What Exactly Is a Launch Party?

On November 21, I and my fellow authors of Tales from Pennsylvania—a short story anthology set in Michael Bunker’s world of PENNSYLVANIA—are hosting a launch party for the collection. I’ve invited a lot of my Facebook friends, many of whom aren’t in the independent publishing world, per se. So some of them have asked: “What, exactly, is a launch party? Is NASA involved?”

If only! Wouldn’t that be a blast!

A-hem.

Nope, in case you’re wondering, here’s what a launch party is. It’s a celebration. It’s a coming together of writers, readers, and fans to break a bottle of champagne over the bow of a newly launched written work: non-fiction piece, novel, single short story, collection of tales, whatever. In the case of Tales, it’s an opportunity for fans of PENNSYLVANIA, writers like myself inspired enough by the world to write in it, and readers who’ve had a chance to peruse an advanced reader copy (ARC) to get online together and wax hilarious about whatever topics come up. And if those happen to actually involve the collection on display, all the better. (That, by the way, is not a requirement.)

Tell Us, O Wise One: How Do You Know of These Things?

cover image for Tales from Pennsylvania, an anthology of short stories set in the world of Michael Bunker's PENNSYLVANIA

The anthology Tales from Pennsylvania contains 11 original short stories by today’s leading authors in speculative fiction and a foreword by Eric Tozzi, author of The Scout.

I experienced my first launch party when the short-story collection Synchronic: 13 Tales of Time Travel lifted off in May. I’d scored an ARC and was blown away by the quality of the tales in the collection. And when I saw the Facebook Event come up for the launch party, I was excited to attend but also a little wary.

I’m old enough to remember when the Interwebs were a big, scary unknown where everybody was not supposed to know your name. (No doubt, you can tell my age range by my unsubtle Cheers reference.) These days, Facebook is where a lot of people will let you know if they had mayo or mustard on their hamburger for lunch; but it wasn’t always so. Also, I’m a gamer, and I’ve had very negative experiences in massively multiplayer online (MMO) games where people can, quite frankly, be jerks—a tendency encouraged by the veil of anonymity the Internet affords us these days. (Ironic, isn’t it, given how it simultaneously facilitates transparency regarding mayo or mustard? But I digress…)

So when the Synchronic launch party came up, the idea of interacting with a bunch of people I didn’t know was intriguing but a little off-putting. Still, I’d spent my time reading the awesome stories in the collection and, I figured, if I got bored or generally just had a meh time, I’d just say my farewells and log off.

I was on a business trip to El Paso, and it was after 5 p.m. It was a Thursday. I remember those details so specifically because my experience at the Synchronic launch party was so positive. I logged on some time before 6 p.m. and looked up later to find it was almost 10 p.m. Time flies, and all that.

Meeting authors I admired was a ton of fun. There’s that star quality aspect, of course, born of my admiration for the stories I’d read. But finding out they were real people like me—and that they wanted to give me free stuff, one of the characteristics of launch parties, by the way—made them even cooler to hang out with. Interacting with other ARC readers and fans of these authors was a great communal experience in which we shared appreciation for the works in the collection and many other things—TV shows, other works and authors, favorite foods (chocolate was a popular topic, but isn’t it always?). In fact, I bet I gained at least a dozen Facebook friends from that experience, and they remain my friends six months later.

Wow, That Sounds Great! How Does It Work?

First, you have to sign up on Facebook to attend. (Here’s the link to the Tales from Pennsylvania launch party on 11/21/14.)

During the party, an author (or authors) host a chat for an hour or so. They’ll usually prime the pump of conversation with a question apropos of the topic at hand, but eventually they’ll end up talking about whatever’s on the minds of the folks attending. They also tend to give away free copies of their books or other materials to a lucky few. If it’s a collection that’s being launched, usually every hour the changing of the guard occurs, and another author takes over hosting the chat. (The host schedule for our little soirée is noted at the top of the Tales Facebook Event linked above, by the way.)

Another nice thing about launch parties? They’re very casual. And there are no web cams! So, come dressed as you like! It’s all chatting and commenting with a keyboard. Even better than a real party, you can edit what you say before you say it! (One of my personal favorite characteristics of launch parties, actually.)

Another way they’re casual—come and go as you please! Kids just get home from school? Take a break and get them going on their homework. Time to make dinner? Exit the party for an hour and take care of business. Come back if and when you can and hop right into whatever conversation is happening.

Traditionally, launch parties occur on the day a book is published, and that’s also true for Tales from Pennsylvania. Pre-orders are available and will start winging their virtual way to purchasers on November 21.

So that, in a nutshell, explains the Mystery of the Launch Party. Drop in on ours! We’d love to chat with you about whatever lit’rary (or not) topics are on your mind. And if you can’t make the Tales launch party, no sweat. I encourage you to find one for an author or newly published work you like. Remember: they’re casual, everyone is there to have fun, and you can come and go as you please. Come for the free stuff, stay for the goofy conversation!

About Chris Pourteau

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