So I had a launch party for The Ship. Before I got published, I thought launch parties just happened. But like so many things in life, you have to make them happen if you want them. At first I thought it would be interesting to get everyone to come to the British Museum with a sleeping bag (that is relevant to the novel, I promise). Imagine the photographs! We could have done the cover for the paperback. I even did some research. But the space alone would have cost £50,000 for a two hour evening hire. And if I had £50,000, I would rather spend it setting up an independent press and publishing some of the brilliant writing that’s not getting published in other ways. To say nothing of the fact that I just don’t have fifteen hundred friends, and anything less just wouldn’t have filled the space.
And anyway, a book launch is a celebration, whereas lying on a hard floor in a sleeping bag, pretending to be someone who’s fallen off the edge of society and is waiting to die, isn’t.
And so I had a party. It was a week ahead of publication, as publication was set for half term week and I wouldn’t have been able to go. Now, publication is a strange, roller-coastery journey. Before the deal, you think that the deal will solve everything. And then you get the deal, and the world – that great big world by which you are surrounded, which contains your partner and your children and the place you live in and the other work you do and the changing seasons and the need to eat – neither stops turning, nor adjusts itself to revolve around you.
And yet. For the sake of those two hours, people travelled long distances. They made complicated childcare arrangements. They rearranged meetings and hospital appointments and social lives. And I’ll be grateful for that for as long as I live. It was the best evening ever. Including everything.
So here are my tips for a successful launch party:
1. Be a member of an absolutely brilliant a cappella chorus. This means that you can break into song at the end of your speech and stun the audience with a full flash mob singing Feeling Good in five parts. See it here Thank you, Amersham A Cappella. You are the main reason I’m reasonably sane.
2. If the books run out and the wine’s still flowing, that’s a good thing. Thank you, James, for sourcing the wine, and thank you Sheryl and Martin of Chorleywood Books, for coming to sell The Ship.
3. Forget understatement. The casual dress code is fine, but you’ve PUBLISHED a NOVEL. If you want to wear a long dress, wear one. I did. I only didn’t wear a tiara because I forgot to bring it. Only play it cool if you want to. Thank you, Rebecca, Carmen and Becky, for helping me find a party dress I love.
4. Choose your venue. The Grant Museum in Bloomsbury was perfect for The Ship – quirky, atmospheric, dedicated to learning and study with a fascinatingly creepy edge. Thank you, Jack and Will – better than the British Museum for a hundredth of the cost.
5. Accept help. Thank you, Lisa, for taking on so much of the administration. James, for bringing the books and the wine and everything in the car. And Emma, Emily, Aunty Jane, Ali and everyone who was hovering to get it all unloaded at double speed whilst simultaneously watching for traffic wardens. And thank you, Oliver (9), Thea (8), Adam (6) and Esme (5), plus their good friend Robert (9), who stepped up to the plate (with the plates?) and walked round with the canapés and cupcakes when the promised waiting staff failed to materialize.
6. Locate the hostelry nearest your venue and adjourn to it afterwards. Go home happy, clutching your nugget of pure, precious joy at sending your novel into the world. And hold it close, to look at as the world realigns itself once more.