Closing out the Book Launch – Part I!

Wow, what a rush! I can’t believe how energizing—and exhausting—the past four weeks on the road have been! And that was on top of the month spent preparing for the book’s rollout.

You may have heard that marketing a book is harder work than writing a book. I will tell you from first-hand experience that it’s true.

Recall that Mike and I met in St. Augustine, Florida on December 18 and 19, where we signed 350 books and mailed more than 200 of them to people who had placed pre-orders. The other 100 copies went out in the mail over the course of the next several weeks.

Our official book launch tour started off with our talk at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in Dallas on January 16. We followed that with events in the Kennedy Space Center area on January 25, 26, and 27. Then it was on to Houston and Mike’s panel discussion on January 31.

We drove to Hemphill that afternoon and spent a deeply moving couple of days with the people who had worked so hard to search for Columbia‘s crew and to support the NASA family after the accident. Signing our books in Hemphill’s Remembering Columbia museum on the 15th anniversary of the accident was the culmination of all that we had been working for over the past three years.

Then it was back to Houston for another talk on February 3. We had a couple of days back at home to recover, and then it was on to Virginia for our events at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum on February 11 and 12.

Ciannilli intro OSB2
Mike Ciannilli introduces us at KSC on February 15. (Jonathan Ward photo)

Our final events for this tour were on February 15. First was a talk and book signing at lunchtime at the OSB2 building, for KSC employees. We had time for a quick bite afterward at Crackerjacks in Titusville before heading to our next stop—a presentation and signing at The Great Outdoors, an RV and golf resort west of Titusville. We had a packed house of very attentive people who asked a lot of great questions!

TGO talk
A very engaged crowd at The Great Outdoors! (Photo by Bob Root)

Our final event was a celebratory dinner at Zarella’s Italian restaurant in Cape Canaveral. We were joined by retired CNN reporter John Zarella (his sons own the restaurant) and several members of the Space Hipsters Facebook community. John is a larger-than-life personality, and he entertained us with many behind-the-scenes tales of shenanigans at Kennedy Space Center. It was the perfect celebration and a wonderful way to end a very, very tiring month on the road.

Dinner at Zarella’s! From left: Mark Usciak, Carleton Bailie, Jean Wright, Ken Kremer, John Zarella, Matt Haskell, John Gould, Jonathan Ward, and Mike Leinbach. (Photo courtesy Mark Usciak)

Recapping the Rollout

I neglected to keep exact measurements, but here are some estimated summary stats for what we’ve been up to since we received the books in mid-December:

  • Books signed: 850+
  • Public appearances: 15 (3 memorial services, 4 panel discussions, 3 presentations, 5 book signings)—about 3,000 people saw us in person
  • Miles flown (Jonathan): 4,897
  • Miles driven (Jonathan): 3,250
  • Recorded audio interviews: 2
  • Taped TV interviews: 4
  • Newspaper and other interviews: 5+
  • Live broadcasts (TV, radio, webcast, podcast): 5

Numbers, of course, don’t tell the real story. I have more than enough fond memories from this trip to last a lifetime. Witnessing a tearful hug between Belinda Gay and one of the NASA men who searched for Columbia in the Hemphill area. Meeting the spouses of some of Columbia‘s crew. Introducing Mike to the heroes of the recovery operations. Having friends and family on hand for the National Air and Space Museum interview. Seeing the good people of East Texas smile with delight at receiving their copy of the book containing their stories. Hanging out with Greg Cohrs and his family. Sharing the legacy of Columbia and her crew with people who had no prior knowledge of the scope of the recovery operations. Receiving so many expressions of thanks and encouragement.

And not least, spending countless hours with The People’s Launch Director, who I am honored to call my friend and colleague.

This is just the end of Part I. We’ll have more appearances in the coming months. And there are exciting things in the works!


Author: Jonathan Ward

Jonathan Ward is an author of books on the history of American manned spaceflight. He also serves as an adjunct executive coach at the Center for Creative Leadership.

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