In 16 days, my book will hit the shelves. You’d think I’d be prepared for this monumental event, but all I can think is oh my gosh, how’d this happen? How did I get to this moment of anticipation laced with panic? As if the past too many years were just a dream and BAM! we have a launch on the horizon!
In last week’s post, Elly eloquently expressed the fear that comes with stepping out of our comfort zones—which comes with the territory when launching a book. I can only say, “Amen, sister!” There’s the fear of releasing our babies into the world of public opinion. And the fear that comes with hosting a big ole party that feels like part wedding and part baby shower—complete with tears. Of course, your debut experience might be completely different from mine.
In keeping with our debut theme, I thought I’d share what’s on my book launch checklist for these two weeks before the Oct. 15th release date and three weeks before October 23rd launch party. Trust me when I say that this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are some surprises I’m not willing to divulge. You might be surprised at what’s causing me the most angst at this point.
- Confirm that my launch venue, Book People, has enough books for the hopeful crowd that will attend. (I’ll keep my author copies in my car, just in case of shortage.)
- Confirm the sculpture cake.
- Order the danged backdrop that should have been ordered weeks ago.
- Check on the swag: the buttons, etc.
- Order or gather party décor or other items. (saddles, hay bales, and other horsey things)
- Prepare Evites and the Facebook event page using updated contact list. (Separate evites for different groups of contacts)
- Choose the food and drinks for the launch party and private after party. (It’s important to note that nobody is required to host a party for their launch, but Austin launches have become rather epic, so…)
- Ask somebody to take photos.
- Wrangle volunteers to help with set-up and clean-up, man the food tables, and help with the interactive reader’s theatre skit.
- Prepare the PowerPoint presentation, with photos and compelling details, including highlights that didn’t make it into the book.
- Write out the presentation and then practice, practice, practice.
- Finally, and most importantly, nail down the thank yous. Here’s where I get worried. See, I’m prone to teary sentiment. The more people watching, the uglier my crybaby face is. I’m considering adding an emergency cry slide to my PowerPoint presentation. I might even have one of those face-on-a-stick thingies to hold in front of me when I melt into a puddle of emotion. Besides my beloved EMU’s Debuts mob mates, I have so many people to thank for raising me as a writer, and for supporting this book for the past nine years:
There’s Erin The Great, who believed in me, and this book, before it was even sellable. There are many critique partners who offered valuable feedback over the years—they were first to commiserate during low points and cheer with every high point. There are VCFA classmates who are flying in for my big day—imagine that! And my Austin SCBWI family—there are no words for what they’ve meant to my career. And Mrs. Gentry, my fourth-grade teacher—she has no idea how much she influenced me. Of course, I am sooo grateful to my publisher, Lee and Low; my editors, Sam and Louise; and illustrator Daniel Minter who brought my story to life with such exquisite art. How do I thank my husband and kids who sacrificed in multiple ways so that I could chase this dream? Their encouragement never wavered. And my mother—to whom the book is dedicated—how do I thank her and my late father? Every experience of my youth led to this book. This moment. This new me.
Those of you still on the journey toward your own debut, take heed. The weeks leading up to your launch is a mix of maddening and magical emotions. Amid the chaos of planning, it’s important to be still for a moment and embrace gratitude. With any luck, my launch, and your launch, will be worth every single tear of joy.
Donna Janell Bowman’s debut picture book biography Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Taught the World About Kindness, illustrated by Coretta Scott King Book Award honoree Daniel Minter, has garnered multiple starred reviews. Forthcoming titles include En Garde! Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words, illustrated by S.D. Schindler (Peachtree, 2018), and King of the Tightrope: The Great Blondin Ruled Niagara, illustrated by Adam Gustavson (Peachtree, 2019). Previous publications include articles and short stories in nationally acclaimed magazines and anthologies as well as books for Capstone Press. In January 2017, Ms. Bowman will graduate with an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she mastered the art of writing while sleepless.