Nov 30
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Before Planning Your Book Launch

Copies of your new book have arrived, a whole box full. Now’s the time to plan your book launch. Now? Not six to 12 weeks before? Not before.

Publishers give publication-date estimates and advisers tell authors to plan launches far in advance, but anything can happen before a book is ready to sell. Before planning a book launch, please:

  1. Have the hard copies on hand.
  2. Check them all thoroughly for any printing mistakes.
At a book launch listed in a quarterly newsletter and then announced via postcard, the date clearly chosen well in advance and in accordance with the publisher’s pub date, we found at the venue no books because the publisher didn't have the book ready. Everything else was ready. The author did the reading, but—no books.

At another first-timer’s launch, held in a bookstore, buyers—not the author, who’d simply brought the box his copies arrived in—discovered that about one-third of the copies had been bound upside down. Readers who’d pre-ordered on Amazon posted complaints. Those can’t be removed. Refunds to those buyers, and 1.5 stars on Amazon, equaled zero for his five years of labor on his novel. That's an error he could not have caught in the galleys. It happens more often in digital printing than before.

A self-published author scheduled signing events as soon her box of 150 books arrived. Paging through her own book she found six glaring typos (she’d proofread the galleys on her own). One typo is forgivable. Six will cost an author his or her reputation. She dumped the entire printing, ordered and paid for a corrected printing, and paid yet more for expediting the order so she could keep the signing dates.

Hope for the best, yet be aware that printers today are not people but machines. That makes them less reliable, not more. Treat a given pub date as an estimate because your editor might be assigned to serve in Afghanistan for a year, and that really happened. If I’d witnessed only one such delay or snafu, I wouldn’t ask that you be concerned. As with so many other things, it's up to the author today.