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More than a degree of uncertainty...

Updated: Nov 18, 2019

Holding a launch event for my first novel was both terrifying and thrilling in equal measure.

It is difficult to pinpoint the optimum day of the week for such a shindig, what time it should start, how long it should run, what format the evening should take, how many books might be needed, what people might like to drink and, importantly, how many might turn up.

I was fortunate to have the support of my excellent local bookshop, the Falmouth Bookseller, which not only stocks A Degree of Uncertainty but hosted the event last week.

Some 50 people expressed their interest — and even enthusiasm — and pledged to come along.

A number of these had read the book in its early drafts and were keen to see the edited, buffed and polished end result take flight into the world. A couple of book club attendees had been given a sneak preview and seemed excited at the prospect of attending the launch of a book they were currently reading.

All of this is hugely heartening. But it remains a tricky occasion for which to plan. It is always a challenge to lure people away from their firesides on cold November evenings, but when the wind nudges 60mph and the slanting rain bounces off the pavements, that challenge is compounded.

When I dropped the boxes of wine and books off at the Falmouth Bookseller in the afternoon, the windows were already rattling in their frames and doors were slamming at the mercy of angry gusts. The sky was a deep and ominous grey, unleashing intermittent buckets of rain over Cornwall. It didn’t bode well.

Even the taxi driver who picked us up greeted us with the words: ‘Well, you must have a very good reason for going out tonight.’ As it happened, I did.

We arrived just before 6.30pm. The bookshop resembled a Dickensian scene. Its seasonal windows had been dressed that day and a warm glow spilled onto the cobbled high street. The bold cover of my book stood proudly in the A-frame outside and the image was mirrored in the shop window.

Inside, listing piles of A Degree of Uncertainty were placed on tables, along with the bookmarks I’d had delivered the day before. Other copies called out from the shelves, nestled between Julian Barnes and Jessie Burton. Not bad company.

Julian Barnes and Jessie Burton provided good company...

People arrived on the dot. And kept on coming. The noise grew, the tills rang and the corks popped. Over 60 people crammed into the bookshop in a happy melee of bookedness, and I was honoured to be asked to scribble countless personal messages inside the books’ stiff covers.

Just after 8pm I was informed that we had sold out!

Several people, seduced by wine and good company, had left their purchases to the end. It was too late, and they left empty handed, much to my embarrassment.

Because there are surely two rules for a successful book launch don't run out of books or wine.
People arrived on the dot, and they kept on coming...

Today I am touring around dropping off the last few books at such people’s houses, and the order for another print run is in progress.

The launch event for my debut novel was an unknown quantity and a source of much anxiety and concern. One might even say there was, fittingly, a large degree of uncertainty about it. There needn’t have been.

It turns out people will tear themselves from their homes on inclement Cornish nights after all. Particularly if there’s a glass of fizz on offer.


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