6 Sep 2016

The Art of Etiquette – Book launch

From Upbeat, 1:20 pm on 6 September 2016

Whether you read them, write them, or both, a book launch is a special event. What is the 'done' thing? Do I have to buy the book? And what if I want an autograph?

Dylan Sherwood from Unity Books in Wellington is in charge of organising book launches and is helping Upbeat’s Zoë George turn the page on poor book launch etiquette.

Young fans at the launch of the latest Harry Potter book.

Young fans at the launch of the latest Harry Potter book. Photo: RNZ / Joanna MacKenzie

Do I have to be invited or can I just rock up?

We encourage you just to turn up. We do send out e-invites though and so do authors and publishers. But we don’t have RSVP. It’s a free-for-all.

The doors are closed during speeches to stop the busy bus noise from Willis Street. You can come in browse while the launch is on.

Is there a reading?

Yes. Usually there’s an intro from Unity, then the publisher will launch the book…then the author talks about the book, a reading and signing.

How long do formalities take?

For us we try to keep it very short. The longest speech will be from the author.

Do I have to sit down or can I walk about in the shop?

If you’re there for the launch, it’s best if your attention is on launch itself, but people do get distracted. We do put seats out, but you may be standing there 10-20 minutes.

Do I have to be really quiet in a book store? I feel like I’m in a library!

I’ve noticed that there’s a quiet respect; like a church of knowledge – with Unity as a name, although we’ve been there for 67 years, many still mistake us as a Christian book store!

Just be quiet and listen to them; whether a speech or anything else in life.

Can I play on my phone?

Keep in mind how you want to be treated yourself. You can tweet or engage on social media, take footage and photos. Just put it on silent.

How do book signings work?

That’s when you get a one on one with the author. Sometimes we do have question and answer sessions. But you can ask for a message or picture.

Do I have to line up and wait?

Yes please line up. There’s a loose anarchic queue that forms which is where we sell the books, but that adds a slight confusion. But people enjoy milling with others. It makes for a good time.

Have you ever had any crazy lines?

Most formal line was when Guillermo del Toro was working on The Hobbit. He was in store to release the first of his vampire series called The Strain. We knew it was going to be a big line so we had ropes up and it went out the door. The second was for the Dylan Horrocks launch a couple of years ago. He’s one of my favourite authors and artists. He had a big line. That might because he was drawing pictures for people.

What if I can’t make the signing?

People get in touch and we get the book signed for them.

Can I ask for whatever I want in my book?

The latest signing approach that I like is from poet Hera Lindsay Bird. She draws different animals in the books for people.

Can I bring along one of their books from my collection to get signed?

Yes you can bring along a well-worn copy.

There’s a trend overseas of people getting garden gnomes signed…

That hasn’t happened at Unity. We are missing out!

Do I have to buy the book being launched?

No you don’t have to, but it’s good to support the author and publishers. But there’s no pressure. We won’t show you out the door!

Can I get a photo with the author?

It’s up to the author regarding their boundaries.

I’ve got an idea for this great book… can I share it with you, the publishers or even the author?

Not at the launch. The best idea is if you want to sell a book into store then come and get an info sheet from us which has all the information you need to know first. There’s a time and place. A book launch is about the person launching the book.

Can I give the author a gift?

Sure. But again it’s up to the author and their boundaries. Authors might be shier than other people in the public eye generally because of solitary practice.

What should I wear?

We try to match the flowers with the book cover, so if you know about the book cover, you could come dressed like it. It could be a subtle tribute to dress like the cover. Some are dressed for business; others look like they are off to Fashion Week. Others are dressed down. Come as you are.

Can I indulge in the drinks and nibbles?

Over indulging is a literary tradition! We accept that. The excitement, the heat of the room; people have to refresh themselves. It contributes to a wonderful electricity in the air.

What should we avoid?

There’s not much we’ve had to crack down on. Don’t let your children roam free! It’s great to see kids reading though.

How do I wish an author good luck?

Just say “good luck”. Often with launches their whole life has built to this book. They might be terrified of the mic or excited, or they’ve had some reviews that’s driven them to heights of hysteria. You don’t know what’s going to walk through that do. Try to feel good about the night.


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