Launches are the life-blood of the book world. Philip Womack talks about how it felt to be back reading to a live audience, and how nothing beats the real buzz at the launch of his new book Wildlord in London
In 2020 I published two books into a world where no bookshops were open and no real life book launches were possible.
I’d had a rather desultory online launch for my children’s book, The Arrow of Apollo. Spontaneity is banished from video launches. Not having the first clue about what to do, I logged off feeling as if the book hadn’t been celebrated at all.
So I was absolutely delighted to launch my new teen novel, Wildlord, published by Little Island, at an Actual Real Life book launch, in the lovely branch of Waterstones on Tottenham Court Road in London, with Actual Real Life flesh and blood people in all their glory.
Book launches are the lifeblood of the bookish world. Here, in basements, clubs and bars, connections are forged, exciting projects batted about, and much warm white wine is drunk.
I’d spent most of launch day in a frenzy of nerves, fielding texts from people saying they couldn’t come. This, by the way, is one of the worst features of our communication-saturated age.
Why does nobody ever text to say they are coming to a party? You end up thinking you’ll be the only person there, sitting alone with an enormous pile of unsigned books, mainlining Chardonnay.
Fortunately, I wasn’t the only person there. I leapt upon the first guests with undisguised glee. For many, this was the first book launch they’d been to in yonks, and there was a definite sense of excitement.
Some guests had been to my very first book launch, in 2008, when I was a mere slip of a thing. In 2010, when I launched my second novel, The Liberators, in a night club off Piccadilly, the footballer Rio Ferdinand wandered in by accident (he signed my book which, in hindsight, seems like the wrong way round
Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin was one of the first to arrive, and there was a strong showing from children’s authors, including Cressida Cowell, the United Kingdom’s Children’s Laureate, and Piers Torday. I loved catching up with the biographer Selina Hastings, the travel writer Sara Wheeler, and novelists Venetia Welby and Sophia Money-Coutts.
Over a decade later, it feels as if not much has changed: the gossip, the jokes, the laughter. Perhaps the only thing that is different is that I used to buy a new velvet jacket every time I published a new book. Now, with three children, I’m more likely to be stocking up the freezer.
The team at Little Island have been absolutely smashing, and I’ve loved working with them. The cover of Wildlord, by Karen Vaughn, is both mysterious and enticing, and I think captures many of the book’s themes beautifully. So it was sad not to be able to thank my publishers in person, as they were in Ireland and couldn’t come over in case restrictions were suddenly imposed. But what an evening—a delightful and joyous occasion.