6 Things I’ve Learned By Attending Book Launches

This week, I managed to go to the book launch of “Struggling With Serendipity“, a memoir from a blogger I’ve been following for 3 years.

In the past, I’ve made it to book launches at conventions (The Perils of Prague and TV Gods) and I volunteered at the book launch of The Cursed Child (mostly because I missed the original Harry Potter launch parties and wanted to see what one might have looked like).

I’ve attended book signings — for authors AND web comic artists. And while lower key, these have some overlap.

Some were book signings with a reading first, some were book signings with actors and performances, some were open room parties with snacks and a credit card machine if you wanted to buy, and some were fun and games with the books off to the side, waiting for you to feel obliged to at least check out the reason for the event.

No two launch parties have been the same, but there are usually some overlaps.

1 – You Need To Advertise

If people don’t know it’s happening, they can’t come.

2 – Pick A Good Location

Pick a location that will appeal to your audience (and a good time of day)

  • If the story is based in your hometown, you’re going to have some local appeal there.
  • If your fanbase is full of people who love conventions, have your book launch at a convention.
  • If your book is for kids, have it at a kid-based festival, where they’re already going. Or at a school book fair.

3 – Be Prepared To Extrovert

If you can’t do it all yourself, bring backup. You want to be able to welcome people in, or call bypassers over (in a friendly, but not aggressive manner. Especially in a dealers’ room, you don’t want to tick off your neighbors).

You want to put out a warm and welcoming atmosphere that makes people comfortable asking the question, “so, what’s your book about?”

And?

You’ve got to be able to answer that, in one sentence or less, in such a way that more-people-than-not will want to know more.

4 – Do Something

You can’t just show up with a book, at a book launch, and expect to sell. Otherwise, you might as well just be a seller. What makes this a LAUNCH?

You can have free snacks or cake! You can have swag (magnets, bookmarks, etc).

You can have a raffle for a free copy!

You’re probably going to want to read an excerpt from your novel. Have a section — preferably near the beginning if it’s a novel — that requires minimal explanation. Best are scenes with dialogue, world building, and maybe even some action.

If you’re selling your book, be sure to offer to sign it! Maybe even personalize it. [If there’s a huge crowd, have paper for people to write their names on, so you can spell them right].

5 – Bring Your Friends and Family

Some of you might have the mistaken impression that your friends and family aren’t ‘real’ fans, they’re obligatory fans, and that you have to have strangers there to endorse you.

LIES!

People are busybodies and herd animals. If we hear someone else being excited about something, we’ll probably take a look.

I’ve seen book signings, down around the corner from the actual event, where fans had trouble finding them. If you’re sitting quietly at a table, people might not realize something’s going on.

If I had nightmares, I’d have them about book signings where no one shows up.

So? Bring your own party!

Either you have company while you’re stuck at a table. Or you have enthusiastic fans who can talk you up and run for drinks, pens, and your backup box of books.

Let your friends and family fete you! But if it’s open to the public, make sure you’re welcoming, without a cliquish vibe.

6 – Bring Your Own Supplies

Make sure you have everything you need!

  • A box of your own books (small or large, you should at least have some on you)
    • Even if your book launch is at a bookstore, sometimes the shipment doesn’t come in. Sometimes, they sell out. Having backup helps keep things less stressful for everyone.
  • Quick drying pens (or markers — whichever you prefer). With backup ones, in case one dies.
  • Business cards

Next? Things that can make a book launch go better

  • Swag – bookmarks, postcards, pens, magnets, whatever
  • A banner and/or table cloth
  • A candy bowl (for guests) — they usually feel obligated to at least HEAR your pitch if they snag a chocolate
  • Your own drink and snack — talking is thirsty work.

Plus, if you’re doing your own sales:

  • A decent amount of change for the standard ATM $20
  • A credit card reader
  • A spare battery pack for your phone

As you should know, I’ve never actually held my own book launch, I’ve just been taking notes from those I’ve made it out to.

I like to attend the book launches for people I know or read. I want to encourage them! And… I want some good karma saved up for when it’s my turn.


If you’ve attended — or HELD! — a book launch, let me know!

What do you like?

What do you hate at book launches?

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5 Ways To Track Your Writing Progress

I know some writers hate NaNoWriMo and others love it. And agents are understandably wary of any NaNo novel that’s queried within 3 months of pencils down. For those who are unfamiliar, NaNoWriMo stands for ‘National Novel Writing Month’, otherwise known as the pledge to write 50,000 words (or 200 pages of a novel) during the 30 days of November.

