Hello all! I recently had the pleasure of hosting a book launch party when Transgression came out this Nov. When I was researching I was a little hard-pressed to find book launch parties that looked like what I was going for, so I thought I would write a review of what we did, how it went, and maybe what I would do differently next time. If you’re planning a book launch, or might someday, I hope this helps!
Enlist help. Make a list of things that need to be done and ask people who are good at that those things if they would be willing to help out and do them. It’s that easy. This will take a load of stress and “to dos” off your shoulders.
Lower your budget. Save your money for what really matters, like books! The party shouldn’t cost you a fortune, and neither should marketing. (If you are self-publishing, I highly suggest you learn all you can about marketing, listening to the StoryBrand podcast is a good place to start!) Get any and everything you can for free, and pick and choose what you really want your money to pour into.
Guest list. Invite everyone! The more people who come, the more books you’ll sell. Boom. If you are the one supplying all the food and drinks, I understand being hesitant. But keep in mind that not everyone you invite is going to be able to make it.
When I was setting up, I wanted to make clear areas for everything so people wouldn’t get confused. There was a table set up right in front of the door for people to sign my copy of the book, that acted as my guestbook.
Also on this table, I had jars set up where people could submit questions for the Q&A portion of the evening (I had a friend compile all the questions during the reading to make sure there were no duplicates, but you could just draw them out of the jar), and also a raffle to win a gift set which included a paperback copy of the book, a set of bookmarks, a Transgression themed scented candle from Frostbeard Studios, and a Kingdom Come Series tote bag. Also featured on this table was an antique typewriter that I already owned (a gift from a friend of the family), and an antique green oil lamp (also already owned).
To the other side of the door, I set up the book signing table. That was going to be the last item on the itinerary, and I figured people could get their book signed and say goodbye on their way out.
Also featured on this table were a bouquet of flowers in an antique green vase (sensing a color theme yet?), a copy of the book on display, an antique tea set (my sister gave me for Christmas last year), and some gold sharpies for signing! The dark green damask tablecloth was also a loaner from a friend.
Beyond that, there were tables for people to sit and hang out, each decorated with a hand-lettered quote from the book, a small flower arrangement, and a pumpkin. The quotes were all created by my friend Jo who played a huge part in the party planning, set up and the festivities. We got all the frames for the word art at the thrift store, so they were cheap, and together with all the little flower vases, also from the thrift store we only spent about $18. The pumpkins came from a local farmers market and were only $6.
Amongst the loitering tables was the merchandise table, which my sister bravely manned (she is much more extroverted than I am)! I set up some white driftwood pieces I borrowed from the furniture store I work at during the day. I wanted this table especially to speak to what was inside the book. The book takes place in the winter and a portion of it in some snowy woods. So I liked the look of the white painted branches, I also decked the table out in some white fur, and some prepackaged gift wrapped sets for those who were thinking of doing some Christmas shopping and a gold Eiffel tower Christmas ornament that went with the color scheme (and they go to Paris in the book). Again, Jo did a fantastic job with word art, by making my pricing board!
To clarify what all was on the merch table that wasn’t decoration, I had paperback copies of the book, character bookmarks (option of 6 different characters), KingdomCome Series tote bags, and “Safe House” (Transgression inspired) soy candles from Frostbeard Studios which were very popular. I had them custom made for the pre-order campaign and had some left over. Books and candles make a great combo if you would like to choose scents and color to create a custom candle for your book, just reach out and email them through their contact page. Tell them Brandy sent you!
Then on the furthest end of the room, we set up all the comfiest seats for the reading area and Q&A session.
Delegate as much as you can so that you can focus on mingling with your guests. Make sure several other people know the game plan, and that everyone else knows those are the go-to people if anyone has any questions. The more you can get off your shoulders, the more you can play host/hostess.
I was able to get my venue, Waveriders coffee shop, for free since people would be buying their own food and drinks through the bar. Saved me money, made them money, guests weren’t limited to whatever I had made, or brought, so everyone won! If you can find a venue with that setup, I highly recommend it! Everyone was happy, and it was about as low-stress as you can get!
