Tuesday, May 7, 2024

9 Lessons learned from my Books Launch event.




1. Start Early

After I published the book in November, I started doing my research on how to have a book launch. Then I started asking about venues. By February 6th, I had selected my service providers. At the same time, my second book was also out in print so this was going to be a double launch.

2. Talk to People

Don't do it alone, this is not a creative project that needs to be handled singlehandedly.  The more I talked to people the more a realised, ah, kumbe human resource is available. And the more I involved people, the more others approached me wanting to be part of the event. My friend and her fiance paid for drinks and a gluten free cake, my neighbour spent a whole Friday afternoon making mandazi and cake for the event. People who couldn't make it sent a kakitu for the event. My cousins traveled all night to be there for the event, from Mombasa, from Narok, from Nyeri, others came straight from work, all respecting the black, white of green dress code. 

Another friend paid for the venue, my salon people sent me money..enough to take a cab and back. ah. Yaani. Sikuachiliwa na watu wangu.


3.  Have your Accounts in order

You must have a budget, but on top of that, have an accountant.

 The reason is as artists we have a terrible relationship with money. We want everyone to be happy and sometimes we don’t think very much about expenses as long as things are fine.

You need an accountant like my guy who, when I told him one of the service providers had sent a new invoice, with double the cost agreed on said ‘ Ndū! Agīte kuuga ūguo February nīkī!’ Arudishe hiyo pesa tutafute service provider mwingine!’

Because in reality. We had settled with the service providers two months before so to increase even five shillings would blow the budget into bits.

An accountant is also able to know if you are eating the profits and keep you in check. 


4. Consult

Ask questions. I asked a question in a writers' group that I am in and within a few hours I had 88 answers. I was able to plan my launch around their ideas. Everybody in that group took time to ask me questions that clarified my thinking, while others encouraged and gave suggestions which on application worked out perfectly. Initially, my launch was going to be a very stiff event, but the group advised me to ' just look pleasant and hand out the drinks.' One advised. 'It's a celebration of the book, basically a party.' another one said.


5. Have a team.

At first I only had my accountant, the publisher and the venue provider on board. But then the accountant  started to ask me questions I couldn’t answer, and then I was needed to have a  program, so I realised I might need an Mc, and people to perform. I made a call for participants, but now I needed someone to answer their questions like, will there be a sound system?

But then people in my circle started to ask - how can we help? I put them in a WhatsApp group and shared my ideas. Friends and family are your best bet, don’t underestimate how much people want you to succeed.


6. Anticipate mishaps and be prepared to handle them

The week that I was to print books for the launch, my publisher ran out of the paper  I prefer for my books.

At the venue, the space we had been assigned before was changed, and since it had rained the night before, our new space seemed impossible to manage. But somehow things worked out when one of the market attendants looked over and said- 'how about we set you up under that tent?'

When I sent two of my helpers to buy drinks, they forgot half the order and bought an electric water dispenser that cost an arm and a leg and almost had me fainting when I caught sight of it. It was my mistake really, I had casually mentioned 'could you check the price of a dispenser while you are at it?' Now I was the one on the phone asking them- 'what is this for? What are we going to do with it?' I returned it the following day and took the missing drinks. Fairmart Supermarket Kikuyu has my 5 star rating from the way they handled the matter.

I got criticised by an editor two weeks before the launch for the use of different point of views in my stories. He suggested a revision of the entire book before the launch.

 How, in two weeks? Again, I asked for advice  from the writers group. The answer that kept being repeated was- Your readers are not wrong- Your readers are not stupid- Trust your readers- 

And of course, we write for readers, and if over 200 of my books have already flown out of my hands into readers' hands, I have got 5 star reviews on NURIA Store and 18 positive remarks, not to mention the ones that come into my inbox, and those that call me because they just have to tell me something they read in a story real quick.

Some of the comments that saved my life are snipped below.





7. Communicate clearly

We had got to the venue and were trying to arrange the sitting area, and I told the two young men with me to straighten up the seats. And they asked, 'how?' so I said they should have them facing in a way that everyone feels included. They moved the seats around a bit but then it wasn't as I saw it in my mind, and I had to say clearly, 'put these two in a straight line, and this one across so that it looks like an L.'

So on this note. When you delegate roles, remember to be very clear on what you need.  No one will read your mind.


8. Take Charge

This is your event.

Breaking this down, it means you call the shorts. Even with the help you are receiving, the event follows the course you direct. I guess I grew up real quick in that one day. I realised, everyone coming to the launch tent was my guest, they came because of me, or because of the books I had written and it was up to me to make everybody feel special and welcome. 

For most of the people that came and stayed, I have a relationship with them. So even if one of the expectations I had was to make sales, it wasn't just a hands off buyer and seller -bring your money- take the books kind of engagement. I needed to acknowledge the person who bought, and even if someone didn't buy a book on that day, I needed to answer their questions, give them time and make them feel seen.


9. DO IT

In conclusion, I am glad I had this event. It made me feel bare and vulnerable but the result was I learned new things about myself, how determined I am to keep going. No matter what.

Th publicity was also very good for the book. I have content that will go on for up to a month.

I was able to reinforce my relationship with some people I haven't been able to sit and talk with in many days and I met new people who are going to be very part of my life from now on.

That said, I was very happy about the group that turned up.  These were my kind of people. Highly intelligent but extremely humble people. People who came and sat and warmly smiled at me and at other guests. I really felt the support. Asanteni sana.



To get a copy of either book, here's a link

https://nuriakenya.com/product/going-to-buy-a-plot-in-maai-mahiu-by-cecilia-gathoni/


1. Start Early

2. Talk to People

3.  Have your Accounts in order

4. Consult

5. Have a team.

6. Anticipate mishaps and be prepared to handle them

7. Communicate clearly

8. Take Charge

9. DO IT

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