But me? I’m a fan.

I like setting goals where I can measure my incremental progress and watch myself get closer to my goal. When I was weight lifting, it was exciting watching my lifting weights go up every couple weeks. When I hit my body weight on my deadlift and squats… when I hit my ex’s body weight on my deadlift and squats… those were exciting numbers to see.

But that was a couple years ago. And a couple pounds ago.

These days, most of my incremental goals are with my writing.

NaNoWriMo is faster than my natural writing pace, and involves cutting a lot of things out of my life in November to make it happen. BUT! In the off season, there’s two sessions of ‘Camp NaNo’, one in April and one in June. Best of all? During Camp, you set your own goals.

This year, they’re working on improving the websites, but CampNaNo has expanded their tracker methods. For those of us who might be in an editing or revision phase? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but I LOVE the new options.

Yes, these are listed on the Camp NaNo site, as options for tracking your current progress, but you can use them anytime, anywhere!

Writing Tracking Methods

  • Words – the traditional NaNo yardstick.
  • Lines – helpful for those writing poetry or other sorts of works.
  • Minutes – Useful for those of us, squeezing in our writing (or editing) time when we can.
  • Hours – Useful for those of us who are working on research or editing or workshopping or making index cards and plotting out. All those side tasks that don’t feel like ‘real writing’, but are, and are oh-so-necessary.
  • Pages – ME! All the pages I’m revising get counted in here. I’m loving being able to track this coherently through their system!

Speaking of, it’s time for me to stop stalling and get back to those pages. They aren’t gonna revise themselves, now are they?

What’s your favorite tracking method? How does that change up depending on which writing phase you’re in?

What Type of Writing Mentor Do You Need?

Writing is often thought of as a solitary activity.

But?

It doesn’t have to be!

There are a lot of writing communities out there: online, writer groups, critique groups, and more!

And sometimes? If you have the opportunity to reach out to someone at the next stage of their writing, you can find a mentor.

Not all mentors are created the same, and not all mentors are right for you.

What to look for in a mentor

1 – They Write In Your Genre

Before anything else, you need a mentor that knows your genre. Managing expectations is key. Yes, you want novels that have twists and turns. Yes, you can have novels that push the boundaries.

But. You should still write with a reader in mind, even if that reader is you.

A picture book is going to look different than a cozy mystery is going to be different than an epic fantasy. If your mentor doesn’t write in your genre, they might miss you overdoing a trope, or get confused with why there are dragons.

2 – What Writing Strength Compliments Yours?

Writers typically have a particular strength.

3 Main Writing Strengths:

  1. World Building – these writers build worlds that are complex. Fully three-dimensional immersive worlds that fascinate, without breaking the readers sense of disbelief.
  2. Plot – these writers have intriguing plots that carry you along for the ride. You just have to find out what happens next.
  3. Character building – these writers create characters that you just can’t leave.

If you’re comfortable with your world building, you’re likely going to want a mentor who is strong in plotting or character building. You’re going to want someone who can bring your other aspects up to the level of your greatest strength.

3 – What Writing Style Complements Yours?

Besides looking at your strengths, you also have to be aware of your writing style.

3 Main Writing Styles

  1. Sensory – these writers create meals you can taste, outfits you can feel exactly where they itch, songs you can sing. This often compliments a world-builder, but not always. The biggest thing these writers need to look out for is losing sight of the plot and having the reader lose the plot. These writers often need to trim words.
  2. Screen play – these are the writers that show every stage direction, but don’t give you motivation or thoughts. These can have great action sequences, but can give the reader trouble connecting to the characters. These writers often need to fill in detail and round out their world.
  3. Lost In Thought – these writers let you into the main character’s head (1st person or close 3rd point-of-view). They share the character’s thoughts, feelings, observations and rationalizations. But, sometimes the characters aren’t that observant and you miss sensory detail and action. These writers often need to both trim down the thoughts, and add in sensory and action.

Just like with writing strength, finding a mentor with a style that compliments yours can help fill in the aspects that you don’t focus on.

4 – What writing stage are you in?

You want a mentor who is ready to help you with the writing stage that you’re in. One that is comfortable with whatever stage you need to get through next.

We already know there are tons of writing stages and we all have our unique strengths and weaknesses.

