All the critical elements of a successful launch party must be addressed before a single dime was spent:
1. Budget. How much can you spend? How many books would you need to sell to break even? (Breaking even is possible if you spend carefully and market effectively.)
2. Venue. I chose an art gallery in
Mobileand a theater in Columbia. Both places felt hip and welcoming with space for guests to mingle. The gallery location also provided random street traffic, which increased sales. (I have supportive communities in two different states and needed to create buzz in both. I encourage you to do a launch event in every area you have adequate support. The goal is to begin a successful grassroots campaign, which requires a lot of pounding the pavement. You only have two feet. Encourage your inner circle to become your street herd.)
3. Publicity. Facebook and email are free. Create a digital invitation using Photoshop and give your publisher (or keep for yourself) a list of print and online media for press releases. Approach reporters to write a feature story about you. The bottom line is you must sell yourself, not just your book. There is no room for hesitation or modesty.
4. Help. Enlist friends and family early in the planning process. My volunteers spread the word, decorated, plated food, sold books, took photos, and cleaned up so that I could greet guests and sign books without appearing harried. The events would have failed without them.
5. Refreshments. Finger foods eliminate the need for cutlery. A la Carte catering rather than full service keep costs down. One venue allowed me to provide wine for guests, so I cleaned out my wine storage of red and jumped at my parents’ offer of several bottles of white. The other venue, in exchange for the venue fee being waved, offered a cash bar.
6. Decor. I chose a “Depression Era Chic” look using discount burlap, paper magnolias, and mason jars, highlighting the book’s setting. Photos from the book were blown up and framed. Large posters of the cover were mounted on foam board for tabletops and entryways. Look to your research from your book for more décor ideas, but don’t go overboard. Let the book cover be the star of the show.
7. Itinerary. Greeting each guest is important. Mingle with guests and thank each one for attending the party.
Readingfrom the book often kills the mood at launch parties. Instead, at forty-five minutes in, I gave a short speech expressing my gratitude and touched on the inspiration for and process that led to writing and publishing my first novel. Then, it’s to sign! Ask for correct spellings. Make it personal. Smile for selfies. Keep the line moving.
8. Follow up. I cannot stress enough the importance of follow up. Send hand written thank you notes to those customers who bought several copies of your book. Post a thank you on your social media platforms for your guests. Place a “Please Review” card in every book you sell, asking readers to post a review on Amazon after reading. Keep your guests engaged long after the party with website and social media updates.
Are you planning a launch party soon? Post a question below or look me up online at www.jodiecainsmith.com.