How to Plan a Book Launch Party in 10 Easy Steps
So, you've sold your book, it's coming out soon, and people are asking, "When's the party?" But this isn't the movies-- your publisher might not exactly be renting out the Ritz. What's a working author to do? Don't fret. Launch parties are easy, if you take them step by step. The PASADENA launch party was a couple of weeks ago. If you're on Twitter, you saw some of the pictures. Here is the night in full, and how we pulled it off. The theme for the night?
"PASADENA: A Night of Books and Beauty"
1. Location, Location, Location
First, find a friendly location, one that matches the theme of your book, and is open to hosting writers! While a bookstore is a wonderful venue, it can also be fun to go for something quirkier. I'm lucky to live in a town with a gorgeous vintage-style make up salon, Bésame Cosmetics. Not only is it woman-owned, it's also is spot-on for my lost girl, Maggie Kim. Red lipstick is a must when you're a glamour girl. She would have totally shopped here! As a bonus, Bésame's Burbank boutique is downright adorable, with the right notes of class and a touch of the past. I contacted Bésame months in advance, and made sure to drop off copies of the book, do a walk-through before the event, and follow up as the date approached.
2. Get help!
You can't do this on your own! (Well, you can, but don't.) I had the help of Bésame's resident counter ladies, Yasmine (sorry if I'm misspelling it!) and Carolyn (you'll see her later in the red dress), and my pal Miss Cecil Castellucci, who managed the bookselling. Another pal, Ren (my Tired Girl partner-in-crime) handled bartending duties. My husband and other friends helped with photos and clean up.
It's always good to feed your crowd, but it doesn't have to break your budget. We stayed on-theme with some of Maggie's favorite late night treats-- gin & tonics and popcorn! Happily, Bésame owns an old-timey popcorn popper, otherwise, I'd have brought pre-popped bags. This way, it was nice and hot! I found a batch recipe for the G&Ts and juiced a dozen limes earlier in the day. I mixed the drinks a few minutes before the party in a fancy pitcher, and it was pour-and-serve the rest of the night. We also had lemonade, soda, Perrier (it's French!) and good ol' H2O for options. "Fizzy" lemonade, made with a touch of Perrier, was a very popular tipple. Plastic tumblers, black cocktail napkins and popcorn bags came from Smart and Final, my local grocery warehouse store-- much more affordable than a party supply store!
4. Sell Books!
The fantabulous Skylight Books provided books for the event. Contact your favorite indie bookstore to see if they can help you out. Don't forget to include your local book rep, if possible. They make life much easier, especially if the party is before the book's official launch date, as was the case with Pasadena.
5. Choose your outfit!
Wear something that makes you feel great! Be comfortable, and suit the location. A few years ago, I saw a blog post about an author who had a dress made to look like the cover of her new book and thought, what a great idea! So, imagine my delight when I stumbled across this palm tree dress! A perfect match for the book-- a Maggie-approved little black dress, with embroidery that matches the cover.
Whether your party is in a bookstore or a private venue, be sure to invite people! You can't rely on foot traffic to fill a room. Make a list of all of your friends and supporters, co-workers, other writers, your publishing team (especially if they are local), and invite them all. Worried your venue can't hold all 200 of your closest acquaintances? Don't sweat it-- they're not all coming. Once you know how many people your venue can manage, figure at least half of them won't be able to come, some will swing by but not stay, and there will be last minute cancellations. Check out wedding invitation advice for some rules of thumb on what to expect. And, worst case scenario, you have huge crowd... oh no...
Some venues will be open to the public, as with a bookstore. Stores will likely advertise the event on their website. Pasadena's party was invite-only via Paperless Post, and I allowed the venue to invite their customers as well. In either case, it's nice to send your personal friends an e-invitation of some sort. This will help you keep track of numbers, and give them a nice reminder to show up!
A reading is a bit like a movie trailer-- you want to tease the audience, but not give too much away. Sometimes this means just reading from your first chapter. But, don't be afraid to choose from a variety of scenes. This go round, I read from three different chapters, but the movement flowed and gave a good feel of the story. Keep your reading time to about five minutes. Longer, and people start to shift in their seats. Too short, and it's over before you began! Don't forget to have someone introduce you (a friend will do), and to give a little background on the book (and a big thank you to everyone for coming, and for those who helped pulled the shindig together).
So, you drive across town to hear someone read for five minutes. Now what? Give your guests something to remember beside your lovely voice. I've been to book parties that had live music, games and even a rocket scientist Q&A! For The Toymaker's Apprentice we had ballerinas from a local dance school, a scavenger hunt and a Nutcracker themed photo booth. For Pasadena, we went the glamour route with mini-makeovers courtesy of Bésame. Many a lady came away with a drop dead noir red smile, thanks to a replica lipstick from 1930--the grand age of noir!
9. The Extras
All of the above is doable on a budget if you plan ahead. I obtained event insurance to protect my guests and the venue. Not every venue will require it. Prices vary, but you can contact your insurance agent, or find a provider online (wedding insurance providers often cover other special events, too).
I also had a poster made of the cover of the book, mounted on foam core. You can a single poster printed and mounted at Overnight Prints. (Some vendors require a larger minimum for posters, which can get pricey). Lastly, I had some bookmarks (designed by the wonderful Ren) printed as giveaways.
10. The After Party
I always forget about this part-- the after party. After we wrapped the event, a few friends joined us for dinner at a restaurant down the block. We lucked out and found a place that could handle a party of 10 with no notice. To be on the safe side, scope out easy places to hang out and catch up nearby, so the cars stay park and the fun lingers on.
All told, it was a wonderful evening. We sold some books, found some new readers, and got great feedback. We also sold some lipstick and other beauty items, so it was a win-win for the business and for me!
If you are preparing for your own book launch party, congratulations! Just take a deep breath, follow the steps, and you'll do just fine. If you're on your fifth, or sixth, or sixtieth book and want to throw yet another party but worry your friends are tired of book launches-- branch out and do something new! The point of a party is memories, for you and for your guests. So come up with something memorable-- it doesn't have to break the bank-- and enjoy!
Next week drop by for the start of the YA Scavenger Hunt! October 4th - October 9th. I'm on Team Gold! Join us!