How to Run a Successful Book Launch Party

grahams_charlotteLast Thursday, I went to the book launch party of a fellow writer’s group member, Drew Farnsworth. Wow! I have never been to a book launch party like the one Drew and his team of creatives put together. I really wish I had taken more photos!

It’s obvious Drew is well-connected in the Columbus creative scene. Not only does he attend the Wild Goose Creative writer’s group I attend, he’s also a member of the Columbus Creative Cooperative, and a co-worker at The Salt Mines (a place where you can rent a desk with other entrepreneurs). He won The Great Novel Contest from a local printing/publishing group, Columbus Press, and apparently his wife is a graphic designer because his fliers were AWESOME.

I learned a lot from this book launch, and wanted to share my insights with you.

Spread the word

I heard about the book launch through a last minute email to our writer’s group, but when I did a quick Google search, I found the event was posted on the local events forums, Columbus Underground and Columbus Alive. There’s also a giveaway on Goodreads for the print book.

Posting to your local events websites is a great way to spread the word to people you don’t know via friends of friends and family, you know?

Location, Location, Location

Drew was very smart to choose local arts group Wild Goose Creative for his book launch. Known for supporting local artists, Wild Goose Creative is a gallery space available for art shows, poetry readings, even weddings. You can bring your own alcohol (the launch party provided beer bottles and soda options) and food; they provide the chairs and tables and sound equipment per their rental fees. This place is known for hosting a good party for creatives, and with that sort of reputation, Drew et al couldn’t have made a better choice.

Go Local

Part of the book launch party included a raffle and a game contest, where the winners received free movie tickets to Studio 35, a locally-owned movie theater with a huge beer selection and pretty good food.

How can you connect with your local community to provide prizes related to your book?

It takes a Community

GrahamsCharlotte_small-file-300x449Sounds cliche, but in this case, completely true. First, when writing the novel, Drew attended two writer’s groups to stay accountable to finishing his book. Our writer’s group was well-represented, I think only one or two people were missing from the crowd I usually see.

His wife designed the launch party itself, including the amazing fliers, the craft paper tablecloths labeled with instructions to enter the raffle (which you entered after purchasing a book), and I don’t know what else.

His local publisher, Columbus Press, had a stack of books and two persons manning the table with a tablet to take credit card purchases via Square. This left Drew available to mill the crowd like the mini-celebrity he was.

His parents kept the buffet table stocked, which boasted tiered vegetable trays, fresh hummus, and a candy bar complete with freezer paper bags so you could create your own party favor.

Activities Galore

drewFarnsworthWhen I had my book launch, I enlisted a local tea owner to make special blends inspired by my characters, and basically the “launch party” was me talking about my writing process. That’s not a party, that’s a seminar! Drew’s party was a party, you guys.

As mentioned above, he had a buffet bar with veggies and candy. It was an all-ages party, so there were kids running around with borrowed devices to play Candy Crush (one of the methods to win the movie tickets), and adults sipping beer while chatting about how they knew Drew.

Drew had local actors enact the opening scene of the book, and read the narrative between dialogue/action segments. He also has a pretty clever trailer, which makes me feel his book would make a great movie if it really picks up a solid audience.

I tried to find a version online, but it doesn’t seem to exist, which is the one miss in this situation. Looks like he did upload the video, but it doesn’t allow embedding. Watch the Graham’s Charlotte book trailer on Vimeo!

Last Thoughts

In all, this definitely felt like a party more than a book launch, which I really liked. You didn’t feel pressured to buy a book, but if you wanted to win movie tickets, the sale price of $10 was worth the chance, right? Drew signed books if you approached him, but he never sat behind a table stacked high with his books, expecting people to want a signed copy. This was all completely appropriate for a debut author.

You can bet I’ll be stealing a number of these ideas whenever I complete and release my next book. Congratulations, Drew, and much success to your book, Graham’s Charlotte!

Best,
Belinda

Worderella’s How to Make a Character Map

Dear Reader,

After giving you a taste of Haunting Miss Trentwood, I thought it would be nice if I showed you one of the many ways I keep track of who I’m writing about, how they relate to one another, etc.

I love pen and paper, and could probably buy out any office supply store in the blink of an eye (that is, if I had unlimited funds, which, thankfully, I do not).

