One day, you’ll be writing about your own launch day, or maybe you already have. If you haven’t though, I do have a takeaway to share—one thing I hope you’ll remember to do when it’s your turn.
Because honestly, if your launch day is anything like mine was, that’s all you can do. And if you do that, I promise you it will all be okay!
I decided to have my launch party at our local elementary school instead of at a bookstore for several reasons. First, I knew that as a debut author, Barnes and Noble wouldn’t be interested in hosting the event for me, and my local independent bookstore is just too far away. Besides, I had worked at the school for several years as a reading teacher and my kids attended the school also, so I knew the venue well. Plus, I wanted to include themed snacks and kids activities, so for me it was the perfect choice. The local indie bookstore was on board too and willing to come to the event, supply the books, and handle the sales. So it was going to be perfect—I knew it.
After reserving the gym at the school and scheduling the event with the bookstore, I worked all summer and fall planning the rest…the food, the activities, the decorations—everything. And I was cautiously optimistic that everything would go as planned. But if you’ve ever planned a wedding, a grad party, a birthday party, or any other type of event, you probably know that nothing really ever goes as planned.
I had wanted to tell you guys every single detail that went wrong leading up to the party, but I think an overview of mishaps will be enough…
Let’s see, seven days before the party, the owner of the bookstore told me they mixed my launch party up with another author’s and they had not ordered the books. I sat in silence for a milasecond, frozen. But he assured me he could make it right, and an hour later he told me the order was now placed and he would be receiving the books in three days—which he thankfully did.
Less than 24 hours before the party, the event was this close to being relocated to another building in the school district with less than easy access. I panicked a little (okay, a lot) since I had no idea how I would get the word out about a venue change. But I took a breath, and worked my magic with the administration to keep it where it was. Phew!
But I then found out the round tables I had ordered were not available, but small kid sized round tables were. Like, what?? All I could do was picture adults playing tea party with their stuffed animals at my launch party. I was ready to cry! But, as I hyperventilated on the phone spouting gibberish of all kinds, the head of maintenance took pity on me and offered as many square tables as I wanted. Square, not round, but still something I could work with. So, at eight o’clock that night (the night before the big day), I raced to the store to return all the round tablecloths and purchase rectangular ones. We would just push the tables together. It would be fine.
And it was. By the time I went to bed, I was breathing normally again. Everything was ready…the food, the decorations, the kids’ activities—and I was too tired to be nervous or excited.
I woke up on launch day not believing any of this was real. Maybe because I had so much on my mind. Many authors talk about going to the spa on launch day to celebrate and maybe dinner with their families. Why in the world had I planned my launch party on launch day?? I was feeling more than overwhelmed.
The outpouring on social media from friends and complete strangers was wonderful but a little overwhelming too. It was hard to keep up! I did my best to reply to everyone though and breathe…to enjoy the fact that it was official. My book was out in the world. And so that’s what I did. I felt myself finally enjoying the morning as it unfolded…and staring at my book a lot!
Around noon, I received a phone call from the school district saying they needed proof of insurance from me or the bookstore or I would not be allowed to hold the event. Who knows why this detail was overlooked until the day of the event and all I could do was shake my head and think, this party is so not happening tonight. What else could possibly go wrong? I raced around the house making phone call after phone call. After the debacle with the location and tables the night before, my kids were beginning to think I was losing my mind. I think they were afraid to even ask me how they could help. But the bookstore was wonderful. They reassured me they were on it and I went about the day just hoping it would all get resolved in time. And after hours of phone calls, in true dramatic fashion, the bookstore came through. A half hour before we were scheduled to set up at the school, we got word. Everything was all set.
Even though my nerves were shot, I realized I had to hope for the best—that it would all be okay. But as I headed out the door, I received another phone call, this one from my mom. She told me she was sick—like really sick and her doctor told her she couldn’t venture out, she couldn’t come to my party. I heard her words but I couldn’t respond. My own mom wasn’t coming. I don’t have to tell you guys what that did to me. Suddenly I didn’t care anymore what shape the tables were or even if we had books to sell. I just wanted my mom to be there with me to have cake, and maybe eat a golden light bulb cookie to celebrate with me. I just wanted her to be there—to see it all.
The doctor apparently had advised her against coming, but he also told her she could come for five minutes—if she absolutely had to. Hearing her tell me that she was coming no matter what meant the world to me. It was probably selfish of me to want her there, but I did. Some moments in life are just too big to not have the most important people there with you. So I started to breath again. If she was well enough, and wanted to be there, those five minutes would mean everything to me.
My family and I and a few close friends spent the next few hours setting up at school. It’s funny how a place you spend so much of your time at can look so different when you go back. It was much smaller than I remember! The teachers and secretary whom I hadn’t seen in years were there and it was fun catching up with them. But still, I was a pile of nervous energy and when they wished me luck and left, I looked around the room. Everything looked perfect but all I wanted to do was throw up.
