Launching In A Small Town

Well, now. That was interesting. 



(Signing a book for Mayor Barry Jarvis)

I don’t know how many other writer-types live out in the boonies, but if this post helps anybody, so much the better. 

I wasn’t wholly convinced that a small town without a book store (other than the newsagent) was a great place for a launch. But books get launched in all kinds of places (I attended one in a car park under a hotel once.) and often they get launched more than once. I figured that anything I did out here in Scottsdale probably wouldn’t affect anything that the publisher might want to do back in Launceston, or elsewhere.

There were other reasons to have a launch here. Lots, actually. First there was the cover designer. I’ve mentioned the lad before, and he’s got a permanent link down the side of this blog, under ‘Branchy Design‘. I really wanted to put him up in the local spotlight, and let him show his wares. He’s good at what he does, and the more people can see his works, the more work he’s likely to get, I figured.

Then there were personal reasons. Natalie’s dealt with me as a short story writer for a long time, and short stories don’t draw much interest in a place this size. Launching a novel? Well, now the town is aware she married a writer; that her husband does more than just teach a martial arts class, look after kids and a property. I like to think that will make her feel good. 

There were reasons regarding the town itself, too. Scottsdale has economic problems. There’s no secret about that. I wanted to do something different: something to show people that there’s stuff happening under the surface, that there are things we can do as locals that don’t necessarily involve forestry or vegetable-packing. Scottsdale doesn’t see a lot of book launches. I figured it would be nice to do something along those lines.

In most senses, it went very well. We had enough people to provide the restaurant with a good crowd, and everybody was talking and laughing, having a good time. There was no sense of stiffness or overformality, even as the mayor — Barry Jarvis — opened his remarks. Mayor Barry actually seemed pretty pleased with the evening. He pointed out that he’s been the mayor for four years, but this is his first book launch. 

The restaurant was a perfect choice. Once they fired up the oven and started the pizza train, people were well-fed. JoDonny’s (I’d hook you to a website, but it’s a small-town restaurant. Website? Whatever for?) makes a mean woodfired pizza, and the lasses working there handled the noise and the buzz with perfect aplomb. (I rocked up the next day and delivered a box of chocolates for the waitresses, along with effusive thanks.)

We prodded Adam until he got up and talked a bit about his business. Perhaps unsurprisingly, he wasn’t exactly ready to face a crowd – but the crowd was ready for him. Instead of speaking, he wound up answering questions, which he did with a dry, understated humour. We’re already planning the next cover, by the way.

I did the obligatory reading. Kept it short – always a good idea, and moreso when, like me, you’ve caught an inconvenient cold and your voice is starting to crack up. Fortunately there was a nice passage in Path of Night which lent itself both to a bit of exposition, and a bit of fast-paced action. 

Tehani of Fablecroft came along, with many books. I think she estimated well: not too many of PON went home with her, although admittedly I grabbed a handful. I have more to send out, and a few lined up to give away to various places and people. Tehani also brought me a PON T-shirt, and my very own PON mug. I have a mug with my novel cover on it! Yay!

Tehani also took photos… which is why this post is illustrated. (Tehani is irreplaceably clever, efficient, and entertaining. Have I mentioned how glad I am you came down here to Tas, Tehani? Yes, I know it’s chilly…)

So — we were pencilled in for six to six-thirty. In reality, we broke up and wandered off about eight pm, and I got the impression people enjoyed the evening. I can’t argue with that, because I certainly had fun, though I spent a lot of the time bouncing around like a headless chicken, amped up on the pseudoephedrine in the anti-cold/flu drugs I took before I came in. 

So much for the good side of things, and yes — if you’re a writer living in a small town, then you really should think of holding a launch somewhere local. But be careful. Despite support from the local newspaper (thanks to the Northeastern Advertiser!) and the local popular radio show (thanks to Mel from 7SD!) there were very few blow-ins. Most of the people there were people I knew directly, and people Adam knew. 

That wasn’t unexpected, and it was quite acceptable, but it’s a little sad that a book launch didn’t draw interest from more of the community. I guess that the book-buying, book-reading slice of the community really is as small as the marketing research suggests. I was wondering if the local angle would change things for people — local writer, local artist, Tasmanian publisher – but it seems otherwise.

Two lessons out of that for anybody else looking to do something similar. First: build your social networks with care and consideration. And let me point out that I don’t think you can do something like that deliberately and artificially. The people that I know in and around Scottsdale are valued friends because I enjoy their company, and we share interests and find time for each other. I don’t think you can do it any other way. 

Second? Be aware: there’s probably a reason your small town doesn’t have a dedicated book store! But don’t let that stop you. The evening was a whole sackful of fun, and I wish I’d had more time (and less drug-influenced head-cold dizziness!) to spend with everybody who came along. 

It was good. There was pizza. There was wine. There were books — and friends. Thanks to everybody!



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