Locations and Times:
- Bookstores: Ask for permission and plan it with the bookstore; customers purchase from the store; allow browsing time.
- Organisations or companies that would be interested in your book’s topic.
- Children’s venues: If it is a children’s book, consider a school library, a park, the children’s section of the public library, etc.
- Accessibility: Is the venue accessible, transportation wise, for all possible attendees, and is there handicapped access?
- Space considerations: Consider the amount of space available in relation to your anticipated attendance, the opportunity to have a “quiet space” for the reading, and easily available and comfortable seating.
- Choosing a date and time: If you have your heart set on a particular date, find out what other events (local, TV specials, etc.) are happening on that date that might interfere. Avoid holidays and meal-times.
- Drop-in launches: In your advertising, include the time of the presentation, so people who want to attend the reading part of the event can be sure to be there then. If your venue is unsuited for small children, mention it. Perhaps organise a babysitting service.
- Press releases to local media. And arrange interviews with media about your book and your writing experience, and be sure to include interesting facts about yourself and your life that the local community will be interested in and will relate to.
- Online options: Start building interest in your book long beforehand with your own online platform: create an author’s website, blog regularly about your writing and related activities, use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to point people to your website and blog. Join LinkedIn and post a professional resume so that people perceive you as an experienced writer. Join and become active in writers groups online.
- Local writer’s groups: Take advantage of opportunities to read snippets from your developing book, and show you are eager for people’s input.Give constructive critiques for others’ readings, and attend their book launches.
- People you meet here and there: Talk about your book to people you meet. Keep them aware of the book’s development, and be sure to let them know when the book launch will be happening.
- Local organisations: Join and become active in local organisations which have members who you believe would be interested in your book. Offer to do a presentation on a topic which is relevant to the group, and also has something to do with your book.
- E-mail everyone on your email list who you think would be interested in the book launch, and also send out Facebook personal messages.
- Draws and door prizes: Advertise a “free draw” for a copy of your book and perhaps some other small prize related to your book or to writing. Tell your message recipients that for each extra person they invite and bring along, they’ll get an extra entry for the draw.
- Phone or send a handwritten note to people you’d especially like to invite to your launch. The personal invitation holds much more weight than a general invitation.
- Create attractive posters that feature your book’s cover and reviews, and post them (with permission) at local bookstores, schools, libraries, and organisations.
- Hand out bookmarks that feature information about your book, to people you meet.
Setting up the venue:
- Guest book: Have a “guest book” in which people who attend can sign their name, their email address and/or phone number, and comments. If you have an e-mail newsletter with your website and/or blog, include a column where people can make a check mark to receive your newsletter.
- Have a “signing table” ready with a stack of your books, a poster that includes the price, and at least 2 or 3 good quality pens that have ink that does not smudge or need drying time. Consider bookmarks or business cards that feature your book and have your contact information, as well as pamphlets or brochures.
- Sales: If the store sells the books, make sure you discuss exactly how that will work. If you sell the books yourself, have a float with more than enough change. Decide whether you will accept cheques. If you accept credit or debit cards, be sure to have the equipment set up and tested ahead of time. Have receipts available.
- Arrange suitable seating in a quiet area for the book reading and discussion time. Think of those in wheelchairs, etc. A semi-circle set-up, if space allows, is more friendly than straight rows of chairs.
- Snacks: It is nice to have a “snack” area where guests can have something to drink, and perhaps a variety of appies or at least cookies or similar snacks. Coffee, water, and juice are good beverage options, and possibly wine if it is legal in the venue. Have hot drinks in carafes that will keep them hot. Don’t forget sweeteners, cream, and stir sticks. Have suitable waste containers for disposable items.
- Greeting: Have a good-sized copy of your poster in the venue window or on the door; passersby may be interested in dropping in, and it will help your invited guests easily find you. As guests arrive, greet them personally and point out the presentation area, the book signing table, the snack table, and so on. Wear a name tag.
- Assistants: If possible, have a friendly and knowledgeable assistant (with name tag) in each area who can help people and make them feel at home. Hopefully, your assistants will have read the book and can chat about it with the guests. You and your assistants can ask questions of the guests like what kind of books they enjoy reading, if they write, and why they came out to the launch.
- Know your audience and think of what “angle” will be of most interest to them. Think about how the book and your writing experience relates to their own interests.
- Appreciation: Right off the top, thank everyone for coming.
- Thank the owners of the venue for letting you make your presentation there. If it is a store, remind people to stay afterwards and browse. Mention something special about the venue and its owners/members. In a bookstore, check out ahead of time the section of the store which includes books in your genre or topic area. Briefly mention a couple specific title and/or authors they carry, and how those books are similar and different from your book. If you are at a venue such as a service club who have their own books or other items available, mention those briefly as well.
- Thank your assistants.
