How Not to Conduct a Book Launch

Last night before going to the play, Chelsea Hotel, at the Firehall Arts Centre, I went to a small book launch. It was not a major author, nor was it a major publishing house. I was attracted by the topic and no, I’m not going to say what it was because I wouldn’t want to do that to the author.

While I do believe that anyone who writes a book deserves some respect for, at the very least, their perseverance, I couldn’t help but feel that what I experienced was a spectacle that all writers who have yet to launch a book would benefit from witnessing in the same way seeing oneself in a mirror as you walk towards it is both insightful and sometimes mortifying.

I felt like I might have accidentally stumbled across one of those John Cleese training videos. How Not to Conduct Meetings or How Not to Hire Someone except this one’s title should have been: How Not to Conduct a Book Launch. It was a veritable literary version of This is Spinal Tap with speeches ripe for a Mockumentary. Yes,  I’m being a cheeky biatch by sharing MY opinions on MY blog. Just hold your bookmarks. Don’t get your sanctimonious journals in a knot.

Here’s what I learned at Book Launch for Dummies 101

1. No thanking everyone you’ve ever met boring your audience for 15 minutes when you’ve actually got what could be an interesting topic that you wrote a whole damn book on. That’s why we came.

2. No using the term B.F.F.  (especially if you’re over 20). Actually, no, never use it. It’s stupid.

3. No self congratulations and then reading two pages of acknowledgements.  (Are you kidding me?)

4. No fake tears about your accomplishment (swear and cry and three Hail Marys in the privacy of your own home please).

5. No disclosing number of revisions unless you’re already rich, famous and admired. Second thought, nah, not even then.

6. No video to immortalize the mortified especially since almost all of them seemed to be seated in the audience, except those who were related to you.

7. No superlatives – fabulous, wonderful, fantastic, most fantastic, extraordinary. Stop. Just stop.

8. No acting like you’ve just discovered the cure for cancer, unless, of course, it’s a book about how you’ve just discovered the cure for cancer in which case you’ll be spared the need for a tedious book launch in exchange for protection from the Paparazzi.

9. No getting your B.F.F. to launch your book especially if she admits that you better catch her now because she won’t be the same person later because she’ll be DRUNK. Did you just pluck her from a taping of Vancouver Housewives? Tacky!

10. Hold the baby talk and refrain from using words from 1952 such as ‘gal’ and ‘girls’ and ‘honey’. (Refer back to #2)

So, I want to know. What drives you nuts about listening to writers read their work? What never works for you at book launches? What do you love?  In honour of The Vancouver International Writer’s Fest, and the upcoming Emerge 2012 Anthology launch, it seems like  a timely topic. Tips anyone?


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