Launching a book without the author

How do you launch a book without any input from the author? That was a novel challenge for the publisher, because normally the author is the star of the launch. Poet and artist Jan Fitzgerald was unable to participate even virtually, so Mary McCallum of Cuba Press cooked up another plan.

She invited fellow poets Maggie Rainey-Smith and me to read poems from Jan’s new book, A Question Bigger Than A Hawk. We would talk about them and read one or two of our own poems that seemed connected in some way. The half-hour reading-and-discussion would be filmed by Neil Johnstone for the Wellington City Libraries blog.

Well, we had great fun launching this delightful book. We found so much to relate to, we could have talked and laughed and read all day. Don’t worry, it’s only a half hour.

Launching a book online in Covid times

The reasons for having a virtual book launch without the writer were many and various. The uncertainty of Covid times. The logistics of social distancing and masking in a book shop. The fact that Maggie was about to fly to Seoul. The writer’s health.

Still, a pre-filmed launch by publisher and fellow poets has some benefits to compensate. New Zealand writers are not all good at blowing our own trumpets—so it’s great to see other people doing it on our behalf. Everyone who “goes to” a launch online can fit into the virtual venue, no need for social distancing, and it’s happening continuously for a few months. You get three different opinions about your book, and you are not under pressure to sparkle.

That said, the audiences misses out on seeing the writer and the buzz of a live event. But hey, Covid anyone?

Let us know what you think!

Buy the book or get it from a library

We are so lucky lucky lucky to have libraries! A library is a refuge, a storehouse, a playhouse, a kindergarten, a university, a museum, a treasure, a magical door to the land of everything. Don’t get me started. And librarians who will bend over backwards to get the book you want into your hands. If it’s not in their library they’ll track it down for you. And obviously that includes Jan Fitzgerald’s new collection, A Question Bigger Than A Hawk.

Watching yourself on video

Watching yourself on video can be excruciating. I know some of my besetting sins on screen, mostly due to self consciousness. They include pulling faces, wobbling my head around, jumping around, and looking like a potato, for starters. But I think I behaved myself better than usual this time. What I have temporarily mastered is not-looking-like-a-potato. (NOTE: most people look like potatoes to me because I’m face-blind. No offence.) I couldn’t help noticing that I have currently got a jawline. When I have a jawline, I feel that I look more like my imaginary self. No mystery here: I lost a kilo or two with Covid and some of it came off my face. I’m enjoying this novelty while it lasts.

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13 thoughts on “Launching a book without the author

  1. Morena, Rachel. Like you, I find it excruciating to watch myself on video, but I did enjoy our conversation and can agree, and envy your great jawline! Mary did a splendid job of chairing us in such a natural way and i hope Jan’s book flies further than a Hawk! Congratulations, Jan.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Nicely put: may the book fly further than a hawk.

  2. Jan FitzGerald says:

    I will forever hold this launch by Mary McCallum, Maggie Rainey-Smith and Rachel McAlpine as a taonga in my life’s journey. Sometimes you have to wait a long time to get your first teddy bear! You did me proud and I can’t thank you enough.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I am honoured to be the tummy of your first teddy bear.

  3. Rebecca Budd says:

    A great discussion!!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Rebecca, thanks for watching! I totally messed up my own first poem, but who cares.

      1. Rebecca Budd says:

        I would love to connect with you Rachel. I’m a podcaster from Vancouver Canada. Would you be interested in be my guest?

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Rebecca, I would be flattered. Please email me: Rachel “at” writing dot Co dot nz

  4. What a good idea and so warm and friendly and interesting – the readings and the conversation. Now I know why the word restroom exists!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, those were the days!

    2. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you for watching, Maria. I feel like part of history because I have known restrooms for women on the High Streets of my country.

  5. cedar51 says:

    what a grand idea to have the launch online but also I felt I was sitting in the audience with everyone else. Thanks for sharing

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s rather wonderful!

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