Writing Stages:

  1. Writing — looking for someone to bounce ideas off of
  2. Revision — looking for someone who can recognize plot holes, pacing issues, and unneeded tangents.
  3. Editing — looking for someone who in attentive to phrasing, word flow, and dialogue. Who can notice inconsistencies in voice and tense.
  4. Querying — looking for someone who’s queried in the last 10 years: they’ll know the market, the trends, and the process better than someone who pre-dates the predominance of email queries.
  5. Publishing — looking for someone who’s been published the way you’re being published. Indie, small press, and trad(itional) publishing all have different benefits and detriments, so you’ll want someone who can guide you through whichever publishing route you ended up going.
  6. Marketing — looking for someone who knows what works, and what doesn’t work in your specific market — both genre and publishing-style-wise. Different markets work differently.

Some can mentor you through all stages, whereas others are more comfortable with particular aspects of the process.

Beware: Things To Watch Out For

All that said, even mentors that compliment you well might not be right for you. Here are some things to watch out for:

  1. Mentors who don’t get your story, even after explanations. They won’t be able to offer usable feedback.
  2. Mentors who are not responsive. This one’s self-explanatory.
  3. Mentors whose feedback doesn’t bring out the best in you. For some? Some ignore soft feedback, some find sharp criticism either makes them want to give up or dig in their heels and justify themself.
  4. Mentors who love everything or hate everything. There’s always stuff you can improve, but if they hate everything, it can be hard to figure out where to focus your attention.
  5. Mentors who are abusive. If you leave conversations from them feeling personally attacked and beaten down, if they’re assholes to you or others — you do not owe them. You can end a mentorship relationship at any time. CAVEAT: The writing community is small. If you’re worried about repercussions, break off a relationship in whatever way makes you feel most safe. You can politely thank them for their time and tell them that you want to go in a different direction, or that you need a break from your writing. Or? You can tell them where they can shove it.

Where To Find a Mentor

There are lots of places to look for a mentor, but many organizations offer mentorship opportunities.

  1. Twitter contests — such as #PitchWars, #WriteMentor, and more.
  2. Professional organizations – the writing society for your genre. (Google knows the way).
  3. Local Writing Clubs
  4. Online Communities
  5. Teachers – Take some writing classes and see if you find a teacher you work well with (or even fellow classmate).

Do you have a mentor? Where did you find them?

Have you ever had to ‘fire’ a mentor? I’d appreciate hearing about other warning signs but understand discretion.

My Technique For Dealing With Multiple Muses

If you’re a writer, you’ve usually had more than one idea. Different characters, premises, worlds, or what-have-you all fighting for your attention. Typically, the ideas pour in when you’re deep in the middle of writing another story, and dry up when you finish it.

It can be hard to figure out where you should focus.

For me? These tips are how I handle competing novel novel ideas. (all puns are good puns.)

1. Focus on writing one story at a time

There are tons of people who fight with multiple muses, and lose. They end up leaving the scattered remains of half-finished stories and novels behind them, in their pursuit of working only on the freshest and most compelling idea.

If this works for you, have at.

For most of us, though, I highly suggest picking one–the one with the clearest story concept.

Now, if you’ve lost the story thread or have given it your honest best-effort and feel like it’s not coming together, I’m not saying you can’t switch stories. You’re not committed to finish every story you start.

But. moving on, simply because your writing starts taking effort is, for most of us, going to mean that you never finish a story. The choice is up to you.

Personally, I like to switch it up after a draft, and explore a different story and world. Then again, we all know, I’m still hopelessly devoted to my first completed manuscript.

2. Write Down Your Story Ideas

I know, it’s a stereotypical writer image — scrambling for a napkin or bedside journal to write down some stray random thought or dream… BUT DO IT!

Dreams and stray thoughts are where most story ideas come from. That, and playing a game of ‘what if’, followed by rationalized consequences.

For me, I have a draft email, that I can access on my computer or phone at anytime (because I’m a bit attached to my phone. One might say I’m addicted) and I write down my thought or concept.

I find often, so long as I record the concept and imagery, such that I feel confident that looking back on these notes will remind me of the idea, that I can return to my current work in progress, knowing this idea is waiting for me.

And usually? My ideas are small snippets that need more exploration and growth before they can become a full-fledged story. That’s why I read them over every so often and see if I can add details to them.

Where do I read them over? That brings me to my next tip.

3 – Organize Your Idea Notes

The biggest problem with tip #2 is finding all those little ideas when you’re ready to start your next story. If they’re all on different scraps of paper, random pages in twenty journals, scattered throughout the places you go in your daily life, it’ll be hard to look them over and decide your next move.

