Quirky and Effective Book Launches

by Hazel Edwards

A launch is like a first birthday party for a book child. It matters to the parent of the birthday child, but may be seen by publishers as misdirecting the marketing budget. So, a launch must achieve more than indulging an author with free drinks and nibbles for friends.

The aim is to attract attention to the title and sell copies.

Quirky attracts attention. Food (or drink), site or launcher may be more important than the book's content or author.

Thematic Food:

Since food is the sex of children's books, having thematic food which links with title or character is easy for children's authors. Schools welcome student involvement in literary "events", especially if children "create" book linked activities and meet authors.

Launches can cause embarrassing moments such as the "Snail Mail" race when the snails didn't move, but the snail shaped food was okay. No escargot. It is best not to have duck paté for the launch of Stickybill T.V. Duckstar either! A chocolate cake tiled "roof" on which the guests "imagine" a cake-eating hippo was the easy way for There's a Hippopotamus on Our Roof Eating Cake which was originally launched near the zoo's hippo enclosure. Guests were invited to B.Y.O.H.F. (bring your own hippo food) which caused some confusion. Hippo blood (red wine or raspberry) and hippo dandruff (white marshmallows) arrived, as well as some carrot cake -- because real hippos eat carrots.

Eva, a Grade 5 student launched Duty Free (Lothian), because she'd been to Shanghai and had been caught in a Beijing bikejam too. A "Great Wall of China" cake which was really made from iced Swiss rolls linked with the cover design and students interviewed the author.

The launch of Antarctic Writer on Ice (booksonwriting.com) required the author wearing a polar suit in 32 degree Perth heat, plus marshmallows as "ice", pavlova as "bergs" and iced tea because the tea bag was invented on Mawson station.

Controversial topics like Difficult Personalities (Choice Books) didn't cater well, but an "actor" stalker launched my Stalker (Lothian) novel with a prepared script.

Location, location, location:

Location is relevant, especially for those launching family or club histories. An organization may co-host a launch and publicize the event for their members. Remote regions love the novelty of a book launch while city literary sites are often blasé about "just another launch." An e-launch is a possibility online where questions can be emailed to the co-authors for a designated day as happened with our E-mail murder mystery (co-authored with Goldie Alexander)

How remote? My Non Boring Travel Writing (booksonwriting.com) was inadvertently launched in Antarctica when my polar resupply ship became "beset" in ice for weeks and distractions were needed. A V.R. (virtual reality) launch, with author -- but no book -- was performed. The publisher kindly faxed the cover by satellite, but only the white words showed: Boring Hazel Edwards was all that was visible. A cool launch!

Having a "literary notable" launch the book is not a novelty and it's better to have someone not usually associated with the book world because they attract others to buy and read the book.

"A Dead Person" and a "Geni" launched my adolescent novel Fake ID (Lothian) which has a cyber-sleuthing family history theme. The Dead Person's Society is a quirkily named family history group, while genealogists are known as "genis" for short and both had helped with my research. Now family historians are buying the novel for their adolescent relatives.

An event can help. For my Birds on the Brain mystery, wedding doves were released and yes, they did "poop" on the female detective launching the mystery. "Police spotting" was the local newspaper heading on the photo about the launch.

www.hazeledwards.com has photos and notes about recent launches of author Hazel Edwards' titles.

Hazel Edwards **Hazel Edwards is the Melbourne-based author of 150 books for adults and children including the classic, There's a Hippopotamus on our Roof Eating Cake. Antarctic Writer on Ice is in its fourth reprint, and is available on audio and in Braille, a YA eco-thriller Antarctica's Frozen Chosen (Lothian 2003) and an Antarctic play in Right or Wrong (Phoenix Education) are some of the writing based on her Antarctic Division polar resupply Voyage 5 to Casey Station in 2001. My Dad's Gone to Antarctica,(Lothian 2004) a picture book, is in progress. Recent children's books include Stickybill TV Duckstar The Cyber Farm with Hobbit director Christine Anketell. You can visit her website at http://www.hazeledwards.com. Married with two adult children, Hazel's hobbies are swimming, belly dancing and asking questions.

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