Planning a book party is a lot like planning a wedding

For the past year I’ve been planning my wedding, set for next month. I’ve booked the venue, hired the caterer, secured the gospel quartet. I’ve chosen party favors, and selected the menu. I can’t wait to see what the guests think of the duck confit spring rolls, chicken coq au vin, and strawberry cream cake. Last night I took a break from wedding planning and drove to Brookline Booksmith to attend the book launch of one of Boston’s most celebrated crime fiction writers, Hank Phillippi Ryan. Her latest novel, The Wrong Girl, has just been released by Forge Books.

New Hank PhotoIt was a standing-room-only crowd. Champagne corks were popping. Guests crowded their small plates with hummus, fruit, and gourmet water crackers. The room was peppered with Boston literary luminaries and local television personalities. At least two professional photographers rubbernecked constantly to capture the scene.

As the emcee read Hank’s impressive bio, I noticed her standing a few feet away from me on the fringes of the crowd waiting for her cue. At the appointed time, to thunderous applause, she made her way up the center aisle to the podium. I’m sure some wondered how she stayed afloat on her black stilettos. I wondered why Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was playing in my head. It was in that moment that I realized something: planning a book launch is a lot like planning a wedding.

Launching a book is a major accomplishment so it deserves to be acknowledged. Plus, having a book party is a great way to get people to buy your book. Twenty minutes before Hank appeared, people were lined up at the register to purchase copies of The Wrong Girl.

During her presentation Hank said that after she finished writing her first novel, she thought she could relax. Soon she realized that her work was just beginning.  A book launch requires time, energy, and creativity, much like a wedding. At times when I’ve projected ahead to when my own book is ready for launching I’ve felt overwhelmed at the prospect of planning a book party. Now I can exhale. As I finalize the menu for my wedding reception and confer with my fiancé on the table seating, I am comforted by the fact that planning a wedding has given me a test run for planning a book launch.

Why I won’t let my fiancé read my manuscript

Looking back at my term as president of the Boston chapter of the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA), I have to say that Hank Phillippi Ryan, investigative television reporter for Boston’s NBC affiliate station and author of Prime TimeFace TimeAir Time, and three other books, including a new one due out in September, is one of the most generous authors I know.  Lisa Hank Head and ShouldersThe award-winning crime fiction novelist took time out of her busy schedule to be the keynote speaker at one of our annual year-end dinner banquets. Before an audience of about 30 members and guests in the private dining area of one of Boston’s upscale hotels, she regaled us with stories of how she began writing her first novel. She talked about the long hours in front of the computer screen after her shifts at the TV station, the social events she skipped to carve out time to work on the book, the reams of paper she went through as she revised what she had written. I’m sure she doesn’t know this but her methods provide me with guidance as I work on my own book project. However there was one tactic she told us about that I would feel uncomfortable using: she had her husband read her raw manuscript pages and give her feedback.

I cannot imagine having my fiancé read my manuscript, not a chapter, section, or paragraph. He is also a writer, a very good one, with a background in journalism, like me. I know that he could provide me with insight that would be helpful in polishing the story. However, because my manuscript is so personal, has been a part of my life for more than five years, and because he is so close to me, he is the one person I won’t let read it. I plan to show it to him after it’s published, after it’s been edited, bound, and printed, but not before. Does anyone else feel this way? How do you feel sharing your work in progress with a significant other, whether it’s a writing project, work project, or other personal creative venture? I’d love to hear from you.