Two months ago I witnessed God’s mysterious way of working “all things together for good”. It was the launch day for my latest book, A Mother of Thousands (available now here, or here, or here, or here or anywhere books are sold…so shop anywhere you like!)
It was a culmination of years of infertility struggle, treatments, prayer, grieving, decision-making, adoption-journeying, healing with counselors and community, and so much hidden work in my soul and for our family. There was absolutely no way in the midst of our confusion and crying out to God for answers and peace that I could have expected a future moment like this one. Joy brimming over, gratitude for grace and mercy, and celebration for the privilege of sharing this book with the world.
Our story started out with feelings of emptiness and despair, but God used that suffering to grow in us hope for a destiny that goes beyond what the womb can bear.
But no matter how much we believe in our message and hope it brings those who need it hope, encouragement and peace, it doesn’t actually serve those we seek to reach unless we LAUNCH IT OUT!
And this is a very different kind of challenge for the writerly types, especially when it comes to publishing in our generation today. In fact, my first book launch looked and felt very different from my second, in part because I learned a few things that helped me better prepare for this mysterious release of a work from your soul! And don’t worry, I’m sharing them with you!
I also wanted to use this as an opportunity to THANK the MANY people who came around our family, and me especially during this particular book-writing season, because one thing is certain when it comes to publishing: the author is only one of many, many people who finish the work. (I only have pictures of a handful of you here, but if you touch our lives, we thank you!!!)
So you can search “book launch” on the interweb and find many tips and stories to help guide you on your publishing journey, or you can consider becoming a Hope*writer where you gain a community of like-minded writers and learn incredible stuff. But now you can also add these 10 things to your memory bank too, with my prayers for growth and joy!
10 Things to Remember When Launching a Book
- PRAY // “Be always on the watch, and pray…” Luke 21:36 // The process of actually writing a book (or a proposal for an Agent, then Publisher, then the actual book), is (prepare yourself for a ridiculous understatement) daunting. For some the process takes years. Years. That’s like 365 days of your life in multiples. For others it may move more quickly, but either way staying in a posture of prayer helps you remember to lean on God for every little thing. I don’t know about you, but if what I spend my best years doing just burns up one day before God as chaff, I’d like to light the match to it now and put my energy where God is actually moving in my life today. Amen. So while this is true in all that we do, especially as you prepare to launch a message that brings God’s Word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and hope for others who are suffering, remember to bathe everything in prayer. Ask others to pray for you and your family (because doing this kind of work brings challenges of all sorts), and pray for those who will be reading the words in the pages, that they hear God’s voice above yours.
- EXPECT EMOTIONS // “If God is for you, who can be against you?” Romans 8:31 // Hopefully by the time you reach the book launch stage you will have done the work of either veiling your story enough to protect people’s identity or sought permission from those whose stories you’ve shared in detail, you’ve reconciled and accepted wrongs in your past that you write about, and you are at peace with the message and the God who gave you this message to share. I say this because if not, when all the other emotions and struggles rise up that go along with sending a meaningful work into the world you may come utterly unglued at launch. Thankfully (!!!) I had wise counsel before I started publishing books (thanks to several Christian writing conferences as well as the brilliant folks at Hope*writers – even before they were “Hope*writers”) and I was able to release both messages with a solid inner peace. But still, other dynamics stir up your soul at a launch, for sure. When Amazon blocks verified purchases from publishing reviews and people start messaging you with “????”, or when websites freeze and people cannot actually purchase your book, or more challenging yet…when people you love say hurtful things — or just say nothing, these can be gut checks to remember that this is all a part of life. Anything worth doing will come with challenges, but ultimately if God is in it we don’t have to worry about the outcomes. Take a deep breath, and launch on!