That said, I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise you to hear that I adore Post-it notes. The image in this post shows how I visualize the love triangle(s) from Haunting Miss Trentwood. I would make the image bigger but then it might spoil some of the plot twists!

You see, dear Reader, this is a sort of map for me. I use this to remind me where tensions occur between characters. I’m color code so I know which character is part of which plot or subplot, and then I draw arrows with visuals to tell me the generics about the relationships.

I was thrilled to read Deanna Raybourn’s blog when she said she does something similar: a collage of images that help inspire her current work-in-progress. I love learning other types of writing exercises that don’t—shock!—require you to write. I need to make things because I am a Maker. I need to use my hands while I’m figuring something out, even something as cerebral as a plot twist. And then after I’ve made the thing, I want to share how I did it. Like this.

How to make a Character Map

  1. Have a crummy day at work.
  2. Have an awesome conversation on Facebook.
  3. Grab a tabloid-sized sheet of paper, multiple colors of small sticky notes, a pen, and a pencil.
  4. Write the names of the main characters on different colors of the sticky notes. Try to group the characters based on their primary plot lines.
  5. Play around with the configuration of the character sticky notes on the page until you can get them to fit, and represent the relationships.
  6. Draw arrows from one sticky note to the other to show direct connections.
    • Use dotted lines to show indirect connections.
  7. Use a pencil because you might make a mistake and try to draw one arrow over another.
  8. To keep the character map legible, try to arrange the stick notes so you won’t have to cross arrows.
  9. Have fun with it! I drew a funny angry face to show antagonists, hearts to show love interests, and broken hearts to show tragedy.
  10. Put the character map somewhere you can glance at when you need inspiration.

I had so much fun with this, I might do it for the relationships I have in my life, and use it as a sort of art piece in my apartment. Or as a way for me to remember who is who at work. Learning the organizational scheme of a new workplace is always so stressful…

All the best,

Belinda

On writing exhausted

This is my first time venturing into the corporate world full-time, and let me tell you, it is a different sort of exhaustion than I was expecting. In order to fulfill my duties in my position at a large corporation I had to work a ten hour day yesterday and will do so again today. Add commuting time and I’m working two twelve hour days in a row.

Wait, I thought I wasn’t supposed to do that anymore now that I’ve left school? So far the only difference between school and work is that I have to make sure I shower everyday.

I’m not entirely serious about that.

Or am I?

Anyway, I’ve been determined to keep up with my writing, even with these long days. Living at home has been amazing, if only for that reason. I come home, exhausted, and rather than having to worry about what I’m going to eat for dinner, oh hey, Mom made spaghetti, sweet. I’ll eat, do the dishes, and then log into http://750words.com to get my quota in for the day.

It’s like NaNoWriMo, but without the stress. I just have to make sure I write 750 words. And that’s a far more manageable number than the 1,266 you need to do every day to win NaNoWriMo.

When you’re exhausted at the end of the day, what do you do to accomplish your writing quota? If you don’t have a quota, how do you make sure you keep writing even when it’s difficult?

Self-Publishers Unite!

As a published author determined to self-publish all future works, I always find it fascinating to read about others’ adventures in the self-publishing world. More people are doing it these days with the help of digital processing, but that doesn’t mean it’s a new trend. Many “established” authors self-published, such as Virginia Woolf.

Where do I begin?

Jumping into the self-publishing realm is not for the faint of heart. In fact, I would do a subsidy/vanity publisher first, just to get your feet wet. Something like Lulu would be a nice start as well, because they walk you through the process.

Once you’re certain you want to self-publish, subscribe to Publetariat. This is a blog peopled by a collection of self-publishers who write about everything, from hand selling your work to finding a good copy editor. They discuss the highs and lows, and provide resources to learn more about self publishing.

Then I would hop over to Dan Poynter’s website, which is chock full of free online resources for publishers.

Start watching Self-Publishing Review to get an idea of the quality people are looking for in terms of good self-published fare.

Listen to The Creative Pen podcasts on “writing, publishing options, internet sales and promotion – for your book.”

Most importantly, keep writing! If you don’t have anything to sell, what’s the point?

How are your projects going?

Have you decided if you want to self-publish, subsidy publish, or go the traditional route? Now that I’ve returned to the blogosphere, what would you like to see me write about?

