Gouri Dange: Rules for book launch attendees

08 Dec,2011


By Gouri Dange


Rules of Engagement – a small checklist, mainly for journos attending book launches of the non-page3 kind.


First, when we send you the invitation, don’t immediately mail back querulously questioning a) the venue that we have chosen/ are stuck with b) the date that we have arrived at after much intricate planning c) the choice of personality who has agreed to read from and release the book. Of course it could have been at a better place, better time, better season, with a celeb you particularly like… and we’re sorry for disappointing you on all scores, but we don’t conjure up book launches by twirling a tinsel wand, we put them together after mental, physical, social and financial contortions of the most fantastic kind.


We writers, forced to be our own marketers and PR persons, are constantly trying to find the fine line between sending you the invite well in advance (so that you can plan to come or send an underling), but not sending it so early that you will forget about it. So do not expect us to play secretary to you. Do have the grace to mark the day on your own, in your own calendar/similar device.


Another constant see-saw that we are trying to work is this: We writers-in-launch-mode realise that your Blackberry gags at attachments, so our anxiously designed elaborate e-invitations end up irritating you. This is why we put the gist – place, date, time – in the body copy of the text. Surely that is considerate enough? So desist from writing to us in an offhand way from your wretched devices instructing us to put it all on SMS format for you. Wish we could pander to your every whim about what format you would like the invitation in, but deal with it, whatever format we send you.


If you really do intend coming to the event, stop groaning about traffic and distances. Keep the address with you – either on your phone or scribbled on your palm (the body part or the device), or on paper or in your head. Do not, and this bears repetition, do not call the writer half an hour before (or five minutes, even) the event itself, and ask for directions. And really, this is just not the time to provide a fresh insight into how the venue and day is all wrong and that parking is such a b***h in your city, and all that jazz. We writers do not personally arrange for your city roads to be so lousy.


Once the event begins, it would be nice if you would switch off your phone, and also not keep a fake engaged look on your face while you jab SMSes on your keypad. Really, we don’t want just your bodies there, we want your minds, such as they are, present and participating.


Some of you also tend to ask questions in the interactive part of the reading/launch, that are only a verbal vehicle to tell people who you are and how you’re so good at what you do. Stop. Just stop. Go do it somewhere else.


Remember, it’s about the book. So questions about finances, advances, and other intricacies of the book business can perhaps be asked of us on our email ids, but certainly not at the book launch. You are more than welcome to ask and tell about what you liked or didn’t like about the book. But asking after the health of my wealth? No.


When it is time to buy your copy and get it signed from the writer, do not leak out of the door empty-handed. Maybe you don’t want to wait in line for a signed copy and that’s fine. But do buy a copy. Oh well…what am I thinking…you’re the Press, you don’t buy.


At launches where there are canapés served, please do not eat the nice part and leave the toast behind on the platter. (This is a well-documented occurrence.) This causes the waiters to walk about with just the dry toast pieces on a platter, and less canny guests end up having to eat those; they then become moody and sulky and tend to leave without buying any books.


And this one is for non-journo attendees: Do not walk up to us writers after the launch and ask things like “But where’s the media? No media?” This may come as a shock to you, but a) journos don’t show up for most launches – their story is usually that ‘evenings are hellish at the office’ b) you may have not read them, but we do have reviews and interviews out there; it’s just that you may not see a real live journalist at our readings/launches c) it really is more important for a book to have actual readers present than the media, whatever anyone tells you.


Lastly, journos, non-journos, listen up: If you did not attend our reading/launch, do not appear on Gmail chat or SMS two days after the event saying ‘How did your thing go? It was when?’ The answer doesn’t really matter to you, and we both know it. Our fingers can tap out only that many things in one lifetime, and telling you ‘the launch was awesome’ or ‘missed you there’ or some such thing is a waste of taps, which we want to save for our actual writing.


Naming no Names is the mid-week column where novelist, columnist and counsellor Gouri Dange presents her tongue-in-cheek view of our world.

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16 responses to “Gouri Dange: Rules for book launch attendees”

  1. Komolika says:

    To the comment below—yeah, RIGHT ! Book launches would certainly be inane for a media that simply knows to only suck up to politicians (Niira Radia showed us that in more than clear terms), Bollywood and cricket stars ! Is there something that is not inane that you media folks write about? Which hero is seeing which heroine, how many times they broke up, who was caught in bed with whom—yes, for all of that u chappies would give an arm and a leg…but for a book launch, u wud of course have to “struggle through traffic” and go home and “work till midnight” ! how many reviews have anything other than what is on the cover flap of a book??? frankly none has worked through the night for writing that trash…but hey, why am i even trying to rationalize–esp with someone whose name, when one googles, throws up as a person who “invented” the word ‘Bollywood’ !!! Well, what better can we expect than this from someone who indulges in things as inane as this and who can chase none but Pulitzers !! Rest in peace Mr/Ms Collaco !