- PLAN // “The heart of man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” Proverbs 16:9 // So I’m going to do a little confession here. I am GREAT at planning ahead for events, for the most part. I can think about where I want to be, what I want to do there, how I want it to feel, who I want to see there, and so forth. But I absolutely detest actually lining it all up. (This will be more clear in Tip #4) As is true with any event outside of your home (by the way, you can absolutely book launch at home online with no party, or you can host a party at your home — and we would have if we didn’t have 13 broken down vintage Chevy trucks in our barn waiting their turn for restoration with Bear Brothers!) planning ahead is key! And like any event it is important to think about your guests as you consider where you want to celebrate, what time of day, whether it will be drop-in or RSVP, private/public, how you will invite them, and so on. Launch day is both a birthday party for your book and a celebration of all the lives who helped it come into the world as well as all the ones it will bless. So maybe you want it to be family-only around your dinner table, that’s so cozy! But unless you only want to get your message out to your family, you need to go where your readers are too! And also, in all your planning don’t do like I did this year – don’t forget to plan how you want to share the message AFTER the party. Eek! Last time I had a full speaking schedule already mapped out, so it was a natural thing for me to keep offering my first book. This time around my little one started Kindergarten and I wanted a light speaking schedule so I could do field trips and be more present in those few hours with her at home in a day. I have zero regrets with this decision, but could have benefitted from a little more structure on the front-end for the next few months. Oh well, those lessons can print next year!
- TEAM IT // “…we work with you for [the increase of] your joy…” 2 Corinthians 1:24 AMP // Whether you do an online launch only, or have an on-the-ground party too, don’t go it alone friend! You just wrote a book and spent a ridiculous amount of time by yourself behind a screen. That’s enough. I know some of you want more, and recoil at the thought of asking people to help you launch your book (#hateselfpromotion) BUT this is not you promoting you, or at least it doesn’t have to be this way. This is a message I’m assuming God has shaped in you to share with others because it brings His goodness to others with hope. So let it! Both times I formed a launch team using a private Facebook group and had about 50 women scattered around the country the first time and 100 for the second. (I’ve been on launch teams for books with a dozen in number to some over 600!) Regardless of the size, that band of women were incredible lifelines for me during pre-launch both times, and I thank God for some of those well-timed messages that helped me not give up in the last stretch. Also, for those having a hug-your-neck party too, get some of those book launch teamer’s who are local involved in the planning and/or serving and let them feel the joy of being a part of something wonderful! (Thanks also to Anna Hedges who was able to serve as our photographer for the night to make sure I had something to look back on with fond memories!)
- SERVE // “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you.” Luke 6:31 // You already did this when you chose the launch venue, date and time, but go further and think about their needs. Will they need childcare or can kids come too, will they need to eat or drink something (if you are in my family the answer is always YES), will it be air-conditioned, and keep going along these lines. Our party and launch was October 1st and only the good Lord knew it would be a record-breaking heat for us (93 degrees y’all) and that we’d be better off in an air-conditioned boutique hotel banquet room and not in our stifling barn. You won’t plan a perfect event, so let that go. Instead just think about how you can serve your guest, just like you kept thinking about how you can serve your reader while you wrote that beautiful book.
- SOCIALIZE // “…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16 // This is a tough one for me. While I love writing words with pictures, I can get way too in my head when it comes to social media and whether to post something about my writing or not. Or post at all if I’m honest. I appreciate what social media has given us by means of resources and connection, but there is quite a lot about it that often makes me want to shut it all down. As a human, I too am vulnerable to comparison and feelings of inferiority. But this is all the more true around a vulnerable time like a book launch! I once had someone I admired dearly refer to me as “a brand” — and not in the “high-five girl” way but like I was a sell-out for structuring my social media presence so I could be more easily found by readers looking for my messages. It stripped me of all my other motives for being online, and was incredibly hurtful. But what I’m thankful for now in that statement is the sensitivity to being “just a brand” and not a person. I am actually first, a person. A person with Jesus in my life. A person with Jesus in my life and words to share. A person with Jesus in my life and words to share on a social media platform where I have the freedom yet to share them. So if this is you too, share them! When I spoke briefly with Jennie Allen at a conference after launch and was struggling with a desire to quit social media, she was the one who told me, “Heather, get back on there and post!” Shine light on His character, love and faithfulness by shining light on your story with Him and the message you have to share. Shout it from the rooftops even, because if YOU aren’t excited about the message, it will be hard to get others excited about it too. (Oh, and if the tech part of social media is what is holding you back, go directly to the next Tip.)
