Why an Online Book Launch Event?
Picture this – you’ve finally finished your book. Months of writing, proof-reading, and editing have finally payed off. To top it all off, you’ve got a meticulously planned book launch event coming up that’s going to jump-start your sales and spread the word. But then suddenly, everything is cancelled for the foreseeable future due to a global crisis – like a pandemic, for instance. Which means you can’t host that book launch event and all your work has been for nothing. Or has it? This might just be the time to consider hosting an online book launch event!
The past few weeks have demonstrated that modern technology allows many of us to adapt to extraordinary situations like lockdowns whilst keeping our daily routines relatively unchanged. Of course, with everything that’s going on, you may feel that your book should take a back seat for the time being, and that’s totally fine. The decision whether to move forward with your book or to simply postpone the launch until things go back to normal is of course up to you. If you’re in the former camp however, we’re here to talk about how to set up an online book launch event.
Now you might be wondering why anyone would bother with an online book launch event? Well, if you’re self-isolating, you’ve probably started to feel the effects of cabin fever already. People need social contact, and there’s only so much you can do to keep yourself entertained when you’re stuck at home for weeks on end. By organizing an online book launch you provide people with a welcome distraction in these trying times. In fact, a whole bunch of people are live streaming book readings right now, so why should it be any different for you? Just look at what Patrick Stewart is up to these days!
Of course, we’d normally recommend making your book launch a physical event, but desperate times call for creative measures. The silver lining here is that a digital book launch does have several distinct advantages over a traditional one.
Advantages of an online book launch:
- Your original book launch plan and subsequent marketing efforts can continue unhindered
- You won’t need to pay for a venue or refreshments
- People who normally wouldn’t be able to attend due to geographical constraints can now join in
- You can send your guests a link to buy your book directly in the chat function
Step 1: Outline a plan for your online book launch event
Despite the welcome advantages of hosting an online book launch event, there are of course certain drawbacks. For example, it will most likely be impossible to get the local press to attend (though this has always been difficult), and you can’t mingle, helping get conversations going with snacks and drinks. That means you’ll have to keep your audience interested using only your book and the methods you’ve chosen to present it. As such, it’s important to plan some engaging activities that keep people from getting bored.
Of course, the key points of regular book launch events can easily be done digitally as well. This includes:
- Include a Q&A session. You’re going to want this to be in-depth, so you can really get into the details of your motivations, research, and writing process. Have a friend prepare an extensive list of questions ahead of time, to make sure you have enough.
- Reading a sample chapter out loud. It’s a good idea to follow up the Q&A session with this. That way people will have more context when listening, and probably appreciate your writing more.
- Presenting the cover design. If you’ve had a designer make a cover for you, make sure to invite them to the event and put them in the spotlight.
- Showing the attendees a book trailer, if you’ve gone down that road. If you do this, it’s probably best to show it before reading your sample chapter.
- Informing people where they can buy your book. Luckily, with a digital book launch, you can simply send your guests a direct link to your book’s store page.
- Usually, the author tends to give the first copy of their book away to someone important to them. This can be a spouse or partner, child, cousin, best friend, you name it. Someone who supported you, or helped you write in one way or another. If at all possible, have them be in the room with you when hosting the event, so you can hand them the book at the end. You might want to put a bow on it or something, to make it more special. This would of course require you to order a copy of the book beforehand, so plan ahead!
Step 2: Choose where to host it
Alright first things first. Just like with a physical book launch, the first thing you need to do is decide on where to host the event. Luckily, there are heaps of solid choices. We’re going to cover 3 solid, free options.
These days, Skype has mostly been supplanted by Whatsapp. When it comes to large group calls however, Skype is still superior. This is due to the fact that Skype supports a whopping 50 participants, compared to Whatsapp’s 4.
Organizing a conference call on Skype is dead-easy. Back in the day, you’d have to download Skype, add people to your contact list, create a group chat and start a call in that chat. Now, all you have to do is go to Skype’s website, create a meeting, and send the link you get to everyone you want to invite. There are no sign-ups, downloads, or payments involved. Good news for your guests!
