Booksignings, library appearances, conferences… they’re all wonderful events to grow your base of influencers. But most overlooked is typically the book launch party WE as authors can plan and execute. Here, twelve steps to a successful book launch party that will provide the springboard for more reader and media attention for your newest book!
1. Pick a Date
Seems obvious, right? But picking the right day, date and time will often make all the difference. If doing an evening event, 7 p.m. is usually the best time, especially if you’re counting on folks coming who work or have to feed families first.
Weekday nights are typically easiest for most since people have busy schedules on Friday/Saturday evenings. Sunday afternoons, if you prefer a weekend event, also work. Obviously if you’re doing your launch in conjunction with another event, that will dictate the schedule.
2. Set a Goal
What’s most important to you? Celebrating with friends and family? Selling your first 50 books? Getting media attention? Raising money for a local charity?
Usually it’s some combination of these things, but set a primary goal so you have an idea of what “success” looks like as you move through the planning process. In example, if it’s to sell 50 books, make sure you have a hundred books on hand and that you’re offering some sort of incentive (no tax, better price, signed copy, etc.) to facilitate attendees taking that action.
Important: No matter WHAT your goals, make sure you have a sign-up sheet at checkout for attendees to enter their names and email addresses so you can build your list and advise folks of future events, promotions and releases. Not everyone will buy a book when they attend but you do have a chance to sell them in the future, send people to your ebook link, etc.
3. Have a Theme
Some of the best launch parties we’ve attended include a theme around the book. Mary Alice Monroe, often writing about animal issues, especially ocean life, chose the local aquarium for a launch, a huge success, and visitors got the extra bonus of visiting the aquarium after-hours. If you can tie into a local museum or tourist site that’s not normally open in the evenings, this can be a great way to gather a large group.
Kelly Owen, author of the College Chronicles, did a college-themed event, with various college students performing songs, college-type food being served (pizza and sliders) and tabletops decorated with college-kid-type stuff (including packages of Ramen noodles and condoms!)
4. Choose a Venue
Local theaters, on off days, make great venues, as do church and civic organization meeting spaces. Parks can be great, too, but make sure there are covered spaces or bad weather could result in poor showings and soggy stock! Art galleries are wonderful book launch venues and offer a pleasant space and some built-in viewing entertainment.
We’ve even attended book launch parties at hotels, which offer built-in options for food and beverage. Whatever your venue, do your best to make it a public place vs. a private home. This typically allows for more attendees, easier announcements, and better media attention.
Whatever your venue, do your best to make it a public place vs. a private home. This typically allows for more attendees, easier announcements, and better media attention. Fees for the venues on their “off days” or after hours are usually quite reasonable, and they’re often very happy to give you the space as well as recommend caterers and other suppliers.
5. Create a Menu
If you plan to serve alcohol, you’ll need to decide on just beer and wine, or providing liquor options. In one book event we were involved in, rather than dealing with too many types of alcohol and paying bartenders, a martini bar was provided where attendees could mix their own flavors. You might also create a “signature drink” that ties in with the theme, i.e. “Sex in the City” style cosmos for a chick lit launch or Bloody Marys for a vampire tale or thriller. Or maybe your book focuses on health and you’ll want nothing more than juice or smoothies.
Your choice of drinks will then dictate your food items. If you’re serving alcohol, even in a cash bar scenario, you must have nibbles; you don’t want attendees consuming on empty stomachs! At the very least you’ll want plenty of pretzels, nuts and/or chips.
Light or heavy appetizers are usually typical but will depend on your budget. It’s better to choose just a few choice items, and provide healthy options for guests, such as fruit and nuts or cheese and crackers vs. chips and dip, but of course this will depend on your genre and theme.
6. Provide Entertainment
This doesn’t mean hiring an orchestra (unless that ties in with your theme!) But do have something for guests to do besides sit around and wait for you to talk about your book.
In the case of some of the venues mentioned above, “entertainment” in the form of exploring the museum, gallery or zoo may be built in. If not, at least have some music on. Consider doing a prize raffle of a free book or related item. You likely know someone who may want to perform, singing or playing piano. Or maybe a scavenger hunt of items found within your book, with a free book prize to whoever finds the most. If tied in with a charity perhaps a spokesperson from that organization can give a (short) presentation. You might have a slide show depicting scenes or locations featured in your book.
The possibilities are as endless as your imagination. The key is to not have too much going on so as to remove the focus, while having something to occupy visitors as well as to make your event memorable.
7. Send the Invites
Once all the planning is done, you can set about inviting people. Special invites may be printed and mailed, or you can do virtual invites via social media or e-vite type sites. Your invitations need to specify time, location and any of your other planning details that may matter, i.e. if there’s a dress code or “Snacks provided, cash bar” type info.
Nowadays, it seems the most successful events plan early and remind often. Meaning, if you’re sending those invites out six weeks in advance, great, but send round a reminder the week before…
8. Alert the Media!
You can alert local media via press release and/or include them on your invite list and send them the same special invitations you send other guests. This is often a better attention-getter than the well-worn release. In some cases authors have created “VIP” invites for special media or other honored guests.
10. And Then There’s YOU!
The ultimate focus will be on you and your book. That means you’ll want to prepare a little something to say to attendees, thanking them for coming and perhaps a short anecdote about what led you to writing your book. If you plan to do a reading, make it SHORT; parties aren’t the place for long readings; 1-3 pages is usually more than enough.
And, because most authors are shy about promoting themselves, you may want to have an emcee, perhaps a friend or your publicist or editor, introduce you.
11. Don’t Forget the Photos
Appoint a friend or relative to be your official photographer. If someone can videotape you making your announcement, even better. But at a minimum, get photos of guests, of you speaking, and of you signing books, for your website and to share on social media and your author website.
For media who doesn’t attend (and many won’t because yours is likely one of lots of invitations they’ve received) have a post-event press release prepared in advance. Send it the minute your event ends with a link to where they can view/use photos. It just might get you a blurb in the paper the next day or on a local website with a link back to your page!
12. Have FUN at Your Book Launch Party!
Above all, careful preparation for your book launch party will let you have fun on your big day or evening. If something goes wrong, roll with it (and use the experience for fodder in your next blog!) Your book was a long journey to completion and publication; your launch party is the celebration of your arrival!
Enjoy the other great resource articles below. And, if you’ve had a great (or not so great!) launch party, please tell us about your unique experience with your comment below!
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- Huffington Post: Tips for a Successful Book Launch Party
- Writers Digest (pdf): 9 Steps to Hosting a Book Launch Party
- Writers Digest: 10 Tips for a Successful Book Launch
- WWW: How To Set Up A Book Tour