Rosemary McCracken, author of Safe Harbor
Rosemary is a freelance journalist and fiction writer who lives in Toronto, Canada. Her first mystery novel, Safe Harbor, was shortlisted for Britain’s Debut Dagger in 2010. It opens when a frightened woman barges into financial planner Pat Tierney’s office with a shocking request: “Look after my boy; he’s your late husband’s son.” The next day the woman is murdered and police say the seven-year-old may be the killer’s next target.
Safe Habor was released by Imajin Books this spring, and is available as an ebook and a paperback on Amazon.com. Visit Rosemary on her website and her blog.
When Rosemary and I first discussed her visit to Killer Chicks, she offered a couple of ideas for her post. Having never done a hard copy book launch myself, I jumped at the chance to learn about how she's preparing for the paperback release of her novel, SAFE HARBOR. Here's what she had to say when I asked her to tell us about her launch:
It’s coming up soon – on Saturday May 5 in an English-style pub not far from where I live in mid-city Toronto. I’m really looking forward to it!
A book launch is my day to celebrate the birth of Safe Harbor, my mystery novel. And, as a first-time author, it’s my coming-out celebration. After years of false starts, writing, rewriting and rejection, I finally have a published book. All the work, frustration and anxiety have paid off.
A launch party can’t be the only way of publicizing Safe Harbor, because a single launch in a single city can only reach a certain number of people. Friends, relatives, colleagues and former colleagues will turn out. And a few local media people may drop by – maybe. But it’s a start. These friends, relatives, colleagues and media types will help build the buzz about the new arrival, and they’ll buy books. The real opportunity for authors today, of course, is the e-book market – readers around the world. And the way to reach them is through social media.
Safe Harbor was released as an e-book by Imajin Books, a small independent publisher, in early March, and as a print-on-demand paperback on April 1. Imajin publisher Cheryl Kaye Tardif warned me not to firm up plans for a book launch until I’d received my first shipment of books. “You don’t want to have a venue booked, word out, food ordered and no books,” she said. Imajin’s paperbacks are printed in the United States and I live in Canada, and there can be delays at the U.S.-Canada border.
Location is the key to a successful launch, so when the paperback became available on Amazon, I started scouting out Toronto locations. “Ask yourself who is your target audience and where they hang out. That’s your venue,” Cheryl said.
I drew up an invitation list. I wrote down the names of 50 people I could count on to be there and another 50 maybes, which meant I needed a venue with capacity for at least 100 people. I came up with five pubs in central Toronto, all within a short walk of subway stations because Torontonians like to travel on public transit within the city. But I still didn’t have a date. Would these pubs be available when I did?
The books arrived on April 10. I picked up a copy of Safe Harbor, inhaled its scent and admired its handsome cover. After a couple of years of writing and revising, and a nine-month production period at Imajin Books, my baby had finally arrived!
I settled on the afternoon of May 5. I decided on a weekend because my husband and several of my friends work weekday afternoons and evenings. And I figured that more people could drop by on a Saturday afternoon than on a Saturday evening.
The Rose and Crown, the top venue on my list, was available on May 5, which I took as auspicious. Now I had a booking and I needed to get the word out.
My husband drew up an e-vite with Safe Harbor’s cover, and the time and place of the launch. I emailed it off to friends and colleagues. I emailed it to fellow members of Sisters in Crime Toronto and Crime Writers of Canada. I wrote about the launch on my personal blog, rosemarymccracken.wordpress.com, as part of the ongoing saga of my journey to getting published. I posted on Facebook. I tweeted about the launch – and Imajin authors’ tweet team kindly re-tweeted my tweets. I sent out invites to my colleagues on LinkedIn – whether they lived in Toronto or not.
I had a little over two weeks from the time I started sending out my invitations until the day of the launch. And this turned out to be perfect timing. I didn’t want to put word out too early because people don’t know what may crop up on their schedules down the road. But I needed to give them some time to plan to be there. I asked for RSVPs so I could get an idea of numbers.
The replies started coming in. I’m up to 80 now. With a few last-minute replies and drop-ins, I may have 100 guests after all.
And I had to plan the launch itself. Would I provide food and beverages? In Toronto, wine and finger foods are generally served at launches held at bookstores, and this is provided by the authors or the publishers (although few publishers have budgets for book launches these days). Launches held at commercial food and beverage establishments – bars and restaurants – generally serve some food but don’t have an open bar. Because Safe Harbor is available online, with a few copies sold at local bookstores on a consignment basis, I didn’t feel I could ask a bookstore to hold my launch.
Cheryl told me that it’s surprising how much a writer can get for free for a launch. “You are a business approaching another business for assistance, and many will be willing to help you, especially when it helps them too. How do they benefit? From the increased business they’ll get that day. You’ll bring in your potential fans, friends and family. You’ll advertise by posting flyers around the venue area. You’ll blog, Tweet, Facebook the event.”
Excellent advice, but did I follow it? No. Because my launch would be held at a pub, I couldn’t ask the bakery next door to donate pastries or the coffee shop across the street to donate coffee. That would be taking business away from the pub. But one day I will follow Cheryl’s advice. Hopefully, this won’t be my first book launch.
I won’t have an open bar. Guests can purchase their own drinks, but I will provide food. The Rose and Crown does up fabulous food platters: quesadillas, spring rolls, tortilla rolls, mini sandwiches, chicken fingers and veggie plates. I’ve ordered several of these, which I figure will cost me about $600, with tax and gratuities. But it will go down as a business expense at income tax time next year.
I also had to decide what would happen at the launch. I would have loved to hold an action extravaganza like this: http://youtu.be/316AzLYfAzw. But that would mean hiring actors and stuntmen. And convincing the Rose and Crown to get on board. I decided it wasn’t in the cards this time around.
The launch will run two-and-a-half hours. For the first hour, guests can mingle, eat and buy books. My sister-in-law and two friends have agreed to sell books, and I’ll sit with them and sign books as they are purchased.
An hour into the event, around 3 p.m., Catherine Dunphy, a friend and former Toronto Star reporter and a wonderful public speaker, will introduce herself and introduce me. Then we’ll do a short Q&A. She’s already run her questions by me so I’m prepared. They’re a nice mix of the generic such as “How long did it take you to write Safe Harbor?” and a few tailor-made to the novel such as “Why did you make your central character a financial planner?” (Because, as a journalist, I write about personal finance and interview financial planners and investment managers.)
Then I’ll do a short reading from the novel. Short here is key. I want my guests to get back to the food and their friends. And to buy books.
I know I’ll have fun, and I hope everyone else will too.
Then it’s back to social media to reach readers outside my home city.
Thanks, Rosemary, for telling us about your launch. We wish you the best of luck with SAFE HARBOR!