Friday, April 19, 2019

Ten Tips for a Successful Book Launch Party by Heather Shumaker

I’ve just wrapped up my 4th book launch. THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY, my first Middle Grade book, came out in March, and we launched it with a “Book Birthday Party” bash. Kids love birthdays, so we had cake, balloons, and even sang “Happy Birthday” to the book.

Send Personal Invites

I always like to pack the room. My launches typically have standing room only, with 50-120 people, and the Griffins launch may have exceeded the room’s fire code capacity at 175 people. To draw a large crowd, I put my efforts into personal emails. When I receive generic “Dear Friend” emails myself, I don’t feel invited and included, the way I would to a party. This book launch is your party! So take the time to personally invite. I also ask people to RSVP and I send a friendly reminder message a few days before the event if they express interest. Most of the message can be cut and pasted, but I do add personal notes. Knowing how many people are likely to come also really helps with planning, from chairs to food.

Let the Launch Fit the Book

We invited a giant, live Newfoundland dog to the Griffins book launch, since there’s a Newfoundland dog in the book. The kids loved meeting the dog and crowded around him. Also an excellent photo opportunity! Make it unique to fit your book.

Pick a Partner

Partnering can help draw a bigger crowd and share the cost. Some authors partner with fellow authors. This works well if you each have a book coming out around the same time. I partnered with the youth services department of my local library. This was a natural partnership, since I’d relied on the children’s librarians to be early manuscript test readers. As a partner, the library hosted the party, provided staff and refreshments, and did advanced promotion and graphic design help. They even concocted a GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY scavenger hunt for kids two weeks leading up to the event.

The Griffins of Castle Cary launched at the Traverse Area District Library hosted by the wonderful youth librarians.

Only Give a Start Time

Tell guests the event begins at 10am. Or 3pm. If you plan to give a presentation, don’t give an end time. If people see an invitation for 3-4:30pm, they often think it’s a drop-in event and might miss your whole presentation.

Bring Extra Books

Invite a local bookstore to supply books, but then be sure to have an extra supply in your trunk. Twice I’ve had bookstores sell-out, and they are always grateful when I announce I have extra copies. Book sales vary at a book launch. Some guests show their support by showing up. Others buy three or four books. For a crowd of 150, I usually sell about 80 books. Let the bookstore know how many RSVPs you have so they order enough books.

Collect Emails

Pass around a sign-in list for guests to add their emails. This helps you build your author email list for newsletters and other promotion. People are generally eager to be in-the-know and learn about new books. It also helps you remember who’s there since it’s a busy day.

Sign Photo Release Slips

If you plan to use photos later on your website, for social media, and other promotion, ask guests to sign a short photo release form. This is especially important for children. Have forms available at the door for parents, and make a short announcement. Parents are usually happy to give permission.

Your book launch is an all-ages affair. Ask for volunteers and get the kids involved.
Give the Audience Fun

With a children’s book, you’re bound to have an audience of all ages. Make it interactive, give everyone some information and fun. Consider your book launch as an audition for future school visits – there are sure to be school librarians and other speaker-seekers in the audience. You never know what invitations you’ll receive afterwards. Launches should generate excitement.

Explore New Venues

Bookstores are easy, friendly and obvious choices. Many authors like to hold the launch itself at another venue and invite a bookstore in. Make it a space that fits your book. For example, an author friend held hers in a barn. My land conservation book launch was held in an event space overlooking a lake. The children’s department of your library is a great choice for a children’s book.

Ask for Funding

Answers vary, but it never hurts to ask. If you’re traditionally published, ask your publisher for help with funds for refreshments or more. I’ve had publishers pay for all the catering, plus the cost of renting event space.

Get a Cake!

There’s nothing quite like seeing your book cover on a cake. After all that hard work producing a book, make sure you celebrate.

Heather Shumaker is the author of THE GRIFFINS OF CASTLE CARY (Simon & Schuster, 2019) and three books for adults (IT'S OK NOT TO SHARE, IT'S OK TO GO UP THE SLIDE, and SAVING ARCADIA). She hosts the Traverse City-based northern Michigan Shop Talk for SCBWI-Michigan and frequently speaks about her books at conferences and schools.

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  1. Thanks for the great advice, Heather. This is a post to bookmark.

  2. I really appreciate all your great advice. I hadn't thought to personally invite people. What a great idea.

  3. Such a fantastic and useful post! Thank you so much for sharing so many great tips Heather. So glad your book launch was so successful.

  4. Thank you so much for this helpful information, Heather. You've convinced me to do a Book Birthday!