Poets and writers are creative. On paper, we concoct characters and emotions. We invent forms and structure. We imagine people and places. We use the latest technology to research our work and appeal to readers. We write, edit and revise so no verse or phrase or word is boring. We should do no less when appearing live. Here are some tips we picked up from our favorite book launches:
1) Remember why people are there. They want to show support, lift you up, give financial assistance and emotional encouragement. Don't let pressure or stress take over and prevent enjoyment. Launching a book is truly a celebration. Look at your launch as your community's social approval.
2) Be accommodating and don't wait until the end to sign books. Understand some fans may not be able to stay for an entire event. On a recent Saturday afternoon at Cafe De Arts in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Jim Landwehr (poet laureate for Wales, Wisconsin) launched two new books of poems, Thoughts From A Line At The DMV and Genetically Speaking, Poems on Fatherhood. Jim signed and sold books when we walked in. He was relaxed, chatty, and organized.
3) Choose a space that supports interaction and cheer. At Jim's event, we bought a coffee and then spoke with friends from AllWriters' Workplace and Workshop classes. We discussed a convention panel featuring retired teachers who write. We introduced a guest (woodworker, not writer) to a new experience.
4) Keep the presentation short. During Jim's ninety-minute event, he spoke for only thirty.
5) Create humor. Jim was self-deprecating, and when he tipped over his bottle of water, he laughed and poked it with his foot. He shared inspirational anecdotes and read very little--just enough to pique our interest. A few weeks earlier, at the Southeast Wisconsin Festival of Books, we attended Andre Dubus III's book talk. Dubus, who uses poetry as inspiration for his prose, incorporated similar variety and humor.
6) Include other authors in your event. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Arts and Books Editor Jim Higgins moderated Dubus's conversation. Higgins's commentary, along with questions from authors in the audience, broadened the conversation. The format provided valuable exposure for all.
7) Trust sales to a local bookseller. Let them handle setup, displays and money. Allow yourself to be the poet, the writer, the artist.
8) Share yourself and connect with the audience. Allow guests to know you. Dubus related his memoir to current events, told stories from the classroom (he's a writing professor) and provided tips for writing. After his talk, we stood in line to get our books signed. When it was our turn, he asked questions and jotted down the name of our memoir.
At our own book launch in 2019 for Go, Gwen, Go: A Family's Journey To Olympic Gold, we incorporated our favorite aspects. We signed and sold anytime during the three-hour event, posting the live presentation schedule. We held our event in a microbrewery where guests brought food and drinks. Sales supported the brewer's business as well as ours. We arranged for a local bookstore to manage sales. In our presentation, we created variety using a local author/poet as moderator, a video, a short reading, and a Q & A. We spoke for less than 45 minutes and although nervous, we made a point to celebrate our success.
Do you have something say about poetry? An essay on being a poet, tips for poets, or poetry you love? TrishHopkinson.com is now accepting pitches for guest blog posts.
Elizabeth Jorgensen and Nancy Jorgensen co-authored Go, Gwen, Go: A Family's Journey to Olympic Gold. Elizabeth Jorgensen, a Wisconsin high school English teacher, is an expert in sijo, a Korean poetry form. Nancy Jorgensen has co-written two choral education books, Things They Never Taught You In Choral Methods and From The Trenches: Real Insights From Real Choral Educators. Her short works appear in Prime Number Magazine, Cagibi, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, CHEAP POP, Brevity blog, and elsewhere.