So Your Book is On the Shelves, What Next?

off the phone cork and autumn 2011 236
off the phone cork and autumn 2011 236

So what happens after a book is published? I’ve had two books out this month – Ask Amy Green: Love and Other Drama-ramas (Amy 4 for short) and Sally Go Round the Stars: Rhymes from an Irish Childhood. I know a lot of people think that all kinds of exciting things happen on publication day like fireworks and lunches with champagne, and maybe they do, if you are JK Rowling! But nice things do happen if you have the right publishers. Walker Books sent me a Happy Publication Day card, signed by my editors and all the other people I work with. This is a lovely thing to do, very sweet!

The publishers of my adult novels, Pan Macmillan always send me flowers on publication day (although I’m not sure if they still do this in the ‘current climate’ as I don’t have a book out with them this year). Again, a thoughtful, kind thing to do.

Sometimes books have launches, sometimes not. This depends largely on the marketing budget for the particular book, and the publishing house’s policy on launches. I had a very glam dinner for the first Amy Green book, with booksellers, journalists and reviewers. For Amy 3, I had a launch in a bookshop. I also launched two other books at the same time (it was a busy year!), Emma the Penguin and The Loving Kind. It was a really fun night and all my friends and family came along to celebrate the ‘christening’ of the books with me.

This year, I didn’t have a launch for either Sally or Amy 4. O’Brien Press didn’t have time to organise one for Sally (sadly), and I didn’t have the energy to do it myself after a hectic few weeks of book festivals and back to school activity. And I decided not to have one for Amy 4 as I had a lot of events organised around publication day anyway. I’ll definitely have one for Amy 5 however, as a launch is a fantastic way of celebrating a book and giving it a good send off.

So if there’s no launch what happens to the book?

Basically it is put on the shelves of the local and national bookshops after the ‘publication date’. Often the books appear on the shelves before this date. It’s quite a stressful time. You wonder ‘Will anyone buy the book?’, ‘Will anyone review it?’, ‘If they do review it, will they like it?’ It’s only natural to worry about your book’s reception. I always try to tell myself that I’ve written the best book I can, I’ve promoted it to the best of my ability, and now it’s out of my hands. Whatever happens, I am doing a job I love, every day of my life, and that’s the important bit. And that’s it pretty much! Doesn’t sound too exciting, does it? But of course, then comes the marketing and publicity.

Marketing and publicity

About a week after the publication date, my publishers (being proactive and organised people) generally invite me to visit the bookshops and do an informal stock signing. This means calling into the shops, saying hi to the booksellers (fab, hardworking individuals – I used to be one so I’m biased of course!), and sign the stock they have on the shelves. It’s a chance to thank booksellers for stocking your book. And if the shop doesn’t have the book at all, it’s a heads up for them to order some before you arrive.

If you’re lucky, you might be invited to do some pr for the book. I have a wonderful publicity team both here and in the UK, and I often get asked to appear on shows like Elev8 (RTE), the TV3’s morning show. I also write blogs for my own and other peoples’ sites around publication time, like, articles for newspapers and other bits and pieces. I also visit a lot of schools to talk about my new books (this only happens for the children’s books obviously). And after the launch (if there is one), the ‘will anyone buy it’ angst, the signings, the publicity, life goes pretty much back to normal and it’s on to the next book.

I do try to celebrate publication day in my own special way – I often buying myself a special gift, take a day off to visit an art gallery, or meet a friend for lunch – just to mark the occasion. But for me, the actual writing of the book is the part I love the most. A good writing day, when everything clicks into place and I’m happy with my work beats a publication day hands down.

Yours in writing,

Sarah XXX