After self-publishing my first novel, Josef’s Lair, this past spring, I hummed and hawed about spending more money for a book launch. My wife and I both agreed, though, that it was something worth celebrating. After all, this story had been in my life for more than 20 years, and it was important I give it a memorable send off. In pregnancy speak, I “carried” the book within me for two decades and now that it was “born,” it would live on outside of me. I called on my friend Jo Saul, owner of the stupendous store Type Books on Queen West in Toronto, and asked if I could do my launch there. She whole-heartedly agreed (she was also the last person to read the book, before I published, which I’m eternally grateful for).
I soon came to realize that the book launch had a lot more in common with a wedding than I would have thought. Don’t believe me? Let me break it down:
- A celebration. Like a wedding, the book launch is a party. In my mind, more than selling books, the launch is a public affirmation that this thing, the book, exists. Many people in the room have known me for all or most of the 20 years it took to write Josef’s Lair. I think they were as happy/proud/relieved as I was that it finally got put to bed.
- The real work is just beginning. Both weddings and book launches are the culmination of years of development (perhaps for some Hollywood marriages, it’s measured in weeks). It doesn’t end with the big party. Like a marriage, the real work begins the next day. Months, if not years, are needed to promote the hell out of your project. Given my limited reach on social media — I don’t have a news-worthy butt, and I haven’t done anything crazy enough to warrant going viral — I’m relying on a long-game strategy to get people to know the book exists and that it’s worth reading. Hopefully, if they like it, they’ll recommend it to others. If you want to read more about the self-publishing process, please check out the Poor but Sexy Magazine interview with me and author Natalia Zurawska.
- The playlist. Like a t-shirt I once saw read, “Life without music isn’t worth living.” I am obsessed with music, and any good party needs a worthy playlist. For the Josef’s Lair launch, I chose music that reflected aspects of the book – places and cultures explored within its pages (Middle East, Europe, Central America, and Cuban Santería). The playlist actually began with an Afro-Cuban song to the orisha (deity) Ellegua, as Santería parties traditionally begin in Cuba.
- You can’t do it alone. Like the wedding, a book launch is only as good as the people you bring together. Being a left-handed dyslexic and a terrible public speaker, I got my talented wife, Lara, to read a passage from the book. Based on the audience response, it was a good call. A very good call.
- The blur. I remember having a blast at my wedding, but it happened so fast that before I knew it I was back at the hotel, crashing out at 4am. The launch echoed that. I was so busy signing copies of the book that I only had a few minutes to actually relax and soak up the moment.
I will leave the last word to my brother Simon, who bought five copies of the book. When the cashier chided him that all five books ended the same, my brother responded, “Yeah, with a Pulitzer.”
Every party needs a comic.
Special thanks to Jo Saul and Type Books for providing such an inspirational space to launch Josef’s Lair. Copies of the paperback are currently available at their Queen Street location.
Find a full list of available digital outlets to buy Josef’s Lair in paperback and ebook: www.JosefsLair.com