As some of you may know, my first book released last week. As a result, much of my life has centered around that release, including planning and executing two separate launch parties for the book. I’m no expert, but I wanted to share a few things I learned about planning a book launch.
A launch can be a wonderful way to celebrate a huge milestone–you released a book into the world! But planning a launch efficiently can help minimize stress on a doubtlessly busy week. (It’s unlikely that your publisher will plan the launch for you–outside of a few massively anticipated books, most authors, even many lead titles, plan their own).
Choose a Venue
There’s no set expectation on where to hold a launch party–after all, this is a party to celebrate you and your book baby and you can set it up wherever makes you happiest. However, there are a few common kinds of locations. I’ve seen friends have a home reception for their book, inviting friends and family to join them at their house or a friend’s house. More commonly, book launches are held at bookstores or libraries.
Whatever venue you pick, you’ll want to set it up several months in advance, as many locations plan their schedule months in advance. A few things to keep in mind: if you hold a launch at a library, you’ll have to make arrangements for an outside seller to be present to sell your books (or sell your own) and not all libraries can/will accommodate this.
Choose a Date
Some people choose to have their launch the day the book releases. My local bookstore suggested waiting a day, to make sure that the books arrived on time, and I’m glad that I did–launch day was exciting and busy enough (I spent lots of time on social media responding to all the congratulations) and adding another thing–wonderful as it would have been–might have been too much stress.
Other people choose to have their events on a weekend when more friends and family are available. Whatever date you choose, you may want to consult with your venue: one of my launches was at a library that is also in high demand for wedding receptions in the spring and summer, making a weeknight date preferable to a weekend. The library also explained that they have higher attendance at book events during the week.
Choose a format
Just as there’s no set expectation on venue, the format really is up to you and what you’re comfortable with. Some writers choose to do a short presentation on their journey to publication and their inspiration for the story. Some choose to do a reading. Some choose to do an interview-style presentation, where a friend asks them informal questions. (I did something similar at a book signing that first week, and it was so much fun. The book bloggers who hosted the event even posted a recap with video.) If public speaking isn’t your thing, consider having an open house, where people can come during a given time frame to see you and get their book signed. I ended up doing both an open house (first event, bookstore) and a presentation/reading (second event, library).
If you hold your event at a bookstore, make sure to find out their expectations/capacity for your planned launch. My first launch was at a smaller independent bookstore, making an open house format ideal; the space was too small for the typical presentation/reading that many authors do. Also be aware that Barnes & Noble stores, while generally happy to host authors, usually cannot facilitate a reading or presentation because of corporate policies.
Again, refreshments aren’t required, but lots of authors choose to celebrate their book birthday with cake or other treats (liquid or otherwise). The refreshments might follow a book theme or they might simply be something that you like. It’s your party!
However, do talk to your venue beforehand. Many places require that if you serve refreshments, they come from a source with a food handler’s permit. I’d considered bringing refreshments to a signing as well, but the bookstore told me they preferred not to have food in the store.
Consider other activities
Really, the only expectation for a launch is for you to be present and to sign books. Anything outside of that is bonus. In my case, because my first launch was an open house, I wanted visitors to have something to do other than stand in line, so after talking with the bookstore owner, we arranged for a couple of activities: two related to the book (a quiz about magical orders and some temporary tattoos) and one was a photo booth with period props just for fun.
Consider raffle prizes
When I started attending book launches a couple years ago, I started noticing a trend: many authors offered raffle prizes at their launch. I thought it was a lot of fun–I love winning things, even if it almost never happens. There’s a wide variety of what you can give away–books from authors you love, jewelry, items featured in the novel, etc. I gave away a Funko doll, books, jewelry related to the book, and a set of the calligraphy pens I used at the signing.
Write a press release
When you have the major details of your launch ironed out, consider sending a press release to your local papers, your alma mater, local arts councils, and other news outlets. This doesn’t have to be long–in my case, it was a brief explanation of the event (when, where, what would be happening) and then a description of me and my book. Some news outlets just picked up the event details, some never responded, but at least one printed the press release in full.
Take care of yourself
One thing I’ve been slow to learn is that our bodies often find it hard to distinguish between good stress and bad stress. Having a book to launch is a wonderful thing, but it can be stressful. I found that making lists and planning as much as I could in advance helped with the launch week stress, but it still takes a toll. Plan downtime if you can.
If you’re an introvert, like me, keep in mind that even though seeing so many friends, family, and readers can be amazing, it’s still a lot of time to spend extroverting and being the center of attention. It may take you a few days to recover. (Or, in my case, your body might respond by getting physically sick).
Mostly, be gentle with yourself. It’s your party–do as much or as little as you want. And don’t forget to ask for help! Neither of my launches could have happened without friends who helped with set-up and various activities.
What questions do you have about book launch parties? What’s been your favorite element of the launch parties you’ve attended?
Rosalyn Eves is a part-time writer, part-time English professor, and full-time mother of three. She loves all things BBC, especially costume dramas and mysteries. When not wrangling children (and sometimes when she should be wrangling children), she’s often found reading. Her debut novel, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, is now available.