Last May, I threw a book launch party for my young adult novel Angelhood. I’m not going to lie. It was a ton of work. But totally worth it!
I didn’t find great resources on the web, so I thought I’d save all my fellow authors out there some trouble and time. Here’s how to throw a book launch party that brings you massive sales!
Pick the Place
Finding a place to hold your party can be kind of hard. A lot of websites I found claiming to tell you how to throw a book launch party said they just held the party in their home with a few of their closest friends.
They said the point of the party wasn’t to sell their book.
Um. Sorry. No again.
The point of your party is two-fold: to celebrate your awesome accomplishment of getting your book published *and* to market your book. People aren’t going to buy a book they’ve never heard of, and in today’s flooded book market, it’s going to take some effort to get your book noticed.
So don’t hold the party at your home. Hold it someplace public. Here are a few options:
- If you know someone who owns a business–say a pizza parlor, a bakery, or a coffeeshop–ask if they might let you use their facility for free. This can be a win-win situation. For example, my third book signing was at my favorite tea shop. They provided the space, some tea, and a little food. I sold books, and they sold tea. We all won. If you know a spot like this, don’t be shy to approach them. They may welcome the opportunity to be part of your success story.
- Book a room at a place that lets you book rooms for free. My cousin Joan Aubele had the launch party for her cancer-survivor memoir at a church hall. My author friend Pamela Meyer did her first book launch at a Panera that had a room you could check out for free. Pam just paid for cookies and drinks. The one limitation here might be size. I knew the Panera room was too small for me (hazard of coming from a large family), so I had to go for option #3 . . .
- Rent a room through a park district or library. I found a really nice park district banquet facility that was pretty inexpensive. What also helped bring down the costs was that they let me bring in our own food. Beware places that make you use one of their own caterers. This will drive up your costs.
PICK A DATE AND TIME
Think about who will be coming to your party. What’s the best time for them to be available? Since my book came out in spring, I knew a lot of people would be busy on Saturdays with graduations, First Communions, and sports. Week nights can be hard for people after work. I chose a Sunday afternoon. It seemed to work well for my group, but consider your potential guests when picking your date and time.
PLAN THE FOOD AND DRINKS
If you’re doing your launch party at a business that sells food (e.g. restaurant, tea shop), ask if they might provide some drinks and simple snacks. If they won’t donate the goods, ask about purchasing something simple from them like my friend who just ordered a giant plate of cookies and a simple beverage through Panera.
If you’re having it at a venue where you have to rent space like I did, ask first if you can bring in your own food. Friends might help chip in, or you can do what I did and go to CostCo with a friend and just load up!
PLAN THE ENTERTAINMENT
You probably want your guests to stick around for a little while, so give them a few reasons to do so. Here are a few options:
Hire a band. I hired the lovely two-person band Finding Free. They did an awesome job of setting the tone for my party.
- Bring in your phone/iPod and speakers and have a playlist ready to go.
- Think about who might speak. I gave a short talk about how I came to write Angelhood at my launch party. My cousin gave a talk at hers, but she also had a priest (who saw her through cancer) say a prayer, her oncologist gave a short talk, and her daughter and son-in-law sang a song befitting her memoir. Other authors sometimes read from their books. It’s up to you who talks, but don’t let any speeches run too long. You need to save time for book signing!
Everybody loves good raffle prizes, so have some at your party. What can you raffle off?
- copies of your book
- copies of donated books from your author friends (you do have author friends, right?)
- a “reading set” (e.g. coffee mug plus coffee and/or tea samples)
- anything related to the theme of your book
- something for the kids? (If you expect kids at your party, have one or two prizes appropriate for them, too.)
- know anyone famous? Can they donate a prize? I had an autographed football by Mike Ditka at my party.
How to award prizes? Everyone who shows up to your party gets one raffle ticket. If they buy your book(s), they get more raffle tickets. If they already purchased your books online and brought them to get autographed, give them another ticket.
Do the drawings for the raffle about halfway through your party. You want to give people enough time to show up, but you don’t want to wait too long and people start leaving.
I had all the prizes displayed and then let people drop their raffle tickets into the prizes they were most interested in winning.
ENLIST YOUR FRIENDS!
Oh for the love of all that’s good. Don’t do this on your own! I had a whole committee of awesome friends helping me out.
- Two friends were the masters of social media before the party.
- One became the official photographer during the party. You’ll want photos to share on social media afterwards so that everyone who missed your party will see what an awesome shindig they missed out on.
- One friend was in charge of helping me with food.
- One friend was in charge of getting as many raffle prizes as she could drum up (pick a friend with lots of people skills and networking abilities for this job).
- One friend was in charge of book sales at the party. Several ending up manning the sales table. Don’t be behind the sales table yourself. Put trustworthy friends there.
- Three friends were in charge of decorations.
- Two friends sat at a table to greet people as they came in.
There’s a lot to do at your party, so divvy up the work as if it were your wedding party and you were giving out tasks to your bridesmaids. 🙂
Invite people to your party in as many ways as possible. The more you throw your party out there in front of people, the more likely they will remember to show up. Here are some ways to invite people. Use them all!
- Create a Facebook event page for your party. Invite every single one of your Facebook friends, even if they live far away. You never know who might show up from out of town that day. And even if they don’t come to your party, at least they’ll have heard about your book! Maybe they’ll check it out.
- On your author Facebook page (you have one of those, right?), create a post advertising your party. Then do a Facebook ad to “boost” your post.
- Send out postcard invitations. These are cheaper than invitations that require an envelope. You can get them for super cheap on vistaprint.
- Write press releases for your event.
- Hang up flyers at local libraries.
- Ask your friends to invite their friends.
- Tell people at church about your party.
THE DAY OF THE PARTY
Here are just a few things to keep in mind the day of the party:
- It’s your big day. Enjoy it!
- Dress nicely. There will be lots of photos taken. Maybe even color coordinate yourself with your book.
- Remember that you’ve divvied up your tasks among your friends. Trust them now to pull through for you.
- When people enter, have your greeter(s) welcome people and ask them to sign your guest list. On your guest list, ask for people’s email address. Be upfront and let them know that these email addresses will give them access to your monthly newsletter so they can get the latest and greatest news from you.
- Remember to give your greeters raffle tickets to hand out when people arrive.
- Also have raffle tickets at the sales table, so your sellers can hand out tickets there, too.
After you’ve done any speeches and given people a chance to buy your book, start the book signing! Have a separate table for this. Have a friend nearby with a pad of post-it notes. As people get in line to have your book signed, your friend will ask if they want it autographed to anyone in particular. They’ll write the name on the post-it note (double checking the spelling with your guest) and then place the note on the purchased book.
Why do this? It makes things easier and faster for you! You don’t have to ask each person to whom you should address the autograph and then ask, “And . . . how do you spell Jehosephat?” Plus, it will save you from that embarrassing moment when someone you know but don’t remember their name (because you’re terrible with names like me!) comes up and wants an autograph.
BUT DOES IT WORK?
You tell me. I had nearly 100 people show up at my party, and over 100 books were sold. The day my book came out on Kindle, it hit #1 on Amazon for Christian teen fiction on social issues. My publisher was so happy, she wrote a press release, which can be seen here.
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