Saturday, March 17, 2012

KATE FLORA ON LAUNCHING A BOOK


DEBORAH CROMBIE: Today our guest is our friend, SinC goddess, and very talented writer, Kate Flora, with a few thoughts on new book babies--and on her own new arrival, Redemption, the third book in her highly acclaimed Joe Burgess series.

We say, "Congrats, Kate," and a raise a virtual glass of champagne to you!

KATE FLORA: Planning a book launch is fun—and scary.

Fun, because it celebrates the end of a long, sometimes harrowing process. Writing the book. Rewriting the book until I’m sick of it. Selling the book. Rewriting the book to please my editor. And finally, long after that lovely moment when I type: THE END, those stacks and stacks of pages come back to me as a real, honest-to-goodness book with a jacket, and my picture and lovely quotes on the back.

I don’t know how it is for other writers, but for me, the day the book arrives is special. There’s that thump on the porch as the heavy box lands inside the door. The sound of a knife slitting the sealing tape. The rustle of protective paper, and finally, the new baby is revealed, rescued from the box, waved about, and taken upstairs to join the rest of the family. My new baby, Redemption, means that I now have twelve little book children.

So if all of this is so good—why should having an event to celebrate be scary? Because as any writer can tell you, book events are the most uncertain things on the planet. I can have all the advertising in the world, great reviews, and more than a dozen faithful readers who assure me that they’ll be there, and then I drive three hours to the venue and end up talking to the one staff member assigned to babysit the visiting writer. Or it can go the other way. I can drive to a small town I’ve never heard of, find a riveted audience of sixty readers, and sell every book I brought.

After a while, I think I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen good weather drag my audience away by
the lure of the great outdoors and bad weather suck my audience away because no one wants to venture out in the cold. I’ve spoken to drunks, the mentally challenged, to high school students there only because they’ll get extra credit. I’ve spoken to writers really eager to pick my brain about your process, and to readers who just love my books. I’m braced for whatever may happen.

But a launch is special. It’s the book’s debut. It’s the moment when I carry on my back
the weight of my belief in the power of the story I’ve told. It’s when I feel most heavily my responsibility to prove to the publisher that they made the right decision is choosing my book from the many they could have published, and when I feel the need to prove to my local bookstore that they made the right choice in giving me one of their coveted Sunday afternoon author slots. I can’t just show up and see what happens. A lot is riding on this.

So I send e-mails to the organizations I belong to. I send e-mails to my students, my fellow teachers. To my neighbors and my friends. I become a veritable chatty Cathy on Facebook. And I worry. What if this is one of those snowy days? What if it is a beautiful day? What if no one shows up?

Ten minutes to show time. I’m at the bookstore. There is a small stack of books waiting for me. A small row of chairs set up. A few people are sitting in the chairs. My heart sinks. And then, like a floodgate has opened, my friends, my neighbors, my sister writers, and my long-time readers start to arrive. The store sets up more chairs. And more chairs. And more chairs. Until they run out of chairs, and still people keep coming. At 3:00, I take a deep breath, hope my aging memory won’t fail me, and stand up.

“Thank you,” I say, absolutely overwhelmed, even though I have done hundreds of book talks over the years, wondering if this will be all I can manage. “Thank you for coming out to show your support on this beautiful day.” And I begin to tell them about Joe Burgess, and Reggie the Can Man, about fathers and sons and the threads of family, and friendship, and greed and evil that are woven through my new book.

Redemption is launched.

(PS from Debs: Kate will be giving a copy of Redemption to one of our commenters, so be sure to check in tomorrow for the winner.)



21 comments:

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

And what a beautiful book launch it was...absolutely standing room only.. And did I see someone had to go out back and get MORE books?
Did you plan your speech? Or wing it? It was terrific....
Bon voyage!

Karen in Ohio said...

Best of luck with the new book, Kate. It sounds like my kind of read!

Thank goodness your launch was such a success. I know it can go the other way, so easily. For 15 years I traveled around the country to trade shows, at my own expense, lugging books and other products, as well as tables, chairs, table covers, and all sorts of other paraphernalia. We were so at the mercy of the weather, the venue, the parking at the venue, the accommodations near (or not so near) the venue, or whether that particular weekend happened to be the Super Bowl, or Halloween, or Derby Day, or whatever local thing "everyone" went to.