Much like Skype, Messenger supports calls with up to 50 people. If you’re also friends with all your guests on Facebook, it might be easier to get them all in the same chat than it would be on Skype. If this sounds like a good option for you, Facebook has a pretty decent guide on how to get started.
Another benefit of using Messenger to host your online book launch is that you can also use it to invite people. By creating a chat group on Messenger, you can gather all your guests in a single place, engage with them prior to the event, and then reach all of them simultaneously with a single click, rather than wait for them to join a conference call. This gives you more control as a host. For more info on how to set up a chat group in Messenger, see step 3.
One drawback of using Messenger is that you’ll need to add each potential guest manually to the group. This makes it difficult to include people from other social networks. With more and more people deleting their Facebook accounts, it also runs the risk of excluding potential guests.
If these two options don’t work for or appeal to you, there’s another alternative. Livestream your book presentation on Youtube!
If you’ve never created content for Youtube before, this may seem a bit daunting. Don’t worry – it’s easy. All you need is a Google account. With it, you can create a Youtube channel in seconds. To do so, simply go to Youtube and click the little camera icon in the top right corner of the screen, then select “Go live”:
Follow the steps to create and verify your account. Be aware that it’ll take 24 hours before you can start streaming. Once you’re ready, you can follow these instructions to start your stream. You’ll be able to edit privacy settings, schedule a starting date and time for your stream, and share a streaming link so people can easily join with a click.
If there’s another streaming platform that you use regularly and are comfortable with (like Twitch, for instance) then you should of course feel free use that as well.
Step 3: Send out some invitations
You’ve got a program, and you’ve got a digital venue. Time to send out your invitations! This is a great opportunity to add the personal touch that a digital environment tends to lack. We’ve outlined a few common methods of inviting people below, including some tips on how to make the most of them. Don’t be afraid to mix and match a bit though! A video invitation might benefit from being followed up by a written invitation containing all the necessary information, for example.
If you’re going to be using Whatsapp or Messenger to host your book launch, you might as well gather all your invitees together in a group. This will allow you to invite them all at once, and will give you a handy overview of all follow-up communication. When creating a group like this, you’re going to want to do everything you can to maximize the resulting participation. There are several easy ways to do this:
- Set the subject of your group to something thematic (something like “The Fellowship of the Ring Launch Party”)
- Set the cover of your book as the group icon
- Provide regular updates on your preparations to keep the group engaged – videos are great for this!
- Try requesting minor things from your guests beforehand, such as thinking about a few questions for you or mentioning topics they’d like to see addressed during your presentation
This is probably the invitation method that requires the least amount of effort. With that in mind, you might want to try spicing it up a bit by including a video, or combining it with some preemptive snail mail.
If you need help figuring out how to create and edit group chats on Messenger or Whatsapp, you can find helpful videos and explanations on their respective websites. Here’s how to create a group chat on Whatsapp, and here’s how to do it on Messenger.
You can of course send an email detailing the nature of the event, in addition to the time it will take place and on which platform. However, emails tend to be a bit boring and impersonal, so if you choose to do this it’s recommended to liven up your invitation with some bells and whistles. Combining an email invitation with a handwritten invitation, some cool visual elements (e.g. a picture of your cover) or video can be a good strategy, for instance. Here’s a basic example to get your creative juices flowing:
If you’ve decided to host your online book launch event via Google Hangouts, you can also easily follow up your email with an invitation to a Hangouts conference via the calendar in your inbox. That way, your guests have all the information they need in one place.
In this digital age, people love the feeling of getting mail. The extra effort required to send a message this way will make your guests feel appreciated. And if they come to your book launch feeling appreciated, chances are they’ll be more attentive and more likely to buy your book.
If you’re reluctant to have your guests buy your book however, you can always do it for them. Consider sending your most important guests a copy of your book ahead of time, accompanied by your invitation. It’s a lovely gesture that’s sure to be appreciated. This will also make it harder for people to make up excuses not to attend!
Crafting a personalized, thematic invitation for your guests can thus be a very rewarding approach. If you choose this method however, make sure that you clarify that the event itself is digital. It’s probably smart to follow up a physical invitation with a digital one containing a direct link to the app or meeting room you’ll be using for your presentation.
