12 Tips for Successful Book Launch Parties

by Joel Friedlander on June 24, 2013 · 22 comments

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We don’t often talk about one very important part of self-publishing: it can be a lot of fun!

Maybe it doesn’t feel that way when you’re trying to figure out which ISBN option to choose, or how to hire a cover designer, or which font would really be the best for your book. But if you like the book creation process, you might also enjoy all those little decisions and the many chances to be creative that it opens to you.

One of the more institutionalized ways to have a good time in book publishing is with a book launch party. Sometimes authors plan parties because they want to celebrate, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But a book launch party can be a great way to give your marketing a push, too.

After all, a lot of books take years to write and months to edit, design, lay out, proofread, and set up for publication. When your book is finally published, it’s the end of a long, sometimes arduous journey.

Do you need a book launch party? Well, it’s difficult to say you really need one. Although it can be a great promotional activity, a big party can put your budget into a hole so deep it will never recover. However, there are ways to host launch parties on a budget.

So if you’re thinking about a book launch party, here are some tips that will help you decide whether or not to go ahead with one and, if you do, some things to look out for.

But First, A Decision

Before you can start planning your book launch party, you’ll need to decide whether you’re throwing this party to congratulate yourself and share your joy with friends and family, or whether it’s mostly intended to be a chance to promote your book.

There’s nothing wrong with throwing yourself a party. Hey, knock yourself out, invite the neighbors and anyone else you like. A book launch party also can be a great way to say “thank you” to people who have played a significant role in getting your book to market.

But if the party is part of your overall book launch strategy, you’ll want to focus mostly on what’s going to help get news about your book out to the people you really want to reach. The tips that follow are aimed at these sorts of parties that are meant to promote books.

Tips for Authors Thinking About Book Launch Parties

  1. Make a budget. How much are you willing to “invest” in this one promotional event? Expenses for live events can easily get out of hand as unexpected wrinkles arise. Compare what you’re willing to spend to other possibilities. For instance, to hire someone to write a professional press release and have it electronically delivered costs about $200-300. Will that accomplish more with the resources you have than throwing a launch party?
  2. Find a venue. Hold your party in a retail environment if at all possible. Bookstores and other retailers will be happy if you can bring in a lot of people to their store, and they usually will handle the sales. They will probably sell your books on consignment (no payment unless books sell) and will require a minimum 40% discount from the retail price. Another good strategy is to locate a retailer with some connection to your book. For instance, for the launch of a book about moving to Spain, an author had her launch party at a Spanish tapas bar with authentic foods and beverages mentioned in her book. For a hiking, bicycling, or trailwalking book, try the local recreational equipment store. And you don’t have to be limited to retail spaces, either. A book launch that’s more of a celebration can be hosted at a private home. And some people have taken their launch parties outdoors; with a permit from the local authorities and some good weather, you could have your launch party at a park.
  3. Plan your space. If your party is in a store, you will probably be supplied with a table but don’t count on anything else. You’ll need to provide some appropriate decorations and don’t forget any bookmarks or other “freebies.” If you’re having your party at a retailer that’s not a bookstore, you may have to help the store with planning for tables to sign books and other details.
  4. Get the word out. If you’re working with a retailer for your launch, ask about promotion. For instance, they may be able to include you in mailings or email newsletters about in-store events. Or they might allow you to put a flyer up in the store a couple of weeks before the event.
  5. Keep people entertained. You’ve gone to a lot of trouble and expense to set up your party and get people there. What are you going to do next? Instead of planning one long reading, why not create a shorter event you can repeat over the course of 3 or 4 hours? If you can, include appropriate music and visuals for entertainment. A slide show or book trailer running on a laptop can capture the attention of browsers who will want to know more about your book.
  6. Make sure you have books. Yes, there’s nothing worse than planning a party, then realizing you can’t get printed books in time. Work backwards from your party date and plan to have the physical books on hand at least a week beforehand, just to be safe.
  7. Use the media. Let local media know about your book launch party and invite them to come around to join the festivities. At larger media outlets, look for writers or editors whose subject specialties correspond to your book topic and notify them.
  8. Build your crowd. Don’t forget to invite your friends, family, co-workers, writing group, and social media contacts. More people equals more excitement, and that’s what a party is all about.
  9. Take pictures. Ask a friend to take pictures and make sure to get some shots of you signing books, talking to readers, and speaking. If you have any “notables” attending, get a shot of the two of you together. These will come in handy for your promotional efforts.
  10. How to sign. If you’ve never autographed books before, spend some time thinking about what you’ll write. Many authors use a few stock phrases which can be helpful when the autographing line is long. Many people like their name included, too, so make sure to ask for the correct spelling. I’ve often used the phrase, “Good luck on your publishing journey,” which fits with the subject of my books.
  11. Prizes and giveaways. Who doesn’t like them? Having a drawing for a free book or a prize themed to your subject will be popular. And if you repeat your reading a couple of times, go ahead and have a couple of drawings to keep people interested.
  12. Gather addresses. Here’s my last tip, and it’s one of the most important. You want to stay in touch with people you spend time with at your launch party. Make sure you have a way to capture each attendee’s email address, whether it’s a sign-up sheet, a bowl for business cards, or a laptop or tablet where people can opt into your mailing list on the spot.

