One of the absolute best parts about creating a book is releasing it into the big, beautiful world. People can hold it! And read it! And BUY IT! It’s just a fabulous feeling – and one made even better by a well-planned launch party.
With that in mind, here are a few tips that I learned when launching my books, MIND YOUR MONSTERS and HYPNOSIS HARRY.
(1) Figure Out the Timing
8-6 weeks before your scheduled release date start planning. This will give the venue plenty of time to get you on their calendar. And pay attention to when your book is going to be released. Will it be on a holiday? Over summer break? These things may impact where you hold the event.
6-5 weeks ahead of when you think you want to have the party, contact the venue and make your request to have a launch party. Begin working on print advertising as soon as details are confirmed with the store. Newspapers, newsletters and magazines have a long lead time.
4 weeks out, find and order giveaway items like bookmarks or stickers.
3-2 weeks ahead of time, finalize your schedule for the big day and start sending out flyers, emails, etc. Buy craft supplies, like crayons, and décor items you may need, like a colorful tablecloth.
1 week ahead of time, post reminders about the event on social media. Also call your venue and make sure the books have been delivered.
(2) Pick a Venue
The most common site for a book launch party is a – drumroll please – BOOKSTORE! This means either a local Indie bookstore or a larger, chain bookstore. A related option would be toy stores. These places already have the infra-structure for making sales (Hey look, cash registers! Display shelves! Salespeople!) and tools for promoting the event to a relevant audience. They will order the book directly from your publisher / a distributor. You can also hold your party at a place that ties in with your book’s theme, (Theme is cooking? Restaurant. Theme is cars? Auto dealership), just be prepared to handle a few more logistical issues.
(3) Find a Contact
If you don’t already have a relationship with the venue you selected, I suggest going in person and dropping off a copy of your book with a press release and hand written “hello I’m so-and-so” kind of note. Try to meet with the decision-maker, and obtain their contact information for your follow-up call or e-mail.
If you work with an Indie, you may deal directly with the owner. However larger stores often have a dedicated staff assigned to handle events. For example, each Barnes and Noble has a Community Relations Manager (CRM) to handle author visits.
When asking the person to host your party, be sure to remind them of all the wonderful ways in which you will promote the event and make it a success for their store. Will you post flyers? Yes you will. Will you Facebook about it? Yuppers.
As soon as you get your “yes” you should set the date and time. Be sure to ask about restrictions on parking, and what you can bring in (food, for instance). I set my launch party date for 1 week after the publisher’s “official release date” to avoid problems caused by possible shipping delays.
Check in with this contact person in the weeks leading up to your party, and SEND A THANK YOU NOTE or email when it’s all over :)!
What exactly does one do at a launch party? Normally you read your book and then sit down and sign books. I like to add two things to this: (a) crafts and (b) my photo booth. Crafts can be as simple as a stack of coloring sheets and a bin of crayons on a table, or more complicated like my fabulous monster puppets. If you do coloring sheets, ask your publisher for black and white images of pages from your book – try to get ones with the main character!
My photo booth is a plywood stand, with my book covers painted on each side, and a hole for kids to put their faces through. It’s an investment but I love it and use it for school visits too.
A good launch party should be 1-1.5 hours tops, with about 30 ish mins of prep on each end. My last went event like this: I went at 9:30 to set up, The official start time was 10, I was introduced around 10:15, then I read on the stage, then around 10:20 I was in my signing chair as attendees either did crafts, use the photo booth, or wait in line. I was done around 11:30, cleaned up, THANKED MY AMAZING HOSTS!, went home, and drank champagne :).
(5) Be a Promo Machine
So you have a venue, and you’ve worked out a date and time with their staff. You even have a game plane for the big day. Your book will be released in about 5 weeks. Now what? Now you hustle your bustle. Find local papers, radio stations, online newsletters, etc. and see about advertising the party. One of my favorite outlets is Macaroni Kids – a free digital paper for parents. They have local branches everywhere – check it out! With this much lead time you should be able to get your event posted in several places.
Invest in printed flyers. My web designer made a PDF file for me to use but you can design your own. Post them at local gyms, coffee houses, libraries, and so on. If you have a connection with local schools, say you have teacher friends or your children attend elementary school, you might be able to send the flyers home in students’ backpacks. You can stretch your budget by printing two to four flyers on one sheet of paper and cutting them out :)!
About 3-2 weeks before the big day, post about your event on Facebook, Instagram, a blog, Twitter – anywhere you can. As with the flyers and ads, be sure to include all relevant details like date, time, ages, activities, etc. If you have contacts at schools or libraries, email them your flyer and a personal invite.
Post reminders on social media one week before the event.
(6) Prep the Day Before (also known as the AAAAAGGGGGHH! day)
Make a checklist of what you are bringing to the event, enlist helpers, and pack your car.
My checklist includes signing pens, hand sanitizer, 10 extra copies of the book, a colorful tablecloth for the signing table so I can hide stuff beneath, craft supplies, balloons to tie to the signing table so people can find me in the back of the store, giveaways to keep on the signing table, and a small easel for propping up the book. Check to make sure the store will provide a table and chair, and extra tables if you need them for crafting.
(7) Enjoy the Moment!
Well you did it. It’s here. Launch Day! Remember most of the people there are your friends and family and EVERYONE wants you to succeed. Have fun with it, the time will fly by! And ask someone to snap pics during the event so you can post them online later.
And for Pete’s sake, have something fun to do afterwards to continue the celebration. Lunch, a post-party, drinks – you deserve it!
Oh and before I forget, track your mileage and keep all your receipts for taxes during this process!
I hope these suggestions help, and feel free to see more about my launch parties – including photos! - on my blog at www.crookedbook.blogspot.com.
Catherine Bailey is a children’s author from sunny Florida. Her books include MIND YOUR MONSTERS (Sterling Publishing, 2015), HYPNOSIS HARRY (Sky Pony Press, 2016) and LUCY LOVES SHERMAN (Sky Pony Press, 2017), with more on the way. She is represented by Kathleen Rushall of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. When Catherine is not writing, or editing, or swatting at mosquitos, she looks after her husband and two children. All three of them are quite sticky, and none like bedtime, but she loves them anyway. Learn more about Catherine work at www.catherinebaileybooks.com