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October 12, 2010 / Melissa Yuan-Innes

The Littlest Book Launch

Sitting pretty for Indian Country Noir

“I’ve seen it all, over the years,” said Gale Bowser, the owner of Second Time Around Books.  “The quietest book launch I ever saw was [a local politician who’d been elected many times].  I thought, great.  I put up flyers everywhere.  She walked in with her husband and publicist and sat here for three hours.  Not one person came in.  Not one.”

Of course it was not a good sign that Gale was telling me this.  Last year, I had a quiet book launch in Cornwall and brisk business at this store in Alexandria.

This year, I was already concerned about this Saturday date.  “I’m working,” said what seemed like 70 percent of the nurses I worked with.  “That’s ACLS,” said another nurse, which meant that the resuscitation course would take priority over literature.  “We have tickets to Beau’s Oktoberfest,” said another two friends.  Others didn’t specify, but said, “Tuesday is better for me.”  My own son had Chinese school and when I asked my husband if he’d rather come to the book launch or Chinese school, he said, “Chinese school.”

I called my mother and said, “Mom, your job is to come here (from Ottawa)  on time and stay for two hours.  And could you bring food?”

In the end, I had a mini party with my mother, my neighbor Luc, and my two friends, Jessica Sarrazin and Genevieve Paquette and her daughter Megan.  We talked and ate Vietnamese spring rolls and chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies.   They all bought my books.  It was pleasant.  A few people did walk in. My mother would say “Hi!” and they’d mutter, “Hi” and make a beeline for the back of the store.

I just tried to enjoy the food and company and not worry about the money.

If I had to go by sales alone, though, I had pre-sold more books by word of mouth and Facebook than by this book launch.  And certainly I could make more money working in the emerg than by hawking books.  So why do it?

It reminded me of Steve Pressfield’s War of Art.  He wrote the screenplay for _King Kong Lives_.  Nobody came to see it.  One of the popcorn guys gave him the thumbs down.  “Miss it, man.  It sucks.”

So I didn’t make a million dollars launching my books.  In fact, I’m still waiting to break even because I have to get paid for a lot of them.  Maybe not as spectacular a failure as _King Kong Lives_.  Probably not a failure at all, since I expect I’ll clear a small profit.

So what is the point of a book launch?  Selling books, yes.  Making money, of course.  But also validation for the writer, makng you feel like a somebody.  I could either feel good that five people had come to celebrate with me or feel bad that no one else joined the party.

In the end, I decided it was somewhere in the middle.  If you’re going to write, if you’re going to risk putting your work out there again and again until an editor says, I’ll take it, if you’re going to fire up your pen or computer every morning, if you’re going to get in the ring, *&)&^()_&, as Guns ‘n’ Roses put it, then to quote Dr. Seuss, “This happens in war every now and again. /Sometimes
you are winners. Sometimes you are losers. / We never can win against so many Poozers…”

Winner?  Loser?  Poozer?

Mostly, I feel like a winner about my Alexandria book launch.

In any case, I got back in the ring for my launch three days later.



Leave a Comment
  1. margaret / Oct 14 2010 4:30 pm

    You never know where these things will lead either. The guy who ran to the back of the room might just check out the book when he comes back. People are like that. All that positive energy can only be good.

    • melissayuaninnes / Oct 14 2010 7:00 pm

      What a nice way of thinking about it, Margaret. Of course, I didn’t leave any books for him to check out, but I calculated my numbers. I’ve about broken even now and should soon turn a profit…and maybe the guy at the back of the room will not creep away next time.

      Thanks for the boost!

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