Do I have to buy a book at a book launch?

The question was posed in a local writers’ magazine.

A friend has just published her first book and has invited me to the book launch. I don’t read in her genre. Do I have to buy the book?

The answer, from an author who had published a number of books, and is respected in the industry, was:

Of course you should buy the book. You’re there to support your friend.

I understand this is what is expected, but I disagree. Totally.

Given the above answer, I expect that friend will make an excuse and not go to the book launch at all.

What makes a successful book launch?

Buzz. What makes a buzz? People.

If I was the questioner’s author friend, I’d just be happy my friend came along to support me. A common writer’s nightmare is the book launch or book signing or book talk where no-one turns up. (Signing in the Waldenbooks, anyone?) The best support your friends can give you is to come.

Not to buy your books.

A lot of my friends don’t read science fiction or fantasy. I don’t expect them to buy our books. If I was doing a book launch I’d be just as happy if they came along. If I’m launching or signing in a bookstore and they felt obligated to buy a book they should buy one they want to read. I’m happy, I get the crowds. The bookstore’s happy, they get a sale. The two combined means it’s more likely they’ll invite me back.

There are some friends whose books I’ll buy when they get published because I want to support them. But I don’t think one should ever go to a book launch feeling obligated to buy the author’s book.

That’s like asking your friends to pay to come.

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