said that for the very first book at least, we had to do it up big. So I caught his enthusiasm and dove in. We rented the club house at our "beach club" (pool with a sandy beach next to the city lake) for my beach-themed book. We had a mocktail stand with signature drinks named after the characters. We had a massive buffet of marinated chicken threaded onto skewers for hours by my aunt Linda who flew in from Illinois just to help with the party, and grilled by the long-suffering Brittany who had no idea what she had volunteered for. We had all kinds of other tasty food, giveaways, a cake with the book cover on it thanks to my MIL and Aunt Beth, and we had coordinated table cloths and tropical decorations, beautiful tropical floral centerpieces, and on and on and on. I had friends drive in from all over to help or attend. The faraway LDS bookstore sent someone down to sell the books.

My husband's band played. People ate and partied. It was awesome.

It was also incredibly stupid from a financial standpoint, but we knew that going in. I only sold maybe 25 books, although we had over seventy people there throughout the evening. It's not like a couple needs TWO. The party was just a celebration of some years of sacrifice of time and sometimes sanity at our house while I went through the publication journey. While WE went through the publication journey. It cost us a lot of money and we didn't mind one single penny of it because that wasn't the point.

Book two . . . definitely wanted to do something on a much smaller scale. But I still wanted it to be fun and worthwhile and easy for people to get to. So I approached the manager of the local Nothing Bundt Cakes (which if you haven't discovered them, don't, because I hate cake but these are dangerously good), and asked about doing a launch party there. It's a quaint little shop and had plenty of sidewalk space out front to set up a temporary cafe where people could hang out and visit. I also partnered with my critique partner, Kristine Tate, who had just released her first self-published book. We borrowed cute cafe tables and table cloths, made a few treats, put together a couple of giveaways, and then gave everyone a little bundtini when they bought a book. 

Great attendance. I worried a lot less about the rejection thing because I was with someone else. It cost way less. People had fun. They loved the shop. The shop owner was thrilled with the traffic and potential new business. It cost us nothing to use the shop and it cost her nothing to let us use it, plus we bought $75 worth of cake from her, not to mention that lots of our book customers also picked up a little sumpin' sumpin' from the bakery case to take home to the family. We also did it on a Thursday night to avoid conflicts with too many church meetings and billed it as a girls' night. I sold 23 books, I think, and Kristine sold even more. (Hers cost $5 less, which helped.)

And then it was time for the third book, and I was so burnt out. Not just from book launches. Book everything. Outside of family stuff, 90% of what I do is eat, breathe, and sleep reading and writing, and pretty much all of it is obligatory right now. A book launch felt obligatory too. I was convinced my local friends were burnt out on my book launches coming as they were every six months. But I wanted a way for my local friends to get a copy of the book for cheap without having to pay the shipping, and to be able to get it signed. It's fun to have books signed by people you know. 

I finally was like, "All right, I'll do it because I know I have an obligation to promote this book, but I'm too wiped to do it anywhere else but my house." HAHAHA. This is way more work and stress if you think about it. But anyway, Brittany stepped in and was like, "No, I'll host it." Which worked out for a lot of different reasons.

We did it on a Saturday night because that's what worked for her schedule. I had mixed feelings about that. On one hand, I figured I'd have a whole day to get everything ready. On the other hand, I had a feeling lots of people would already have other commitments. I insisted on making most of the food because I hate putting people out on my behalf. And I did a lot of the decorations too (with the help of my mother-in-law and her tireless Cricut) for the same reason. And I spent too much money on all of it. And about twenty people came. I'm pretty happy with that number, but even though what's I predicted, I have this pathological thing about making sure that not only is there enough to eat, but that's there something for everyone to like. I rarely show up to a potluck with less than two dishes. I can't help it. Where I grew up, it's considered the height of tackiness not to have enough food for people and I always way overdo it.

I had blue cheese-stuffed bacon wrapped dates that Kenny and I pitted and stuffed and wrapped. We had hummus, guacamole and artichoke dips with assorted crackers, chips, etc. I made pecan praline fudge and a broccoli slaw salad. I bought three different kinds of treats from Trader Joe's and chocolote-covered acai berries from Costco. I had sodas. My critique partner Kristine made homemade cream puffs. And Brittany made these insanely cute sugar cookies shaped and colored like the birds on my book cover. And I sold fifteen books, and only nine of the new one.

