Book Launch preparations for the uninitiated: Is there a handbook?
1. What if people aren’t interested?
We’ve all been to them: the particularly dull public event that initially arouses a toddler style boredom whereby your focus just continually drifts towards all the shiny things in the room. This then morphs into an unabashed crowd surveillance (“Wonder where she got that dress?”; “Is he actually picking his nose?”) Then slowly a sort of hobbled animal anxiety begins to build (“There’s no air in here!”; “Where’s the fucking bar?!”). Followed by the upright, alcohol-induced semi-comatose state which at least offers you the subterfuge of attention and interest and a reason to spend half the event in the loo. I am aware of all of these stages of public event disinterest (ever been to a construction industry sundowner?) which makes planning my own public event particularly distressing.
2. The Guest Speakers.
Even more stressful is the knowledge that I’ve managed to rope in people far more interesting and respected than me to speak before me. WHAT was I thinking? If I wanted to ensure I wasn’t going to be looking out on faces clearly resenting the fact that they were missing an episode of Home and Away I should have booked, as speakers, my mother off her blood pressure medication and my brother-in-law after a few beers. But no – I have Cate Sutherland and Norman Jorgensen speaking. (On the run sheet I’m considering asking them to be ridiculously brief and not use their best material). How to recover successfully from this? – I have considered busting out my balloon animals or performing my rhythm and blues version of “Rhinestone Cowboy”. Opinions welcome. On the 1 to 10 Fret Scale I think I’ve hit a 73 thinking ‘What the hell am I going to say and how do I say it without wetting my pants?’
3. What if Something Goes Wrong?
At my sister’s wedding I walked from the toilets back to my table, through a myriad of guests, beautifully coiffed and made up, with my dress artfully tucked into the back of my pantyhose. Didn’t notice until I sat down and the chair felt cold. I shared my anxiety recently with someone inimitably familiar with public events and she told me about a similar event where someone had fainted and projectile vomited. I am in preparation already. I will cease all fluids from September 27th. And curry. I believe curry is unnecessary at this point. If the lighting or sound fails the event will be tailor made for my parents who probably won’t wear their hearing aids and could possibly suffer a stroke with any light stimulation. So there’s an upside.
4. What if no one turns up?
Bring board games for the family.
5. No one talks about this.
No one talks about the bladder control issues associated with book launch anxiety. They just don’t. There’s plenty of highfaluting stuff out there about “successful public image” but no one talks about how to hide your Depends under a little black dress. So I’m going to. As a writer you imagine your life to be comfortably confined to the darkened room where you do your thing (I recently had a Vitamin D blood test that read close to Rickets. I’m taking supplements...). When you just don’t want to disappoint anyone, you’re at your most vulnerable. So how do you be truly and honestly you, sans persona, when the anxiety brought on by performance is both your best intellectual stimulant and your best chance of sphincter failure?
If only Creepy and Maud could run this thing.And if you’re going down the Depends route, a loose slack is probably a better wardrobe option.