I went in the afternoon to get everything set up as they were closing for the day, and just met them back there that night when it was time to get started! They were absolutely amazing and super helpful!
Guest started arriving and I gave myself the first half hour or so to just mix and mingle while everyone trickled in.
Once everyone was there, and the guest book was signed, people were just chatting and waiting. We announced for everyone to start heading over to the comfy seats for the book reading to begin.
I read a portion of my Prologue.
I didn’t read the whole thing because I was afraid that people would get antsy sitting too long. I also didn’t have a mic and wasn’t sure how long my voice would hold out. I was also stupid-nervous and terrified everyone would hate it, so I kept it to about 15 or so minutes of reading. I think people would have been happy with up to 30 mins and maybe the entire prologue. You know your audience and your introductory chapter… so you know what is best.
When choosing what section of the book to read, I thought it best to just start at the beginning. My Prologue is designed to get people hooked and want to read more, and I also didn’t want to give away any spoilers or confuse anyone by jumping ahead.
We transitioned from the reading straight into the Q&A section. My friend Jo came up with all the questions from the Jar at the greeting table and asked each question, and I gave my answer.
I will also add here that we Facebook lived during these portions. We had an online book launch party hosted on Facebook going simultaneously during the event for people who for whatever reason couldn’t attend. We posted live videos, pictures, and I had people who interacted with the comments during the event, and I responded to everyone later. This got a great response, and gets more interaction from readers foreign and domestic. Personally, I think everyone who hosts a book launch party needs to do this.
During the book signing I had my sister manning the merchandise table, and my friend Jo write everyone’s name on a sticky note while they waited in line, so I didn’t spell their name wrong, and I could have a conversation with them while I signed other than “How do you spell that?” This saved time and embarrassment as well as helped the line move more efficiently.
Raffle Winner and Thank You Speech
As the line died down, and people were ready to start heading out, I drew the winner of the raffle. I used the winner as a segue into my thank you speech, which I kept casual (out of nerves more than anything). I had tried to come up with something ahead of time but kept coming up with speeches I hated. So I ended up just winging it. I wish I had given it more time so that it could have been more accurate with who accomplished what, but I’ll have a better grip on what to expect next time, and will hopefully do a better job of it then!
It isn’t every day you get to celebrate this kind of accomplishment. BE WARNED!!! This event will feel a bit like a wedding in that, you will likely get to talk to each guest for about 15-30 seconds and the evening will fly by! It will be over like that *snaps*. So make the most of it, and enjoy it. Slow yourself down and try to commit these moments to memory.
What I would do differently next time:
There are a few things I would do differently next time.
- I wouldn’t host my party or launch my book on a holiday weekend. I loved the date 11.11– Super easy to remember and advertise, but with it being verterans day weekend, a lot of people already had plans, and couldn’t attend the party, and the venue (Waveriders Coffee Shop and Deli) had to be open super early on Sunday morning for a marathon, which lead to me not bing able to have my even on Sat night, but rather on a thursday evening, which was a wierd night for some people who work the next day, and a school night for the teens.
- I would have delegated even more. I didn’t clearly discuss the plan with my helpers, which meant that during set up (when I was super stressed out and nervous) I was being asked a ton of questions about how I wanted what, which at that moment, I couldn’t have cared less…
- I would have slowed down more and just enjoyed the event. The evening was a blur of nerves and “is it time to do [this] now?” I wish I had designated someone to keep track of time and let me know when it was time to move on to the next item on the itinerary.
- I would have been more proactive, sooner, about figuring out how I wanted to take cards at the event. I had some people transfer money via PayPal and the majority of people brought checks or cash, but cards are convenient for customers. I don’t think this really cost me a lot of sales, but it is something I think it would be worthwhile to figure out and offer next time.
- I would also recommend borrowing a sound system from someone. I have a small voice, and can only read so loud. Next time, I plan on borrowing a sound system from one of my many musician friends, so I don’t have to stress my voice, and even people in the back can hear me. I also wish I had kept my nerves in check and read slower. Not that I read super fast, but I could have taken a little more time to be even more expressive in my reading.
I hope this helps you plan your party, and I hope you have a blast. Good Luck!