24 May Do-It-Yourself book launch guide, part one
So you’ve published your masterpiece. Congratulations! It’s been a long journey but the endless decisions about publishing options, cover designs, book blurbs, sales platforms and author profiles are worth it when you finally see your work in print… Now it’s time to celebrate.
In part one of my guide to organising your own book launch party, we ask some basic questions that will help you decide why, where and when to have a launch. In part two, we’ll be looking at practical considerations like inviting a guest launcher, putting together an invitation and guest list, your event running order, and so on. This is written with a budget-conscious, self-published author in mind. If you want to go nuts and organise the party of the century, by all means – go for it!
First things first: what do you want your launch to achieve? Your goals may affect your choice of venue, the size of the budget you decide to set aside for the event and your guest list, so it’s worth thinking about what you want it to do for you.
Possible goals include:
- To sell books to personal and professional contacts
- To raise a glass or two with family and friends
- To generate media coverage (through the presence of well-known or authoritative launchers or celebrity guests, or because a controversial or newsworthy announcement will be made in the launch speech)
- To generate material for social media coverage e.g. tweets of speech excerpts, photos for your Facebook page or website, and so on.
If you’re planning on inviting mostly family and friends for an informal celebration, a more casual venue and a flexible running order (timeline of events) is fine. If you’re planning on breaking news in your speech that you think media might be interested in, you’ll perhaps need to think about accommodating TV cameras (who will need an unobstructed view of the speeches) and radio journalists (who, in an ideal world, would get a ‘media splitter’ – a direct feed to your microphone – for better quality audio). If you’re hoping for social media coverage, you might consider decorating the venue with posters that will advertise your book in the background of photos or coming up a hashtag for guests to use on Twitter. Lots to consider.
Choosing a Venue
Sometimes the venue finds itself; for example, it makes sense to launch a book about a football team at their home ground. Whatever your subject, consider sourcing a venue that helps ‘position’ your book by adding gravitas or authenticity, or one that will be fun to attend, or consider these more general options.
A bookshop or library:
- They have existing customer mailing lists to which to promote your launch
- Those with a healthy events program have lots of experience in hosting launches, meaning fewer costly mistakes
- They have an existing process for selling books
- They often offer to manage your RSVP list
- They may charge a venue hire fee, particularly if you don’t want your event open to the public
- They sometimes have standing agreements with caterers, which can be more expensive than doing it yourself
- They may not allow catering at all
The author’s home or workplace:
- No hire fee
- The location will be familiar to many of your guests
- Location can be a problem in terms of persuading journalists to come
- Potential insurance issues
- Space considerations
- You’re stuck with the washing up!
Public venues (e.g. bars, restaurants, cafés, galleries, cinemas):
- Catering and staffing options are inbuilt
- They’re in a good location
- They often specify a relatively high minimum spend
- They can be reluctant to offer exclusive use of their venue so you might have to settle for a roped off area, which can be noisy and hard to manage.
Once you’ve settled on a venue, does it have this basic equipment?
- A table for book signing/bookselling
- A powerpoint for the bookseller’s EFTPOS machine (where relevant)
- Audio equipment (a microphone and speakers), where the room needs it?
Choosing a Date
This might be determined by your choice of venue but, as a loose guide:
- Weekday evenings work well, especially for inner city venues, preferably Monday to Wednesday
- 6-8pm will help you capture the after-work crowd.
Potential costs to consider:
- Venue hire
- Catering (food and drink, and equipment hire)
- Staffing (wait staff to serve food and drinks, people to sell books, etc)
- Invitation design and distribution
- The cost of executing any other promotions you might be planning.
Ways to minimise costs:
- Securing sponsors for wine/food, guest goodie bags, competition prizes
- Calling in favours from your existing network
- Negotiating free venue hire in return for a minimum spend on catering.
If it’s a low-key affair, keep it simple. I usually allow for two drinks per person (let your final RSVP number guide you) and buy some wine at a ratio of two whites to one red plus some beer and, of course, non-alcoholic options (sparkling water and soft drinks or juice). And if you want to offer food (optional, in my opinion), get a couple of sushi platters or cheese platters or other snacks (mini-pies and quiches go down well in Australia!)… anything that will feed larger numbers of people easily and cheaply.
Of course, if you want to push the boat out and design your own cocktails or theme your food, do. Let the champagne and caviar flow! Just don’t forget the fireworks license…
That’s all for now. In part two, we’ll look at:
- Promoting the launch
- Inviting a guest launcher
- Putting together an invitation and a guest list
- Selling books
- Running order/speeches
Or for more on this topic, plus a wealth of other insider tips and tricks to self-promotion, why not treat yourself to a copy of my book The DIY Book PR Guide?