You’ve worked hard to bring your book baby into the world—now you get to celebrate its arrival. But don’t just throw an event together at the last minute. As with any marketing endeavor, a successful launch party requires preparation and strategy.
First, think about location. Where will you have your party? If a friend will be hosting you in their home, you won’t need as much lead time. However, if you are going for a venue like a bookstore, library, or museum, you will need to make contact far in advance, even six months before your launch party. Depending on the time of year, your venue may have limited openings for events.
Once you’ve confirmed the time, date, and location for your party, draft a press release to communicate this information with local and regional media. Make sure you cover the five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. Think beyond newspapers—send your news to radio stations, TV stations, and other publications such as regional tourist magazines that have event calendars. Some publications require materials four to six months in advance, so pay attention to submission guidelines and deadlines, and don’t forget to mention that you are a local author and to tailor your press release to the publication’s interests. Another idea to garner interest is to tie your event to a cause, donating a portion of your proceeds to a charity. Don’t forget to promote your book launch via social media as well.
Next, order promotion materials. If you will be sending out postcards or invitations, these need to be designed and mailed one to two months before your party. It’s a smart idea to have inexpensive takeaway materials for your event such as bookmarks, stickers, or pencils. If your party is at a bookstore, you may get guests who happened to be shopping and only found out about your event because they were in the store. Perhaps they’re not ready to buy your book, but they’ll accept a bookmark and look up your information online. Be sure to include a picture of your book’s cover and a link to your website on promotion materials.
Decorations for the venue may not be necessary, but do dress up your signing table. A tablecloth and banner create a polished look when coordinated with the design of your book cover and promotional materials. Don’t forget to bring business cards and extra pens. Ask your host if food is permissible, and bring something guests can serve themselves, like cookies or finger foods (bonus points if the food relates to your book). You don’t want to interrupt your signing by serving food, so place a sign next to the food inviting guests to partake.
Props are great for drawing people to your signing table and starting a conversation. This can be anything book-related, but make sure it is portable, durable, and won’t blow away if your event is outdoors. One of the characters in my books is a raven, so I have a faux taxidermy raven I set out next to my books. People always wonder if he’s real and want to touch his feathers.
Another way to attract potential buyers is through your book presentation. Be prepared to talk about your book—what it’s about, what inspired you to write it, etc., and bring an excerpt to read. After introducing myself and my book, I read my excerpt and leave time for questions and a drawing for a prize. The goal of a book talk is to provide enough information about your book to convince readers to take a closer look. The excerpt should take no more than ten minutes to read (five minutes is ideal) and should be compelling. Be a tease—intrigue people with a cliff-hanger.
Including a drawing at events is one more way to attract an audience. Prizes can be anything book-related (totes, journals, an item that coordinates with your book’s theme)—or not. I once gave away small landscapes I had painted—they were of a famous landmark in the area. My favorite thing to give away is a gift certificate for the bookstore hosting me. It’s a way to give back and show gratitude, in addition to sending my host a thank you card later.
Enlist a friend to document the party. Stills or short videos help you continue the celebration online by posting them on your website and via social media. You can also post the excerpt you read and highlights from the question and answer session. Between social media and a blog tour, you can have a virtual party and include guests who live too far away to attend your book launch.
Good luck with your party! For those of you who have planned a book launch event, what advice would you add?