Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to prepare for a book launch

The first thing is to be afraid - be very afraid. If you are nervous enough, preparation for your book launch will entail a lot of lists, checking and re-checking. The likelihood of forgetting or overlooking something is then reduced.

Lists: what to take, what to wear, what to read, what to display, who to ask... goodness. I am sure it is very possible to imagine the lists. My launch this time is going to be an exhibition launch, with artworks prepared by friend and artist Robyn Varpins. She has interpreted the artworks mentioned in the book, and they look fabulous. It also means that with two hosts, there are twice the items to remember.

All the guest lists and so forth are done and used - the exhibition launch runs over this coming weekend, 26-29 May, so guests were advised a fortnight ago. RSVPs have rolled in thick and fast - the great thing about running an event over a whole weekend is that people can manage to squeeze in a visit at some point over the four days, even if they can't make it to opening night.

There is wine to buy and cheese to dice. An olive or two won't go amiss. Robyn is arranging for an urn for cups of tea, and a biscuit or two will be nice.

Then I have to select excerpts to read - interesting pieces with no spoilers. Now that will be hard. When you choose parts of the book to read, mark them with differently coloured paper, also numbered, so that you do not get confused.

There will be a running and looping Powerpoint presentation going on in one corner, with pictures and quotes. And book displays I have made mental sketches of - and will probably look vastly different to what I have dreamt up. Making a slide show of this nature needs a lot of thought, so do start a long time before the night. Show it to a few people to gauge immediate impressions. Be prepared to change - flexibility is an asset.

It is always very hard to calculate the numbers of books you will need. Your publisher will be able to help if you ask. I have heard from many authors that the average number of books sold at a launch is 35. But are you and your book average? How many people will turn up? Will you run short ... or over order? Being left with a large box of unsold books is never pleasant. Still, it is better than missing a sale. It is also important not to forget copies of all your other titles - your new book will sell most, of course, but readers invariably ask, "Do you have any other books?" Having them there might stimulate sales of your backlist.

Prepare a selection of comfortable things to wear - it is important to wear comfortable shoes since authors stand a lot at launches. Think of the venue - libraries are usually warm, but halls tend to be chilly. Shops are draughty.

Remember people will expect books signed - a good pen is vital. Take two or three of your favourite brand of pens, and be prepared to listen carefully to how a purchaser would like the book signed. Spelling of names is important, and some people (collectors, especially) prefer a simple author signature and nothing more.

Offering a free bookmark or postcard with your details - email, website, blog - is not only a nice thought but will allow purchasers the opportunity of an afterthought. We often think, "I should have bought one for Mum," when we like something. Readers might like your book that much - if they have your details, they can buy more copies if your directions on the bookmark or card are self-explanatory.

It is not a bad idea to have a few cover images blown up to poster size and hung around the venue. Marketing experts say people need to see something more than once, and in more than one size, in order to get the buying impulse.

Soft background music can get in the way of your readings, so have someone on hand to turn it down. Lighting is quite important - strong enough for you to read by, yet not glaring so guests are blinded.

There are other things to consider - but it's amazing how many things occur to you when you start thinking in list fashion. So take out a pen when the time comes - and have a nice time, despite the butterflies.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

How it feels to be a guest blogger

Jayne Fordham's Blog
It feels great to be a guest blogger when the request comes from the manager of a site you know has good credentials.

It's a bonus when you know the blog is visited by a good number of readers. What feels best is the understanding the blog manager has of the subtle things that make a blog enjoyable to read: clarity and sharpness and an attractive layout are really what make a reader stay on. Relevant images are also good. Even if a surfer happens to stumble upon a blog, its appearance - and then its content - can make that chance guest stay on to read more.

I found this out about The Australian Bookshelf, run by Jayne Fordham. It is sharp, straight, and contains great content, with everything signposted correctly so one is never lost. If only the rest of my world were that organized!

I am this week's guest blogger at The Australian Bookshelf. Jayne asked me to talk about locations in my fiction and triggered off a reminiscence. So why not read about it there?

I would love to know how you feel about guest blogging in general. If you are an author, tell me whether you felt nervous, or if you have a favourite that I can see online. If you read blogs, please tell me whether you enjoy a guest at your bookmarked blogs, and whether guests send you looking for new books and authors you might enjoy.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Only if you live in Perth

Black Swan on the Swan River, Perth Western Au...Image via Wikipedia
Yes, I'm writing a post for residents of one city, and one city only. Perth - the great little city on the shores of the Indian Ocean, which is bisected in more ways than just geographically by the Swan River.

If you nod at all this and know where I am, and love it because you are here too, this blog post is for you. This is a special invitation to all residents of Perth who love a great story, and who would like to experience a new kind of book launch.

Perhaps a first for our city, capital of Western Australia, the celebration for According to Luke, my new thriller, will be an exhibition launch. I am working with award-winning local artist Robyn Varpins, who was very taken with the visual aspects in the narrative. According to Luke is packed with art. There are pre-Byzantine icons, sacred representations, sculptures and reverential paintings. Robyn has taken them and interpreted them in her inimitable way. She has used timber supports and thrown sculptures with a very special kind of clay so sympathetic to the way she works that it renders her sculptures tactile - exquisite.