If prefer things more dynamic, why not make a video invitation and send that to people? You can either record yourself inviting the recipient, or try your hand at something more advanced. Just remember to keep it short and to the point. This is in part to retain people’s attention, and in part to make sure it’s small enough to include in a DM or an email. An alternative approach would be to upload your invitation as a private video on Youtube or Google Drive and send people a link to it in an email.
Now, sending a DM to people you think want to attend is a good place to start. However, there’s probably a slew of people across your various social media networks who you haven’t talked to in a while that might be interested in learning more about your new book. Ultimately, the more people that experience your grand book pitch (which is what a book launch is at the end of the day) the better. That’s why we recommend posting a more general, public invitation on your social media channels.
If you’ve created a video or other visual invitation, use that as a baseline. Add some explanatory text to help people who you aren’t regularly in touch with understand what’s going on, and post it as a status update. Use whatever social media platforms you’re active on – LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat – it’s all fair game these days. You might just get a more positive response than you expect!
Step 4: Sort out the technical bits
We’ve all experienced the seemingly unavoidable wonkiness of video conferencing. There’s always someone who can’t get their camera to work or who’s voice is all tinny. If this happens during your book launch, it can throw you off and impact the flow of the presentation. As such, it’s always a good idea to run some quick tests beforehand, in order to minimize the risk of malfunction.
Naturally, you can’t do anything about other people’s devices, but you can make sure that your own equipment is functioning flawlessly. We suggest recruiting a friend to help you do some sound and video checks. Have them join a video call with you before the main event. Use this call to make sure that your voice is clear and audible, that your camera is working properly, and that you can switch to any extra material (e.g. a presentation or video) smoothly.
Step 5: Host your online book launch!
And just like that, it’s showtime. It might take a little while to hit your stride, but as long as you’ve formulated a plan and stick to the main points, you’ll be fine. To get the ball rolling, why not welcome everyone with a toast? Pretend it’s all business as usual, and make the presentation a bit tongue-in-cheek. Your guests will likely appreciate the show!
It’s also important that you remember to inform people that they can buy your book right away, via the link you’re sending them. Getting your guests to buy and read your book is crucial, as these people are more likely to become your ambassadors and perform word-of-mouth marketing on your behalf. These personal endorsements are likely going to be one of your most important sales channels.
Step 6: Wrap it up smoothly
Towards the end of your book launch, there are several vital points you need to get across to your audience. We’ve arranged them in a handy check-list for you. While you may have more goals to add to this list, depending on the nature of your book, the following points apply to all book launches:
- Thank everyone who came (and even those who didn’t). Really, don’t gloss over this. Even if it’s not a physical event, people are still taking the time to come and listen to you talk for a couple of hours; they deserve recognition for that. Thank them for coming, taking the time, and wish them well. If you’re all having a drink during the presentation, toast them! The screen between you doesn’t prevent appreciation.
- Again, send your audience the link to buy your book in all the communication channels you’ve been using. We simply cannot stress this enough!
- Request that people review your book in all the places where it’s being sold (and on Goodreads), along with other ambassadorial actions. This can be anything from spreading the link to buy the book, or recommending it on their social media or online forums they’re active on.
- Ask your audience for direct feedback. Both on the launch event and the book itself. Then use this feedback to grow and become a better author.
That’s all there is to it!
Hopefully, we’ve managed to prove that a pandemic doesn’t have to stop you from celebrating the publication of your book with friends and family! By following these simple steps, you should be well on your way to organizing a stellar online book launch event, and brightening the day of everyone involved. Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, as each book launch is unique. You know your audience and what they’d enjoy, so don’t be afraid to get creative!
Should you decide to try your hand at an online book launch, we hope it turns out to be a great new experience for you. Also, we’d be really interested to hear about your experience! So if you go through with it, please contact us and tell us how it went! We’d love to hear from you.
Lastly, if you need inspiration, we recommend checking out our article on how to organize a traditional book launch event. You can of course also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like some advice – we’d be happy to help!