With the launch of Memory War less than seven weeks away, I wanted to talk about something which every author needs to consider: Sales.
Whatever your feelings on the romantic idea of the author, toiling away on their novel, or the relationship between art and business, the fact is that authors these days need a keen business mind, particularly when it comes to the big events like the release of your latest book. You can't sit back and assume the book will sell itself; you've got to get out there, find your target audience, and spread awareness of your product.
Now, a book launch, alone, will never be a huge money-maker. Unless you're one of the top-name authors in the business (in which case, you don't need my advice, and could I have an endorsement, please?), your book launch really is there primarily to help you celebrate the achievement of getting that book out there. The secondary goals are to spread awareness of the book and hopefully sell enough copies to either convince the bookstore to stock copies afterwards, or (if you're having it somewhere else) to pay for the costs of actually getting the event arranged to begin with.
This advice might at first seem to not be relevant to those who have their launches in a bookstore, but some stores might have difficulty ordering stock themselves, and might ask you to provide the books on the night, and arrange a rate at which they'll sell them.
Remember that while you're there to have fun and enjoy that lovely giddy feeling you get as people walk around with your book in their hands, you also have to pay your bill.
The big money comes from two things: (A) venue hire, and (B) books.
This year I'm happy to say that the Trinity Bar has offered me space at no cost, so I just have to worry about providing some food and ordering books to sell.
My advice to anyone providing books for their launch themselves is to take pre-orders, and as much as possible, only order copies that you've already been paid for. There's a horrible, sinking feeling that comes from looking at your sales and realising you don't have enough to pay back your supplier. Plus it turns the launch into a guessing game where you try and work out who'll come and how many copies they'll buy, and work out how much stock to order so you have enough to sell to everyone.
Avoid the hassle altogether and just offer pre-orders. If you've got some cash spare, it can be nice to have some extra copies on hand to sell to people who might show up without having RSVPed, or if anyone forgot to place their order, but you can always take more orders on the night, and avoid the stress of watching your cashbox for the moment you reach your break-even point.
That's what I'll be doing this year. I might have a couple of spare copies with me, since I get a few free from my publisher, but I'll only be ordering as many copies as are ordered, and for the rest I'll be taking orders on the day.