Keeping it (un)Real

by | March 6, 2021 | General | 4 comments

by Ashley Lister

Earlier this week I launched another novella. This is not me trying to publicise my novella. This is me explaining what I did to make the book launch a little bit different.

Cursed is a horror story, the third book in a series. However, this one focuses on a group of Urbex students who break into abandoned properties and share ghost stories. The idea isn’t just a framing device (because the framing device is part of the narrative). But it was this idea of sharing ghost stories that came to mind when I was organising my book launch.

Most advice about book launches suggests we should do something memorable or unusual to make the event stand out. This is tricky because, between you and me, a book launch usually involves encouraging potential readers to turn up so you can try and sell them a copy of your book. This is most often achieved by reading a passage or two from the new release, ending on a cliff-hanger, and hoping the members of your audience are sufficiently well-off so they can afford to buy a copy to satisfy their curiosity.  And none of this seems like a structure to make an event that is memorable or unusual.

I considered my options.

  • I could do it naked. (I discounted this idea early on)
  • I could do it whilst wearing a mask or make-up. (I discounted this idea early on as well)
  • I could do it with cute videos going on in the background which would help promote the book and add to the atmosphere of the sinister I was hoping to create. (This worked)
  • I could do it with a cool background, such as the one below, showcasing the book and other titles, to help promote interest. (This also worked)

It was whilst I was brainstorming these ideas that I came up with the notion of people sharing ghost stories. 

Rather than me spending an hour telling people to buy my book (because it’s exciting, entertaining and fun), I simply explained the concept of the novella, gave everyone a little taste from it, and then (as a Zoom audience), we sat around a virtual campfire and shared our tales of the supernatural.  As a matter of fact, the campfire wasn’t that virtual. Some of us had campfire backgrounds. One reader had installed a red lamp so he looked demonic as he read his story. The friend I’d asked to host had a reverb on his microphone so he could chortle like a demon at relevant spots. We were all using the campy gimmicks that are frowned upon in traditional storytelling, and they all worked beautifully.

I was still able to read parts from my novella. And I made sure links were available in the chat boxes so everyone could buy if the mood took them. But this format meant we were able to frighten one another with our personal stories of the supernatural, which leant itself to the exact mood I wanted to create for people who enjoy stories of the supernatural. Rather than it being an hour, we were online for more than two hours. There were competitions with prizes given for the most unsettling stories. Readers were making connectionsthrough their shared passion for the supernatural.

And the reason why I mention this is not to promote my novella, Cursed. It’s simply to say: when you’re launching a book, thinking outside the box can make the event so much more than a simple book reading. 


Ashley Lister

Ashley Lister is a UK author responsible for more than two-dozen erotic novels written under a variety of pseudonyms. His most recent work, a non-fiction book recounting the exploits of UK swingers, is his second title published under his own name: Swingers: Female Confidential by Ashley Lister (Virgin Books; ISBN: 0753513439) Ashley’s non-fiction has appeared in a variety of magazines, including Forum, Chapter & Verse and The International Journal of Erotica. Nexus, Chimera and Silver Moon have published his full-length fiction, with shorter stories appearing in anthologies edited by Maxim Jakubowski, Rachel Kramer Bussel and Mitzi Szereto. He is very proud to be a regular contributor to ERWA.


  1. Jean Roberta

    So sorry I missed your book launch! It sounds fun.

    • Ashley Lister

      Jean – it was a real laugh. Some of the stories were genuinely scary and then one of the storytellers started to tell a story about being chased by ghosts that we eventually realised was his interpretation of PacMan. I’ll make sure you know about the next one 🙂


  2. Lisabet Sarai

    Hi, Ashley,

    How did you recruit people for this event? Who were they?

    It does sound like fun! And I love your covers.

    • Ashley Lister

      Hi Lisabet

      I’ve got a mailing list and a FaceBook page which I used to invite participants. I then had a blog tour leading up to the book launch where I mentioned the event and explained there would be prizes and competitions. Because of the work I do in the poetry community I have friends who helped with the hosting. And because Covid has made us all au fait with Zoom and Teams, participation wasn’t an issue.

      And thanks for the kind words about the covers. The one for Book Four looks even more stunning 🙂


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