How to Attend a Book Launch

A tireless promoter of books and authors, Ben McNally has been a bookseller in Toronto for more...

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First off, I know from book launches. Because our store is such a centrally located and welcoming space, and because we have a reputation for being willing to host (or sell books at) even the most unpromising book events, we get to see a lot of book launches (and it isn’t always pretty.)

Book launches come in all shapes and sizes so it isn’t always easy to set out rules of deportment. If, for example, you’re the parent, sibling, or offspring of the author you’re in for the duration, so matter how excruciating the prospect might be to you, so try not to get completely plastered and try to be as supportive as you can be.

If you’ve finally been invited to attend one, there’s one thing that you really have to know.

Buy the book.

You’d think that this would be self-evident. After all, the only reason the author (or the publisher) would go to the trouble of renting the space, sending out the invitations, bringing in the wine and cheese, hiring the liveried catering staff, making the little sandwiches with the crusts cut off, agonizing over the speech, or the passage to read, THE ONLY REASON is so that their deadbeat friends and relatives will buy the book instead of expecting (against all the laws of logic and economics) to get a copy for free.

Really, people, buy the book!

I know, you’re thinking… He’s the bookseller, of course he thinks everyone should buy the book…and there’s some truth in that, BUT, of course you should buy the book. Even if the author already gave you a copy (the fool!) you should still buy at least one copy to show your appreciation for having been invited to the book launch.

You can say it’s for your friend or something.

And don’t bother with the “I’m going to download a copy when I get home” business either. If you’re going to do that you could have stayed home, downloaded a couple of glasses of wine and sent the author a congratulatory e-mail.

Don’t think that the author won’t notice if you don’t buy the book. (And don’t think we won’t notice either… there’s an award-winning author who shows up at almost every high profile book launch in the city, and NEVER buys the book. Never! It’s so predictable that it’s painful.)

If we notice, the author notices. You think they don’t ask how many books we’ve sold? You think they don’t ask every fifteen minutes? You think their publisher and their parents don’t ask?

Buy the book. Buy multiple copies.

That really covers the first TEN rules of proper book launch deportment. Buy the goddamn book.

In fact, you should buy it immediately. If you buy it early you will have to carry it around with you, but you can get it signed early (the author will love you for it and begin to finally relax) and thereby give yourself maximum flexibility for the rest of the evening.

This is extremely important. You’ve bought the book, established in the consciousness of the author that you have done that, and now you can actually leave if you so desire, even if there are fewer than ten people in the room. This lets you off the hook in case the book launch is a complete disaster, in which case the longer you stay, the harder it will be to leave gracefully.

Authors are notoriously fragile. They need your support. They worked long and hard to bring this book into the world. The very least you can do (as you’re sipping the wine and sampling that delicious cheese) is to buy a copy of the book. It’s the only thing to do.