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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.