DEAR MISS MANNERS: I have never been invited to a “book party” like the ones covered in the newspapers for famous authors given by their famous friends.
Nevertheless, an acquaintance has just had her first novel published, and I rather rashly offered to throw her a book party. This partly has to do with the fact that I recently moved into a space where I could host such a thing and the fact that the flowers on the patio are now in full bloom.
The new author has a publicist, but I am on my own here. What constitutes a successful book party? Besides food and drink, that is? Is there a list of protocols that I would be marked as a real ignoramus for ignoring? Or is this simply a party to celebrate a particular person’s achievement?
GENTLE READER: In flusher times, when publishers would give book parties for their already-successful authors, guests were chosen for their likelihood of boosting sales. When money became tighter, these parties were occasionally replaced by parties given by and for the author’s friends.
As you note, such parties might also lead to helpful publicity if there are guests who produce or attract it. Or you might know people whom publicists call Big Mouths, meaning those who love to share their enthusiasms.
But the parties can also just be a way to congratulate and celebrate the author. Drink, food and a pretty setting are a good start. But the question is – what about the book?
You must ask the author to say a few words about it but to resist the temptation to read from it. And you must also set a limit on the amount of time that guests will be required to stand around finishing their drinks without being able to replenish them.
You should supply copies of the book. Ideally, you give them away, hoping that the guests will become so enthralled as to run out and buy copies for everyone on their Christmas lists. Of course, free books would cost you unless you can persuade the publisher to provide them.
It is therefore common to have on hand the representative of a bookstore or at least a sign-up sheet for buying copies. The guests will feel obliged to do so, especially if you set up a little table with pens for your author to autograph copies – and to see who is quietly departing bookless.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I dance Argentine tango and other social dances. Usually at the end of a dance, my partner and I say “thank you” to each other; this is standard. But once in a while, I say “thank you,” and my partner responds with “you’re welcome.” What should I say?
GENTLE READER: Traditionally, the gentleman thanks the lady, and it would be gracious of her to say that she enjoyed the dance. But Miss Manners notes that either comment concludes the exchange, unless you want to ask for the pleasure of the next dance.
Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website missmanners.com.
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