First of course you find your beloved, whether it be a human being or a book. And then…
1. Announce your engagement and set the date
After checking with family calendars and local sports and festival event planners, I came up with Thursday, July 24, 2014 for my book launch party. I had already launched my new website, and once the date was set I immediately created my Mail Chimp mailing list and sent out a save-the-date email to all the friends, relatives, acquaintances, associates, clients, and so forth that I had an email address for. The one organization I forgot to check in with is the Washington Department of Transportation, which I recently learned decided to completely shut down the I-90 floating bridge over Lake Washington during my launch week. This is very bad news, even worse than when I learned the US Soccer Team had scheduled a World Cup game during my Chicago sneak preview event last month. But thankfully there are other ways to get to the Eastside from Seattle.
2. Introduce your family and friends to your beloved
As with any relationship, some of my friends and relatives had already been introduced to, or heard a lot about, my book. Others not so much, sometimes for a reason. But now was the time to pull back the curtain and let everyone know the book was done and coming out, by hook or by crook. Remember when you took your first (or second or third) significant other home to meet the parents? The big gulp? The sigh of relief when you survived the inquisition? The same is true for introducing your book, especially one with a controversial title like The Damnable Legacy of A Minister’s Wife.
The one difference between introducing family and friends to your main squeeze and introducing them to your book is that you can always break up with a beloved human being at some future point, but you will always be wed to the book you published, whether you still like it or not as the years go by.
3. Set your budget
Weddings cost a lot of money, right? So does book publishing and marketing. While big name authors get a budget from their publishers, most small writers get only a tiny budget at best. And independently published authors are completely self-financed. In Everyday Book Marketing (by Midge Raymond), Wendy Call talks about the sizable amount of money she spent on touring and promotion, and how important it is to prioritize. I’m in the early stages and I can already see how this phase of being an author can be a black hole for money and energy. I’ve heard you don’t even breakeven, when you’re independently publishing, until you’re on your fifth book.
I’d better get back to writing more, after the launch. So I can get to break-even before I get to breakdown.
4. Compile guest list
That’s easy. Invite everyone I know! And a few people I don’t know, too, like the woman I met on an airplane and the server in a restaurant.
At the suggestion of Someone Who Shall Not Be Named, I decided to use the free services of evite.com to manage my guest lists for my official Seattle-area book launch (for which I had a lengthy guest list) and another, out-of-town book event (which was intended to be more intimate). Unfortunately, one night I was minding my own business at my computer when I started receiving RSVPs for the out-of-town intimate event from the other guest list. I never did find out what happened, but somehow evite.com had a glitch and invited everyone from the large event guest list to the small event without me even pressing a single key. Note to self: run only one evite.com campaign at a time from now on.
5. Select a venue and caterer
Had I not attended a fabulous panel of independent booksellers at the recent AWP conference in Seattle, I would have been reticent to even imagine holding an event for an independently published book at a prestigious bookstore. But the panelists were overwhelmingly supportive of those self-published authors who take their work, and their relationships with booksellers, seriously. Ultimately I wound up choosing University Book Store in Bellevue, where Kim Henry and Olivia Ahl welcomed me warmly and enthusiastically. They have been a delight to work with.
Caterer? See #3 above. I am the caterer. But in truth, it’s not only because of budget that I am doing all this legwork. I also wanted to offer foods and beverages that were part of the story, and I figured a caterer would not be interested in searching for elk jerky. I found it, except that it’s a million miles away. Still, I might make a jerky run later today. Just because.
6. Select members of wedding party
I knew all along that I didn’t want to have a boring old book launch where the audience fell asleep as I droned on reading from my work. So I invited the poets Ann Teplick and Susan Chase-Foster to participate in the evening. What this means is that I won’t be the only one center stage. We three will be up at the altar…I mean front of the bookstore…interacting with one another and weaving our work together to offer a richer experience for everyone.
7. Shop for your gown
I hadn’t even thought about attire until an interior designer friend of mine suggested getting a nice dress that would be complimentary to my book cover. Wow, I never would have thought of that. Unfortunately, I hate to shop. My youngest son, who is a bit of a clotheshorse and has good fashion sense, offered to take me shopping. We strolled through Nordstrom, Lucky, and Tommy Bahama with a postcard of my book in hand as we searched for the perfect dress. As it turns out, I’m not a fancy dress sort of person. But I think what we found will be just fine. And if it’s not…it’s too late now, anyway.
8. Hire a band
It should be a law that all book events should have music. My nephew, Nick Spiese, played acoustic guitar for me at my sneak preview event in Chicago, and frankly I think he was the hit of the show (which was fine with me). As for the official book launch this week, the fabulous Emily Leopold, a UW music student and local singer/songwriter, has agreed to join in the fun. Some of her lyrics are so spot-on that you’d think she wrote the songs just for my book. You’ve got to come and listen to her!
9. Plan the ceremony
I assumed this would be an event where I would read and talk, and then the poets would read and talk, and the musician would bookend our work. But as the event drew closer I realized that was all wrong.
This will be an interactive event, with poems and songs interwoven with discussion of the book and some ever-so-brief readings as well. If all goes remotely according to plan, this will be one of the best book events I’ve ever attended, ahem, even if I do say so myself.
10. Plan honeymoon
I am not going on a honeymoon after my book event. I am crawling under the covers for a long, long nap. And then I will get up and begin writing again, which I have not done for quite a long time. I hope I remember how.
11. Finalize menu
T minus 30 hours or so and I’m still working on that. Elk jerky and pumpernickel bread are harder to find than I’d anticipated.
12. Submit announcements to local newspapers
Andrea Dunlop of Girl Friday Productions gave me a handy list of media contacts, and of course I added a few of my own. I’m not expecting a barrage of reporters and cameras, unless the word gets out there will be free beer and wine. But I do hope at least some of the locals will attend.
13. Get final headcount
Actually, I don’t care to know at this point. I’m in the final countdown of planning. I hope everyone who said they would come will come. I hope those who haven’t RSVP’d will decide to. I hope everyone who comes will bring a friend or two. The more the merrier. In fact, I hope so many people come that we run out of food and beverages. And books, too.
14. Get plenty of sleep and a massage right before the wedding day
Check. Going to bed by ten every night this week. Got the massage yesterday from Jenna at Massage Envy in Bellevue. Feeling good.
I think I’m ready. Now all I need to do is walk up the aisle, wrap my hands around the microphone, and say, “I do.” As in “I do love my book, and I hope you will too.”