Where are all these book parties?

I enjoy dropping in at the blogsite Galleycat, to catch up on the latest publishing gossip. Often there’ll be photos of smiling authors attending chic book parties, and I’m always left wondering: where are all these book parties?  Who throws them?  Who gets invited?

Why does everyone look so glamorous?

It must be a New York thing.  Because up here where I live, in a small Maine town of 5,000, I just never hear about book parties.  One summer, I did host a book party at my house, but it was in honor of a journalist friend, Nicholas Von Hoffman.  And that turned out to be a lot of fun, because a lot of surprise guests turned up whom I wasn’t expecting, including Jamaica Kincaid and Paul Theroux.  They just walked in my front door out of the blue and introduced themselves, and after I picked my jaw up off the floor, I think I said something stupid like, “Are you THE Jamaica Kincaid and THE Paul Theroux?  Are you sure you’re in the right house?”  That’s the closest I ever came to feeling as if I was cavorting with the truly glamorous. 

But that’s a very rare exception.  Most of the time, my life as a writer involves sitting at my desk with bare feet and uncombed hair, muttering as I crumple up bad pages and toss them in the trash can.  So I love looking at those book party photos over at Galleycat, and imagining what it must be like to live the party-going life of the glamorous author.  Which seems to be every other author except me. 

I’ve read in a blog somewhere that as part of promoting your own book, you should throw yourself a book release party.  You should reserve a place in some chic restaurant or bar, invite your friends, wear a little black dress, sip cocktails, give away free copies of your new book, and bask in the spotlight.  That sounds like fun, doesn’t it? 

No it doesn’t.  It sounds like torture, being the center of attention.  The crowd would expect a speech, and then they’ll all notice that you have spinach in your teeth.  Everyone will try very hard to be congratulatory, but meanwhile they’re off in the corner whispering:  “You know what?  I secretly hated her book.” 

If I ever get even a whiff that there’s a party being thrown in my honor, I swear I will run screaming the other way. 

Don’t get me wrong — like most writers, I love going to parties and sipping cocktails and nibbling on tasty appetizers.  I do enjoy cleaning up once in awhile and pulling on the appropriate undergarments.  But I want the party to be in honor of the OTHER guy. 

21 replies
  1. ec
    ec says:

    My concept of Hell is an eternal cocktail party with Neil Diamond playing in the background(or, alternately, being stuck in an elevator with ten Elvis impersonators), but being the focus of attention? That’s a whole new level of torment.

  2. Kyle K.
    Kyle K. says:

    You know, as much as I would prefer to just celebrate with friends and family on a small scale (maybe dinner or a small gathering somewhere), I think I want my first book launch party to be big and fabulous and way over the top, just like the ones you’re mentioning. It’d be nice to glam it up for a night, considering we’d just have to be back working on the next one the next day!

  3. Christine
    Christine says:

    You know, a major part of the appeal of being an author for me, is that I can continue to be a back room girl. I hate being out front. And I get a bit stressed when I keep hearing about the ways that you have to keep thinking up to promote yourself after you get your book on the shelves. I thought that was when the work was done. It is starting to look to me that that is when the real work starts. I wish you could just tick a box on the contract to say that you will forfeit some royalties and they will do all the promotion for you.

  4. Anne Germain
    Anne Germain says:

    I feel exactly the same way (in my own field, I am not an author) and I’m sure plenty of other people do. It’s nice to see that famous authors like
    Don’t change Tess!

  5. Anne Germain
    Anne Germain says:

    Sorry, the message above was not meant to be sent like that. I was saying that it’s nice to see that famous authors like you can still have “normal” feelings!
    Keep going

  6. holly y
    holly y says:

    I’m with Kyle K. on this one. For just one night a big, glamorous, over-the-top party with me the center of attention. Then I’d return to the solitary work with a smile.

  7. Abe
    Abe says:

    Hi Tess,

    Yes, being the center of attention can be very exciting. Once in a while is fine. But when expected of someone for longer periods than that, by all means, draw the line. I’m with everyone above. One night, let the spotlight be on you. Just remember. The North Star is the brightest in the galaxy. When you get your moment to shine, the North Star will dim for that one night.

