I had originally arranged a Dublin launch of A Year in Lisbon last September, but in the end I was so focused on organizing a series of launches in Portugal that I had to cancel the Dublin one. This July was the first opportunity that I had to properly arrange an event in Dublin. So finally, almost a year later than first anticipated, I managed to have a Dublin launch for the novel.
It took place in The Winding Stair, a cosy bookshop with a lot of character, just by the Ha’penny Bridge. The location is historic and attracts a lot of tourists, and the setting itself was perfect for the launch of a novel that is so concerned with the experience of being a foreigner in a strange city.
I am lucky enough to have a large, extended family on both sides, and a lot of them live in Dublin, so aunts, uncles, cousins and friends helped to fill out the crowd. The worst nightmare for anyone doing a reading or a book launch is that no-one shows up, so an audience of thirty or so people was a relief to see as I stepped up on to the slightly raised area near the window.
My brother introduced me, as he had done in Sligo during my first launch in 2016. This is my fourth event connected to the novel, and at this stage I hope that I am learning a little about how to conduct them.
One mistake that I believe I made when launching the book in Lisbon was sticking too closely to the script that I had prepared, and not engaging enough with the people who had come to the event. For that reason, this time I had prepared a few notes, but in general attempted to speak without notes and to talk naturally and freely about the book and its inspiration. There is a danger with this approach of forgetting something important, but I felt that it was a better way of doing it, especially in the informal setting of a bookshop where most people were standing.
I talked about the genesis of the book, my time in Lisbon and also about the self-publishing process, and in between I read extracts from the book that I thought represented what the novel is about. There were a few questions afterwards, which I always find interesting but challenging, and then, as usual, I signed a few books and chatted to people.
Only afterwards, a Latin American woman who had been at the front of the audience told me that she had Facebook Lived the reading and so I was able to track the recording down and put it on the book’s Facebook page. It can be found here.
It was an enjoyable, if stressful, event and went about as well as I could have hoped. I sold 11 books and covered the cost of the launch (the bookshop charges €100 plus VAT), so that in itself was a success. I also got some pretty good publicity: in promoting the launch I contacted all of the local papers in Dublin, and one of them – The Dublin People – made A Year in Lisbon its Book of the Week.
I had my doubts before I set about organizing the launch, but in the end it was worth doing. And again, it was proven to me that people will buy a book if they have a personal connection to the author. If they can see him or her speaking and hear something of the inspiration behind a book, then they are more likely to purchase it. I have done it myself after hearing authors speak, and it has always given a new perspective to actually reading the book when you have met who wrote it.
Hopefully I will be back in the Winding Stair next year to launch the next one!