The worst was the show in Oklahoma City, on the one-year anniversary of the bombing of the Federal building there. Not only were there no people, but those who were there walked around like shell-shocked zombies the entire time. The whole town was still so horribly shocked and grieving, and the wounds were still so raw as to be palpable. I felt apologetic the entire time I was there, as if I were intruding on something so deeply private. Which it really was.

Lucy Burdette said...

Oh Kate, sorry I couldn't be there among the throngs! Sounds like it was a wonderful event--and may you sell many, many more. We're getting to be the grand old dames in the book business, right, but still feel like kids!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Congratulations, Kate! Sounds like you had a terrific launch. (Heck, any book launch where Hank shows up is bound to be a success, isn't it?)

I know what you mean about literary events. It's always a coin toss. I used to put on several big reading series, and it was as you said, you could have all the best publicity but no one show, or you could feel as if a news blackout had been placed on your event because you couldn't get even a notice and yet have an SRO audience.

I'm so glad yours was a big success. Best of luck with your new book. It sounds like something right up my alley.

CindyD said...

Hi, Kate, I've read all your books and can't wait for this one!

Jan Brogan said...

Kate,
I'm sorry to say I somehow missed the emails and didn't find out from Barbara about your launch until after the fact. This comes from upholding my new year's resolution to STAY OFF the net as much as possible, I'm afraid.

But I look forward to the next event, becaues I know there will be more.

Congrats on the new book!

Edith Maxwell said...

I was there (a tad late, because I wasn't paying attention to where I knew I should go and detoured myself through Bedford and back), standing almost behind a bookcase. Kate spoke eloquently, without notes, addressing readers and writers alike. She answered questions with aplomb and looked like she was enjoying herself throughout. Toward the end, she acknowledged many of her writer friends in the audience, including moi. Thanks, Kate!

It was a lovely sunny day, and the place was packed anyways. Indeed, the store owner had to go and fetch another box of books. I just wish I hadn't started a new day job the next day so I could have spent a couple of days reading Redemption instead. But since I can't wait to find out what Joe Burgess is up to next, it's top on my pile.

(The after party at Kate's house was also delightful.)

Steve Ulfelder said...

Congrats on the book, Kate, and thanks for the terrific post!

Jane said...

Love your books. I look forward to reading this one.

Kate Flora said...

Thanks to everyone who was there, and those of you who couldn't, but sent good wishes. Sometimes, in this business, there are the magical days. Among them--the night I interviewed Tony Hillerman. Just the two of us, on stage, before hundreds of people and tv cameras, and it was a totally comfortable discussion.

This was another of those times--so many of my good friends there to lend their support, and yes...the store ran out of books. Luckily, like most authors, I never leave home without a box in my car, so I gave someone my keys, and sent him out to the parking lot, and we sold all of those, too.

Now I get to worry about what? That readers will like the book.

Jan...you can come to Porter Square on May 1st, when we've got a three-fer. Me, Margaret McLean and Katherine Hall Page.

Kate Flora said...

p.s. One thing I am always grateful for is having fallen into a corner of the writing biz where the writers are infinitely generous and supportive and great friends.

I don't think it's like this everywhere!

Reine said...

Congratulations, Kate! Looking forward to reading your latest. xo

Brenda Buchanan said...

Congratulations, Kate! I'm looking forward to reading Redemption. I love Joe Burgess and the way you always build a whole, believable world around him.

BTW, the cover is fabulous.

Deb Romano said...

Congratulations!

Today's post was my introduction to you, Kate. You are now officially on my list of authors to look for! I look forward to getting caught up on your books.

Dru said...

Congrats on your book launch.

Austin Carr said...

I expect very few writers can match Kate Flora at personal appearances. But few writers are as charming, friendly, and gracious as Kate. We should all be so nice.

Gram said...

The one day you are close enough to visit and I had to leave the state for NH and my s-i-l's 80th birthday! I would have loved to have been there too. All these years on me and I still can't figure out how to bi-locate! :)
Thanks for writing, Dee

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