WHAT IS A BOOK LAUNCH PARTY?
For starters, it’s a “party” to celebrate the birth (or launching) of a new book and to celebrate the author for recognizing an achievement that so few have accomplished! A book launch party (not to be confused with book signings) can be highly creative, carried out in a variety of venues and not necessarily at a bookstore.
Depending on the topic of your book, book launch parties have occurred at open markets, wine stores, delis, niche retail stores, people’s homes, at offices, hotel conference rooms, restaurants, and more.
Just remember, you’ve worked hard writing your book, getting it through editing, publishing and printing stages, etc. Now, you deserve to celebrate with a book launch party (per book you write) to signify the completion of an arduous, personal journey and share your ambitions to market and sell your book.
Having said that, let’s jump right into my checklist.
HOW DO YOU SET UP A BOOK LAUNCH PARTY?
Book launch parties can be a lot of fun (and profitable) when they’re well planned and promoted to family, friends, customers, clients, associates and others. Here are a few quick tips for orchestrating a successful book launch party every time.
1. _____ LOCATION
Depending on your budget, the number of people you invite and the environment will determine the venue for your party. If you have a small budget ($50 to $150), you might have the party at your home if space is available or at a clubhouse of sorts. If you have a larger budget $150 to $250 or more), consider having your book launch party at a restaurant (in a private serving room) or in a hotel conference room.
One idea is to have your book launch party where your readers hang out. Do you love coffee? See if your local coffee shop will allow you to host a book launch party. They should love the idea, because you can bring dozens of potential coffee customers to their store.
Take a few hours (or days) to research the best location ahead of time. Call every hotel and local restaurant in your area, including coffee shops and other locations you think might be a possible location for your event. Make note of your findings on paper or in your computer (such as an Excel spreadsheet).
You’re looking to compare price, amenities, amount of space available, will there be tables/chairs/benches/booths, a dance floor (optional), what time do you have to end the party, are you responsible for 100% of the clean up or is there a crew at the location that can help, etc.
You might tell them you know other authors who would like to potentially have their launch party there too. If yours is a success, it will be easy to recommend their location to other authors. The location owner(s) might like the business. Look out for them, and they’ll look out for you.
Once you’ve picked your location, you can start planning the rest of your book launch party event.
2. _____ PARTY SUPPLIES & SETUP
(A) How many people are you going to invite? 10? 20? 50? 100? Prepare an initial guest list so you can start making a list of all the supplies you might need to make the event a successful one. Are you going to have an intimate party, or invite a boatload of people who are then encouraged to invite their friends and associates?
(B) Name tags are a good idea especially if there will be a large group. First name basis creates more intimacy and encourages people to mingle and talk about your book. You can either buy generic name tags from a party store or have them customized with your name, date and book title on them. Your call.
(C) Have 50 to 100 books available for purchase and/or distribution depending on the size crowd you anticipate. If you’re selling your book at the party, designate a sales table and someone to manage it unless your books are unsigned and then you should be present, but have help to handle sales transactions. Your job is to meet, greet and autograph books. If you expect a really large crowd, you might pre-autograph your books. Question, are you hosting two or three book launch parties close together? Then, you might want to order 100 to 500 of your books. It’s easy to pick up and setup a new book launch party at a new setting. It’s not easy (and costly) to ship books quickly from the printer. So, plan ahead.
(D) Consider having two tables, one table to sell your book and a second table to sign the books people buy. You might place the table to purchase your book right next to the door where people walk in so they can’t miss it. “Hi, and welcome to YOUR NAME’s book launch party. Would you like to buy a book?” The person managing the sales table can let people know, “YOUR NAME will be autographing books later this evening.”
By getting books in the hands of people as soon as they walk in, when guests see other guests walking around with your book in hand, they can share your enthusiasm and encourage others to skim through it and perhaps buy a few books for their friends who couldn’t make it to the event or for those who don’t already have their copies.
3. _____ GUEST LIST
Who do you want to invite to your book launch party? While it was mentioned earlier to create an initial guest list, this is the time we really want to give it some attention.
When selling books at your book launch party, you’ll want to ask each person to bring guests and be prepared to serve a small beverage at a minimum such as bottled water, juice or soda.
