An Experiment in Decreasing Book Launch Stress

Whether you're Indie, Traditional, or somewhere in between, launching a book can be crazy making.

You've invested hours of your life creating characters that are more real to you than your next door neighbor and most of your co-workers at the day job. You've developed extra brow wrinkles from frowning at the computer monitor. Your wrists hurt and you have calluses on your fingertips from typing and retyping all of those words. There are gaping wounds in your soul from the darlings you've cut. The pages of your precious book are drenched in your heart's blood.

And then, one day, you get a publishing contract. Or you decide the book is polished and ready and set it up to go Indie. This is exciting! This is fun! Everything is going to be marvelous, and you're filled with all the superlative emotions of elation and joy and excitement--

Until the reality hits.

People are going to read it. Not just friendly people who love you.

You've hoped all along that the reading masses will love and adore your book. Universal praise! Money! Fans! Helicopters!

Nope. Even the most successful of books have their share of haters. Trolls will read your book. Critics. Reviewers. Readers who don't understand what you were trying to do and totally miss the point.

Or, worse, maybe nobody will read it. Maybe you'll send your little book out into the world and it will drift, lonely and unloved, in a tiny little backwater somewhere far away from civilization.

But wait - this isn't even the bad part, yet.

The nightmare side of launching a book is really this: its fate is now out of your hands.

Oh, sure, there are some things you can do. First and foremost, you can write a really good book. And then there's the blog tour, a little advertising, maybe a book signing tour, if you can swing the time and money. Maybe you'll offer up some great giveaways. If you're Indie, you can change up pricing or rewrite the cover copy or maybe get a Book Bub. Your efforts will find you a few more readers.

But whatever that magic something is that makes a book go viral may or may not happen, no matter how much you engage in smart marketing practices.

There's a point where you have to relinquish control and move on to other things.

My Viking came up with an excellent analogy for me as we were battening down the hatches in preparation for the launch of Dead Before Dying.

"You're the Queen of Spain," he said. "You've just launched the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, off to find a new route to Asia. You don't have cell phones or email or radio or any means of communication. Those ships sail out of harbor, and you're not going to hear anything for months, if ever. Maybe the voyage will be successful, and sooner or later they'll sail home laden with all sorts of foreign treasures. Or maybe they'll sink in the middle of a storm and never be heard of again. So you get on with your life and do other things, because there's absolutely nothing you can do to help the ships or the crews once they're out to sea."

I had to acknowledge that he had a point, and that it fits with my life philosophy of focusing my efforts on the things I do have control of and letting go of the rest. So, adopting the ship metaphor, I agreed to forego my usual launch week behaviors. No haunting of Amazon sales rankings, no looking at reviews, no angsting over the number of Goodreads shelf ads.

I've managed, so far, to abide by the terms of this agreement, and I have to say that this has been, so far, the least stressful launch I've had for any of my books. If I have a PR task lined up, I do it. If an opportunity to promote or buzz something comes to my attention, I do that.

I've done everything I could by writing the best book I knew how to write, and then lining up the best promotional avenues I could think of and/or afford prior to the launch day. The book is out there and off to make its way in the world. Maybe it will come back to me laden with new and wonderful things. Maybe it will founder and sink.

While I'm waiting to find out, I need to be preparing for the next voyage, and the one after that.

New Book? Don’t Poop on The Party!

By Aaron Ritchey

So I have a friend who didn’t do an initial book signing for his first book.  He didn’t do any sort of book launch party, nothing like that.  He just threw his book up on Amazon, did some online stuff, but didn’t really celebrate the fact that he had done something that very few people will ever do.

Very few people will ever write a book.

Very few people will ever spend the time to edit that book.

Very few people will ever publish that spit-polished book.

Just the facts of life.  So if you get nothing else from this little blog post, take away the idea that we have to celebrate every little victory, every little hurray, and what better way to celebrate the hurray than to have a party?

Yes, this is a party in your honor, about your book, and yes, it’s all going to be about you.  For many people, this can be hard.  Even though I’m an attention whore, I found it difficult.  Before my first book launch, I drove around and around the restaurant, afraid to park, afraid of the potential criticism, frustration, and disappointment.

What if no one comes?  What if they do come, but are resentful at me for putting on the party in the first place?  What if no one actually buys the book?  What if no one likes me or the book?

All of those thoughts are in the end selfish and self-centered.  I’m afraid that people aren’t going to like me or people will think I’m trying to guilt them into buying a book.  And the mother of all fears, what if I alienate all my friends?

On the one hand, book launch parties are all about the author and their book, but how about we look at this another way?  Book launch parties are a way to celebrate an accomplishment and bring together the people who love you and want to support you.  Yes, some people do NOT want you to succeed and will feel threatened by your success.  Sad but true.  I’ve lost friends since I’ve become published.  However, most of the people in my life are thrilled that I’m pursuing this dream,  that I’m writing books, and they WANT to be a part of it.  They WANT to support me.  If I don’t include them, I’m being selfish.

A book launch party is a way to include everyone in the victory.  It’s like the final scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, without the medals and droids.  I’ve done them across the country and yes, at first, it was hard for all the reasons I’ve listed.  But at some stage of the game, I realized I liked doing them, not so I could sell books, but so I could see people and talk to people and include them in the grand drama of the publishing game.

Where did I have my parties?  Book stores can be hard to get into, especially if you aren’t running with the big dogs, but I’ve used restaurants, coffee shops, and even an art gallery in Santa Clara, California.  Best venue ever.

I bring a box of books, I bring cash for change, and I have a Square account so I can accept credit cards using my smart phone.

The Facebook Event function and are great tools to invite everyone you know .  And I encourage my friends and family to invite everyone they know.  I do so fearlessly because again, if I focus on the self-centered fear, I’ll worry that people will think I’m trying to dupe them into buying a book.  But if I focus on the love and support I feel from those people who want to celebrate with me, I get excited and this all becomes easier.

How long should the book launch party be?  Two hours is the perfect amount of time.  People arrive and I greet them.  Forty-five minutes into it, I give a little talk, read a few pages, and chat and sign books.  Thank God for Costco ‘cause they have catered most of my book parties.  What’s a party without a little food?

Yes, people are expected to buy books—some will, some won’t.  That doesn’t matter.  What matters is that rather than hiding my books and myself away in a basement, I am opening myself up to the world and I am saying, “My books are good, I believe in them, and I want you to be a part of this adventure with me.”

So plan book parties, celebrate your books and your career, and be sure to invite me.  I love me a good party.