This article was originally published on our Dutch website, and has been translated into English. As such the examples used in this blog post are all based on Dutch events organized by Dutch authors, but the tips and guidelines featured in the text will be just as relevant for authors working in the UK.
Have you also dreamt of that moment when you can finally hold your finished book in your hands and flip through it, smelling the fresh ink waft up from the pages? That moment is worth celebrating, and a book launch event is the way to do it! What does something like that entail though? In this blog, writing coach Eveline Broekhuizen outlines the dos and don’ts of a successful book launch for you.
As a writing coach and editor, I’ve participated in a fair number of book launches. Some have been boring, others have been a blast; some intimate, others extravagant. In this article, I’ll be sharing my tips on how to make your book launch into a truly special occasion.
What’s most important is that your book launch suits both you and your book. Stick to your goal, your mission. What do you want to achieve with your book?
What is your goal?
- Celebrating that your book is finished
- Selling books
- Media coverage
- Bringing people together and inspiring them with your book
- Stimulating conversation about the controversial topics your book deals with
- Thanking the people who helped you with your book
- Fulfilling your mission
- Something else?
What kind of event makes the most sense for your book: an intimate get-together or an elaborate reception? Is there a particular location that would enhance the atmosphere you’re trying to create? For example, if your book is about sports, then holding your presentation in a stadium would enhance that theme. If it’s a thriller, you could organize a dramatic dinner party involving a staged murder; if your book deals with media and PR, get a red carpet for your presentation. Dare to think big!
Decide who you want to invite based on what your goals are:
- Friends, family, and acquaintances
- People who have helped with your book
- The press (local media)
Send friends, family, and acquaintances an email with a personal invitation, and ask them to let you know how many guests they’ll be bringing ahead of time. Is everyone welcome to the presentation, or are you going to be working with a guest list? Are you going to be making a public or private Facebook event?
Bloggers and members of the press should receive a more formal version of the invitation, in addition to the official press release. Be sure to include the technical details of the book in your press release (i.e. the ISBN, the number of pages, the sales price, and where the book is available for purchase)
While writing your book, you’ve undoubtedly had your future readers on your mind continuously. Now, it’s time to finally meet some of them! Make use of this opportunity to get your readers-to-be invested in your book. What do you want your readers to take with them when they leave, figuratively and/or literally? How do you want them to react when reading your book, and how can you translate that theme into an activity during the presentation or a memento in a goody bag?
If you’ve interviewed some experts in order to write your book, it would be a good idea to invite them up to the podium during your presentation. If they’ve also brought their friends and family, then the whole event will have a greater impact.
Furthermore, be clear what you expect from your guests in the invitation (and what they can expect from you). For example, will they be able to purchase the book after the presentation? What payment methods will you be accepting? Perhaps you’re making it into a big event which your guests have to buy tickets for? If so, do they receive a copy of the book for free?
Additionally, think about who you’re going to gift your book to, e.g. collaborators, bloggers, and the press.
The Myth of the First Copy
During a book launch, it’s common to give away the first printed copy of the book to someone important to you—be it a relation, friend, or celebrity. That this particular book is actually the first printed copy is a myth however. It’s not a problem if the book is already in stores; setting aside a copy for the person you have in mind and writing a personal note inside it is enough.
Create a ripple
A successful book launch is one that generates some positive buzz afterwards. That’s how the word spreads that your book is out. You can proactively stimulate this kind of result by setting up a good photo opportunity that people will want to share on social media, for example. You could also ask your readers to write a review of the book and put it online. These are some of the ways in which your book can make more of an impact!
Don’ts during a book launch:
- Talk for too long
- Invite too many guest speakers
- Read a lengthy excerpt from your book
- Give a speech which people who don’t know anything about the book won’t understand.
- Forget to make a detailed program – you don’t want to invite a bunch of people only to have them awkwardly stand around waiting for something to happen.
- Forget to invite the local press. Local papers tend to get a bad rap, but their circulation and readership is surprisingly big. Plus, they’re always interested when someone in the area has done something as ambitious as writing a book.
- Organize a book signing and expect people to just show up of their own accord. There are countless books being published and people are busy; you have to make an effort to get them to come. In other words, promote your event!
- Organize your launch in a bookstore without being aware of the fact that they’ll be taking about 40% of the revenue for each sold copy.
- Do everything yourself. You’re the focal point of the event, and if you have to sign all the books while rummaging around for change and making sure that everyone gets a goody bag, then you won’t have much time to talk to the people who’ve come a long way to see and speak to you.
- Hold off on letting people know what the program is until you’re halfway through the event.
Dos during a book launch:
- Alternate between short speeches and some (live) music and film clips, or other such entertainment.
- Have someone interview you. It’s far more pleasant to listen to a dialogue than a monologue.
- Give your guests a peek “behind the scenes”; people are always curious as to how the book came to be.
- Be your own toastmaster/MC, this can help structure the event and cut through the din and bustle of the crowd.
- Engage your audience in the event. Ask them questions, give them assignments, get them to talk to each other or let them ask you questions.
- Give everyone a small memento, like a goody bag, so that they’ll remember the event fondly. This makes for great word-of-mouth marketing.
- Let everyone involved in the making of the book have their moment in the spotlight.
- Invite experts who can talk about the relevance of your book in a broader context.
- Give the first copy of your book to a famous person (local or otherwise) to get some media attention.
- Choose an inspiring venue for your event. Find a place that holds some special significance for you or the book, and that attracts the press or can get you some media attention in another way. Keep in mind that it should be easily reachable by public transport, and that there ought to be parking spaces within walking distance.
- Have a clear arrangement in place with the venue regarding who is going to do what, how much it’s going to cost and what is included in that price.
- Assign tasks: who’s going to be responsible for selling books? Are you going to sign the books ahead of time, or on site? Who’s going to serve food and drinks?
- Think about how you can inject the event with that extra bit of pizzazz to make it really special.
Do you have any tips or experiences about book launches that you want to share? Leave a comment below!
You can also read our handy overview of how to market your book if you’re in need of more inspiration.
Eveline Broekhuizen is an experienced writing coach and editor. Through her company, Elibro Tekst & Redactie, she helps writers extract and express the best aspects of their stories.