Your goal should be to SELL books either full-price, discounted or charge a door fee and give away a book with every ticket sold. Invite your friends, family, clients, vendors, neighbors, the local media (i.e., print/radio/TV), and representatives from special interest groups if appropriate.
Have a photographer on hand to capture special moments that you can share with the media or post online at your website and/or via social media. While you could hire a professional photographer, consider asking one of your helpers to be committed to taking photographs and following you around the room to take pictures of you with different guests (with books in hand) who have arrived.
If sending out invitations, ask invitees to RSVP so you know how to plan for the group size you expect. There are a host of event scheduling services you can use online to help generate a true list of RSVP’s. Check out these websites: EventBrite.com, MeetUp.com, EventsBot.com, Eventful.com, RSVPBook.com, and RegOnline.com.
Many people have never attended a book launch party, so make your party eventful and memorable. This is your chance to shine and promote your celebrity/author status. Have fun, take lots of pictures, and thank everyone for coming as you greet them.
4. _____ CATERING
Depending on the size of your book launch party, consider feeding them. It’s a party! Consider catering finger foods, chips/veggies and dips, small sandwiches (i.e., food that doesn’t require dishes or utensils), bottled water, beer/wine (optional; check the rules of the establishment where you’re hosting your book launch party), champagne (always a nice touch).
Some local restaurants have catering services and can help serve food and beverages at your event. Otherwise, get referrals, ask around, maybe call your mom (hey, I have before and she really helped out; haha), and above all, compare prices to get the best deal for your budget. Plan on spending at least $100, if not $200 or more (if you have that to spend).
5. _____ BOOKS FOR SALE
Most people who attend book launches will purchase a book so you need to be prepared to SELL. You didn’t write it to give it away, per se.
You can offer a special deal for people who attend your event (such as buy one, get the second one for half price or buy two and get the third one FREE), versus paying full price for your book online.
Set up a table that’s easily accessed by all traffic in the room and have about $200 in change (i.e., $1’s, $5’s, $10’s, $20’s, etc.) to cover cash transactions.
Another book pricing/selling tip is if your book sells for $14.95, consider selling it for $10 even. If it sells for $19.95, consider selling it for $20 even.
You might also consider what YOUR COSTS are to buy your own book. For example, if your book costs you $4.95 to print it (e.g., hard costs), even though you might sell it for $19.95, why not sell it for $10 even. This way, people have no problem buying your book with a 50% discount off regular retail rates. You still make a small profit and remember, the goal here anyway is to get books in the hands of people attending your event.
When people at your event have books in hand (with ease; discounted price), that makes for great pictures with books in hand and testimonials! Those who couldn’t make it will be paying full price, so keep that little idea in mind.
For credit card sales, do you have a mobile credit card swiper? You can get these from PayPal.com or Square.com and use them to accept credit card payments in real time.
Otherwise, have an order form which you can hand to your book buyer to fill out with their credit card and billing information. I like to make 1/4 page order forms on an 8.5″ x 11″ sheet of paper. Picture 4 order forms on a sheet. Print, cut and hand out for folks to fill in their information.
After the customer fills in the order form, proof it by reviewing it carefully while holding their credit card in hand. Read each number carefully. Don’t forget the CVC (3-digit security code on the back). Later that night, you can go home and process these orders by hand if you have a virtual terminal, shopping cart or other means of doing so.
You can also use any number of mobile apps to accept payment, such as Venmo.com and Cash.me. While it’s advisable to have several options to pay, limit it to 2-3 only because you don’t want too many sources accepting money for you only to have to track where it all went; did it go into the right account, etc.
If you do ask someone to manage the sales table, check in with them every 15-30 minutes. “How’s it going? Any problems? Questions? Can I see the order forms? How many books have been sold?” Do you know where the monies are being stored, if cash/checks are collected? You better! In fact, if it were me, I’d keep that on my person as it starts to accumulate. Unless you trust the person managing your monies the book sales table, take my advice, “trust no one, suspect everyone!”
The purpose of all this is to watch over any/all monies that should (and better) be receiving, and not someone else’s pocket. Remember, you might know everyone (i.e., guests) YOU invited, but you might not know the people your guests invite. So, as the saying goes, “KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE MONEY!”
6. _____ SPEECH PREPARATION
Be prepared to give a short presentation about your book, why you wrote it, how you wrote it, what you went through to write it, what inspired you to write it, and what you hope to accomplish with it.
