Last night, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the book launch for the debut novel of another writer signed to the same literary agent as I am (Ben Illis).  

Her name is Gabrielle Kent ( and her debut novel, Alfie Bloom and the Secrets of Hexbridge Castle, was released this week by Scholastic and by now will be in Asda stores (and all good book stores) across the country.

Is this just a plug for her book? Well, not really, no. While I think it is an excellent book - aimed at middle grade readers, much like Pandora Wolfe is - it's the lessons I learned while attending the launch that I wanted to share.  

Firstly, it was an awesome, first class event and if I am successful in getting Pandora to print, I'd be happy if my launch goes half as well as Gaby's. 

The event itself was held in Stockton's Central Library.  The library allowed her the space and put on staff while the event ran (after the library would normally be closed.)

I've attached some photos below so you can picture the scene:-

Now, I'm not sure whether the pictures do the event justice, so I'll summarise what was there:-
  • Free wine or soft drinks
  • Delicious cupcakes
  • Full size artwork depicting Alfie Bloom Characters
  • Themed decorations like "floating" candles
  • Alfie Bloom themed sweeties
  • Face Painting and other activities for children
  • Lots of books to buy (99p below RRP)
  • Author signing
  • Author reading
  • Intro by the head librarian, linking the book launch to the Stockton Book Festival
  • Intro by the deputy mayor, wearing his mayoral chain of office
  • Intro by Gaby's editor from Scholastic
  • Press photographers
  • A playable Alfie Bloom computer game.
While a lot of these items are specific to Gaby - who is, due to her talents as a computer games designer and lecturer,very well connected to offer unique things that not many aspiring or even published authors could manage - her brilliantly organised launch provided me with a masterclass in how I might go about organising one in future:-

  1. Get a suitable venue which is easy for people to get to and appropriate for the number of people you hope to come to the launch.
  2. Use resources available to you. These might be talented friends - artists, bakers, performers or face painters who can come to your event - I recently went to a brilliant launch of a witch-themed book (Anna McKerrow's brilliant Crow Moon) where there were practising wiccans offering Tarot readings for example. You may have work connections (Gaby's connections in Teeside University meant she had some of the best art you could hope for being a major feature of the event), For example, if you're a school teacher you could exhibit pictures based on your novel drawn by the kids in your class.
  3. Provide cakes, drinks etc (again, I also saw/partook of prosecco and black iced cupcakes at the Crow Moon launch.) - If there is food in your story, perhaps you can link it (as Gaby did with Alfie Bloom themed sweets.)
  4. Provide plenty of activities to keep people occupied. Everyone wants to talk to the author, so you want to make sure that there are other things to do while they wait for their turn.
  5. If your book is for children, invite children to the launch.  It was such a pleasure to see all the kids listening, rapt, as Gaby read out her prologue. It also might mean you have a better turnout as many people with children may not be able to attend otherwise.
  6. Pick a venue which is keen to support your event - the work done by the library was clear from the outset - they really supported Gaby and provided a fantastic venue.
  7. Link your event to local arts or literature festivals - this gives a win/win situation where the organisers of the event (be they local arts bodies or local authorities) can promote their event while also promoting your launch.
  8. Have books on hand to sign - even better when they're at a special offer price - meaning you get plenty to sign - thus feeling like a "proper" author.
  9. Involve friends and family.  Gaby's husband was ever present, making sure things went according to plan.
  10. Always do a reading from your book. It feels like the "main event" - it was the same at the Crow Moon launch. There's something really special to hear the book being read by the person who wrote it. 
  11. Enjoy yourself - Gaby positively fizzed at the event - and who wouldn't - it was fab!
I've already got my copy of Alfie Bloom (signed of course) and will shortly stop blogging so I can read it.