Having recently organised the launch event for my book ‘Running Hard’, and also attended the launch of Steve Birkinshaw’s ‘There is no map in hell’, I decided I would jot down some thoughts on the two events, and consider the good and less good points about ‘doing it yourself’. Hopefully it will provide some pointers for anyone else going down this path.
Although my launch was setup by myself* and Steve’s by his publisher, there were many similarities in style and feel of the two events. Both were held in the Lake District in fairly intimate venues, and were great successes, as I hope the following descriptions will show.
The Skiddaw Hotel, Keswick on Saturday 18 Feb 2017
The venue was originally going to be the Moot Hall (which I had used for the launch of The Round) but it turned out to be unavailable, which was a bonus in the end as the audience probably wouldn’t have fitted in there! The room in the Skiddaw Hotel as very good, with projection facilities, and sound amplification (which we abandoned as it distorted badly). Being in a hotel we weren’t able to provide food or drinks, which I had brought in before at the Moot Hall, but that turned out to not be an issue. Several attendees availed themselves of the nearby bar, and I had a coffee and a glass of water.
I wanted it to be a free event, but we had the support of local bookshop Bookends, who advised me to sell tickets, which we agreed on being a nominal £2 cost. They provided two staff who bought in a load of copies of the book (and some of my other two books). The agreement was that I would get the entry fees and they would keep the money from book sales. This meant that the fees and the money from the publisher paid for the room hire, with just enough over to buy the first round in the pub afterwards!
The venue worked well, having plenty of space. Although we pretty much filled all the chairs they had others to bring out if required. There was plenty of room at the front for anyone who was going to speak, and best of all was that we had it booked for two hours which gave time and space for networking before and after the event, and crucially plenty of space for selling books, which we also did before and after the event. There was also plenty of space for personalised signing of books, which I did mostly by wandering around letting people catch me for autographs.
The tone of the event was set by my long standing friend (and mountain marathon and climbing partner) Mike Cambray, who introduced me, with some Shakespeare thrown in. He also organised a lovely gesture of getting attendees to sign a card with their thoughts at the end of the event, which I cherish greatly. For myself, I talked about the book, and read a couple of passages from it (the first time in 3 launches that I have chosen to do that). I was very fortunate to be able to get both the main protagonists from the book to be there and they both had the floor at different times to say a few words. The one mistake I made was not prompting people during the event that there be a chance for questions later on, as that part of the event never really got off the ground. But it was a great event, and particularly nice to chat with some of the top fell runners who had taken the time out to attend the launch.
* My publisher (Sandstone Press) is in the far north of Scotland, so it was not really practical for them to arrange and attend the launch. They did provide part-funding for the event.
Steve Birkinshaw’s launch:
Wilf’s café, Staveley, Thursday 18 May 2017
The venue was the fantastic Wilf’s café (in Staveley), which was even more intimate than my hotel one, and we were well packed in. Wilf’s had provided good snacks, and wine or soft drinks were also available. On the train on my way up that afternoon I had daydreamt about a pint or two from the next door Hawkshead Brewery, but sadly they weren’t involved.
Two staffers from Sheffield-based publisher Vertebrate were there to coordinate the event and sell books. They had chosen to make tickets available online for £6, and achieved a full house of enthusiastic attendees. The venue worked well, with the food and drink (and mingling) in one room and the talks in another, which suffered from having an annoyingly loud air con system, which couldn’t seem to be quietened.
Steve was introduced by race organiser Shane Ohly, who set the set scene well, before handing over to Steve, who told some stories about the lead-up to the Wainwrights attempt, with really great slides to illustrate his discourse. At two points he handed over to his attempt coordinator, and then to his wife Emma, who gave their perspectives on what it was like to see Steve suffering so much during the 6 days. Steve then took questions, which produced an interesting range, from food, through sleep, to where the book title had come from.
It was good to meet a couple of friends from the fell running scene and to hear about the Wainwrights event and its after effects on Steve himself, and also to chat with the Vertebrate crew about their business and publishing ethos. For more about the launch event see this Vertebrate blog.
The seven quotes on the ‘Running Hard’ cover are from some absolutely top runners. These are the full versions of what they all said on reading a preview copy of the book. The book is published Thu 16 Feb, with two book launches on 18 and 20 Feb.
‘Kenny Stuart and John Wild are two of the greatest ever fell runners, with records that still stand today. This meticulously researched book is a compelling and fascinating account of their lives, and their rivalry and friendship.’
Steve Birkinshaw, fastest person to complete the 214 Wainwrights in one round
‘Recollections of races and post-race celebrations by such top fell runners as Jos Naylor, Billy Bland, Hugh Symonds, Jack Maitland and Malcolm Patterson are filled with insight and humour, and demonstrate the unique blend of intense rivalry and friendship that typifies fell running.’
Jeff Norman, Olympic marathoner and former Fell Runner of the Year
‘An in-depth and inspirational account of the fierce rivalry between John Wild and Kenny Stuart, two of mountain running’s finest-ever exponents. Steve Chilton explores the background, the characters and the head-to-head battle for the title of 1983 British Champion between these two ultra-hard men of the fells, and captures the unique spirit of running in its purest and most extreme form.’
Julian Goater, author of The Art of Running Faster
‘Running Hard is a funny, in depth insight into well-known and not so well known champions but, cleverly and importantly, also the characters behind these champions. It’s these characters that bring the book alive and make you wish you were stood on the fells watching their battles in real life and then listening to their post-race banter afterwards.’
Nicky Spinks, double Bob Graham Round record holder
‘A fascinating book that paints a captivating picture of an exciting head to head race for the ultimate championship title. Steve’s race reports are as edge-of-your-seat as a car-chase in a film; you’ll be devouring the words and turning the pages fast. He brings to life a whole new world of fell-running history – a must–read for every off–road runner.’
Claire Maxted, editor of Trail Running magazine
‘There is something primeval about hill running: a simple test of man versus mountain. The sport is a modern-day survival of the fittest and in the 1983 hill running season, two men literally seemed to be running for their lives.’
Jonny Muir, author of Heights of Madness
‘Two great athletes changed the face of fell running forever. Picture John Wild, road racing professional and international track and cross country champion, and Kenny Stuart, champion fell runner and winner of many classic mountain races, duelling over the toughest of terrains and weather conditions. Read of their courage, mental toughness and strategies in a modern, but almost Boys Own, battle and decide for yourself who is Wilson of the Wizard and who the Tough of the Track.’
Steve Jones, former holder of World Best time for marathon