Although I'm launching my fourth novel soon, I've never held the kind of launch people can turn up to. Vikki Gemmel has though and I've invited her here to tell us how it went.
On Friday 9th October I had the launch of my Young Adult Mystery debut novel, Follow Me, at the Argyle Street branch of Waterstones in Glasgow. My publisher, Strident Publishing Ltd. liaised with Waterstones to secure the launch and I popped into the store to say hello a couple of weeks ahead of the event so that I could meet the manager, and also ask a few logistical questions. When choosing your outfit for the evening, check what you’ll be sitting on…I was very glad I had chosen a longish dress to wear as the high bar-stool style chairs could have resulted in a thigh-flashing disaster situation.
I set up an Events invitation page on Facebook, as this was the quickest and easiest way to announce my plans to a wide range of friends. I emailed other people I knew, and friends and family also spread the word. For me, having so many friends and family present, was what made having a big book launch special and turned it into one of the best nights of my life. I can’t think of any other occasion where you get to fill a room with so many people from all walks of your life. My old Primary School Head Teacher even turned up, allowing me to thank her for the encouragement she gave me with my writing in my last year of Primary. It was also amazing to be able to launch my book in one of my favourite book shops!
The amount of encouragement and support I received on the couple of days leading up to the launch helped to soothe my nerves. Miraculously on the day itself a weird sense of calm washed over me, (when weeks before I was breaking out in cold sweats at the thought of taking centre stage and talking about my book). I had managed to develop the mind-set that the evening should be a celebration with friends, and that was exactly what it was!
My publisher, Keith, did a brilliant job of introducing me, putting me at ease, and turned our question and answer session into what felt like a friendly chat. My biggest worry was that the event would be staid, but we succeeded in keeping it informal and as fun as possible. As he knows my book nearly as well as I do, he was able to ask intuitive questions, which allowed me to explain key parts of the story, as well as talk about my writing process.
Prior to us ‘going live’, he asked me what extracts I’d chosen to read, and he cleverly structured the questions so as to allow me to intersperse my short readings neatly into our conversation. He had also previously suggested that when he asked me the inevitable question, ‘What is your book about?’ that I read out the blurb as it explains the story concisely, without me descending into waffle. Here is the blurb for Follow Me:
What is the deadly allure of the Barn?
17-year-old Kat Sullivan has been devastated by the loss of her twin sister, Abby, the most recent of five teenagers to have died in the town of Eddison, all within a year. No-one seems able to explain the circumstances surrounding her death.
As Kat struggles to move on, she is introduced to an underground hangout – the Barn – by Abby’s friends. There, she meets the enigmatic Rob and his friend Michael, art students who have re-created pop artist Andy Warhol’s infamous Factory, where creative types can construct art and socialise.
Drawn into Rob’s social scene, and seduced by the attention of this attractive stranger, Kat relishes the freedom and escape offered by the Barn’s non-conformity and creativity.
But the Barn holds a strange influence over those who frequent it, and soon Kat begins to realise how little she knew about her sister’s life.
Kat needs answers.
She also needs to stay alive.
I also decided to read my Prologue as the first extract, as it gives a taster of my writing style, as well as introducing the voice of my main protagonist, seventeen year old Kat. Here is my Prologue:
We were Gemini Twins, my sister and I. Two halves making up one whole. She always said I took on all of the darker characteristics of the sign, moody and introverted. She was the sunshine to my darkness; outgoing and full of laughter. I dyed my hair black and matched my foundation to the colour of snow. Her hair shone of gold and she always had a smile on her face. She was the happy one.
It made her suicide all the more shocking.
My parents turned to me for answers. I wasn’t sure, but I thought I saw a trace of accusation in their eyes. Had my darkness seeped into her light and tainted her sunny disposition?
I only had one answer: my beautiful carefree sister would not take her own life. She was not distraught or desperate.
She was also not the only one to go. Our town almost didn’t react to the news of her death. Everyone was slowly switching off, becoming numb, as Abby became another haunting statistic.
Over the past year there had been other teenage suicides in our town. Abby was number five. None of them left suicide notes and none of them said goodbye to their loved ones. Why? It was the only question I had. I screamed it over and over in my head every minute of every day.
After reading this, it allowed me to expand on the fact it is Kat’s determination to find answers to what is really going on, which drives the story and provides the mystery element, as she refuses to believe her sister would take her own life.
My publisher brought wine along on the night which helped everyone to stay merry. As my book has influences of the Pop Artist Andy Warhol I also wanted to bring something which would tie in with this theme, so I put together mini Coca-cola bottles, with a Marilyn Monroe Pop Art style badge attached to a label encouraging the audience to ‘be famous for fifteen minutes’ by sharing event photos across social media with the hash-tag #followmetothebarn. This was a hashtag I was already using on my author Pinterest and Instagram pages on the lead up to the launch. Now if you type in the hashtag on Twitter and Instagram you can see a whole range of photos and posts from my launch night.
Waterstones also joined in the fun and took a picture of my cupcakes from the night (which had edible cake toppers of my book cover from the fantastic eatmyface.co.uk), sharing it on Twitter with the same hash-tag. The next day my publisher re-tweeted and hash-tagged some posts of his own. I shared a picture of my cupcakes on the Eatmyface Facebook page a week after the event, and they then shared this for all of their followers to see. My parents also provided other nibbles. These little touches added to the fun (and also made for some great, colourful photos!).
A few weeks before the event I put in a new order of promotional postcards, (with my book cover as the main image), so that I could insert these inside some of my books on the night (mainly for people and teenagers who didn’t know me so well). The back of these postcards have my social media contact details. One friend left a postcard in the toilets of the after-drinks pub. By the end of the night this was the only cubicle still in order so it allowed me to announce to the queue, ‘Hey, see the postcard in there – that’s my book! Tonight is my launch.’ Launch night, when you’ve had a couple, is probably the ONLY night an author will get away with such an egotistical moment…
If I have one tip for authors on the run up to their launch it would be – Leave your nerves at home and enjoy every minute. You’ve worked so hard to get here, (and there’s plenty of work to do afterwards), so make this your night of fun!
Follow Me is currently out in paperback and is available to buy on Amazon and can be ordered into your local Waterstones here.
Victoria Gemmell lives in Renfrewshire, Scotland, and her debut Young Adult novel Follow Me is out now, published by Strident Publishing Ltd. Whilst studying an undergraduate degree in Communication and Mass Media, Victoria developed a fascination with pop culture and Andy Warhol, which has influenced a lot of the ideas in Follow Me. Victoria works with teenagers on a daily basis as a careers adviser.
Victoria has had shorter works published in journals such as the WordswithJAM anthology An Earthless Melting Pot, The Grind Journal, The Puffin Review, FlashFlood, Word Bohemia and The Bohemyth Literary Journal, writing under the name Vikki.