In the beginning, I was bold...yet I didn't have a clue what to do either.
A few years ago, I didn't really get the difference between a book launch and a book signing. I suppose I could have helped myself out by actually attending some of both, but I didn't and my first "launch" suffered for it. Instead of making it a big celebration, my first book launch had no hoopla, just me at a table in front of the store, handing out business cards. Oy, I was so green I never knew I shouldn't give out cards unless they're to business contacts. No one else wants them. I know better now, but back then I had no idea what I should or could do for a launch party. Now I know it's only limited by my imagination and the fire code of the store. :)
A book signing is an event where you go and sign and sell books. It's that simple. There's only as much hoopla as you can create, based on any news to do with your book. But believe me, I look for anything newsy that can add some hype to my signings. News equals excitement, and excitement means sales, and sales mean I get to write another book. :)
I rarely have any form of advertising for my regular signings, other than in my writers organizations' newsletters and what I post on my site and blogs--mainly because people tend to forget, and so far it hasn't proven to bring in that many more people for it to be cost effective to run advertisements in newspapers. I just look at every person who walks in the store as MINE. Okay, I'm not that vain, but I do look at anyone as a prospective buyer. It seems far easier when I'm not worried about whether my invitees have arrived or if they'll even show. I always know that there will be people walking through the doors, and it's my job to greet them and make them feel welcome. (And give them my bookmarks.)
If I feel I need posters, I've learned not to wait for bookstores to make them. Other than Audrey's Books in Edmonton, which always makes up lovely posters for all my signings, and a few Chapters stores, most bookstores are just too busy to design signs. So I have a local print shop make posters for my special events. They're 14 x 17, I think, full color, announcing my name, author of... and date/time of event. I ask the stores to post them about 5 days before the event. Any earlier and people forget. Occasionally, I'll go to my signing and discover that my posters were never displayed, but usually they'll be up near the front door and often near the bathrooms. If I've been able to get some media attention (newspaper interviews or radio or TV interviews), then that's a bonus. But it's not easy to be newsworthy for all your events all of the time.
A book launch is a celebration, a big party to celebrate your book's arrival and everything you have gone through to get this far, and it's a party for YOU.
This is the one event that you need to have posters up on the walls, fliers to the bookstore a week before to add to customers' bags, media attention, tons of blogging about it, and lots and lots of hoopla. To ensure that you get great promotion for this exciting event, go to the store the day before and see how they're promoting you. Then you can ask them to display your books if they're nowhere to be found.
Also, for a launch, you'll want to send out an invitation to anyone on your email list and newsletter list. Ask them to bring a friend or two (or ten!), and make sure you ask them to RSVP, since you'll need to know how much food and drink to supply. Once you have this list, realize that about 10% won't make it, another 10% might not buy. 80% should be sales. Bad weather the day of the launch will increase the percentage of the first two and lower the last. Make sure the bookstore knows about your RSVP list ASAP. They need to know how many books to order in. Send your guests a "friendly reminder" about 2 days before.
A launch should always be eye-catching, big and bold. You need to create excitement. That's what separates it from a regular book signing. Some launches will have champagne and strawberries, others will have pop and veggies and dip. Some will have food that fits the theme of their book. I served two kinds of seafood dip; however, I just couldn't serve whale. I'm sure my friends were glad about that. :)
Most book launches will have:
- door prizes (I always ask local businesses to donate prizes in exchange for a sponsorship mention of them on my posters and I get awesome prizes this way...including a free limo ride for my family and closest friends to my last book launch)
- munchies (a couple of party trays and a cake with your cover on, at minimum)
- a mike for you to read a chapter and talk about your new "baby"
- an MC to introduce you and make you look good (either a friend or the store manager if she knows you)
- advertising in-store and elsewhere (community bulletin boards, schools, churches etc)
How should you promote your book launch? By doing anything and everything you can think of to ensure its success and to make sure that everyone attending has a party they'll never forget. That way they'll be first in line for your next book launch, which (if you use these tips) will now be bigger and better than the last. :)
~Cheryl Kaye Tardif,
bestselling author of Whale Song