Planning and executing a book launch party is quite a bit of work, but it can pay off. You’ll establish good relations with the venue, with media contacts, and with attendees. You’ll make sales and add to your email list, too.

And listen, you worked long and hard to get to this point. Throwing yourself a party—and getting all the benefits—is a great way to celebrate.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com. Originally published as “It’s Party Time! Book Launch Parties for Indie Authors” on CreateSpace.

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    { 18 comments… read them below or add one }

    Ernie Zelinski June 24, 2013 at 2:06 am

    Great article. Great points.

    I had only one book launch party, for my book “101 Really Important Things You Already Know, But Keep Forgetting.” It was at a restaurant with my picking up the tab for a meal for all attendees. It did not pay for me given that I sold only a few books.

    A writer in my home town also threw a book launch party at one of the independent bookstores. She got quite a bit of publicity and even got local businesses to sponsor the giveways of wine and food at her launch. I don’t believe she did any better than me in the number of book sales but she spent very little money for her book launch party compared to what I spent on mine.

    When it comes to parties related to my books, I now have them to celebrate milestones. For example, in September of 2011, I had a party to celebrate the fact that it was 20 years since I self-published “The Joy of Not Working.” And last year, I threw a celebration in November to celebrate the fact that my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” had generated over $700,000 in pretax profits for me since I self-published it in 2004. And of course, I will throw a big celebration when “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” has generated $1 million dollars in pretax profits, which should be a bit over two years from now.

    But no more book launch parties for me unless it is to celebrate a new book that I want to give away to my close friends, with no expectation of sales.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 24, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Ernie,

    I’m not a big fan of launch parties, but I have seen some authors do them fantastically well and generate lots of publicity (although, as we know, it’s hard to get lots of sales at these parties) and it did seem worthwhile for them.

    Reply

    Michael N. Marcus June 24, 2013 at 3:46 am

    Some authors sell books at launches. I think it’s tacky to make friends feel obligated to spend money. My wife spent $25 for a neighbor’s book at her at-home party and we will _never_ read the book.

    Give books away if you can afford to. They’ll probably cost you only a few bucks each and will help create buzz. Give out bookmarks or business cards, too. For an e-book, you can provide a card showing a link to download a freebie.

    Michael N. Marcus
    http://www.BookMakingBlog.com
    http://www.CreateBetterBooks.com

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 24, 2013 at 12:15 pm

    Part of the problem with inviting friends and family to these events is that a lot of people show up and expect to get a book for free, and that can be quite awkward.

    Reply

    Misty Dietz June 24, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Hi Joel, great tips like usual! I would really love to have a book launch party, but I’m missing one major ingredient: a hard-copy book.

