Book Launch

Promoting yourself with a well-executed book launch party

If you’re self-publishing or releasing a book through a small press, being pampered isn’t usually part of the equation; you’ll have to take the lead on planning your own launch party.

But don’t get fever chills; it’s not all that different from throwing a Super Bowl party, only YOU are the main attraction and hopefully overly-enthusiastic fans won’t be screaming at you if you drop a word or don’t enunciate clearly during your reading.

Why should you plan a book launch party?

1. Press coverage- You’ve put months or years of your life into writing your book. That past investment is invisible to the public, BUT the pressure of that time expenditure is pushing towards a single point– the book release: an event worthy of celebration.

It’s also the time to focus your efforts on attracting critics, journalists, agents, and bookstore owners who can help you move your career forward. If you can make your book release truly newsworthy, you’ll have some assistance building a buzz from industry folks and the local media.

2. Spread the words- Sure, you hope your family and friends show up, maybe even a few enemies if it helps make the place look full. But if you can attract media attention for the event, there’s a chance you’ll have the opportunity to earn new readers and fans– fans who will recommend your book to their friends, who will recommend it to their friends, and so forth.

3. Contextualize your writing life-  Have a habit of getting lost in thought during the middle of dinner? Possessive of your time early in the morning before you take your kids to school? Irritable and manic for a few days after receiving a rejection letter?

Writing is hard work, both in terms of process and emotional ups and downs. Sometimes your friends and family just don’t understand. Granted, there are few excuses for rudeness or shirking your responsibilities, but… ya know, writers can be weird sometimes, and usually there’s an explanation.

A book launch party is the perfect opportunity to showcase your work, your quirks, and talk about some of the dramatic highlights that happen behind-the-scenes. Now you can show the people closest to you that there’s a method to your madness, but that you also appreciate their patience and faith.

4. Have fun- Let’s not forget the basics here. A book launch is a big achievement. Live a little!

Where should I host my book launch party?

The obvious answers are either a bookstore or your home.

A bookstore (try your local independent bookstores or Barnes & Noble) will lend an air of literary credibility to the event. Local media may be more inclined to cover your book launch if it is tied in with an established bookseller. Plus, you’ll be able to call upon some of that retailer’s promotional resources (event calendars, posters in the store, website, email newsletters, etc.) But, on the flip side, you’re confined to their space, their rules, their timeline.

If you really want to be comfortable, you could host the event in your home, decorate as you see fit, and cuss to your heart’s content. The drawbacks to this approach would be potentially limited space, cleanup, and (-consider if this is you or not-) some people feel awkward about promoting themselves and their book in their own home. They end up feeling like what they’re really doing is entertaining guests.

Those aren’t your only options, though. Libraries are always a possibility. Or you could rent an event space. Better yet, find a space that is sympathetic to the theme or topic of your book and cross-promote.

For instance, written a nautical adventure? Host your party at a yacht club or boating store. Written a book about early motherhood? Party down in the local birthing center (maybe not in the delivery room, though). Written the untold history of the Gemini Program? Maybe you should hit up the closest science museum.

You get the point– synergy! (Yes, I hate that word.)

How do I prepare for my book launch party?

Easy. Just follow these steps:

1. Approach the desired venue with your idea- Be prepared with a press kit and pitch. Tell them why this book launch is not only good for YOU, but why it will help bring new business to their store or new interest to their cause. They’ll also want to know how many people you can bring out for the party.

2. Work with the event space/venue/store on a promotional plan- Divvy up the responsibilities if possible, or at the very least, have a discussion that outlines all the promotional activities you plan to do. They’ll see you’re serious, and you’ll have a plan to execute on.

3. Enlist help- Will there be food? Costumes? Props? Decorations? A podium? Music? A cage of doves to set free? Help with parking?

Find some folks to help out. And yes, family and friends are always a good place to start. Beyond that, see if caterers, bands, and other local businesses would be interested in sponsoring or assisting somehow.

