Resources for Writers
How to Prepare for a Successful Book Launch: Part 1 by Orla Shanaghy
I’m in that blissful state known as post-book-launch. My first published book, Mental, a short story collection, was launched three days ago. There was standing room only at the event. All the books sold out. I’m currently awaiting delivery of the next box of books so that outstanding orders can be fulfilled.
The launch was held in my home city and I knew almost everyone who came. That doesn’t make me any less delighted.
To explain how we got to this stage (I say ‘we’ advisedly as I had a lot of people helping me), I’m going to go back to the fundamentals. I was eight years old when I first decided that I would publish a book one day. I daydreamed about walking into a book store and seeing my book, with my name on it, up on the shelf beside all the others. The point I’m making is that you’ve got to:
Have a dream
You’ve got to want it so much that you can feel your fingertips gliding across that book cover with your name on it.
One thing that goes along with having the dream is visualisation. This will probably happen automatically; when you dream, the picture of yourself standing behind the microphone at your book launch will just appear before your mind’s eye. If you have trouble with visualisation, it can be learned. I suggest learning some of the techniques of meditation and mindfulness to help with this.
By the way: you don’t have to be eight years old. Your dream can start at any age.
Tend the dream
One of my favourite writing-related sayings is “Life gets in the way”. Babies are born, jobs are lost, ill health strikes. It’s OK if the dream fades sometimes. I didn’t write a word outside of work for most of my twenties. At the time, my publication dream seemed remote. Now, I know it was only temporarily blurred. The dream came back into focus when the time was right for me.
Remind yourself of your dream every so often; daydream about it, write about it, talk about it to those you trust. It will come into focus at the right time for you, too.
Swot up for the dream
For many years while I was not writing, I read a lot about writing and publishing. This was not due to any master plan of mine; I felt unfocused and scattered. I just read what I was interested in, all the while castigating myself mentally for not actually writing. Turns out all that reading was a lot of help when I finally did get down to writing and publishing. I had a good basic idea of what I needed to do. I knew where to look and who to turn to for information.
As the years went by, I also attended a number of courses to do with writing, self-promotion for authors, and self-publishing. Again, the demon that sits on my shoulder laughed, mocking me for attending such courses when I wasn’t producing anything. Again, sheer interest won out. I just wanted to know about this stuff, even if I wasn’t actually putting any of it into practice at the time.
Another benefit of attending courses was that I got to know people in the writing and publishing fields. The people ranged from would-be authors, like me, to published authors, to people who ran courses, to people who just loved writing, and many more. When the time came for me to write and publish, this real-world network was invaluable. It also provided a source for my launch night guest list.
I say ‘real-world’ because, of course, there is a whole other, virtual world of contacts to be made.
I always loved social media. I joined Facebook in 2007 and have gleefully jumped on every social media bandwagon since.
Not everyone is keen on the virtual world. I understand concerns about privacy and big data. For my part, I have made an informed choice to engage with social media. It has become an essential part of my writing life. I get to know other authors and learn lots from them. I make links with publishers. I follow authors that I love. All this helps and inspires me hugely.
There are, of course, successful writers who are not on social media. I take my hat off to them. One that I am aware of is Sara Baume, author of Spill Simmer Falter Wither. Perhaps it is true that her writing is so good (and it is amazing) that she doesn’t need to be on social media. I do know that her publisher, Tramp Press, does a lot of promotion on her behalf, so technically speaking, she is present on social media, just not in person.
Get a little help from your friends
By this I don’t mean practical help; that will come later. The kind of help you need when you’re still at the pre-writing and pre-publication stage is more of the moral support kind. You know, when you’re crying into your coffee about how you’ll never be a proper writer. The kind of friend or family member that you need at these times knows what to say. (“I know you can do it” is usually good.)
What you don’t need to hear are sentiments along the lines of “Maybe it’s time to give up the writing lark and focus on getting a real job/your family/your kayaking”. Apart from being disempowering and limiting, phrases like that are plain wrong-headed. Writing is not mutually exclusive with any other activity in life. In fact, I have found that the busier you are with your non-writing life, the better you get at planning time for your writing. Sure, you may have a bit less time for writing if you’re busy with a day job, family, or whatever, but would you be any better a writer if you didn’t have those things? The answer for me is certainly no.
What all this means in practice is that you may have to become more careful about who you talk to, and when. I’m not suggesting that you cut certain people out of your life because they aren’t down with your writing. Friends are valuable in different ways. What you might find useful, though, is not seeking them out at certain times – if you’re in a low mood due to lack of progress with your writing, for example, you’re probably better off avoiding that friend until you’re in a better place. Correspondingly, the friend or family member who buoys you up, who listens without judging you – he or she’s the one you want to ask for an emergency coffee meetup when you’re feeling low.
(c) Orla Shanaghy
In Mental, Orla Shanaghy opens up the world that exists between the cracks. This timely collection explores our attitudes to mental health through five powerful and intimate short stories that are as deeply affecting as they are brutally honest.
A young couple hopes that restoring an old boat will bring them closer together. A flighty hair stylist feels slighted by a fickle and privileged client. A father finally comes to understand his demons during a visit to his childhood home. A schoolboy struggles to make sense of an adult world that seems to change and shift without warning. And following a disturbing diagnosis, a woman of substance questions everything she once believed about herself.
Each of these remarkable stories explores what it means to live with mental illness, set apart yet belonging still.
Order your copy online here.
Orla Shanaghy is an Irish writer whose short stories have been shortlisted for the Fish Short Story Prize 2012 and the William Trevor Prize 2007. Orla's newly released book, Mental, is available in ebook and paperback format from The Book Centre, The Book Depository, and Amazon.
Orla's blog is Wait til I tell you was shortlisted in the 2013 Irish Blog Awards. She is a regular speaker at literary festivals in Ireland.