I guess my nerves were getting the best of me and I honestly didn’t know if I could do it. I didn’t know if I could go back home, change into my launch party outfit, drive back to school and pretend I was an author—pretend I was worthy of this launch party. Who did I think I was to be throwing a launch party for myself? JK Rowling? Stephanie Meyer? Lindsey Leavett? Those are authors who throw launch parties for their adoring fans. They serve themed snacks and sign books. But I’m just me. What am I even doing? This party was going to be so awkward. The author imposter syndrome had taken ahold of me and I wasn’t sure I would ever break free.
Somehow I went home with my family and I changed into my launch party outfit and that helped a lot. We drove back together and walked back into the room, where the balloons and snacks and welcome to the launch party sign were waiting. And the place looked amazing—even magical, just like I always imagined it would. I felt a calmness wash over me and we took pictures…so many pictures. The owner of the bookstore set up the books (my books!) and as I looked around the room and glanced at the chair behind the signing table, my nerves suddenly melted away. I know it doesn’t make sense. I think at that moment, about five minutes before the party was scheduled to start, I should have been more nervous than ever. But instead I took a deep breath and took it all in. I couldn’t believe it was happening.
My daughter told me to sit at the table and wait right there. She raced away, and from across the room I watched her buy a book so that I could sign it—at my very first signing table! I think that’s when I no longer felt like an author imposter. Yeah maybe I still felt like I was playing dress up or something and maybe I still thought that people would only buy my book to be nice to me, but at least I felt like celebrating. I felt like smiling. And so that’s what I did for the next two hours. I smiled as I saw friends and family from so many different parts of my life walk into the gym and up to the signing table with my book in their hands. That was definitely my fairy tale moment.
The night is a blur mostly, but there are a few other moments that stand out to me.
Like, the moment my mom and dad walked in and headed straight toward my table. Yes, my mom looked like she was under the weather, but she was there and her smile was unmistakable. And the night wouldn’t have been anything at all if she and my dad hadn’t been there. They even took pictures with me and took golden light Bulb cookies home with them.
At one point, my husband brought me a bottle of water probably because I hadn’t been able to leave the table all night. I’m not even sure I drank it, but just knowing he was there looking out for me was everything.
I had pictures taken with my twin nieces. You may know the girls I’m talking about. They were two of my first participants in Critique Corner here on the blog and so young when I first started writing. Now they are writers too (among other great things) and two of my biggest supporters. I will never forget the smiles on their faces. I had vowed to show them that this publishing dream is not impossible to achieve. And ten years later, I finally did.
My college friends made their grand entrance. If you knew them and all their fabulousness, you’d know what I mean! Just seeing their faces made me laugh and having them there made me feel like I had finally accomplished something worthy—worthy of toasting at our next dinner together.
Several writers from my local critique and writing groups came, people who have been with me from the beginning. I signed a book for Vivian VandeVeld, author of over thirty children’s books. If that’s not a memorable moment, I don’t know what is!
I held it together pretty well during the night as I signed books for some of my closest family members and friends who have supported me through this journey. I watched in amazement at the number of people eating Scrambled Apples and Crimson Five Cookies, drinking Piedmont Punch, and filling up Kia Krumpet’s Someday Box with their own invention ideas. I was stunned at the turnout and filled with so much love.
But I had a hard time keeping it together when my Odyssey of the Mind kids arrived. They each walked up to the table at different times with their families, and it was incredible signing the book for them…these kids who started it all. But at some point during the night they gathered together, surrounding me for a picture. We stood together smiling as their parents came out of nowhere to take the picture. But in that moment, I had to turn away. These kids were the springboard for this story. I can’t express what it meant to me to have them there to support me and celebrate the fact that my seemingly impossible dream had finally come true.
But instead of watching me cry like a baby, in true team form, in front of a gym full of people, my team…my son, Adam, Kara, Meg, Jake, and Julia huddled around me and gave me the very same corny pep talk I used to give them before each and every competition. And so instead of crying, I laughed. And then I breathed. And then I laughed again and all was okay–again.
So much about my launch day was overwhelming. And now you know why. But so much of that day was incredible, like I imagined. Maybe I didn’t get to really enjoy my launch day, because I was frantically preparing things for the launch party, but I really did get to enjoy launch night…more than I can spit into words.
To the many people who came out for the event and also to the many people who couldn’t, but have supported me in so many other ways, thank you so much. Thank you to anyone who has chosen to buy the book, request it from the library, read it, spread the news of its existence, or share it with someone else…thank you from the bottom of my heart. It has meant absolutely everything and helped to make the launch of Spin the Golden Light Bulb, my first ever published book, a dream come true.