3 May 2006
Okay, this is official, this is confirmed: the launch party for 'Bridge of Dreams' will be at the Lit & Phil in Newcastle on Wednesday 24th May at 7pm. British Summer Time.
And why am I announcing this, you ask, what is the point, in an environment so global that I even feel moved to record the time-zone?
Partly for the fun of it, because I can; I haven't had a launch for a while, so I'm talking about it everywhere, all the time. And there is always the chance that somebody out there is within striking distance of Newcastle and will want to come (if this is you: you are officially invited, and it will be lovely to see you, but do please phone the library to reserve a place: 0191 232 0192). And I'm neurotic, because this is the first launch party I've ever actually organised for myself, I've imported books and everything, I'll be buying wine and Turkish sweets, and wouldn't it be awful if nobody came?
But I do think that's significant even beyond the neurosis, because it represents in miniature the changes that have overswept the whole books business during the time that I've been publishing books. Twenty years ago, bookstores used to host launch parties, as a matter of course; it kept them in good odour with publishers and their local literary community, and these things mattered. Ten years ago, power had shifted; the party was still in the bookstore, but the publisher was probably paying for it. These days, my local bookstores (big city Waterstone's) aren't allowed to host a launch without central office approval, which for a local writer they simply don't get. Add the cost of a venue to the cost of the wine etc, and publishers don't think it's worth it going solo.
Uniquely in this country, we have an Arts Council-funded agency that exists to support new writing in this region; for some star writers, they will take over the organisation of a launch, liaise with publishers and run the event. And they do it very well. When I approached them, though, they fretted about the logistics and expense of dealing with an American publisher, to the point where I didn't pursue it.
Instead, I'm doing it myself. I have the venue - not exactly in my pocket, tho' I do like to pretend so: the Lit & Phil is a beautiful 18th-century private library, where I'm actively involved in the literary programming - and I have the books. All I need now is the people. Yikes...
© Chaz Brenchley 2006
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.