Writers work mostly in solitude. When you pick away at a novel for years, those who initially supported your endeavor tend to lose interest. They may even forget you’re writing a novel or start believing you’ll never finish. You might stop believing in the dream, too, and only stubborn pride carries you to the end. You finish the book in virtual silence. If you’re going the indie route, publishing seems almost an afterthought. The meager sales aren’t even a let down because you know the odds of success are poor no matter what your publication route. As you upload the file to Amazon, you sigh and say to yourself, “Well, finally got that monkey off my back.”
How bleak is that? What a sad, pathetic way to treat a major accomplishment. You wrote a frickin’ 102,000 word novel that is actually coherent, largely grammatically correct, has a pretty darned exciting plot and interesting characters and dammit you should be proud!
The above should be surrounded by quotation marks, because that’s exactly what I said to myself.
In response, I asked my husband if he would mind if I had a book launch party. I felt a little silly about it. He’s a logical person who knows the odds of success as well as I do. What exactly do I hope to accomplish with a party? Do I really expect it to boost my sales? I wouldn’t have blamed him if he told me I was insane.
Instead, he said “sure, go ahead” with surprising enthusiasm and gave me carte blanche to do as I wished. Bolstered by his attitude (and smug about having married the right person), I told my best friends about the party. They thought it was a great idea, too. So I planned the event for a time when they could all attend. I figured even if they were the only ones to show up, we’d still have a fun party.
And you know what? As word got out, I was amazed to find out how many people wanted to come. And not just for the free food and the giveaways. Folks thought it was awesome that I’d written a book. What an accomplishment! They wanted to celebrate with me.
As the party approached, I became energized. I brought home vanloads of party supplies. Food prep began days ahead. I bought presents for my guests. I felt like Bilbo Baggins before his eleventy-first birthday party.
Then the day arrived. I decorated the house the way I imagined you should for a book launch, with posters of the book cover plastering the walls alongside color-matched helium balloons. I was excited and happy and couldn’t wait for the doorbell to ring, though I should have been exhausted after all the frantic cleaning, cooking, and shopping.
But under all that positive emotion, I still felt a little foolish. I’d spent more money on the party than I was likely to ever make on book sales. It all seemed like a bit of a joke.
Yeah, maybe so. But it would be a good joke that makes me happy and maybe our guests will have a good time, too.
And then the party started. When guests passed through the front door, the first thing they saw was a spotlighted table full of flyers, business cards, and post cards, with a poster of my book cover standing in the middle. They were given tickets to fill out for door prizes, and then were led to the food table. We served smoked pork ribs, smoked stuffed mushrooms, and smoked potato skins a la Barbeque Master Tom Loughin. There were meatballs, artichoke cheese dip, and spanakopita. Cookies, candy, pineapple, and grapes. We had wine, beer, and, eventually, bubbly stuff that wasn’t quite champagne.
And there was cake!
Periodically, I tooted my wooden whistle that sounds like a steam train’s a-comin’ and handed out door prizes: Amazon gift certificates, book lights, fancy book markers, a fuzzy lap blanket, and coupons for free copies of my novel. At the end, Joyce Trammell won the grand prize of a Kindle Touch.
To be honest, I felt awkward and strange. At least at first. I’ve never felt comfortable telling people that I’m a writer. (Typically, if they know I write, it’s because Tom tells them.) It felt self-indulgent to open myself to this sort of attention. It probably was self-indulgent, but people responded and felt my accomplishment was worthy of celebration. That awkward feeling evaporated in the face of all that good will. After years of writing against the tide of obscurity and self-doubt, I finally let myself believe that, yes, it was all worthwhile.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I’ll write another book. And there will be another party.
And you’ll be invited.
*All pictures by Tammy.
**Thanks to my buddies who helped with the food and shopping. Thanks to Tom and Jules for their patience and magnificent help. And thanks to Hannah for helping clean up the aftermath.