Last Saturday, October 1st, was the official launch day of my debut children’s book, ‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners.’ It was both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
I had been given several snippets of advice on how to embrace a launch day – don’t wear anything that shows sweat marks; dress smartly; don’t dress too smart; have an authorial persona; be confident; don’t be overly confident; enjoy; don’t enjoy too much (i.e no alcoholic beverages) …
For an anxious person like myself, these snippets broiled and bubbled in my stomach in the days leading up to launch day and made me feel incredibly sick. For those who know me well, you will also know that I am prone to the odd bout of wailing and throwing myself dramatically onto cushions in a ‘woe is me’ fashion.
“What if no one comes?” was my wail on launch day Eve. “What am I going to do? I’ll have to become a recluse. We’ll have to move away … somewhere remote … a shack on top of the highest mountain.”
Hang on a second, I thought, mid-wailing. That’s a line from my book! I am turning into one of my characters! I am officially mad (this is not in fact a lie).
My wailing finally subsided to the occasional dainty sniff whenever my husband was in close proximity. Sleep did not come on launch day Eve and, inevitably, Saturday arrived in a bleary-eyed, fuzzy-minded fog.
As I tried in vain to make myself look slightly less sleep-deprived, I pondered over what this day meant. This was the day that was going to:
a) pronounce me a complete and utter failure, unworthy of even whispering the word author
b) make my 9 year old son, Tomi, finally call me a real children’s author
As I am a punctual person (I can not tolerate lateness, it makes me terribly itchy and twitchy), we left the house on my insistence at 9.30am to make the 10 minute drive to town. My launch was due to begin at 11am. At 9.40am, we drove passed Waterstones. I glanced through the window.
“There’s no one there!” I gasped, beginning to hyperventilate.
“It’s a little too early perhaps?” said my overly-sensible husband.
At 10.50, buoyed up a smidgen by caffeine and enthusiasm from the lovely Eloise Williams (author of the atmospheric adventure ‘Elen’s Island’ – you should read it if you haven’t already) we entered Waterstones.
There were balloons! There were cup cakes! There was already a handful of people! There was a sickening bout of nerves. I couldn’t this. I couldn’t remember all the dos and donts. The handful of people grew to quite a sizeable crowd. I began to panic. I didn’t know how to be an author!
My wonderful editor at Firefly Press, Janet Thomas, introduced me and my book. I can’t actually remember a word she said, such was my panicked state. Children shuffled to the front to settle on cushions ready to listen to me read; to listen to me read my book, my very own words.
I looked at the little faces in front of me, lots of eyes wide in anticipation. I took a deep breath, opened my book and began …
And that’s when it all changed. I forgot that I was in Waterstones. I forgot that there were lots of eyes looking directly at me. I forgot that I was launching my debut book. I lost myself in my words, my story. When I ended the first chapter, there was applause. There were smiling faces. And right next to me was Tomi, beaming proudly.
People began to queue to have their book signed. The queue snaked its way through the shop and out through the door onto the street! Boxes of my book were brought out from the storeroom; empty boxes were returned.
At 12.30pm, the last copy was signed. My book had sold out, but there were still people asking for it. It was the most amazingly surreal feeling I have ever had. I felt like a proper author. Children were telling me they loved my book. Parents were telling me that they loved my book. I was soaring. It was such an incredible high. It was a million times more than I could have ever imagined. I was overwhelmed with the support. People had come to support me and my book; lots of people.
The afternoon slot was arranged for storytelling by myself and two fellow Fireflies – Eloise Williams (author of the atmospheric adventure, ‘Elen’s Island – sorry have I said that once?) and the lovely Sarah Todd Taylor, author of the hilarious ‘Arthur and Me’. It went wonderfully. The children and the adults were enthusiastic. Everyone had a great time and it was wonderful to see children enjoying stories, their faces showing that they were transported to these amazing worlds of kings and knights; islands and mystery; talking cats and bubbling cauldrons (you’ll have to read all three books to understand the references).
And that was it. My launch day had passed magnificently. The two bookshops in Aberystwyth that were stocking my book had sold out of copies. I returned home exhausted and stunned but extremely proud when Tomi said I could now officially be called a children’s author!
So, my advice for any debut authors out there preparing for their launch would be to just go with it. You can’t plan who will turn up. But whether it’s one person or a hundred people, they have come there specially for you. So don’t pretend to be someone you’re not (even if you’re wearing cat ears). Be yourself, be proud of what you have achieved and enjoy every glorious second. I certainly did.
‘Grace-Ella: Spells for Beginners’ is available to order on Amazon, or you can order direct from http://www.fireflypress.co.uk. You might also spot it in a bookshop near you.