Reflections on launching a book into the ether
At one point on Saturday I found myself sitting on the floor of a raised stage while all around me people I knew, people I’d just met, and people I’d never seen before talked and laughed and drank together. The pub was full, a long narrow hall of arcade machines and graffiti-covered walls pressing folk together to share tables and seats… something that could not have happened a year or so ago. Another book was thrust under my nose by a workmate whose grin told me he thought the whole thing was just as ridiculous and surreal as I did. We both laughed and I took another drink… a pint glass in one hand… a pen in the other. That was my name on the cover. My book.
“Sign this for me, mate!”
Saturday saw the launch of The Book and the Blade, and it was absolutely magic! For a few hours I stood, or sat, or leaned against Street Fighter II in a packed pub and talked about a book I wrote. I was surrounded by amazing people, and we were all there for something fun… and creative. The walls were covered in art, arcade games and pinball machines offered a nostalgic soundtrack, and for a short while I lived a dream.
In hindsight, I should have prepared. The writer should at least have written a speech, right? But I didn’t, and so when my friend, Mitch – our impromptu and excellent MC – introduced me to the crowded room I took hold of the mic in what might have been nervous fingers. But they weren’t… not when I got going… not when it mattered. It felt like the most natural thing in the world and I loved it! My wife and friends had made magic happen! I stood on a stage and looked out at the faces of people I knew and loved… friends and family from all over the country who had made the trip, new acquaintances I met in an online writing group who were even more awesome in real life, lovely guests, lovely strangers, and even a few amazing ex-students. Complete magic! It was a whirlwind. I started by thanking everyone but then gave special thanks to my wife… I read the dedication from the start of the novel and explained the truth behind it… the facetiousness… the tongue-in-cheek-ness.
All the best ideas are Kels. Including, and this cannot be stressed enough, to actually have a book launch in the first place!
It almost never happened.
I’m one of those strange characters who can seem a complete extrovert but will quite gladly do nothing if that is an option. I’d already written the book. Hell! It was already published. Doing nothing seemed to be a viable option to me… not to Kel. Only a month or so earlier to this mad day she convinced me to say yes to a launch. I remember the look on her face when I said, ‘Okay, babe. Make it happen.’ There was that smile I love so much followed by the frown of business and she got to work. She called Amy and that was that… game over, Al. Just turn up and do as you’re told!
(If you were there you would have met Amy! She was everywhere! A total legend! I hear her and Mitch even walked through the airport yesterday carrying a poster, still advertising my book!)
So, I did just that… as I was told. I stood up in a room full of people and spoke about my first novel… and I had a bloody great time! When there were gaps that threatened to spread into awkwardness, they were jumped on by Mitch and others who threw questions at me and the whole thing seemed so natural and wonderful that, honestly, I can’t quite believe it really happened. We sold every book and every single bit of merchandise (we had merchandise! Ridiculous!), we gave novellas away, and I signed my name wrong a hundred times, and it was just bloody lovely. People laughed and smiled and even applauded! (madness!) And then it just kept going… social media exploded (in a safe, localised and contained kind of way) with people saying the most wonderful things, and as much as I’m usually reluctant to write stuff like this for fear of tooting my own horn and sounding like an arrogant twat, I figure there are some instances where it’s okay, right? This was one. It was magic. And I loved every second.
My little book is in the world now. Officially launched. In the hands of the gods.
Kel tells me I have to stop being so self-deprecating when I finish these things or when I create ads on social media. “Stop saying I hope you enjoy my book… unless it’s shit”. That sort of thing. So, I promised her I wouldn’t. Not this time. This time I will absolutely not end by saying I hope people don’t think my book is shit.