Launching a book: how do you go about it? Here’s how I launched the German edition of my book “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy”, in Austria, in April and May 2023.
Launching a book: the author’s role
Many publishers these days cheerfully tell authors: the success of this book is up to you.
There’s truth in this. The Internet has arguably made it much harder for publishers to make money out of their core business. People talk about “the death of the Mid-List“. Some publishers promote only a small fraction of the books they buy; the other books are left to sell as best they can without much publicity or promotional support.
All this places extra responsibility on the author to promote their own book.
Many authors eschew publishers altogether and self-publish (the link is my guide, on this blog, on how to self-publish on Amazon). Launching a book has never been easier, right? But with millions of other books out there, you have to work like crazy to steer people towards your own effort. Whether you have a publisher or are doing it yourself, launching a book well has never been more important.
So what did I do for The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy”?
In February 2022, a month after signing the contract with my excellent Austrian publisher Czernin Verlag to write the book, and over a year before publication, I first used the hashtag #HitchhikersGuidetoDiplomacy. Since then, I have worked ceaselessly to prepare to launch the book on as many social media channels as I can manage.
Which social media channels are best for launching a book? You will have your own preferences; and new apps appear all the time. But I have worked hard on Twitter (the link goes to my account); Instagram; Linkedin; Facebook; and Tiktok. I also have my own Spotify podcast channel and a Youtube page. Feel free to subscribe!
Whichever social media channels you use, you definitely should be out there engaging in social media, whether you are a best-selling author with a big publishing house, or a self-published author launching your first title. Do have a look at my writing tips tag for more on the craft of writing.
Organising your book tour: part 1
Organising readings and events is a great way to create a buzz around your book.
Czernin Verlag launched the book, full title The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy – Wie Diplomatie die Welt erklärt (it means: “how diplomacy explains the world”), on 21 April 2023 at the Diplomatic Academy in Vienna. Around 100 distinguished guests attended – thanks go to all of them! The head of Czernin, Benedikt Föger, and the head of the Diplomatic Academy, Emil Brix, kindly hosted.
Once the publisher had organised the official launch of the book as an “anchor event”, I got in touch with every friend I had to try and organise other events around it. I was hugely grateful for their generous support. Two of the first events were a reading in English (my only one so far) at Schloss Leopodskron in Salzburg, courtesy of the Salzburg Global Seminar, and a reading in German, courtesy of Salzburg University.
My friend Alexandra Schmidt also generously organised a reading at the “De Gustibus” wine bar in Salzburg. Wine and books make an excellent combination!
I was delighted to be the First Salzburg Writer in Residence at Schloss Leopoldskron (also famous as the site of filming some scenes from “The Sound of Music”). I wrote nearly 10,000 words of my new novel in a week. Beautiful. I was most grateful to Salzburg Global Seminar and Salzburg University for making it happen.
Organising your book tour: part 2
The following week, after the official launch, I also had the privilege of presenting the book to three more audiences. On 24 April I spoke to an audience at “Agenda Austria”, a think-tank in Vienna, courtesy of their Director Franz Schellhorn. Afterwards we did a podcast (in German) where I spoke about Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine – worth a listen I hope.
On 25 April I spoke to students and academics at the history department of the University of Vienna, courtesy of distinguished professor Dr Oliver Rathkolb.
And on 26 April I spoke at the University of Innsbruck, courtesy of “BritInn“, their department of UK affairs. I don’t seem to have any pictures to hand of any of these three events, but all went well. It’s great to discuss your book with an enthusiastic audience – but don’t be surprised if they ask difficult questions!
Launching a book: reviews
Getting your book reviewed, anywhere you can, is a great way to spread the word. Czernin Verlag did (and are still doing) great work on this, and I, too, contacted journalists and others that I knew. Two results, in the Austrian newspapers “Der Standard” and the “Kronen Zeitung”, are below – special thanks to Eric Frey and Kurt Seinitz.
I also wrote a piece for the “Kronen Zeitung” about the Coronation of King Charles, accompanied by a picture of the book, published on 6 May.
What about TV?
I was fortunate in Austria to be invited to appear in early May on a TV programme about the Coronation of King Charles. As The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Diplomacy was brand new, they agreed to it appearing on the show. If you’d like to watch the whole programme (in German), a link is here. Some stills from the show are below:
Launching a book: Bookshops
If, like me, you’re a bit shy, you may be hesitant about going into bookshops to see if they have your book. Introducing yourself to the staff as an author is even harder! But I found in Salzburg and Innsbruck that the sales staff were delighted to chat; and on two occasions they even asked me to sign copies. They then put stickers on the front saying “signed by the author”. ‘It helps sales,’ one of them told me.
Signing copies of a book you have written is a wonderful feeling.
Launching a book: Summary
Launching a book is a big job. You may find it takes up all your energy for weeks, or months. It sucks away precious hours from writing your next book. But it may also make a difference to how many people will read the book you are helping to launch.
I’d love to hear your comments on these ideas. If you have other thoughts on ways to launch or promote books that I have not mentioned here, or good (or bad) experiences with publishers, do put them in the “Comments” below.
Good luck to all your writers – and readers – out there.