A Book Launch these days is a treat for any author but as a self-published author, it contains additional challenges – and joys. Since we toasted my new historical fiction novel Nelson’s Lost Son, I’ve had time to reflect on the experience, and discovered a few things I hadn’t expected.
Image: Oliver (left) shares anecdotes prompted by the ‘voice of Nelson’s Folly audio book – Ian Palmer.
Decisions Behind a Launch
The first challenge is always the location – will people come into the city?
We launched Nelson’s Lost Son surrounded by Nelson memorabilia with a title which gives a huge clue about the subject matter. Yet two people who came to the book launch told me seriously that on the way to the book launch they were asking themselves why I was holding it at the Lord Nelson!
To me, the historic Lord Nelson Brewery Hotel where we could toast in Nelsons Blood and other craft beers was worth the risk. Judging by the smiles of engagement, lively questions and subsequent conversations from the almost 70 people who attended, I could almost sense Nelson’s portrait above the bar nodding in approval. Thank you to all those who braved the rain to attend.
We celebrated Nelson’s Lost Son, my second novel which is based on the story of my ancestor Josiah, whom we first met in Nelson's Folly (although the story still works well without reading my debut novel first). I begin the adventure after Josiah meets and then gives up hope of help from his famous father, who knows Josiah disapproves of Nelson living in a three-way relationship. Josiah then disappears from history for about five years, giving me more freedom to add twists and intriguing situations while keeping the dramatic events and character of the Napoleonic era accurate. I was delighted when early readers agreed that it does meet my author’s goal of this trifecta: an escape from reality, an insight into this exciting time of history and a reflection on some issues still challenging us today.
As far as anyone could recall, we were the first ever Book Launch at the Lord Nelson Hotel built around 1815 in the Rocks, the oldest spot in Colonial Australia’s history. It is a tavern which has been able to keep its authentic character despite the changes occurring in most historic pubs today. It has also turned itself into a brewery, making excellent craft beers – which adds to the atmosphere and the well trained staff work hard to make their events a success for their customers. For example, I brought with me two large suitcases of books which we planned to sell at the event. The staff of the hotel met me at the door and two fit individuals immediately grabbed the cases and hauled them up the stairs since there was no elevator.
People arrived from 4. 30 pm, to be greeted at the door by Susanne, my wife, while Nadja, who organises my promotions, circled the room taking photos of everyone enjoying the beverages, bar snacks and the diverse company, then took over the door-side welcoming.
The air conditioning at the hotel was out of service so things were a little humid, but I felt that it added to the authenticity of the event; less a corporate function, more a celebration of a book and a hero – and a time before the age of air conditioning!
A contingent gathered too – from the Naval Historical Society of Australia. They planned to attend the launch and then have dinner there. They were all intrigued by the event. They knew about Nelson of course, so this was the chance to find out about the other story. Many of them bought both books and especially enjoyed listening to John Gilbert, my friend and former Royal Navy Lieutenant, talk about his experiences with the top brass when he was a sailor. His account sounded remarkably familiar. Things seem not to have changed much in two hundred years.
Image: Naval Historical Society of Australia members enjoying the launch.
My cousin Ian Palmer, a former bishop and the voice in the Audible version of Nelson’s Folly, used his whimsical sense of humour and excellent interviewing skills for the Q/A. He set me up to tell anecdotes about my family connections with Nelson as well as to answer thoughtful questions about underlying themes and the characters in the novel as well as some of my thoughts about the challenges of writing. He had travelled from Geelong for the occasion and I am very grateful to him for giving me the support.
Meanwhile Annie, my 21 year old daughter did a great job of selling my books and I suspect, trying not to look too surprised that so many people came to see her Dad launch his second novel. I tactfully have not asked her if she has read it!
Reflections from a Self-Published Book Launcher
Being a self-published author and doing it well is only possible with the help of professionals who know the business. Few of them were at the launch because they live all over the country with a big team based in Brisbane and another in Melbourne. For those professional editors, formatters, the people who format for ebook or POD, who have the book bound and printed for occasions like this, who know how to meet all the obligations that a publisher must fulfil, I have nothing but admiration. But writing and producing a quality novel is only part of the story. The book must be advertised, promoted, reviewed and rated. All these activities require a skilled publicist who is familiar with social media and capable of organising events like a book launch. I am truly grateful for the work of my publicist, Nadja Leffler.
Recently I met another author of historical fiction who is far more recognised than I am, especially in Sydney. She compared her experiences with one of the big five publishers with mine. No doubt I am making less profit from my labours than she is, but I detected a wistfulness in the way she asked me about my experiences getting my book in front of the reader.
As I reflected on my launch with her, I realised that as a self-published author, I am in control of my destiny, I own the copy rights; I can decide when and where I am going to produce my next work. I am independent, yet I am not alone. That is worth a great deal and the celebration at the Lord Nelson was about that too.
As an extra thank you for those who attended, complimentary photographs are available from the Book Launch as a Google Photos download. Email Nadja at email@example.com for the link.
For those who kindly bought my novels, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did writing them. If you don’t, please tell me so I can improve my next novel. And if you do – please leave me reviews and share the news. (See my blog here on how to leave reviews if you’d like to know the best locations.)
Thank you to everyone who attended and was involved in so many ways in helping me to share this story with a wider readership.
Missed out? To order your copy of Nelson’s Lost Son from your favourite online retailer, use the links on the Home page www.fannynelsonfan.com. I hope you can give it a try, even if 'historical naval adventure' is new genre for you.