Planning a party to celebrate the release of your book, especially if it’s your first book, can be a lot of fun. Writing a book is a big accomplishment and you deserve to celebrate that. There are many ways to approach a party. I’ve known authors who’ve hosted parties at their homes, in bars and restaurants, and in unexpected venues like a home improvement store.
If you want your launch party to generate sales and build some buzz, then your best bet is to hold it at a local bookstore. Most bookstores will gladly let you host your party there, even if you’ve self-published. They know that a launch party means that you will bring people into the store. As an added benefit, you can attract new buyers from those shopping in the store at the time.
If you’re a new or self-published author, most stores will likely offer to sell your books for you on consignment (you won’t handle your own sales in a retail establishment—they will want a piece of the action). The typical bookstore discount is 40%, which means the store takes 40% off of your retail price and pays you the other 60%. For large chain stores, your check will be issued 30 to 60 days later, and they might ask to keep a few copies on display after the party ends.
If you’re going to host a public launch party, pay attention to the details. Bring in items to decorate a display table (the store will likely set up a bare table for you). Bring along your marketing collateral—bookmarks, postcards, etc. Also make sure you have a way to get people to sign up for your mailing list. A simple basket or bowl for collecting business cards will do. You might serve cake, cupcakes, appetizers, or a simple bowl of candy. Balloons and signage can help draw attention too.
Ask the store to help you promote the release in advance. One way you can make it easy for them is to offer to print up bag stuffers, which would involve a simple flyer announcing the book launch party. You can have four of them cut out of each 8.5×11 sheet of paper, and provide them to the store a couple of weeks in advance. The store will want them to look very professional, so be sure to include the store logo and get their approval before you invest in printing. You can also provide small posters for the store to display in advance if they are willing to do so.
At the launch party, plan something that will engage the crowd. You could give a reading from your book or a brief presentation. Better yet, give a brief talk at the top of each hour. Your party should last three or four hours so you can repeat your efforts. To add to the fun and encourage mailing list signups, you might hold drawings throughout the event where you give away prizes.
One of my clients, Bob Quinlan, author of Earn It: Empower Yourself for Love, went all out for his launch party. He held the event at a local chain bookstore and hired a band to play outside in the front of the store on a beautiful summer afternoon. The store was located in a busy strip mall, so the band drew a crowd all by itself. Next to the band was a table hosted by Bob’s friends, where visitors could sign up for the mailing list and enter to win raffle prizes. He collected prizes from nearby businesses prior to the event.
Inside, in the middle of the store, Bob had a projector and screen, several dozen chairs set up for an audience, and a display table where he signed books. He gave several brief talks covering tips from his book throughout the afternoon. In the end, he sold over 100 books and the store manager was so impressed that he kept Bob’s books on display in some prime store real estate for several months after the event was over.
Most important to a successful launch party is that you start by inviting your friends and family. When you build your crowd, others will follow. They will want to know what all the fuss is about. So invite them to join you and don’t forget to take lots of pictures of you in action, signing your books, and enjoying the crowd. Those will make great shots to share on your website and social media.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Advanced Book Marketing and Launch Strategies Course! Learn more about our courses for authors here.