Also, try to find an author, book critic, or other personality to act as a kind of informal MC. They’ll handle your brief introduction at the beginning of the event. And hey, everyone loves endorsements!

4. Promote the hell out of it!- You may go on a book tour or have future readings and signings, but you’re never going to have another book LAUNCH for this book. Do it right. Invite friends, family, and fans via email, by phone, in person, over social networks. Remind them of the book launch in your email newsletter. Create a Facebook event. Tweet and blog about your preparations and what people can expect. Shoot a video invitation and put it on YouTube. Make it sound fun!

Design fliers and posters. Hang them in coffee shops, libraries, bookstores, and community centers.

Let the press know at least 2 months in advance (though if you can give them 3 months, they’ll love you for it) by sending them a succinct (but exciting!) press release and press kit. This includes the regional newspapers, local art papers, weekly rags, literary journals and reviews, colleges and universities, individual professors who may be able to inform students, radio stations (including local NPR affiliates, community radio, and college radio), online events calendars, book bloggers, cable access channels, local news and TV news magazines, and just about anyone else you can think of.

See our article on creating a digital press kit for your book.

5. Follow up-  Keep a detailed spreadsheet of all the people and media outlets you’ve contacted, along with their contact info, and the date of first contact. Follow up with them a couple weeks later asking if they received your press release, if they would be covering the event, and if you can do anything to accommodate them. Interviews? Free books for giveaways? Contribute to their blogs in exchange for some coverage? etc.

Then follow up a second time as the event nears. Sometimes scheduled stories are dropped or miss deadline, and maybe your event is the perfect last-minute addition to fill some dead air or white space.

Ha. I said these steps were easy. I lied a little. But if you’ve gotten this far, might as well show up to the party!

The party itself

Firstly, it’s good to remember that although you’re the star of the evening, peoples’ attention spans are short. No one likes a conceited blowhard, and no one wants to listen to your read your work for an hour. I suggest you keep things on-time, to-the-point, and then allow a little leisure time at the end for those that like to linger. Something a little like this:

7:30pm- Doors open. Be there to meet and greet briefly with guests. Put your helpers on snack or drink duty.

7:50pm- You sneak off to compose yourself, calm the nerves, use the restroom (and yes, you should force yourself to beforehand since public speaking does strange things to your waste-management system.)

8:00pm- Official start time for event. Guests should have all arrived. Latecomers will suffer evil glares.

If you’re in a bookstore, the store owner, manager, or events coordinator will announce that things are underway, thank folks for coming, talk a little bit about their venue/store, announce upcoming events, and then introduce the person who will be introducing you.

If you’re hosting the party yourself, a spouse, partner, or friend can handle this initial welcome.

8:02pm- The introductions- You don’t want to have to brag about yourself, so this person takes the bullet for you! They get up and sing your praises for 2 or 3 minutes as anticipation builds and the audience makes that strange transition from a group of family, friends, and acquaintances to adoring fans.

8:05pm- You’re on! – If you’re particularly adept at public speaking, and if you’ve scored it out ahead of time, you can use your reading time to weave between actual recitations, readings, annotations, asides, back-stories, personal confessions, and more! (Natasha Trethewey is masterful at this). If not, I suggest you work the personal details and process part of your story into the first 5-10 minutes. Then you can use the remaining time to read straight from your work.

8:30pm- Q&A- I know a lot of folks who think “Oh, I’ll know most of the attendees. A Q&A sounds lame. They’ll feel like they have to ask something to be polite!”

That may be true in some cases. But oftentimes a reading allows folks who know you quite well to see a different side of you; they get curious, and tend to ask question because they genuinely want to have a discussion with you about these new revelations.

And if you tend to get nervous thinking about Q&As, remember that “I don’t know, I’ll have to do some soul searching and put the answer on my blog” is a perfectly good answer.

