How to Host a Book Launch That Doesn’t Suck

The most a course in miracles event I’ve ever attended was held at an art gallery in London. I’d been a judge for some writers’ awards. It was a black tie event so everyone was dressed up to the nines.

Half-way through the evening, the doors were sealed, security guards appeared and a “surprise guest” was announced. Salman Rushdie walked in looking defiant, gave a speech, mingled, and promptly disappeared again.

It was in the early 1990s, just after he had gone into hiding. But I still remember it like it was yesterday. I can still see those canap├ęs dusted with gold icing, the artistic bowls they were served in, and the strategically-placed minimalist sculptures. We were mesmerised even before Salman entered the room. When he did, we were blown away. The thought and planning that went into that event were phenomenal.

Equally, I’ve known of some pretty dire events. At the worst end of the scale, a multi-millionaire business author and TV personality hired a mansion in an exclusive part of London and sold tickets, promoting it as an opportunity to mix with high net worth entrepreneurs. She had a large cake made, with the cover of her book on it, and set up a “mini-bar” and a sound system.

What happened next by all accounts was a cross between a football scrum and a school disco. More people showed up than expected, and jostled with each other for space. Wine had to be served from boxes in white plastic cups. Vases were broken. The neighbours complained about the goings on next door, and the landlord was called. Of course, no permission had been given to hold an event of this scale on the premises. So everyone was asked to leave. Not quite the impression you would want to give, unless perhaps you are one of the Gallagher brothers.

Generally though, book launches tend to follow a pretty standard format whether they’re held in bookshops, libraries or galleries.

A glass of Merlot awaits you when you roll up. You stand around mingling with the great and the good for an hour. The author makes a speech thanking everyone who has helped them. A request is made for you to buy the book if you haven’t already. Half an hour later, it’s time to go home. You’ve enjoyed yourself, but there’s very little to distinguish one event from another.

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