Lockdown isn’t the best time to try and launch a new book and promote it. For most writers like me, I’m sure the launch event is a high point in their publication journey and a special time to meet with readers, thank all those who have supported them and of course, celebrate their achievement.
I love attending launches and I’ve missed the buzz of seeing a writer excited and keen to release their words into the world. But, despite lockdown, I managed to ‘attend’ two launches last week and under normal circumstances I wouldn’t have gone to either of them.
The first launch was for Scent by my writing friend Isabel Costello. We have ‘known’ each other for years on Twitter and I’ve been lucky to meet Isabel twice in real life – once when I attended the London Book Fair and once when we met up when she visited Glasgow with her son.
The connection we’d made on social media meant we chatted away like old pals. Isabel has been a great support to me on my writing journey and I’m a big fan of her writing. But I wouldn’t have been able to travel to London for the launch of Scent so it was a rare bonus of lockdown that I could log on from North Lanarkshire and feel part of the event. I also saw some other familiar faces from social media and could sense, albeit virtually, Isabel’s happiness on the publication of her second novel. I haven’t read it yet but I’m confident I’ll love it. You can read more about Scent on Isabel’s website.
Like Isabel, Margot has also kindly offered me encouragement and support with my writing for years now. Margot’s launch would, I guess, have been held in Glasgow, a city I love to visit.
But these are unique times and again I wouldn’t have been able to go to Margot’s launch, on that particular night. Why? I’d had my COVID vaccine and the Astra Zeneca wiped me out. I wasn’t worth a button and wouldn’t have had the energy to travel to Glasgow or socialise. That night I lay wiped out on my sofa bed in my jammies with the camera off (no one needed to see me looking that rough!) and yet I didn’t have to miss any of the action. You can watch the beautiful trailer for Margot’s novel which I’m sure will hook you.
For me as a writer I would still always prefer to have a real-life launch. But as a reader I think virtual launches have their place and are here to stay. The ideal now would be to always do a live stream of an event. That way I can ‘attend’ a London launch or still log on if I’m not able to make it to a local venue for whatever reason.
I also felt that Isabel and Margot’s launches felt more intimate than in a bookstore. We were invited into their homes which made it feel very personal. Interruptions like a dog barking or a fox spotted in the garden added to the atmosphere and made it a more relaxed set-up than say a chain bookstore. I also sometimes struggle to hear or see a writer at an event but there are no problems with an online platform. There was no rush to travel to a venue, get parked, find a seat etc so there are plus points.
So, literary lockdown launches have been a thing, and as much as I desperately want to get back to real life book readings and festivals, they’re a thing that’s worth keeping as we enter the ‘new normal’.