Let me first start off with my disclaimer: I in no way profess to be an expert on planning the perfect book launch. In fact, just consider this post more of a share rather than a means of advice or guidance. I am quite sure that many writers do things differently and probably a lot sooner than I did in my planning process. But again, I’m just sharing so take it or leave it.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, on with the planning!
Your book actually exists! You’ve ordered your copies and now everyone’s waiting for the big release. But you have no idea where to begin. Unfortunately, you didn’t start months ago as suggested by the millions of blogs on the topic and you fear that you’re doomed to have a half-put-together production that will scar your name as a respected writer for the rest of your writing career! Really? You can bring it down a few notches. It’s your first time out and it’s okay to make mistakes. (This was the pep talk I repeated to myself). You can still have a successful book launch and take notes for an even bigger, better, more successful launch in the future.
First Step: Google! I Googled book releases because I didn’t know anything about hosting one and I had no idea where to begin. So I researched to try to find out everything I could. Then the planning commenced. Once I read several blogs and visited several author sites to learn all that I could about book launches, I made a general checklist for myself to get started. It looked a little something like this:
Secure a location Set a date Determine order/flow of program Schedule speakers/Invite guests Hire services/purchase decor Flyers/promotions & materials
Securing a Location & Setting a Date Before getting to this point in the process, I stewed for months over finding a location for my book launch. I initially assumed I would probably try to have it at a local library or bookstore because that’s what most writers did and what most readers expected, right? Not at all. What I learned was that many writers try to think outside of the box when it comes to choosing the perfect location for their book launch which was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted a place that would be fun, appropriate for children, and would still allow me to sell the book on site (because some locations will not allow you to sell).
Thinking about the inspiration for the book, I decided that my son’s former learning center would be the perfect place to host the event. Without hesitation, they were on board and we immediately negotiated dates for the launch. This involved a bit of back and forth due to their existing schedule of events for parents and students. We eventually narrowed down a date and planning was officially underway.
Determining Order and Filling in the Blanks Creating a draft of the program was essential to this process. I sketched out exactly how I wanted the event to look including time ranges, guest speakers, and refreshments. I kept the flow very general to allow myself room to fill in the blanks in the event I had to move some things around. For example, instead of jotting down the MC’s name, I wrote in a list of people who may not mind being my MC just in case one of them was unavailable or uncomfortable with speaking in front of audiences.
Armed with my draft, I met with the coordinator at the learning center and together we filled in program gaps including layout for refreshments, greeting guests, seating, accepting payments, signing, and anything else related to layout. We discussed traffic flow which was important for keeping things smooth, interesting, and professional.
Scheduling Speakers & Inviting Guests I was fortunate enough to have a small team eager and willing to help with the event. The director/owner of the facility was happy to welcome guests and introduce me; I prepared an outline of speaking points and practiced it to stay within the time constraints of the program; and, thanks to my team, each person had a responsibility for the event.
My job was to focus on the consumers and sign the book. The facility coordinator handled all purchase transactions. A team member welcomed guests, two people worked refreshments, while yet another team member managed traffic and activity flow. The most important person in place was my husband. He treated the book release like a wedding, diffusing any potential stressful issues before the “bride” (author) ever knew an issue existed in the first place. Thanks Hubby.
I had created a special guest list the previous year and kept it safely tucked away, adding to it over time. Just to name a few, special guests included family, supportive friends, my illustrator and editor, and special contributors to the book publication. With the date set and the general event layout in place, I felt comfortable sending out the invitations. NOTE: I’ll post a separate entry on invitations.
I chose to design my own flyers and selected a local printer to have them printed. My flyers were placed at the learning center and a few local businesses. Admittedly, I could make drastic improvements to flyer distribution for future books. Selling yourself to readers is key to building your reader base. If you are at this point in your process, do not be afraid to ask local businesses to allow you to place your flyers in their establishments. Many are happy to do it.
Hiring Services & Shopping I knew what types of refreshments I wanted to serve. I contacted the local businesses that were my top choices which included a bakery and Italian Ice company which would appeal to the kids. Both the bakery and Italian ice company were available to place my event on their calendars and I was prepared to pay any necessary deposits. NOTE: Try to have your vendors in place prior to printing up the flyers. Including your vendors will appeal to more potential consumers.
With everything coming together, I could focus on the fun part – shopping. I did not allow myself to exceed my book launch budget. I spent a modest amount on decorations for the event. A few table cloths, lots of balloons, eating utensils, and coordinating buckets for giveaways did the trick. Spending an arm and a leg on decorations isn’t necessary. All were purchased at my local dollar store and party center.
Having a plan is essential to having a well organized, successful event. Learn from my experience and make your first book launch bigger and better. Planning can be one of the most stressful parts of the process. But once you get through it, fun times will be had at the event itself and it will all be worth it.
Good luck with your planning and write on!
Next in this series: Part 4: The Launch Party