Last week I went to the launch of Louise Phillips's fourth crime novel, The Game Changer, and then to the launch of Ruth Frances Long's A Hollow in the Hills. Both were lovely events and my week was full of book talk, free wine, cake and autographed copies, all of which are good things to have in your life. I was sad to miss Elizabeth Murray's launch, as her new book, The Book of Learning, is made of everything I love - Dublin and West Cork and Georgian houses and scary things and girls whose names begin with E (we're frankly underrated) but thankfully a friend of hers has written about the event here.
I'd recommend the occasional book launch to any unpublished writer. Here's why.
1. To be in a space where people really care about books, and about supporting writers.
Everyone at a book launch is there for one of two reasons: to support a writer that's important to them, or to celebrate the book. Some unpublished writers have day jobs that allow them to immerse themselves in books - for many of the rest of us, books are a vital component of our lives relegated to after hours and weekends.
A launch can serve as a timely reminder, for those of us typing away in our living rooms, our canteen or the local Starbucks, that there is an army out there supporting what we do and cheering us on.
2. For a great opportunity to see how it's done.
I went to my first book launch when I was fifteen or sixteen, for a relative's first novel, and have probably gone to a few each year since. I know how they work. I know that they get really, really freaking warm, so you need to dress lightly. I know that cake always goes down well. I know that drinks afterwards are usual.
All of which prevents me from envisioning anything too elaborate or impractical when its my turn. The aerial acrobats are probably a no-no.
I know that a certain amount of thank-yous are obligatory but that it's nice to keep it succinct - although if you've ever been to a wedding, you probably know that already.
3. To meet other writers.
Usually the lady or gentleman of the hour will have a few words to say about how they got to where they are (especially if it's their first book), which is so encouraging for those of us still waiting to get there.
However, I'd also recommend calling a halt to attending launches after a while, and here's why:
1. Comparison is the thief of joy
At a launch, you get to see a book that has been professionally edited and designed. If the writer reads an extract, it's a well-chosen extract. And the writer has gone through sometimes as much as two years of development since signing their deal (note: none of this is a reason to compare your book to a published one, decide it's not up to scratch and send it off anyway on the grounds that the editor and other publishing bods will Cinderella you. I am reliably informed that this is not what happens).
And if it's a wet wintery Tuesday and your manuscript is going terribly and you decide to spend the evening surrounded by smart lovely people celebrating the peak of writerly achievement - well, don't blame me if you need to order a pizza on the way home and eat it in your pyjamas with some whiskey.
Not that I would know. I drink schnapps.
2. The real work happens away from the spotlight
Dreaming of a launch is a lot like dreaming of a wedding. They're great, but to get one, you need to do a lot of work behind the scenes (can you tell I was at a wedding last weekend? It was fantastic).
Also, if you get a chance to go to either a wedding or a book launch, I'd suggest the wedding. Launches are great, but I've never seen any really good embarrassing dancing at one - although maybe I'm going to the wrong launches. . .