My book launch really began a couple of weeks ago when I received two hundred copies of The White Cuckoo. My husband rang me at work with the news that eight big boxes of books had arrived. He had opened one of the boxes. “They look really good,” he said. I was a bit miffed he had opened them, because one of the things I had looked forward to was opening a box of my books. After school, my grandchildren couldn’t wait to hold them, and so I picked them up on my way home from work. Here they are with their copies of ‘Granny’s book’.
Preparation for the launch then began in earnest, and I made 100 really cute little invitations to give out to family and friends. I was bitterly disappointed though, when I was told I could not use my work e-mail system to let my work colleagues know about The White Cuckoo. There is a lesson to be learned here. Sometimes it is better just to do something and not fanny about asking permission. Had I just sent a very short email, no one is likely to have even noticed.
I then revised my original plans, and set about telling people about my launch instead – in the loos; in the corridor; in the car park; the canteen etc.
Some people had said they couldn’t come to the launch, so I decided to start selling copies of my book in advance. I sold 30 copies or so before the launch, so it did give me a head start on the 89 I needed to sell to break-even.
Then all preparations had to be put on hold for a week or so for the very boring Police and Crime Commissioner Election, which wasn’t completely uneventful (for Northamptonshire, anyway, with the Labour party candidate fiasco) . It was sod’s law that this period also included the Civic Ball and Remembrance Sunday, so practically all my time during the two weeks prior to the launch was eaten away by work-related events.
Finally, on Wednesday last week, I could relax and enjoy the process. I had my nails done by a colleague – Rachel – who gave me shooting stars on my little fingernails. I needed to have smart hands for all those signings!
I bought new make-up with my doubled-up Tesco clubcard rewards, and chucked out all my ancient make-up. I bought some new clothes on a 20-minute shopping trip a couple of weeks ago, but very stupidly couldn’t get my hair done because I had booked my appointment for Election Day on the 15th November and only realised my mistake a couple of days before. Sadly, I couldn’t rearrange it at such short notice, but never mind. It’s just hair! I can’t get excited about trivial things like hair and make-up. I know I am a sad excuse for the feminine half of society and a disgrace to womanhood. I’m not going to change at my age, though, so if you think you will get another opportunity to see me in a bit of slap with shooting stars on my little fingernails you can think again!
Thursday was taken up with making cupcakes – all 200 of them. We made chocolate ones and orange ones, all decorated with white icing cuckoos. I had lots of help with the baking and decorating though, thanks to Rachel, Carol and Emily. Kelly and Christie helped by stamping out hundreds of white cuckoos, too. My ancient food mixer packed up on Wednesday night, so I was in Tescos at 10 pm buying a new one. The little excursion saw me signing three books in the car park, as a neighbour and two of the cashiers who had overheard our conversation bought copies and wanted me to sign them.
The Zombie was also going frantic, trying to prepare its display ready for the launch, so Thursday saw me collecting display boards for it to use when really I should have been baking cupcakes. Emily turned up to help decorate them and I hadn’t even finished baking. My kitchen was a kaleidoscope of splattered brown and orange icing by the time we finished, but I was too tired to clear up – that had to wait until Friday morning.
The big day came and boy – was I nervous! What if I didn’t make the magical 89 sales? What if no one turned up? I cleaned up my kitchen from the cupcake frenzy of the previous day; had my nails mended from where I had grated them on the cheese grater; plastered my new make-up on my face, chucked on my new clothes and tried to style my uncut hair into something that looked reasonably writer-like. I don’t usually wear make-up and haven’t a clue how to put it on, so I hope I didn’t look too clown-like.
Kevin and Denise arrived on the London train at Kettering station at around 1.15 pm, so Emily collected them for me and brought them to the Stirrup Cup. I almost cried when Denise gave me a launch present in a lovely cuckoo-themed gift bag – a gorgeous guest book. We spent a very pleasant hour over coffee and lunch, chatting about writing, which calmed my nerves somewhat. Then my first guest turned up for a book, half an hour before the start of the event. She had written ’10 till 3′ in her diary instead of ‘3 till 10’ – but never mind, it was nice to have a practice run with the first signing and chat to her.
The book cover guys – Fat Zombie – had done me a huge banner, which was put up outside the venue. Then Craig (half of the Fat Zombie) unveiled the most grotesque/beautiful thing I have quite possibly ever seen. I was completely floored when he said “I did this – its composed of squares – a bit different, but I’m pleased with it.” Staring back at me from the canvass was … me!
I was completely unprepared. It was absolutely brilliant – a perfect likeness. But it was me and I don’t much like my own face. I didn’t know what to say. I was rendered utterly speechless. If you look closely at the painting, you can see the squares and rectangles
Then, with hubby, daughter and sons all missing, the book launch began.Where the heck had they all disappeared to? Typical, eh?
At three o’clock people began to stream through the doors. Oh no, I thought to myself. They are all coming this afternoon – there will be no one in here tonight!
My friend, Andy, bought me a drink. “You’d only better have one,” he said with a sardonic smirk as he handed me a nerve-calming Martini and lemonade, knowing that I rarely drink alcohol and two or three drinks sees me going a bit squiffy. It was about the only drink I managed to have for the rest of the day. I didn’t have time for a cupcake, or even a cup of coffee. It was relentless – I had very few breaks where I could actually circulate and talk to people. I had nothing to eat because I didn’t have time.
The Mayor came at seven-thirty and I managed to have a bit of a break where I did a reading (and made some people cry, apparently). Then it was back to work. I began to get worried I was going to sell out of books.
I scrambled in my bag for my camera. “Can someone take some photos?” I said, realising I should have organised the photo-taking beforehand. Consequently, I don’t have many photos, but I think other people have, so I shall need to collect them all together later. In any case, Denise’s lovely guest book has ensured I have a much better record of the day in the form of personal messages from so many of my guests. Besides Kevin and Denise, writers Tony and Morgen had also attended the launch and it was great to see them, even if I didn’t have much time to chat.
Craig and Jamie had a good time, too. I didn’t sell out of books – in the end I had a few left, so despite Andy nagging me that I should have ordered 300 instead of 200, I am glad I am not going to be left with four boxes of unsold books. I can always order more if I need to. The printers have said they can print another order within seven working days if necessary.
It was ten o’clock before my daughter thought to get me some chips. (Prospective parents please note: daughters are much better at looking after their mums than husbands and sons who are very good at sitting with other relatives, swigging beer, indulging in much jollity and generally leaving their perspiring womenfolk to just get on with it.)
My book launch was a huge success. I not only broke even, but I actually made some money! So far I have sold quite a few e-books and 186 paperbacks, and the royalties and profits are all mine. Had I still been with the publishers who disappeared like a worm down the eighteenth hole, I would have had to pay them 60%. So as I sign off from this post I can definitely say to all my fellow writers that continuing the process myself has paid off.
My objective in carrying on was to break-even on the costs of this little self-publishing exercise. I didn’t want to self-publish and have been quite firm in the past that I wouldn’t ever do it, but I don’t regret it one little bit.
But whether I shall do it again with my other five books remains to be seen. I still hanker after a traditional publishing deal for what I see as the jewel in my author’s crown – my trilogy.
I’ll keep everyone updated on progress, and thank you so much everyone for your brilliant support and good wishes.
Watch out later this week for The Next Big Thing – and be warned I am looking out for five buddies to be nominated at ‘The Next Big Thing’. I have decided, quite randomly, that I am not going to be sticking to authors, so watch out!