A Book Launch Party in NYC

I got an invitation to a book launch party in Manhattan next week, and it got me thinking about the places where the worlds of self publishing and trade publishing diverge. I don't know NYC prices for renting a major performance space, for bringing in a half dozen name bands, not to mention free food and drink, but I'd be surprised if it weren't closer to $200,000 than $50,000. It sounds like a heck of an event, but I'm the sort of guy who will walk around the block to avoid a party, so driving a hundred miles to NYC for the evening isn't in the cards.

Most veteran self publishers would be happy with a net profit at the end of the year that wouldn't pay for this book launch party. Most new self publishers would be thrilled to death if they sold enough copies of their first title to pay for just one of the bands! We're simply talking about two different worlds with two different outcomes. The event isn't going to pay for itself with sales of autographed copies to guests. In fact, I'd be shocked if the book is even sold there. Outside of having a good time, the only thing the author of this book launch can hope to accomplish with the party is creating buzz. Even the big trade publishers usually don't go to this much expense in creating buzz for nonfiction, so I'm guessing it's really a case of the author wanting to throw a big party and maybe gain some momentum for highly paid speaking engagements.

This approach to publishing runs entirely counter to the model I advocate for self publishing which is predicated on the notion that authors shouldn't have to be performers. Getting invited to speak at conferences and to make corporate visits just gives me the chills. It's tough enough for me to speak coherently on the telephone. What I do is write and publish on the Internet, and I let my writing sell my books for me. I have a friend who threw a book launch party for a self-published book (I'd have shown up for that one but I was out of the country at the time) but it was strictly a celebration.

Sometimes, new authors will get extremely bad advice from publishing "professionals" or dashed-off articles in writers’ magazines which basically encourage them to imitate the trades on the cheap. It can't be done. I recently heard from a nice woman who read somewhere that she should pass out fliers to her neighbors announcing a book launch event in her home for her self published book. The only thing it accomplished was to get the neighbors laughing at her behind her back. You can sell your neighbors kitchenware or cosmetics in some communities without raising an eyebrow, but the only places I've been where you could sell your neighbors books were deeply religious communities, and they'd better not be books you wrote yourself.

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