Preparing to launch — guest blog by Susan Ketchen

For the nor­mally re­clus­ive au­thor, one of the es­sen­tial com­pon­ents of new book pro­mo­tion is — un­for­tu­nately — The Launch. Even if a form­al af­fair — at a gal­lery, with of­fer­ings of wine, fancy fin­ger-food from an exot­ic cater­er and nap­kins that look like works of art — is avoided, the ven­ue is but one of many many de­cisions which must be made.

The date should be close to the is­su­ing of the book, but not so close that you’re in heart fail­ure for days be­fore, wor­ry­ing about wheth­er you’ll have stock on hand. You also have to de­cide how and when to ad­vert­ise the event, who to in­vite, how many chairs, how much stand­ing room, who will sell the books, and oh yes, what you’re go­ing to say dur­ing your presentation.

But for me, the first and most daunt­ing ques­tion, every time (and I’ve launched three books) is al­ways and im­me­di­ately: What am I go­ing to wear? Perhaps for most people this is not a dif­fi­cult prob­lem to solve. But I live on a small farm, and spend days on end see­ing no one oth­er than people on neigh­bour­ing farms and some­times the Hydro meter reader.

On the few oc­ca­sions I go to town for gro­cer­ies or chick­en feed, my stand­ard of dress aims not for style but for clean­li­ness. I have no idea what is cur­rently fash­ion­able. Reading the Style sec­tion of the Globe and Mail is ab­so­lutely no help — I’m sure they are ca­ter­ing to people on an­oth­er plan­et, the one called “Toronto.”

For one launch, I threw my­self on the mercy of the clerk in a fash­ion store. I told her I needed to stretch be­yond my usu­al com­fort levels, but in ret­ro­spect I think she was bored and look­ing for someone to play a prac­tic­al joke on. I still can’t bear to look at pho­tos of that launch. I wish I’d tucked in my shirt the way I wanted to and not left it dangling the way I was told I must.

For an­oth­er event, I had my en­semble well planned in ad­vance, some­thing light and airy, to min­im­ize sweat (us farm folks sweat) un­der the hot lights in a small room. On the day of the event, it snowed. This was March, on Vancouver Island, where of­ten a whole winter can pass by with no snow at all. Back to the draw­ing board.

And then there’s the shoe prob­lem. In my closets I have rid­ing boots, rub­ber boots, hik­ing boots and run­ners. When I try on clothes in fash­ion stores, the clerks are known to say, “You won’t be wear­ing those shoes, will you?” They will be look­ing askance at my (new­est) run­ners, which are in­ex­plic­ably dirti­er in town than they were when I left the farm. There is of­ten a piece of hay stuck to the laces, be­cause on the way out the drive­way I had to stop and re­spond to a plaint­ive ex­pres­sion from a horse who thought he was hungry.

It oc­curs to me, re-read­ing this ri­dicu­lous state of af­fairs, that per­haps fret­ting about cloth­ing is a form of pro­cras­tin­a­tion, as I avoid think­ing about what surely is the main point of the event: What am I go­ing to talk about?

Well, I could go on about that too, and I would, but the thought of it is mak­ing my palms sweat, which is not good for the keyboard.

Paula’s note: I also suf­fer from out­fit anxi­ety be­fore a book launch. I won­der if this is some­thing only fe­male au­thors go through?

As for Susan’s book, Grows that Way, I was read­ing it in bed one night and kept laugh­ing out loud and wak­ing my part­ner up. I’m long past be­ing a young adult but the ori­gin­al plot, feisty char­ac­ters and fresh writ­ing kept me read­ing – and stifling chuckles — un­til the wee hours of the morn­ing. You can find out more about Susan at www​.susanketchen​.ca.