Wednesday, September 19, 2012


It’s book launch planning time again! Time to decide what kind of party I want this time, to wonder whether my friends and family will come to yet another party (“Didn’t I just come to one?”), to agonize over the venue, the format, and the cost. Not to mention the new outfit.

In the past fifteen years, I’ve been to dozens of book launches, nine of my own as well as those of friends and colleagues. I’ve seen all kinds. Formal sit-down readings and raucous pub parties, rock band entertainment, ballroom dancers, and funny parlour games. To me, launches are not about making sales or marketing the book, they are about sending it out into the world and celebrating the accomplishment.

Most of my launches have had the trappings of elegance with a dash of devilry. We are very fortunate in Ottawa to have Library and Archives Canada, which has always provided space free of charge for cultural events, and the wonderful Friends of the Library, which provides the donation wine bar as a fundraiser. The sunken lobby of the LAC has soaring ceilings, marble columns and floors, and a smattering of white-clothed tables on which to spread platters of cheeses, chocolates and other fine finger foods. The space holds about two hundred people, and often it has been packed for the Ottawa crime writers’ launches. People mingle, greet old friends, browse the books and line up to have them signed, all to the graceful backdrop of jazz piano played by George Pike, our truly secret ingredient to a successful launch.

Over the years, these book launches have become part of the cultural scene. People look forward to them and never seem to grown tired of them. They do not roll their eyes as if to say “Not another one!” Instead, they stock up on gifts and often come to the signing table with stacks of books and a list of names.

Sometimes, an author launches a book alone, but often two or three of us team up for a double or even triple launch. We usually have the same pool of friends and readers, so this is one way to avoid launch fatigue, but it also splits the work and adds to the fun. A couple of short talks, brief readings, and lots of time to mingle and sign. A perfect evening!

But each time, I wonder whether I should do something different, whether after nine books the novelty will wear off among the attendees. Other authors have had launches in restaurants and pubs, both big and small, or in art galleries and theatre studios. Sometimes they bring in their rock musician friends to play a few sets, as if readings and talks were not entertainment enough on their own. For my last book, The Fall Guy, which is an easy-read novella aimed at a very different audience from my Inspector Green books, I held the party in a pub along with two other writers. We filled the place, and everyone loved the relaxed, informal, no-mic, stand-on –a-chair-and-scream atmosphere. Including me.

This year I have two launches to plan, one for the latest easy-read novella, Evil Behind that Door, which has just been released, and one for the next Inspector Green, The Whisper of Legends, which comes out in the spring.

Two different books, two very different parties. What to do.

Barbara Fradkin is a child psychologist with a fascination for how we turn bad. In addition to her darkly haunting short stories in the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, she writes the gritty, Ottawa-based Inspector Green novels which havewon back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, explores love in all its complications. And, her Rapid Read from Orca, The Fall Guy, was launched last year.

1 comment:

  1. A smart hostess throws the sort party that will make her intended guests enjoy themselves and feel comfortable. My guess is a book launch should be no different. But a nice quandry to have, Barbara!