    Do you have any book release party tips for us e-book only authors? Or maybe that’s another post… :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 24, 2013 at 12:16 pm

    Misty, you should check out this post, because there are ways to do this now so you don’t have to create a print book if you don’t want to:

    http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2013/03/e-books-for-real-e-book-gift-cards-from-livrada-and-enthrill/

    Reply

    Misty Dietz June 24, 2013 at 12:27 pm

    I remember reading this post when it came out. Interesting concept. I’m not self-pubbed though, so this would obviously be something I’d have to talk to my publisher about. Thanks for the followup!

    Reply

    Linda Bonney Olin June 24, 2013 at 8:27 am

    Misty, you can self-publish a POD paperback edition on CreateSpace for very little $$. Copies of my own book cost me only $2.15 apiece. (Books with a lot of pages or color interior are more expensive, of course.) I ordered a box of 15 to have on hand for in-person events, and the shipping worked out to less than 50 cents per book. You’d have to format the interior and cover a bit differently from ebooks, but if I can do it, so can anyone. :)

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 24, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    And our templates (BookDesignTemplates) can save a lot of time and trouble converting an ebook to a print book format.

    Reply

    Misty Dietz June 24, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    I’ll have to check with my publisher about this. I wonder if they didn’t talk about this…

    Thanks for the responses, Joel and Linda! :)

    Reply

    john hoda June 24, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Had my book launch the week before opening day of Baseball season. I was told by friends and family that they wanted me to sign soft-covers. I had purchased them for reviewers and to give to sports celebrities for endorsements. I read a short piece, signed books, ate doubles on my wife’s custom cupcakes and the sheet cake that had a screen print of the cover for the decoration. I had a blast. Did I send out press releases in time? No, but I will next time. I am still glowing from the launch of my first book

    Reply

    Joel Friedlander June 24, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    Awesome! Good luck with the book, John. It’s always easier the second time around.

    Reply

    Memonk March 28, 2014 at 6:50 am

    The Norwegians and other Europeans who own houses or are rtnideses here, could participate more actively in the improvement of relations with the locals and in common action for the improvement of conditions for all rtnideses as well as for the improvement of the image of our town.Gabriel Haldezos/Plomari VolunteersΟι Νορβηγοί και άλλοι Ευρωπαίοι που έχουν σπίτια στην περιοχή μας θα πρέπει να συμμετέχουν πιο ενεργά στην σύσφινγξη των σχέσεων με τους ντόπιους και στην κοινή δράση για να βελτιώνεται οι ζωή όλων και η εικόνα της πόλης μας.Γ.Χ. Για τους Εθελοντές Πλωμαρίου

    Reply

    Richard Oluyinka August 18, 2013 at 3:45 am

    I will be launching my book titled MAKE THAT MOVE NOW-a self help and personal development book and I have found this short tips powerful to help me have a successful book launch. Thank you.

    Reply

    Anne Russell August 30, 2013 at 5:27 am

    Very helpful info. I’ve 6 published books (only 2 self-published) but never gave a thought to a launch party until now. Your article has me on the way for October 13 in Wilmington NC for new novel Tropical Depression. Thanks!

    Reply

    chinenye Nwokorie Okeke September 17, 2013 at 8:47 am

    I just finished my first book{Entangled. Self published} I want to launch but the expenses been the problem. But now,I can economize,thanks. I still need your help because I need serious help on how to go about the promotion. Thanks again.

    Reply

    Thomas Radzilani April 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Tips were very appropriate as I am planning for self published book.
    Do you offer something to eat or drink?

    Reply

    ABCO Specialties June 10, 2014 at 8:03 pm

    How about another tip for a successful book launch party. Discover “How To Attract More Faces, Book a New Website Launch Platform”.

    Read all about it in Bing, Google, and #YahooNews search listings soon! By the way, online research revealed your “12 Tips for Successful Book Launch Parties” article in Yahoo News.

    Reply

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