- Give a short introduction (4-5 minutes) about yourself, including a brief bio of who you are, and some life highlights. If possible, include interesting facts and incidents that are related to the book; anecdotes always liven up a presentation. Finally, give a brief talk about the process you went through in writing the book. In total, your introduction should be at the most 4 to 5 minutes. Practice ahead of time, and time it. You can answer 2 or 3 questions (up to 5 minutes or so). You can chat with people more after the presentation.
- Try to relate your book to current events or past events that the audience will be familiar with. If your topic deals with sensitive ideas, avoid really “hot” topics.
- Stand, if possible: It is better to stand than to sit for the presentation.
- Reading tips: Keep your reading short, no more than 10 or 15 minutes. Read slowly, clearly, and with as much expression as you can. Choose interesting moments, but not parts that “give away” the story. Don’t read an entire incident; cliff-hangers in reading are as important as in writing. Choose no more than 2 or 3 short sections to read from. Before each section, give about a 20 to 30-second background, then read for no more than 5 minutes.
- Keeping attention: While you are reading, make eye contact with the audience. If they look puzzled or bored, stop reading and invite comments or questions. Think quickly about what might be losing their attention – maybe you are not reading clearly, maybe there’s a distraction happening outside the window, maybe they just aren’t interested in the section you chose.
- Comments: You might give a chance for listeners to make a few comments inbetween each section (no more than 3-4 minutes for each section; remind the audience that there will be a full question-and-answer period at the end). If you only want to read one section, you can read for as long as 10 minutes or so.
- Another reader: If you are not a strong reader, arrange ahead of time for someone else to read for you. Give them suggestions on emphasis and presentation.
- Reading dialogue: If you choose to read sections with dialogue, choose sections between no more than 2 or 3 characters, so it is not confusing for the audience. Or do a “Reader’s Theatre” with a helper (practice together beforehand).
Question and Answer Period
- You may have a short break (5 minutes) to allow people to stretch and relax. But be sure to call people back soon, or you may lose your audience’s interest.
- Timing: Keep the group discussion down to a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes, unless it is obvious your audience is very interested in the conversation. Keep your answers short and sweet. Individuals can speak more with you later.
- Pre-planned questions: Arrange ahead of time with a couple people to ask pre-planned questions, in case no one in the audience seems to have questions. This usually will “warm up” the audience, and others will start to participate.
- Long-winded or argumentative audience members: Offer to chat with them later. If they won’t stop, announce you will now sign books and will chat individually with anyone who wishes to stay after the book signing.
- Draw/door prize: If this is part of your plans, now is a good time to do it.
At the book signing table:
- Personal notes: When signing books, ask the customers whether they are buying for themselves or for someone else and if they would like you to add a personal note along with your signature, including the name of the person the book is for, and some other short comment.
- Sales process: If the store will be selling the books, have the guests pay for the book first and then bring it back for the signing. If you are handling the sales yourself, if possible have a helper nearby who will deal with the transactions, then send the customers over to you for the signing.
- If someone starts to chat over-long, say you would love to chat with them, then suggest they get a snack and browse the store or visit with other guests until you are finished signing and have an opportunity to carry on the conversation.
After the signing:
- Visit with your guests: Get yourself a cup of coffee and a cookie, and make it obvious that you are interested in friendly conversation. If several people want to join the discussion, all the better. If one person is monopolising the situation, give them a copy of your business card, suggesting they email or phone you at a later date. Thank them for coming, then turn to someone else who is waiting.
- Finishing up: If you have advertised your event as ending at a certain time, stay until that time is up. Keep the snacks and the books available. Keep some seating set up, though you could put most of the seating away. When the pre-announced ending time arrives, thank any remaining people for coming, and then clean up quickly, thank your hosts, and leave. If some people still want to chat, you might offer to meet everyone at a nearby café or lounge to continue the conversation.
- Check through your guest book. The comments will be helpful to you in your future writing and in your future marketing. Send out thank-you notes, at least by email, and if possible by handwritten notes. Add people, if appropriate, to your email newsletter list.
- Consider a follow-up draw. In your thank-you note, or at the launch, provide “coupons” that people can sign and hand out to friends. If the friends then buy a copy of your book, they submit the coupon to you, and after a set period of time, you make a draw from these coupons and provide an extra free copy of the book to the draw winner, who can give it away as a gift. Or come up with a similar fun “thank you” method.
- More marketing events: Make sure that your books – and you – are easy to find in that all-important “new book” time period. After your launch, set up your table at local markets, do readings for local clubs, residential facilities, and so on.
- Places to purchase: When you send out your follow-out information, list places where your book will be available for purchase – from yourself (give contact information), at markets, at bookstores, at upcoming book events, and so on.
- Talk about your book launch event on your blog, website and social media. Send a thank you letter to the “Letters to the Editor” column at your local newspaper, telling about the success of your event and thanking the community, the venue, and the media for their involvement. Again, be sure to mention where it can be purchased.
- Contact each media outlet who helped by advertising your event in some way, and thank them with a personal note. Offer to provide a copy of your book for review, if they would be willing to do one.
Questions and Comments: Do you have any questions–or other great ideas for book launches? Please share them in the comments! Thank you!