You’ve done it. You’ve published a book. Now comes the hard part. Marketing. You’ll be posting, tweeting, blogging, and talking about your book to anyone who’ll listen.
But have you considered planning a party? A book launch party will create buzz for your book, give your friends a chance to celebrate with you, and may generate more than a few sales!
Book launch parties take advantage of a critical type of marketing: word-of-mouth marketing. No one knows in advance which books will sell and which won’t. This is just as true for big traditional publishers with huge marketing departments as it is for as it is for self-published authors. That’s because most people buy books based on the recommendation of someone they know and trust.
So your job is to write the best book you can, then create buzz by getting the people who know you excited about your book so they’ll pass the word along to people who don’t know you…
Make it an event! This is a celebration – not a book sale. Think of any other party you’ve hosted. Your measure of success is simply the amount of fun your guests have.
As with any major event, early in the planning we need to establish a budget, set the date, and decide on the location. Of course, the budget will depend on the type of event and on how much you want to spend. Don’t forget to save your receipts for tax purposes.
The date of the party should be close to the book’s release date, but not too close. Allow enough time – perhaps 2 weeks – to permit shipping after the release date. Won’t be much of a book launch party without the book.
Unless you’re planning a sit-down dinner, don’t be too concerned with keeping the invited number of guests at a manageable level. People will probably come and go throughout the party. While some will stay longer than others, think of this more as an open house rather than a dinner party.
You can send invitations 3 ways:
- Emailed invitations designed yourself or through a site such as Evite (for those in your email address book)
- Event invitations through a social media site such as Facebook (this is good for local people for whom you don’t have email or snail-mail addresses) – create an “event”
- Printed postcard invitations through snail mail (for the physical addresses in your address book)
Use all three methods to reach as many people as possible.
Invest in postcard invitations with your book cover on the front and the details of the party on the back. Mail them to all your local snail-mail addresses several weeks before your launch party. Inexpensive postcards can be purchased through several on-line companies, such as Vistaprint.com or Gotprint.com., or you can design & print your own.
Bonus: even if the recipients are unable to attend your book launch celebration, the postcard will serve as a reminder to purchase your book!
Flyers are a simple, lo-tech way to get the word out about your launch party. For establishments where you’re a frequent customer, ask proprietors to post one in a window & leave a stack on their counters for their customers.
Invite the media. Local media outlets are often interested in local human interest/success stories.
Contact local radio stations several weeks before your event. Email addresses of program hosts are usually found on the station’s website. Request an interview during the week before the party.
Send a press release to local newspapers 4 – 6 weeks in advance of your event. Include a jpeg of the book cover and an author photo. Consider following up with another release 1 – 2 weeks prior to your party in case the first notice was misplaced.
In addition to the who, what, where, & when of the launch party, your press release should include information about your book—price, publisher, and where it can be purchased. Also be sure to include a brief author bio.
You might also write an article about you and your book. Local newspapers love stories about the “local gal (or guy) who makes good.”
- Set up an “Event” on Facebook for those who live locally.
- Announce your event on your website, blog, and your newsletter.
You can order a supply of books directly from your publisher to sell yourself. Or perhaps your community bookstore will order the books and sell them. If you do it yourself, assign someone to be in charge of sales & accounting (you’ll be too busy signing to take care of that yourself!).
You’ll also have to make decisions about pricing. Some authors discount their prices based on the number of copies sold—the more copies, the greater the discount.
Often, these events do better in locations other than bookstores.
The location can be part of the fun. Are you planning a formal or casual event? Will the party be held in your home, at a restaurant, your church, or at a park?
Theme and Decorations
The party’s theme should spring from the book topic. Decorate for a celebration: balloons, party favors, streamers, etc.! If book is set in Florida, your theme might be fun in the sun. If a zoo featured prominently in your novel, use animals in your decorations.
Consider having music playing in the background. If possible, select music with a theme that fits your party…and keep it upbeat!
If you have a book trailer, set up a computer and larger monitor to allow the trailer to run on a continuous loop.
Don’t schedule during mealtime unless you’re willing to serve more than light refreshments.
If your location allows, refreshments can be as simple as cookies and iced tea or punch. Remember, simple can still be festive: chocolate fountain or punch fountain. And a cake decorated with a picture of your book cover is always fun!
Games, quizzes, and drawings add to the festive atmosphere. Prizes can include tie-ins to your book, and can range from gift cards, jewelry, or candles to gift baskets or artwork. But don’t give away copies of your book!
Halfway through your event, you might read an excerpt from your book, or have a guest read it for you. Then do a drawing.
For children’s books, have activities for your target age group or age-appropriate door prizes. Consider a clown or face-painting, etc.
You’ll be too busy greeting & signing (& hopefully, having fun!) to remember to take pictures, so ask a family member / friend (or 2!) who is into photography to do it for you. Ask for random as well as posed pictures.
Use these photos for your newsletter, blog, website, Facebook, promotional posters and flyers, articles for your local community’s print and on-line forums, or even to make a scrapbook for your own keepsake.
If using these photos for promotional purposes, be sure to have the subjects sign a release form.
Although the purpose is a celebration, not a book sale, still have plenty of books available for sale. Like a good scout, always be prepared!
Arrange the table where you will be sitting with a tablecloth, if possible, a color that matches your book cover.
Other things to place on the table include bookmarks, business cards, and a dish of candy.
Guest book/Newsletter sign ups
Consider a guestbook with space for email addresses or offer slips of paper for guests to fill in their email addresses for subscription to your e-newsletter. Note on the bottom of the paper that you will keep their information confidential…then do it!
Ask for Help
You can’t do this alone, so involve your family and friends to help set up, clean up, and host. They’re more than happy to help…and share your joy! The more people are engaged in the launch party, the more they’ll talk it up to their friends. Don’t be shy about asking for help.
Delegate as much as you can, to free yourself to meet your guests, sign books, etc. You’ll need people to greet people as they come in, give away raffle tickets for door prizes, serve refreshments, take pictures, and direct people to restrooms. They can also keep the party looking sharp by picking up dirty plates and cups.
If you’ve purchased your own books to sell, be sure to have a volunteer coordinate the book sales—everything from handling the money to ensuring an ample supply of books are displayed. It’s next to impossible for you to sell and sign at the same time, so don’t even try!
- Send thank you notes to everyone who helped. You may also want to present some of your helpers with small gifts: candles, boxed note cards, bath gels, or other tokens.
- Post photos wherever you have an online presence.
With proper planning, you’ll be able to enjoy your own book launch party. Take time to celebrate with your guests. The event will be over before you know it – appreciate every minute!
Hope your next book launch party is a celebration you’ll remember with joy for years to come!
Note: Next month we’ll talk about hosting a virtual book launch party!