7th November, 2018
4 min read
Thinking Outside of the Bookshop
Alison Alderton's book Boating with Buster has been published via Troubador Here she talks about how she knew from the beginning that to market this book, she'd have to incorporate her two loves – boating and beagles – and why thinking outside the box can be of benefit to you and your book.
When it was time to think about launching my book, Boating with Buster, it was a no-brainer. Right from the start of the publishing process I had told everyone that Buster’s book was going to be different; to be big, bold, bright and colourful. Why should the book launch be any different?
Buster the barge beagle had led an extraordinary life. For twelve years he had travelled through the waterways of England, Ireland and Northern Europe with my husband and me on our boat. He had lived an outdoor life, basking in fresh air, sunshine and calm waters, why confine the book launch to inside four walls? It was time to think outside of the bookshop!
My local waterway, the Chichester Ship Canal, seemed the ideal location. It had played a role in my family’s life for decades. Some eighty-two years previously my father had been born in a village bordering the canal banks and, throughout his life, had never ventured too far away from its course. As a puppy, it had been the first destination my husband and I had taken Buster to explore, and, it was one of the first waterways I wrote a feature about and went on to successfully have published in a major boating magazine. The canal had kick-started my career as a freelance writer. With such an outstanding provenance surely this was the place for my book launch?
Hiring Richmond, one of the canal trust’s two trip boats, twenty-four invited guests enjoyed a two-hour cruise of the restored waterway. During that time, Janet Richardson, editor of Towpath Talk, had the honour of pulling a bright red ribbon off a copy of Boating with Buster, thus officially marking the launch of the book. As we glided peacefully along the canal, leaving the city to enter the pastoral West Sussex countryside, a traditional fish and chip lunch was served with a choice of drinks. Ian Milton, the canal trust’s chairman, addressed the crowd and spoke passionately about the history of the waterway. My husband then read some excerpts from the book which were greeted with much laughter and applause – in particular, one which related to enjoying a fish and chip supper whilst on our travels in rural Ireland. Colour co-ordinated goody bags, to match the book, were handed out to invited guests. These contained a bookmark, some sweets, a greeting card featuring Buster, a tea towel and a pin badge printed with the words ‘I’ve been boating with Buster’, which went down a treat. It was then time to head up on deck for some official photographs. Despite being a photographer myself, I invested in hiring a professional. This greatly eased the pressure and allowed me to fully enjoy the day, although I cannot deny it felt rather strange being on the other side of the lens. Back at the canal basin, which had been decorated with balloons and posters, the invited guests were joined by other friends and family as well as members of the public, who had been asked to bring their dogs along with them.
In the Heritage Centre, guests could discover more about the canal, purchase copies of the book and enjoy tea, biscuits and cupcakes, the latter which my mother and I had baked and decorated ourselves. I felt an overwhelming sense of pride as, with the beautiful pen my husband had given me especially for the occasion, I signed the first book. I had waited three years to reach this point, it was a culmination of many hours of hard work. School friends whom I had not seen for some thirty-five years made a surprise appearance turning the whole occasion into a roller-coaster ride of emotions.
The Boating with Buster book launch proved both successful and different, it was the first time the Chichester Ship Canal Trust had hosted such an event and they really could not have done more to help. For me, it was perfect as it combined all the things I love and am passionate about, books, beagles and boats. I was able to promote, not only Boating with Buster but also the beagle as a breed and raise funds for the Beagle Welfare charity, as well as one of Great Britain’s lesser-known canals and, the many hundreds of miles of towpaths which provide some excellent facilitates for all breeds of dog and their walkers. But, more than that, it would have been a day which, if Buster had still been with us, he would have greatly approved of and that made me very happy.
Buster’s successor, new beagle Maksimillian, was in attendance and his presence added greatly to the day. Despite being only three years of age he has already proved himself a seasoned sailor and took the day’s events in his stride. He also provided some entertainment – not many could refuse a cuddle with such a handsome hound!
The Chichester Ship Canal Trust agreed to stock the book in their waterside gift shop and café, and have since featured the launch day in their magazine. Local newspapers also covered the event and Boating with Buster received a full-page colour write-up in, Towpath Talk. In the following month's issue the canal, in its own right, was also featured. Similar to writing a book, organising an unusual launch requires plenty of careful planning. However, by stepping outside of the bookshop and letting my imagination flow, I discovered anything was possible and you may be surprised where you end up – where will your book launch take you?
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