  2. Bevinda Collaco says:

    Be still my bleeding heart. It’s true, most reporters hate book launches. It’s just marketing for the publishers.
    It would be cheaper I always think for them to just take a bloody display ad in the newspapers. But while the journos want to eat the good part of the canapes, the publishers want free publicity.
    And free publicity has much more value than a canape topping, and the journo’s time, after struggling through traffic and then sitting through an inane book reading.
    Remember while the publishers pack up and go home the journos got back to the office and work till after midnight.
    Solution: unless you are a Pulitzer Prize winner, don’t call the media. Pay for an ad instead. There. Everyone’s happy.

  3. Dhruv Kazi says:

    Absolutely hilarious! Wouldn’t it be a better world if people RSVPed, showed up on time, engaged, and asked meaningful questions? In academia as in your world, we’d all save sooo much energy not having to deal with the inanities!

  4. Loved reading the article Gouri ! As usual, you pack the punch in a way that it hurts where it is intended to 🙂 Kudos from a fellow writer and co-sufferer–we have bitched enough about this, haven’t we?
    The only comment that i could read below also mentions that the price of a book hurts !!!?? Barring expensive coffee table books (which would not be launched at the kind of “nonpage 3” events you mention!) books are v reasonably priced. Cant ppl spend a few hundreds on a companion for life? We splurge on puerile movies and their exorbitant tickets in a multiplex, one fine-dining experience in Shining India leaves a hole in the pocket, a scotch or vodka perhaps costs as much or more than a book—but when it comes to buying a book–lo! and presto! everyone wants discounts and free copies !! And then also bemoan the lack of good Indian writing…writers are human beings too and need money for survival. The paltry sums that come as royalty on the MRP is bad enough—save us the cribs on high price please!

    -Vikram Sampath

  5. Anuradha Alahari says:

    Hi Gouri,
    Woah! That’s more under-the-belt than tongue-in-cheek….I used to know somebody whose pen-name was InkAngst; dunno why I’m thinking of her right now; she was quite tame, in fact…..

    • Gouri Dange says:

      haha…this is not inkangst. this is splashing ink around by filling in a holi-balloon and hurling it 🙂

  6. Sue says:

    Erm. The bit where we are all expected to buy a copy? It hurts when the books are priced at sums which I wouldn’t spend if I were just browsing at the store on an ordinary day. On the other hand, I would attend a friend’s launch or that of a friend of a friend, just for the show of support. Hopefully that counts? Especially since I haven’t bitched about the traffic or parking?

    • Gouri Dange says:

      hehehe @ Sue – i should have put in a little rider to the theorem – that there are many many perfectly nice people who come in and show solidarity or just ordinary interest and those are exempt from buying !

  7. Alaka says:

    Gouri, I totally enjoyed the cover drives, the leg glances and the square cuts!

  8. Nadi says:

    I enjoy reading Ms. Gouri Dange

  9. Lorraine Martin says:

    Hi Gouri,

    Your column is definitely going to keep most, if not all PR professionals very happy; your column will have a pretty strong fan following from this quarter. I have enjoyed your writing and can identify with some of the situations. Often I think we probably have a far more professional and ethical PR community of professionals than we do journalists.
    But then the pen is more powerful than the sword, right? So we tippy toe around some, we enjoy a very good professional equation with some (thank God for that), and dis-regard/respect the rest.
    Cheers, keep them coming.

  10. Pushkar Lele says:

    Wonderful piece! Loved reading it!

  11. Virgil-in-the-making says:

    Forewarned is forearmed! When I publish my maiden-novel-to-break-all-records, I shall keep these predilections of wayward journalists in mind. Don’t know yet how I need to insulate my opus against their effect, though. Should I get chummy with journos in those spare days when I’m not writing? Should I invite scores of them so at least a decent number show up? Should I offer caviar AND canape? Or should I just focus on writing a book so gripping that the mice will beat a path to my launch trap?

  12. Eapen Thomas says:

    Some things change, others remain the same. You are right journalists never buy anything – connected to their assignments that is. However I don’t think we ever quibbled about where we had to go for press conferences.

  13. Yep! It’s a tough world out there, and we know it. So, on behalf of all authors, thanks for presenting your delightful tongue-in-cheek perspective.

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