My book launch for A Place in the World went well on Saturday, with a good turnout. I brought little mementos from Colombia (the setting for the novel) – a painting, a bronze Spanish stirrup and an orchid. My husband, Tom, brought wine and cheese and we lingered until closing time – I recommend this to others doing a book reading in your home town where friends and fans might like to stay and talk. I realized that about half of the people present were friends and acquaintances and this made me think, if I schedule more readings they might not be so well attended.
I planned on about ¾ of an hour to speak briefly, read briefly – nothing is more boring than someone reading for half an hour –and take questions and then hang around to sign books and interact with people indefinitely. All seemed to be going well and I was about to end the Q & A when I get a negative hand signal from Tom in the back followed by “Tell us about…” I looked at my watch and less than 25 minutes had gone by! I was so worried about boring people that I had glossed over the stories I about the living in Latin America and process of writing. Lucky for me my husband saved the day. I think my plan was a good one – to leave them wanting more rather than dying to escape – but there is a balance to achieve, so watch the time and entertain your audience. That’s what they come for.
I was fortunate to have good local press and Orinda Books was incredibly supportive; they sold plenty of books. My objective was to get people to read my novel so I gave the bookstore the standard 40% discount, but I also I ordered them myself (using my author discount as well, to encourage them to carry this indie book); thus I barely broke even! Of course if my objective had been to make money I would have asked the bookstore to order the books themselves (they can return them, whereas I cannot if I over-order) but even then when you do the math, there is not a lot of profit for the author selling via bookstores.
Conclusions: Bookstore readings can be fun and good local publicity to get your book read. However it is a lot of work without much financial reward. If I do it again it will be at a library (where the profit is not shared) or a bookstore will have to order books from my distributor.
Please reply with questions and comments on your own experiences.