Ocean Liner or Toy Boat?

Your book launch is like a ship christening, right?

Pomp, circumstance. The whole bit.

You invite as many people as you know, including every stranger you encounter in the weeks leading up.

You bash yourself a little bit for not doing a better job of keeping your email lists tightly organized over the years.

And, of course, you buy a jeroboam of Veuve Clicquot Brut and a long rope and you make a big deal out of the moment.

Well, I’m here to echo what Nathan Lowell wrote on the blog last month.

Yes, a good launch is swell. It feels good. But it’s not a bad idea to think about the long-term, too.

Pace yourself.

Book clubs, bookstore visits, blog interviews, radio interviews, literary conferences, genre conferences, library talks, on and on. Can you find one feature event or two every month for the next couple of years? (Investing in a publicist can help you generate ideas and leads.)

You never know.

Sure, it's not all wonderful. I’ve been there in empty and nearly-empty library conference rooms—even after weeks of promotion and large posters hanging by the library doors for weeks leading up. I’ve been to bookstore talks with a couple of readers. I once drove 400 miles to a book signing and the ONLY person who came to the store on purpose was a student who needed to interview somebody for a college class. (Though I did sign bunch of stock for the store and had another, more successful event on the same trip.) My good friend Linda Hull and I decided to do a joint library talk in Aurora about a year ago and our only attendee was our mutual pal (and writer; and book fanatic) Dean Wyant.

But if you believe in your book, it’s more than the launch. Its sheer existence represents an opportunity to get out and go find readers.

A couple months ago, out of the freaking blue, I got an email asking if Greenwood Village and Arapahoe Libraries could feature Lake of Fire for their first-ever “Village Read.”

Soon, the creative folks at Arapahoe Libraries had eight (count ‘em, eight!) events lined up and a fair amount of incredible publicity buzzing around a book that came out … two years ago. I am giving a few talks and the organizers are putting together some community events related to themes from my story—a forager, experts in fighting forest fires, a real-life female huntress. There’s an opening event. There's a closing event featuring a bluegrass band a tequila tasting (because tequila is the preferred beverage of my main character, Allison Coil). They also organized an a-m-a-z-i-n-g art show at Greenwood Village City Hall that will hang for about eight weeks--and all the art (photographs, painting, and mixed media too) are pieces inspired by Lake of Fire. 

Holy smokes!

Why? Why me? How did I get chosen for this incredible opportunity? I had to ask.

And the word came back—because I had done some talks in the Arapahoe Library district and, well, the reviews were good.

I guess the lesson is that your launch is the day of the release—you are sending your baby out into the world. At that point, you likely feel like you’ve put as much work into the story as if you built an ocean liner yourself with a hammer and a wrench.

So, why not smash a bottle of champagne?

But also think of your book as a little toy sailboat. You stretch out on your stomach at the end of the dock and lower the boat into the water with two hands.

You give it a little nudge.

Then, you watch it bob in the ripples and catch a little breeze.


Complete list of "Village Read" events are here:

Mark Stevens

Mark Stevens is 2016 RMFW Writer of the Year. He writes the Allison Coil Mystery Series–Antler Dust (2007), Buried by the Roan (2011), Trapline (2014) and Lake of Fire (2015). Buried by the Roan, Trapline and Lake of Fire were all finalists for the Colorado Book Award; Trapline won. Trapline also won the 2015 award in genre fiction from the Colorado Authors League. Kirkus Reviews called Lake of Fire “irresistible.” More about Mark on his website.

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