So, consolidation is KEY.

For me? I have all of my story ideas in one email draft, so I can see them in one place. Plus, by being electronic, I can re-order the collected ideas, so that similarly-themed ones are grouped together. I don’t know about you, but oftentimes, I have ideas that overlap with ones I’ve had in the past. Probably because certain themes and concepts just appeal to me strongly and I like exploring them.

4 – Re-read and Build On Your Notes

I’ve already alluded to this, and I know it feels a lot like tip 3? But, when you organize your ideas, often times they grow and change.

When you revisit your idea notes, this is when you can see if any of them have been percolating in the back of your head, sprouting from a story seed. (Any more metaphors I can toss in there?)

Sometimes? I delete ideas. Either I’ve already used it, lost the thread, or realize the reason I haven’t done something with this idea is that the concept seemed novel, but doesn’t really work for me.

I’ve been known to write a page or so as a story sampler, trying to find a voice and setting for the concept. Just be sure to keep it someone searchable and label it!


Managing muses can be hard. It can be a struggle to focus on one, when there are so many ideas fighting for your attention. This is writing, not math, there is no definitive right answer. Only you can decide which story to focus on today.


How do you manage your story ideas?

Any tips of the trade that I missed? I love hearing from y’all.

Don’t Give Away Your Writing Time

Sunday, in many parts of the United States was the start of Daylight Saving Time. A ridiculous practice in which we pretend it’s daylight longer by rolling our clocks forward.

I am exhausted and underwhelmed to have lost an hour of sleep.

I know that for people with children or pets or sleeping disorders, it can be harder. They’re not able to understand why we’re getting up earlier.

I console myself with the knowledge that I’ll get that hour back, come late fall.

But, all too often, we give away our writing time, without a government mandated clock adjustment.

This is going to be a ‘do what I say, and not as I do’ sort of post, that’s inspirational for me. I hope you find it a little inspiring, though.

When it comes down to it, all writers can categorize their time spent not writing into two types:

1. Intentional Time Spent Not Writing

We all have obligations and lives outside of our writing. Mouths to feed, chores to do, loved ones to support and cherise. Not to mention, many of us have day jobs — be they paid or unpaid. And all of those things deserve (or should deserve) our undivided attention.

And if you’re me? You probably want to fit some sleep in there. And contemplate exercising.

Plus, we all need downtime. Being 100%, all the time, is exhausting. Scheduling 100% of your time is going to lead you to be checked out, whenever you can get away with it. Schedule in the things that motivate you or refresh you. TV binge watching, marathon training, book reading, long walks on pretty spring days.

Whatever brings you joy and helps lower your stress level.

2. Unintentional Time Spent Not Writing

These are the time sucks. When you’re free to write, and you go to sit down to write, but instead end up on social media. Or watching three hours of Tiny House videos, or downloading some sort of tetris game, where the lines of blocks just slide sideways, and playing til you hit level 19…

These are just random examples off the top of my head, I don’t know what sort of things you people are into.

I wanted to call it stolen time, but that time isn’t stolen, you’ve just given it away. And then it’s 11:30 pm and you’re just starting your weekly blog post, and you still owe a beta reader some feedback. (But, at least your latest chapters are with your mentor, so at least she’s not waiting on you.)

If you’re not careful, you can lose all your writing time, in the blink of an eye.

For those of us without agents, we create our own schedules and goals, and we’re the only ones holding ourselves accountable.

Is the extra downtime puttering worth it?


I usually say that, unlike exercise or people, if you don’t have time for your writing or it’s not bringing you joy, you can always put it away for a few months… or decades, and it’ll be there waiting when you’re ready.

I’m never quite sure if that analogy is comforting or creepy, but hey. It is what it is.

But, the last person I said that to is past retirement age and reminded me, not all of us have that much time. And they’re right. Not to mention, none of us is guaranteed tomorrow.

Only you can decide if goofing off and getting more downtime is worth giving up your writing time today. Maybe you’re having an off-day. Maybe you’re stuck in your writing and letting your brain try and process in the background without forcing it too hard, maybe you’re tired and brain-friend and don’t want your writing to look as coherent as a cold-medication-inspired ramble.

But maybe, you’re just not focused on the end goal and you need to buckle down.

Look at your dreams, your goals, and the people who matter to you. Decide what you’d most regret not-doing — that you KNOW you want to do — and start your list of priorities there.