So it begs the question: why do a book launch? It's what you have to ask yourself before you do one. What's your goal? To sell books? Then don't do it my way. You'll never, ever make back what the parties cost you.

But the thing is, that's not why I do the launch parties. I do them because I know the friends who really want to celebrate will come, and it's worth doing the parties for them. They help me feel loved and appreciated and I feed off of their excitement for the new book. So it's worth doing the parties for me. (I'll admit, I do overspend on these things still because of my Louisiana-bred FEED EVERYONE AND NEVER RUN OUT genetic issues, but I do it out of my book earnings now so the guilt is pretty minimal.)

I am totally trashed now. Not the drunk kind of trashed. The tired kind. I also hosted a book club at my house Saturday morning and a family birthday party for my little girl yesterday. Today is a down day where I'm just coping, you know? But now reflecting on everything, I think the right approach for me to doing a book launch is choosing somewhere free that is NOT my house or a friend's house and doing an event there. It makes the most financial sense and it's the least stressful for me and my friends. Also: definitely partnering with someone else and their book whenever possible. But now I know. 

And now for pictures of the three launches in order:

The List, local beach club (it's really a beachy-looking pool)

 Not My Type, cute little cake shop, joint launch with Kristine 

Twitterpated, at Brittany's super chic house


Becca said...

Good stuff. The self-promo business is still a little icky to me, but I'm getting to the place where I can understand the need for it. And I'm all over Other People's Promotions. Great work.

Donna K. Weaver said...

Awesome. I love it. And I get how tired of it you must be.

And the whole rejection thingy.

Kelly Nelson, author said...

Super beneficial post for me, seeing as how I am about to launch my first book at an April 7th launch party.

A.L. Sowards said...

Thank you for sharing your hard-earned wisdom, Melanie! Good luck with Twitterpated!

Jenny P. said...

I'll have to overcome the same hurdle when I do a book launch. Our closest lds book store is two hours south. Not sure what I'll decide to do. They've already asked if when the book comes out if I'll come down and do a book signing... but I'm not sure how productive that would be. It's not as if people I know will make the two hour drive to the bookstore on that day, so any potential purchasers would be absolute strangers. Which, you know, sounds a little terrifying. I don't know. I'm sort of terrified of the entire process. Glad to read of your experiences though, and hope you get some much needed rest!

Liz Adair said...

Great posting, Rebecca. You're the launch party wizard.

Barbaloot said...

Wish I could go to a launch party for you!! But I probly wouldn't buy a book there either since I can't wait till the parties to own them:)

L.T. Elliot said...

Wow. That's a lot of work! But I'm glad you're celebrating and knowing that's what mattered.

Tasha Seegmiller said...

That sounds like lots of work, but it also sounds like lots of fun. Way to celebrate your accomplishments!

Linda said...

I think you should only have book launch parties when your really cool IL aunt can come and help!!!

Rachelle said...

Looks like so much fun. I love the bake shop idea! I don't think I'd be brave enough to try it at my own house, I get rejected enough being a writer. :)

Maggie said...

Sounds like you've tried all the ways and come up with the best. It is a lot of work for a small profit, but you're right, it isn't always about the sales.

Susan said...

Looks exhausting. I'm not sure if I'll do one or not. It's fun seeing your pics though.

Enjoy Birth said...

You know I would have been there at this last party if I could have. It would have been 100x better than where I was AND yummier too.

Karen Peterson said...

I'm glad you had fun. I wish I could have been there to support you and hang out. Hopefully for the next one!

Now get some rest!

Brittany said...

It was super fun. and thanks for not mentioning how the hostess was 20 minutes late for set up.

Braden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Braden said...

This is really helpful. Thank you for sharing your experiences. I hate the idea of doing a launch party because of the rejection thing. I didn't bother for my first book at all which I probably should have. This is good stuff. Also: Brittany may want to consider beginning a business as an author support person because she sounds really great.