- YOUTH // “Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’…” Jeremiah 1:7 // Sometimes the mentor you need is your mentee. This is especially true when it comes to fashion and social media. At both launches I had someone younger than me cover social media for me — at least at the launch party. For one, the absolute last thing you want to do when you are hugging necks and celebrating God’s goodness with others is to be managing your cell phone. Gross! But also, I want my message in the ears of our youth! I want girls to see that they have a purpose, a unique place in God’s family and our communities (and even at our book launch parties!) So ahead of time find someone you can trust to not sign you up for all the subscriptions or post those videos of you talking to friends from the hair salon (yes, I have those), and give them control of your profile. It feels a little strange, but only for a moment. Then it feels like absolute amazement.
- BODY CARE // “…let people see God in and through your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20 MSG // Ok, so with all that there is to remember about the actual launch, it is totally possible to forget about you. So don’t! Plan for the outfit that will feel comfortable, let you hug easily and stand in because that is what you will be doing between book signings. Also remember to drink water! I shared this last year as a tip when hosting events because it’s a mainstay. Remember those emotions I mentioned earlier? Well, all things go south when we get dried out.
- SIGNS // “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets…” Habakkuk 2:2 // A former pastor of ours once said that in Heaven he already knows that because he detests getting lost at an event that his job will be over signage. Yes. Ya’ll, we will all be able to figure out where things are in Heaven. But let’s not make people wait that long, at least help them find your book and your book launch party! Have links on your social media posts, have them in your profiles, write them on your mailed invitations, put up real signs at your venue, because again it’s about serving your guests. Make it as easy as possible for people to support your work, get the message and connect at your party! And another benefit of being in a public venue is that you may have strangers see the signs, resonate with your message and COME FOR A BOOK! This happened to me and became the highlight of the day, just getting to pray with a dear employee of that hotel struggling secretly with infertility. Make it plain for folks.
- AMAZON // “…of making many books there is no end…” Ecclesiastes 12:12b // So in the time that I’ve written this blog post it is likely that Amazon (or whatever other book distributor out there who has the nerve to take Amazon’s place), has changed the rules several times with regard to how they will promote your book. We live in a world of algorithms and this means we have pretty much little control over how our books show up unless we are the creators of said algorithms. There is SO much to all of this that I will not have space or time to address, but for the purposes of giving you a tip for launch day, it is this: ASK FOR REVIEWS! For those who purchase your book on Amazon, they can write reviews for your book and it (so the Amazon folks still tell us) matters. How, I’m not really sure. But still, ask for those reviews because we never know how it can help keep getting our message to the people who need it most. *But let me also share that other distributors like Christianbook (who happens to be an AMAZING company by the way and also sells my books) are absolutely wonderful places to buy books, as well as your personal website if you have a web commerce option. Buying directly from you will be the most profitable route, and you can personally sign those copies, but again it is all up to you!
- SAVOR // “…remember the wondrous works he has done…” Psalm 105:5 // Our 10th and final tip — just enjoy the experience! It is still relatively rare to get all the way to a book launch, so take several deep and slow breaths and release them with humility and thankfulness that God has given you this privilege to join Him in broadcasting words of hope! What a wonder! What a grace. Celebrate the faithfulness of God to you, to your people, to all people, and be with people. We just won’t be here long, and we long to live lives of meaning. Let your life be about so much more than a book, or a launch, but about the first Author and the Finisher of all things. It will make the morning after so much more joyful!