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From Solitary Writing to Low-Cost Book Release Party -- The Story of My Book Launch

You’ve written a book. You know what it is to work with the elements, to muster something slippery and intangible into something with form. Likely, you’ve sweated on it and dreamt it. Finishing my first novel, The Untold, felt to me like crawling out of a dark room after a winter that lasted too many seasons. Draft after draft, revision after revision, I had remained in that dark room determined that what was on the page would eventually match the vision I held for it. These things take time, as it happens, so much time. And it must be a solo process. I don’t know any writers that work well with their legs or arms twisted around another. So, aside from the inherent challenges of actually writing a novel, you must also get very good at spending long periods of time with yourself. For better or worse. There are times when I felt that I had aged a year in a day and that the book might actually bury me. But it didn’t. I finished it. The winter ended...

“Rising from a winter’s sleep / Coming right up from the deep / Shallow pleasures beckon me/ Here’s my new life set me free.”

-- "Come On Spring" by Kim Salmon

You’ve written a book. You know what it is to work with the elements, to muster something slippery and intangible into something with form. Likely, you’ve sweated on it and dreamt it.

Finishing my first novel, The Untold, felt to me like crawling out of a dark room after a winter that lasted too many seasons. Draft after draft, revision after revision, I had remained in that dark room determined that what was on the page would eventually match the vision I held for it. These things take time, as it happens, so much time. And it must be a solo process. I don’t know any writers that work well with their legs or arms twisted around another. So, aside from the inherent challenges of actually writing a novel, you must also get very good at spending long periods of time with yourself. For better or worse. There are times when I felt that I had aged a year in a day and that the book might actually bury me. But it didn’t. I finished it. The winter ended.

(Querying? Read advice on how to find the most target agents to query.)

the-untold-cover-courtney-collins
courtney-collins-author-writer

Guest column by Courtney Collins, an Australian author. Her first novel,
THE UNTOLD (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, May 2014), has now been sold
in 11 countries. The novel has been nominated for a swag of awards and has
been optioned for a feature film. In a starred review, Library Journal said
"Collins's gripping debut novel is based on a legendary wild woman . . .
A fast-paced, heart-wrenching story that never loses speed, this
extraordinary first novel is not to be missed.” Courtney is at work
on her second novel. Find her on Twitter.

Completing a book represents a renewal. It’s a chance to live again unburdened until you shackle yourself to your next challenge. However long it lasts, it’s the same sort of all-over tingling feeling that comes from love and long-awaited for sunshine.

Completion may also come with its own surprises. Like, there’s more to life than writing a book.

My first novel, The Untold, was first launched in Australia on the first day of spring. It was a Saturday and I took it as the perfect date to hold a launch party.

Apparently, very few publishers throw cash at book launch parties these days. There’s some rationalist argument that goes along the lines of "friends and acquaintances that you invite to the party are going to buy your book anyway." I’m not much of rationalist. To me that way of thinking misses the big fat point.

A book launch is not about book sales. It’s a right-of-passage and it sets an indelible pattern for the fate of your book. It’s like the idea that what you do on New Year's Eve can color the mood of a whole year. Whether or not you take that to be true, with a book launch there’s a chance to throw your book up like a bird in the air, to gather your nearest and dearest to wish that bird well.

In that wintery time of writing the book, in a catastrophizing way, I wondered if there would be anyone left, friend or family, on the other side of it. I feared they might all vanish on me through neglect. But it’s extraordinary how loved ones can hold faith in you, and for how long. For years they’ve seen nothing as proof of your labor and watched you grimace and wriggle at their question, "How’s the book?" If nothing else, having a book published allows you to hand it over to your family and friends to make good on their faith and to account for where you’ve been. A book launch party celebrates their generosity and, on a Saturday night in spring, it seems all absence and neglect can be forgiven.

(16 things to do prior to sending your work out to agents & editors.)

To get to the practicalities of a book launch party without publisher funding, I approached wine makers in my area with the gift of an advance copy of my book. This impressed them enough that six independent wine makers gave me a couple of cases of wine each. So good wine was flowing. Along with the wine, and lots of it, I wanted dancing. I knew my friend’s Dad was itching to get his old-timey bush band back together. I found them a hall and gave them a few bottles of that good wine and soon enough The Stringer’s Creek Bush Band lived again. On the night, half a dozen friends made platters of cheeses, breads, olives and pickles, just because they’re good friends. I got my family onto fruits and flowers and sent out a challenge of a baking competition because I know that, even when it comes to baking, my people are competitive. Despite my pre-party anxieties and thinking, well, I know at least 15 people who will show, about 150 people turned up.

As a surprise for me, a couple of my friends who are talented musicians took to the stage and sang a kind of anthem for the night – a song called "Come on Spring" by Australian music legend Kim Salmon. It’s an age-old combination, this alchemy of wine, music, dancing and feasting. Call it Bacchanalian. Call it Pagan. Why would you ever want to miss raising the roof to launch your book? Why would you ever want to miss singing loudly and badly with your friends:

‘Come on spring, do your thing
You got something for me?’

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This guest column is a supplement to the
"Breaking In" (debut authors) feature of this author
in Writer's Digest magazine. Are you a subscriber
yet? If not, get a discounted one-year sub here.

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