8:45pm- Thanks and goodbyes – You or the MC can then thank folks for attending. If you want the party to rage on afterwards, go all night! Folks will appreciate being released from their official responsibilities, and then you can all unwind together.

The ultimate rule: Keep a positive attitude. You can be in persona if you want, acting mysterious, cool, gregarious, funny, or whatever else, but be kind to your attendees. Show genuine appreciation for THEM and they’ll care about you in return. Plus, you never know who “they” may be– a critic, a blogger, an acquisitions editor who is in town while visiting parents, or your next #1 fan.

——-

Well, those are some of my thoughts on throwing your own book launch party. This has been a long article. If you’ve read to the end, thanks for sticking with me. And if you have any thoughts or experiences to share, please feel free to comment in the section below.

-Chris R. at BookBaby

All guides

Image via Shutterstock.com.

Chris Robley

About Chris Robley

Chris Robley has written 611 posts in this blog.

is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."

20 thoughts on “How to Throw a Book Launch Party That Isn’t a Waste of Time

  1. Mark Broncco says:

    Thank you for sharing great this tips. For my case, I always done some survey even before I write my book in any niche. Survey was done using lead page to collect emails in return of some free ebooks in a specific niche. This process is an important step in a launching procedure to know what our readers want. I would suggest to try http://boocku.com for great landing page for books which works really really well for collecting emails. Hope it helps. Regards

  2. Ana Hernandez says:

    My self-published book will be released in January. Your tips gave me great ideas for my launch party!! Thank you!

  3. Sharelynne Phillips says:

    Hello and thanks for ALOT of things I had not thought of!!!
    I TRULY appreciate your taking the time to write the above!! I have just published my first Children’s Book–Maxine’s Goldfish Extravaganza and so now the fun begins.
    I thought of alot of the things but alot I had not so again thanks for those!!
    You are the third Launch Party suggestions I have read and it was not a waste of time…

    Thanks again!! Sharelynne 🙂

  4. Don’t think you only have to have one party! I had two….different groups of people came to each one. Since I had workd in a hospital for decades before I self published my book, a friend suggested I have a launch in the hospital library…Whaaat! Crazy idea! It was a poetry book, not a book on prostrate, pneumonia or psoriasis. What I have to lose? Turns out the librarian was n big fan of literature and he had never had a book launch before. Everyone who knew me came and I sold almost 50 books in three hours.

    My second launch was more general and it was in a private home. That went well too as it was geared to a different crowd.

    It’s really nervous wracking to arrange and I had all sorts of fears and I securities about my launches. However, they turned out to be lots of fun and I even enjoyed myself.

    The tips above are great and I intend to incorporate them …..for my next book launch. Good luck to everyone planning their party,

  5. Thank you for the valuable information. When I worked in publishing, we set up launches/parties, from small to elaborate. I could have used some of your tips back then, without having to go through all the trial and error.

  6. Amyna says:

    Thank you so much for this invaluable information. I am trying to publish my second book now and this is very helpful.

    Being a shy person, i may not be able to speak well but I will certainly try.

  7. Thanks for so much of practical information. As I start applying what I have learned I hope to share with my experience.

  8. I self Published my first Book last year and am doing a Sequel this year
    However I am working on another one which I plan to publish next year for a very special occasion and this has given me some marvellous idea for a Party
    I have already made a start and bought clothes for the occasion and am so excited I could burst with it
    Thank you so much
    I have some special friends (1) which I want to invite and ideas are swirling round my mind like a swiss roll.

  9. L.McKinnon says:

    Thank you for sharing your tips. I am looking to launch a book party soon and I will definitely reference your ideas.

  10. Stephanie says:

    Thank you so much for your tips! Official launch In about a month!

  11. Joyce A Galloway says:

    Thank you so very much for the advice. I will be using it for my launch party. My book entitled “The Sad Apple Tree” will be ready by the end of June and I am so excited. Thank you again for taking the time to help us.

    Warmly,

    Joyce Galloway

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