Choose the Bolder

“When you cannot make up your mind which of two evenly balanced courses of action you should take–choose the bolder.”
– Ezra Pound

This month, you’re doing what many think is the impossible: you’re writing a novel-length book in thirty days.

Fifty-thousand words in thirty days.

Are you insane?

Yes, yes you are, and I love that about you.

I know many of you might be struggling at this point. This is the rough patch, really. You’re close to the end, but so far from it, you know?

So I’m sure you’re at a crossroads. You don’t know the next step your characters should take. You’re tempted to go back and edit what you have written. Whatever you do, don’t do that.

Here’s a suggestion: choose the bolder path. What would happen if, say, one of your characters died? Or did something almost  as radical?

Maybe it makes sense, what you’re about to do. And then again, maybe it doesn’t. That’s not the point of NaNoWriMo. The point is to put pen to paper, and at the end of the month, have something to workshop. Get that? Have something to workshop by the end of the month.

Good luck. If you need a place to vent about your work, leave a comment and we’ll see what we can do about sparking your imagination.

In the Midst of Living

“My ideas usually come not at my desk writing but in the midst of living.”
– Anaïs Nin, French Writer

First, I need to say that last week the lovely Evangeline at Edwardian Promenade awarded the I Love This Blog to me, and I have to spread the love around. See the end of this post for the award, and my nominations. ❤

This week’s exercise is to take a look around you. So often do we writers get lost in the act of writing, that we forget we are supposed to be writing about life. Who are these characters that we spend our every waking moments with? How can we possibly know who they are, and how to make them distinct, if all we do is sit around our houses dreaming about them?

NaNoWriMo is a difficult time for any writer, whether you have a plan/outline or not. I found that during the second week, I began to lag a little. Things weren’t coming as quickly, and I was losing some of my pep.

I knew I had to leave the computer. There was something about sitting in the same spot day in, day out, writing to fulfill the daily goal, that exhausted me. I took a digital camera and small writing journal, and went for a walk.

I took pictures of whatever I saw that inspired me, with the plan to print them out and tape them to the walls around my desktop. I sat by the little lake at the center of my campus, and absorbed. I never wrote anything.

Three years later (i.e. a couple of weeks ago), that moment crystallized into the following:

At Ohio State, my favorite place on campus was Mirror Lake. There are beautiful flowering trees there in the spring, and ducklings that swim in time with The Truman Show soundtrack on my mp3 player. In the winter, the lake freezes over and everyone tests their courage by walking across it. In the fall, the most zealous Buckeyes jump into the lake to show their loyalty against M*ch*gan. There are benches, and sometimes people play their guitars. I would walk around the lake, usually listening to classical music, and breathe it in. I’d stare at the fountain in the center, and how it sometimes made a rainbow on very bright days.

Simple, reminiscent, evocative. Do you have such a moment, and can you use it for your writing?

Awards to Blogs I Love

Dreaming on the Job

Graham Carter

Tales of a Fantasy Scribbler

Word Nerd

(Listed alphabetically)

A Six Word Story

This month, I’m doing a series of short exercises, one a week, to help those of you who are stuck with your WIP. Maybe you’re doing NaNoWriMo, maybe not. In any case, it helps to have an exercise to spark your imagination.

This week’s exercise is a challenge in brevity. The goal of NaNoWriMo, for instance, is to write 50k words in a month. A 50k word work is about the length of a short novel, similar to an Avon or Harlequin romance. This can be a challenge in and of itself… how do you write a novel with developed characters and an interesting plot in 50k words? Some writers, who are cheating themselves, will litter their WIP with adverbs, adjectives, and unnecessary description just to make that word count goal.

Here is a popular and well-known writing exercise… Hemingway was once given a challenge to write an entire story in only six words. His answer:

For sale: baby shoes, never worn.

Apparently, he thought it was his greatest literary work ever. It speaks to the audience, and pulls them in. We know the ending to the story, and can surmise how it began. Most importantly, we care.

Here are some of my six word stories:

He smiled, and her world ended.

She always hated writing the beginning.

Her lips were chapped. Damn frogs.

Required: knight in armor (shining optional).

There are many writers who practice this sort of flash fiction through their Twitter accounts, where each update can only be 140 characters long. Can you tell a story in a sentence? What is your six word story? Do you even count these micro-narratives as stories?