Planning a book launch: Four months out

(Sixth in a series.)

Four months to go! In the month of June (which was four months pre-pub for me), the days get longer, the children’s bedtimes starts shifting as we linger at the dinner table outdoors amid the smells of neighborhood grills, school starts winding down, thoughts turn to the beach, gin and tonics on the deck, weekends away. But four months from publication, there is a lot of work to be done.  This will not be a slow summer. Not at all.

Book launch venue:
This month, I finalized my decision regarding a venue for my official book launch: Porter Square Books, a fabulous indie bookstore in Cambridge, MA. Considerations: excellent store, a long history of readings by high caliber writers, friendly staff, a large parking lot, easy access from various parts of the Greater Boston area. Date: Monday, October 13th. A most auspicious date, as it is the birthday of my late grandfather Maurice Sagoff, poet and storyteller extraordinaire to whom I have dedicated by book. I also like that it is a holiday, so that people with the day off don’t have to rush over from work, and my own family can arrive a bit early to help set up (and calm my nerves). Remain to be planned: caterer for finger foods, nearby restaurant for a gathering after the official reading and signing, and dance component given the prominence of Indian classical dance in the story. 

Invitation list: 
With the venue set, I started the fun yet tricky process of drawing up my invite list, trawling through my entire network of contacts to determine who might want to know of this event. I put a lot of thought into this, trying to find the right balance of discretion and tasteful promotion. (That could be the subject of a whole post in itself.) But here’s the good thing about taking ten years to write and publish a book: pretty much everyone in my life knows about this book already and has cheered me on and told me how much they look forward to reading it.

Setting up other events:
The experience with booking an event at Porter Square Books taught me this: it is not too early to be setting up events. Calendars are already filling up for the Fall. Much as I am loathe to think of Fall, with its back-to-school rush and cool tinge to the air, I have been contacting other book stores and venues to set up readings. So far, so good. Some have not responded, others have been enthusiastic. My own calendar is starting to fill up. Which is exciting and a little bit terrifying. (Is that possible? Can one be a little bit terrified, or is that like being a little bit pregnant?)

Updating the web site:
Putting myself out there, contacting people about my book, this all means that folks will be visiting my web site. This month, I updated it. I considered hiring a professional, but decided I could do a good enough job myself. I switched from having my blog as the landing page to having a static page with basic information about myself and my book. (Although the headlines of my posts do appear on the homepage.) I added an “Events” tab, and a media kit with a downloadable version of my press release and hi res author photos. I created sub-pages with more information about the book: the trailer, the description, links to pre-order it, advance praise. All this is very feasible in a user-friendly way on Wordpress.

And then something fun happened! The Boston Globe ran a feature on the book club that I run for my 10 year old daughter and her friends. So that was a fun piece to highlight, and another impetus for updating my web site.

Preparing readings:
I don’t want to be one of those authors who stands up in front of an audience and proceeds to read in that monotone “author reading” voice that we’ve all heard. I am determined to practice my passages this summer, and am recording myself as a (torturous) tool for improvement. I started selecting potential passages according to the following criteria: they must fit into a maximum of 15 minutes; they must require minimal explanation or introduction; they must be engaging; they must not give away anything major in the plot; and (particular to me) they must lend themselves to some element of dance movement, as many of the characters are dancers of an art form I study, and I plan to enhance readings with some movement. Regarding the last criteria, I started meeting with my dance teacher for her creative ideas and coaching.

Meeting with other local writers:
One of the most gratifying experiences of the past few months has been reaching out to other local writers, and the warm reception and generosity with which they have responded. The local writer community here, to which I have long been connected through Grub Street Writers, is unparalleled in the support and encouragement it offers. I have had lovely meetings over coffee or phone conversations with several authors, including Henriette Lazaridis PowerMarjan Kamali and A. X. Ahmad during which they have shared tips, contacts and general camaraderie. I highly recommend this process, in large part for the warm and fuzzy feeling it brings.

Preparing articles:
Now’s the time to be thinking about possible articles to pitch to shorter lead outlets. Blogs, online publications, etc. My publicist has nudged me about writing on some topics related to my book—in this case women in India, classical arts, the blending of Hindu and Muslim aesthetics, and many others—for the purposes of getting my writing out there. It’s a daunting but necessary exercise. Although, in all honesty, I’d just like to write my next book.

Remember that? Writing? Have you done much of it lately? With all the little tasks necessary for launching a book, it is all too easy for actual writing to fall by the wayside. People ask me all the time if I’m working on another book, and I answer (emphatically) yes, because that’s what they expect, that’s what I want to answer, and I do have a good chunk of a draft already. But the fact is, I’m not working on it. I haven’t had a chance to do so since signing my publishing contract last November. But I miss my other project, and, more importantly, I’m afraid of losing the ability to sit for three straight hours and work on a single creative élan without succumbing, often willingly, to a zillion distractions. So it was with true relief that I went on my annual writing retreat with my super writing pals, the Salt + Radish Writers, on the rugged and beautiful coast of Maine. What a luxury to fit in 19 hours of writing in three days. And the runs along the beach, the picnics and the company of dear friends didn’t hurt, either. A reminder, amid the niggliness of emails, calendars and to-do lists, of what really counts.

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  • Anjali Mitter Duva

    A whole new world indeed, Colleen! Quite a learning experience. Best of luck to you with your release.

  • Colleen Hannegan

    Super info here, Anjali. I'm just revving up in preparation for my own book release sometime in the fall. Still in the cover design and formatting phase. But the next frontier of promoting is a whole new world for me after spending 6+ years writing my story. Thanks for this!

  • Anjali Mitter Duva

    Many thanks, Jan!

  • Jan Morrison

    Lovely!  I'm more than happy to read about these preparations especially knowing you are publishing with She Writes.  Went to your site, like your blog, and your book sounds delish! Keep on keepin' on.