Chip MacGregor

June 6, 2016

Ask the Agent: How can we create a book launch party?


Some wrote to ask, “I’ve been told we should have a launch party when my book comes out. Is that a good idea? And what what makes a good launch party?”

I think a book launch party is a great idea — it allows an author to involve friends and acquaintances in the release of the book, is an easy way to garner some local media, and can help you kick off book sales. (Besides, it can be great for an author’s ego, if done right.)  Let me offer a couple of suggestions to help make it a success…

First and most important, you want to make sure you INVITE people. In other words, don’t sit around and hope people show — be proactive and make sure you get a house full. That means you need to find a big group who can be supportive, like your local writer’s group, you church congregation, the organizations you belong to, all your relatives, people at the clubs or sports you’ve joined, and all your fans in the region. Pick a venue you can fill up, since getting 40 people in a tiny bookstore makes it feel like a great party, but getting those same 40 people in a huge shopping mall gallery can feel empty. Determine a definite start and end time, and make sure everyone sees it’s a celebration. Again, you’re trying to get the word out, and get commitments from some folks to attend.
Second, if you really want to make people show up, offer an incentive — books at a discount, or free chocolate, or wine and cheese (a few big boxes of wine don’t cost much and seem to bring people out of the woodwork). If you can’t do wine, ask a couple people to bring their latte machines and offer free lattes to everyone. Your only expense is the price of coffee. But have something that is an incentive to their showing up — one author I know had a drawing for a trip, another had local stores donate a couple items for a giveaway. Again, treat this as a party, not a sales event. A drawing works great if there is a friend who can donate something really cool. (Um… I don’t know what that would be, but maybe something associated with the book? Tickets to something? A trip to the book’s location?) It’s got to be something that people will want — and all they have to do is show up and you will do a drawing of some kind.
Third, involve your local bookstore. If the owner or manage of your local store has a mailing list, ask them if they’d be willing to send an email blast to everyone, or include information about the release party in their mailer. Depending on the space, you might be able to do it in the story (often a great place for a signing, and it brings potential customers in). If you do that, ask them to post a sign ahead of time in the store, to draw in other readers.
Fourth, tell anyone who has your other novels they want signed to bring them, and that you will sign all books for free. Once people are inside, go around and greet them, have a black Sharpie with you, and know what it is you’re going to sign in each book. (Hint: Make sure you ask how to spell their name, even if it’s something easy like Susie or Nancy. There are currently 27 potential spellings for the name “Jasmine.”)
Fifth, make sure to contact the local media. Ask a local newspaper writer to come do a feature story. Check to see if the local radio station wants to send someone. Call the TV stations — use a “local girl makes good” sort of angle for them. See if the local writers groups or community arts councils want to do an interview or feature ahead of time, to let the community know.
Sixth, you don’t have to have a big presentation, but it’s good manners to say thanks to the group, and if you have any talent in front of people, you may want to do a short reading from your work, then take questions, then invite people to buy a copy and you’ll sign it. This is the time to offer the giveaway, if you’re having one.
Again, the most important thing is to invite people and make them feel like they’re going to GET something out of attending, rather than you want them to come BUY something. Make sense?
We’ve all heard stories of terrible launch parties — three people in a room set up for three hundred. You can get around that by getting commitments from friends, planning something fun, and keeping it short. I hope this helps.
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