Now that you’re a published author, maybe you can offer consulting services, conduct seminars, etc. Mention those things in your presentation. “With the debut of my book, I’m also debuting a new service for anyone interested or if they know people who might benefit from __________. Let me know when I see you here at the event tonight.”
Plan what you are going to say so you’re not just winging it when the time comes. Prepare a small outline of topics you can keep on a small index card if you like to keep you on track with what you want to say. Such as:
“Thank you, everyone, for coming tonight. It’s so great to see everyone here. It means so much to me. Thank you (name), for your helping with the event. Thank you (name), for … and (name) for … When I first started writing (book title) I … … … I hope you agree and find the book to … … … I’ll keep it short so we can get back to the party. I look forward to meeting you all and let’s take a pictures!”
Something like that. Limit your speech to 1025 minutes to ensure you have everyone’s attention, yet don’t consume all their party time. Most people will be looking forward to a brief presentation or announcement by you, so be ready.
You might also close out your presentation with something like:
“… and that’s it! I’ll be over at the book signing table for anyone who would love to have their book autographed. I can’t wait to meet you and, say, ‘Hi.’ So, bring your book and the people you brought with you if you did so I can meet them too. Thank you, everybody!”
7. _____ DOOR PRIZES
Why not? You might offer a number of giveaway prizes at your party in keeping with the theme of your book or to add a little variety to the event.
FREE autographed copies of your book would be a bonus for someone to give away to their friend/associate if they already bought their book. How about an audio recording of your book if you had time to record it before your book launch party?
Timing is everything. So, after you give your presentation, you might announce the winners’ names when the group has gathered to hear you speak about your book. This is a great opportunity for recognition and publicity, so get photos of you with the winners.
8. _____ PUBLICITY
Consider contacting your local media networks (i.e., local town newspapers, magazines, radio and TV stations) to let them know that a local author is launching a new book!
Either call them up personally, or send them an eMail invitation. Ask yourself, before you do call them or email them, how can your book tie in with something going on in the world, current events, something happening locally, or would just generate a nice article for their publication, website, blog, radio/TV show?
Ask for one of their media representatives to interview you, take a few pictures, etc. You can add these connections to your publicity campaign and your online press room. You do have a website with a press room, right? You better! If you don’t, check out my PRESS ROOM CHECKLIST and get that going for yourself a.s.a.p.
9. _____ PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO RECORDING
DO NOT have a book launch party WITHOUT TAKING PICTURES (at a minimum) and filming video of certain segments of the event. The whole idea for taking pictures and video is to share the event with others online who couldn’t attend the book launch party.
What are you options? You could have a friend or family member take pictures or you could hire a professional. Professionals might charge between $100 to $500 for the event and retain copyrights to the photos (and video) they take/record. So, keep that in mind.
Take pictures of people walking in the door, standing in line to buy your book and have it signed, with you on stage or speaking to the crowd about your book, people networking and talking to one another, the book table itself, and anything else you think should be photographed and/or video recorded for use on your website and in your press room.
10. _____ SUPPORT
Depending on the size of your book launch party, you’ll need help with planning, setting up and cleanup. It’s best if you have a functional team to free you up to meet guests, sign books, work with the press, etc. These people (who you need to help you) could be friends, family or customers of yours who are so excited for you to launch your book and are there for you from start to finish.
Next to creating a guest list, create a “support personnel list” of those who are committed to showing up and helping you. Meet with them before the event to go over duties, roles and what’s to be done.
Check in with them, several days/weeks before the event, a couple times per week, on up to the day of the event. Keep tabs on these people, remind them, and thank them (often) for helping you.
Those helping you should show up to the event a minimum of 2-3 hours before the event actually takes place. Have you rehearsed in your mind how long you think it will take to set up? Usually, this is determined by the venue you chose, the number of people you expect to attend, and what activities you plan on having (if any) at your book launch party.
If you have other book selling ideas, include them in your marketing plan. Highlight the marketing tactics you’ll put into action first and schedule other activities within a short period of time. Use the momentum of your party to catapult your stardom as an author!
Here are some photos of a book launch party that I helped to set up for a friend. Not only did I plan the refreshments and agenda for the book party, I also took photographs of the event that we could publish on her website, the local newspaper and share with others. So, get inspired as to what your book launch party might look like too. Best of luck to you!