Broadcast from the Roof: Or Tips You Can Ignore In Launching a Book
Updated: Jul 15, 2021
On Saturday, July 10, 2021, four days after Charlson’s birthday, #MilfloresPublishing
went live on Facebook to launch Charlson Ong’s novel #WhiteLadyBlackChrist. Broadcasting from a building rooftop in Pasig, via Zoom, authors such as Cristina Pantoja-Hidalgo, Jose
Dalisay, Gemino Abad, Krip Yuson, Mahar Mangahas, Margie Holmes, Marjorie Evasco, Susan Lara, FH Batacan, Tara Sering, Kris Lacaba, Celina Cristobal, Joel Salud, Alma Anonas-Carpio, Ramille Gulle, Neni Sta. Romana-Cruz, publisher Karina Bolasco, the artist Julie Lluch, and many others joined to wish Charlson a happy birthday and listen to him answer questions about the book. Hosted remotely by Gou de Jesus, the event now has over 700 viewers and over 200 engagements courtesy of the three-hour-plus-long video now on the #Milflores Facebook page--and counting—an embarrassing fact (or not--by Facebook standards the numbers are small) for those who sang.
Photographs by Marcus P. Flores
1. Don’t give in to the pressure of launching on the author’s birthday.
Publishers know that launching books during an author’s significant dates throws out the window other things that might be considered important in planning a release date: printing schedules, making copies available to media, delivering to distributors—all of which need to happen before the release and launch of the book. An all-important fact to remember: launch only when the book is out. Do not create a demand without the supply. When asked to launch White Lady, Black Christ on his birthday, don't give #CharlsonOng false hope. Say something vague like, "We'll see."
2. Suggest that the author be on social media.
Authors ought to know that they must tread the fine line between being a creator and a self-promoter. It’s nearly impossible to hope to sell anything these days without being on social media, and we do live in a world where publishers check a would-be author’s
Facebook and IG page, looking for at least 10,000 followers. Remember cautiously that the decision to publish this particular book came from knowing the novel is good, not because he has a huge following. Perhaps add into the decision process the fact that you’ve known the author for decades, that he has several titles with various publishers—not the best marketing strategy--and social media is definitely not his strongest point. Knowing that people's views of the world are determined by Facebook’s algorithims, where everything
must be boosted to get any notice, and the organic viral post is near extinction—unless the author has a gazillion followers because the author posts every day. Remember that this is not that kind of author: he has less than 5,000 followers (though double that of your personal account) and only exists on IG and Twitter as a hashtag.
3. Create content, for example, by asking the author for a photo.
Formulate a nice way to tell the author that the three blurry photos he gave cannot be used in the book, on the website, on social media, as well as media materials. Make a mental note to ask your husband to take head shots of the author. Ask the author to have dinner in your home to meet your lawyer/photographer husband and enthusiastic grunt/son, who during the author's ardent signing of 200 books, drops the ring light on your author. Fear that the author might be injured in your premises, ruining his chances of becoming national artist even before the book is out.
4. Do not blanch at the suggestion by the author to make the launch a karaoke night.
When the author tells you there should be more singing rather than talking, suspect an ulterior motive. Remember that authors are sensitive beings who don’t take kindly to criticism. Instead, be all over social media offering free shipping of the book as the author’s birthday blowout. Everyone is a sucker for free shipping. Do not think the cost of shipping will undermine profits. Send the books out pronto, by any
means. Think of all sorts of tricks to entice people to come to the launch, such as inviting them to sing as well. Worry about copyright implications after. Wonder if this is finally the occasion you will lose your lawyer’s license. Assure yourself that covers are generally allowed. Let your finger hover on the “Mute All” button throughout the Zoom meeting.
5. Suggest alternatives to crazy ideas.
When the author asks for a piano player, invite a guitarist instead.
Know that it’s easier to lug a guitar four flights of stairs than a piano. Be surprised that your guitarist, Eman Jamisolamin, husband of your husband’s senior associate at the law firm, studied guitar in the US, graduated from the UP College of Music, and is a professor there. Wonder why you've never met this huge talent during firm parties. Between admitting people into the Zoom meeting, note that he was playing Recuerdos de la Alhambra as if you were hearing a recording.
6. Receive a bottle of wine and an apple pie from the poet Joi Barrios-Leblanc and wonder how all the madness came together.
Have faith that the author's classmates, friends, students, and fans (yes, fans--he's Charlson Ong after all!) will come out to support the author—and, by osmosis, you. Thank them profusely, but don’t be fooled that this is the way to go in terms of launches. Never order from that vegetarian place that didn't send the veggie wraps ever again. Try not to stress over the fact that your vegetarian staff ate kutsinta for dinner. Have a glass of wine. Think yourself lucky people heard you shouting from the rooftop.