  8. Michelle
    Michelle says:

    Hi Tess,

    being the center of attention? I can live without it – in fact, I can only live without it. I’m more the corner girl.

    I really almost wish I won’t win the DeLiA 2008, so one of the other 7 nominees will have to go to the podium and make a speech.


  9. joe bernstein
    joe bernstein says:

    I recall that at my retirement party in 1996,I got this feeling about not wanting to be spotlighted,but I went along and my friends convinced me to wear a sport jacket and real slacks,not jeans-so okay,I did and then someone pointed out that I was wearing sneakers.

  10. drosdelnoch
    drosdelnoch says:

    Tess why not change it to a “Completion” Party, the one you throw when the Editor says “Yep, thats it, we’re putting this baby to bed.”

    That way youve got a reward for your hard work, dont have to give anything away and its a party where everyone can relax and have a laugh without worrying about anything. Then when it gets round to the other area authors, you’ll have parties all year round to wear that little black number to. Oooohhh the soirees. (However as a downside seeing as Maine has one of the largest number of author to other careers ratio, will any of you ever be sober enough to write another book?) Does bear some serious thinking. LOL

  11. wendy roberts
    wendy roberts says:

    I’ve tried to get worked up and do the launch party thing too but I’ve always chickened out. Maybe the answer is group launch parties! If my writing friends have releases the same month we could throw group parties. Now THAT would be fun 🙂

  12. Tess
    Tess says:

    Oh, I love these ideas! Esp. the one about having a “book completed” party rather than a book release party. That way, you’re celebrating the end of the job, but you’re not really burdened by the feeling that you have to “push” the book on your friends. I think I may do that. There’s got to be some reason to bring out that little black dress.

    Patricia, a potluck at Marina Harbor in shorts and slippers sounds pretty darn nice.

  13. john lovell
    john lovell says:

    Okay, forget about the spinach. Here’s what you do: Get a neighbor who’s read all your books and has some acting talent, and take her to the gala event with you and introduce her as Jane Rizzoli, and let her flash her badge and do the talking for as long as she can stay in character, recalling a few high points in her fictional life and commenting on the creative mind of the woman from Camden who thought her up…

  14. april
    april says:

    I can’t say I hate being the center of adoration. I definitely love getting dressed up and going out. However, I don’t think I’d like a party like that. I would just feel like it would be a tad phony with a lot of people I didn’t know. Plus, as much as it would be the hypothetical author me releasing a book, I think it still takes a crew of publicists/marketing people, an editor, cover illustrator, etc. Let’s just say it still takes a village of people to put a book on a shelf. I suppose it’s a party for everyone to pat each other on the back. I would just see the party as a big networking experience, less about putting me in the spotlight.

  15. WJS
    WJS says:


    I was little disturbed that you may not want to be the center of the attention. Life only come and go, so make and cherish your memories to their best. Seriously, be a different person and go free! Enjoy life more! So, throw the party ^_^

    -Josh S.

  16. Lorra Laven
    Lorra Laven says:

    Tess – Your mention of spinach in your teeth brings to mind one of my pet peeves.

    How many times have we watched a woman enter a gathering looking dazzling only to discover when she stepped closer that she had lipstick on her teeth, mascara smudges below her eyes, toothpaste in the corners of her mouth or a series of tags turned out at her neckline? This despite her husband escorting her in, fawning on her, obviously proud to be seen with her.

    If we could count on our male counterparts to notice details, we wouldn’t need to band together, form the Spinach Police. But ladies, we do. So the next time you notice a grooming faux pas, why not whisper a warning? That is unless the woman in question is on the arm of your Ex. In that case, I say sit back and enjoy.

  17. therese
    therese says:

    Well, I’ve always thought about the completion party as being the thing I wanted to celebrate. The “job done and baby’s due date is…”

    Or maybe it will be like an “engagement party”, announcing what’s to come and celebrating instead of guests feeling they have to bring gifts. 🙂

    Our romance writers chapter has an annual “Readers Luncheon” featuring one author and there is always a big book signing event for all attending authors. We’ve raised about $2000 for Oregon Literacy every year.

    That’s the one party I really want to attend as a published author. And if one of these years I’m asked to be the main speaker, well, I’ll take my turn in the spotlight but probably won’t wear a little black dress, I look better in jewel colors.

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