Do book-signings and launch parties really help to raise an author’s public profile? Opinions vary. Many publishers, for instance, are sceptical as to the value of signing sessions. Often they work best if set up in a manner distinctive enough to capture the imagination of potential readers – and, ideally, the media. One of the most striking examples in the crime fiction field over the past few years was the bizarre celebration of the UK publication of Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Rising on 5 December 2006. Harris is almost as famous for being shy of personal publicity as he is for creating legendary serial killer Hannibal Lecter. But when Heinemann launched the book at Waterstone’s in Oxford Street, London, they made the most of the occasion. In fact, they made a meal of it….
For just 90 minutes, the shop was turned into ‘Doctor Hannibal’s Brasserie’, with the good doctor hosting a party for his admirers, with body parts and blood products on the menu. After the party, each guest was able to buy one of the 200 first editions containing a bookplate signed by the legendary Mr Harris. And there was more: a chart of human body parts, a Hannibal napkin bearing the publication date, a limited edition Hannibal plate, and a Brasserie menu featuring such delicacies as ‘Slither of Liver’. I wasn’t there – and as far as I know Thomas Harris wasn’t, either – but the whole event certainly had the desired effect of drawing attention to the book’s arrival. And when I last checked Abebooks, copies of the book and the extras were retailing at figures of up to £450. Not bad for such a modern collector’s item.