A question was asked of me, recently, by a member of the FBCW. “How do I go about planning a book launch?”
It was a wonderful question, and I thought it deserved a blog post! I’ve seen many hosted, and they’re all a bit different–there is really no right way to go about it. This plan assumes, of course, that you’re in charge of your own book launch–this may or may not be the case, depending on whether you self-publish, or traditionally publish.
Venue: I would suggest contacting your local library, or a local bookstore, though anywhere could work for a launch. If you have a historical novel, for example, a museum might be an excellent location. Think of what you have in your area, and pick somewhere that is big enough to accommodate a reading. If this is your first book, you probably would have between 15-40 people attending, depending on how well you promote it, how popular the genre is, and how many friends & family are coming. Most bookstores and libraries will be more than happy to accommodate you for an afternoon or evening launch at no charge, though some bookstores will ask for a portion of your book sales in exchange. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as that will give them an incentive to help promote the event. Consider available parking, how central the venue is, and if the venue will help with promotions.
Picking a day: I would suggest picking a date two months in advance at the minimum–the more time the better. It’s better to wait to launch the book, but be able to advertise the launch, then to get it out as soon as you have the book in hand. Think about the day and time you’re picking carefully. If there is another literary event that day, or it’s a holiday where most people will be celebrating, it’s probably not the best time. If your target demographic is young adults or children, you may want to pick a weekend afternoon–otherwise, just consider when the people you want to draw in would have the freest time. This is actually the hardest part, as there is inevitably something happening that will coincide with your chosen day.
Promotions: You will want to focus a lot of attention on promotion. If you are tech savvy or have a competent friend, consider making a poster up. Canva.com provides some great templates and is quite easy to use. Download a .jpg of your poster, and share it everywhere you can online–your social media, with local newspapers, and any arts or writing groups in the area. Print some as well, and get them posted at all libraries, community centers, and bookstores in your area. Even if you aren’t able to make up a poster, summarize the information, and send it to everyone you can as early as possible. If you are a member of the FBCW, you’re able to promote the launch with us, but we also need some notice to get it into the newsletter and on social media.
Refreshments: You don’t need to offer food or drink, but if you have a budget, you could bring in a couple of platters from a local grocer–vegetables and dip, and cookies, perhaps. If you have a good budget, you can even have the event catered by a local restaurant–food is always a welcome touch and often draws people in if it’s mentioned in the promotions. Also, many coffee shops will supply free carafes in exchange for a thank-you before or after your reading.
The Day Of: You should arrive at the venue at least 45 minutes in advance, as you want to ensure the book display looks attractive, that there is a table set aside for signing books, and that everything is ready for your launch. People will often arrive quite early, so it’s good to get settled before you have to greet the first few enthusiasts. Come prepared with a small selection of your book to read–something gripping, and no more than 15 minutes long. While people are there for the book, it’s rarely fun to listen for too long. Spend the first five minutes or more of the scheduled start time greeting people, and welcoming them–this allows the people who are late (there is usually at least one) time to arrive. Welcome everyone in, and open with an introduction to the crowd–who you are, what you’ve written, and anything else you’d like to tell your potential readers. The introduction should be 5-10 minutes long, and then you can begin reading. Feel free to pause and comment on your current passage once or twice while you read. Once you’ve finished reading, tell the people to mingle, buy a book, and grab a snack while you rest your voice–you’ll probably need a drink after all that–and you’ll be back to answer questions in fifteen minutes or so. The Q&A can last 5 minutes or 45 minutes, depending on the crowd and what you’ve written, and after that, let people know you’ll be selling and/or signing books, and happy to chat with them over there.