It’s important to get in the mood. You’ll need to transition from writing (which is an interior process) to event-planning (which is outer-focused). What helped me make the transition was considering the Who/What/When/Where/Why of my launch party.
- Celebration: This is a celebration of your effort. Years of effort. How many book launches are you going to have in your lifetime? Make this one count — have a blast!
- Sales: Your launch is one of your best opportunities to sell books. Ideally, a lot of books. People will be in the mood to buy one — give them a good reason to buy several.
- Buzz: Because you’ll have a party (possibly themed), you have an incredible opportunity to build buzz. This is the one time your efforts will be really concentrated, which means they’ll work synergistically. Every little bit helps—every mention in a local newspaper calendar listing, every social media mention, every flyer … these all create “impressions” (that’s what we call them in the advertising business, which is my background).
If someone has only seen a mention of your launch event in the newspaper upcoming events section, they aren’t likely to attend … unless they have also recently heard you on the radio, and seen a flyer for your event in their local bookstore. So build that buzz.
Like most successful parties, yours needs a theme — and it needs to be more than just “I’m launching my book.” But it doesn’t need to be complicated …
- For Wandering in Paris, we had French food and wine, and a wandering accordion player contributed French music.
- For An Erotic Alphabet, I gave away “quickies” chocolate body frosting.
- For Lost, Kidnapped, Eaten Alive!, I served my grandmother’s Irish brown bread (which I wrote about in the book, and for which I included the recipe in the book). And I served luwak coffee (the most expensive coffee in the world, brewed from the excrement of a small Balinese mammal), also something I had written about in the book.
This kind of creative planning made each event a one-of-a-kind party, which gave people a reason to attend (remember to promote the theme), and to bring friends … and to talk about it afterwards (all buzz is good buzz, even if it’s post-launch).
There are three categories of people you should invite to your book launch:
- Everyone you know! Plus everyone they know. Everyone you meet in line at the grocery store. Create postcards and hand them out everywhere you go. Let your alumni association know what you’re up to. Get the announcement onto websites and into newsletters of any organizations you belong to. Put up flyers in a friend’s store window. And make the event sound fun — give your friends a reason to bring their friends.
- Your social media friends: This is a great excuse for them to meet you in person. Especially if you’re doing a book tour — be sure to let them know when you’ll be in their area … and that there will be a party.
- Everyone else in your target audience: Figure out who they are, where they hang out, what kinds of media they read and listen to — then get onto the radio, podcasts, guest blogs, upcoming events announcements, library flyers, more. Target your target audience.
Make it easy for your audience by removing as many obstacles as possible. Ideally, your launch party is in a place they already know and love — so they don’t even need to think about how to get there or where to park. And you want enough room for a party — including food and drink.
Think about your audience—when can they attend? Weekday or weekend? Day or evening? Think about time of year. Is your book a great beach read? A beautiful Christmas present? An inspiration for graduates? A celebration of mothers?
- The launch party for An Erotic Alphabet worked well in early February, right before Valentine’s Day.
- We had a launch event for Wandering in Paris on Bastille Day, when people were in the mood to celebrate Frenchness, and when the Alliance de Francais was happy to host a party.
- I launched my travel memoir right before Book Passage’s annual Travel Writers Conference in August, so there was some lingering excitement about the launch (The store was packed—more than 100 people showed up! She sold more than 70 books! They served luwak coffee—have you ever tasted that?) and my book was still top of mind with the booksellers. My consignment books were still in the store, and the people I knew on the conference faculty helped promote the book; and the book was on a special display with other travel books.
Planning your launch party is easier — and more fun — if you recruit friends to help.