Over the whole weekend from May 26 to May 29, Perth art lovers and readers are invited to visit this new concept of linking the visual and literary arts. I shall be reading from According to Luke every day, chatting with visitors and enjoying meeting family, friends and fans. Robyn will demonstrate her art, and a spot of music will be audible in the background. Those who attend on Thursday can celebrate with us.

Many of you already know what According to Luke is about. Some readers have already posted reviews - there are many all over the Internet, especially on Amazon, which is where most people look first. This will be an opportunity to meet me, if you haven't already, and the artist who has so accurately interpreted the words in the book to come up with reverential yet mysterious works of art.

An invitation has been devised for you. It can be viewed and printed from this source. I look forward to meeting as many readers as possible during the length of the exhibition launch. Paintings, sculptures and signed books will be available for purchase. See you there!

Venue: Colour Lust Art Space  1-3 Coventry Parade, North Fremantle
Opening times on invitation.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

What I do is contagious

Ted Geisel (Dr. Seuss) half-length portrait, s...Image via Wikipedia  Dr Seuss
We do not always realize how much our behaviour affects those around us. In these days of social networking, we interface with people who are to all intents and purposes perfect strangers. Well - they're not all perfect, but some of them come close.

It used to be that parents thought they influenced their children, and practised what they preached. Now most parents know that what really influences children is other kids, and stuff they take in by osmosis though digital means. Still, adults do shift each others' thinking, each others' perceptions, each others' curiosity and each others' taste, even if only temporarily. It only takes a little shift to change one's shopping habits, for example.

I found that what I lifted off a supermarket shelf recently made a nearby shopper take the very same can to read what I had so intently put on my glasses for. I saw her curiosity was moved by my absorbed reading of a label in search of carbohydrate content. Then, at the beginning of the chips-and-chocolate aisle, I stopped and veered off to the left, avoiding it altogether. Another shopper smiled and did the same, winking as he went.

Online, I found I have amazing power to direct my followers to read certain blogs, or look at pictures I like, or listen to tracks I bookmark, or smile at pictures of cats, or nod in agreement at sage snippets such as Dr Seuss's quotes. What I do seems to catch on. If I made a list of books, or links, or images, you'd most likely get curious and wonder what I like, and you might get to like it too. Or dislike it so strongly you might want to warn people off, and you would then influence another circle of people. What you do is contagious.

I have practised smiling while in the middle of a despondent mood, insanely grinning to myself in my rear-view mirror while stopped at a red light, only to find the fellow in the car to my left smiling insanely back. I have skipped a little dance while pushing my trolley (yes, I shop a lot) only to see a woman laugh and skip too. I have sung along to seventies and eighties songs on the car radio, and my son followed suit.

What amazing power we have to affect how others behave. Like it or not, humans play follow the leader more often than we think. We observe and imitate, discover and emulate, and are not always aware that what we do might end up being copied by others. We also rarely stop to think how much of what we do is original, or truly spontaneous. Which does not really matter that much. Perhaps the knowledge that what we do is catching might make us a bit more careful, and just like sneezing into a hankie not to spread the flu, we might become a bit more positive, cheerful and lighthearted so that when it does turn the circle and come back to us, it will strike us in a nice way, and make us want to copy it all over again.
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Forgotten feeling: Winning a poetry contest

I used to write poetry way back in the 80s and 90s. I rather fancied the starving in a garret notion then, and anyway, I was in a totally different place when I would sit with real pen and paper and scribble, sometimes at a cafe, sometimes in my own backyard.

It's easy to dismiss those early scribbling days, but if I hadn't written and published poetry, I would never have morphed into a novelist. Every skerrick of writing an author does is of some value - for a number of different reasons, of course. Writing an angry letter to the local newspaper works on a different level from a romantic sonnet. Drafting chapter nineteen of a new novel is vastly different from trying to formulate a synopsis for a finished one.

So it was with tongue placed firmly in the left cheek that I participated in UKA's recent challenge. UK Authors accepted me as an international member, and I found that early participation is a good way to get a warm welcome, so up took I my metaphorical pen, and wrote a very rapid poem there and then in the blog box. No paper, no real writing instrument, but this here keyboard. What I saw forming before my eyes was mature ... surprisingly nothing like the poems I wrote in the early days, but very much like the ones I wrote as an established writer of that kind of thing. Yes, the very same one who published all those poems decades ago. It was like the intervening years had just not existed, at that moment. Spooky, that.

This is what I wrote, and it took all of five minutes:


Beatific, soporific an expression
As light
As the day his puckered infant's body
Rose in matron's hands
Above the birthing bed.

Here, among
A million curious eyes
Of parishioners too exhausted
With daily toil and strife
To properly observe
This solemn occasion
He lies.

They follow the cavalcade,
The hearse dark:
Postmortem elegance and pomp
His last salute.

Where will they bury him?
A bishop in life;
In death a mere corpse
Too corpulent for aught
But this heavy procession
That leads him away
And down.

And the prize I received is in the top right-hand corner of this blog: a golden egg that is worth a lot more to me than I thought, because it made me realize - just like it would if I ever foolishly attempt to ride a bicycle again - that some skills and talents stay with you when you have mastered them properly.

I love my golden egg and am very proud of it. And I am very grateful to UK Authors for being a vehicle for this little event in my writing life, and unwittingly enabling a kind of return to this literary artform. Perhaps it's not such a vain and silly thing I did recently then, to resurrect my collection of successful poems and publish it once more. All the Wrong Places is available again, and can be seen here.

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