If you think you might want a big party with a few hundred people, then you and I have the same likes where launch parties are concerned. *fist bump* Here's a few tips on pulling it off.
What to do at your party:
This is wide open, and depends largely on the age group you are writing for. Some people like to speak, some people like some form of entertainment, and some people like to recruit friends for some fun skit-ish things. Whatever you do, keep it fun and entertaining-- you can lose a large crowd quickly. (But don't let this scare you. You really don't have to keep them entertained for long.)
Recruit friends. I didn't ask friends to help with specific things enough (like manning the cookie table!). Luckily, they all jumped in where needed without being asked. If I could redo it, I would've asked people ahead of time to help more with the activities, to stand at both doors with the signing line tickets, more people to hand out raffle tickets, help at the refreshments table, and to go through my signing line, having people write their names on post-its and placing them on the signing page.
Just like with a business, it's all about location, location, location. The closer you can get your location to the bulk of the people you've got coming, the more people will come. The King's English Bookshop is by far and away the favorite place to hold launch parties in my neck of the woods. It's also a 45 minute drive from my area, and I knew that not a lot of people would make the drive. So I chose to have it at my local library, and to have The King's English come on site to sell books. (Which they gladly did, because they're awesome like that. Many indie bookstores are.) My library was less than a mile from my home, so close to all my neighbors and friends, which made it much easier to come to on a rainy evening. I know it wouldn't have been nearly as successful if I'd have had it somewhere less easier to travel to.
Another thing-- make sure the bookstore knows exactly all of the efforts you are putting into getting people there, and let them know any numbers you have-- like the number of people that have said they're going through Facebook events. There's nothing worse than getting a ton of people there, and books selling out within minutes.
Getting your target audience there:
If you write for teens, line up middle school / junior high / high school visits. If you write for adults, think about how to reach your target audience, and find a way to speak with them during the last week before your launch party, and invite them. It'll make a huge difference.
I am sure there are a lot of ways that will work, and ways that will work best in your area. Here's what I did:
I created a Facebook event, and then invited people I am close to, and people in the area. I went through my entire friends list and looked up where each person lived (if I didn't already know). It took f-o-r-e-v-e-r, but I think it's a kindness to invite people who have a chance at coming, and not just blindly send invites to your entire friend list.
At each of the school visits I did, I brought fliers (1/6 of a page) to go home with each child, telling about the launch party. That way, if I got them excited about it in the assembly, they had the info to show their parents.
My library made posters advertising the launch, and posted them at the library and at each of the schools in our city. It was incredibly sweet of them to do, and they were more than happy to.
My library also asked the newspaper to put it in the "Our Town" section of the paper in the few days before the launch.
Invite the press:
If you're going to go to all the work, get the press there! They love to report on big activities in their communities. My library contacted the newspaper for my county, and asked them to send a photographer. If your host won't do the same, I'll bet your publicist would.
It all took planning, yes, but it was fun planning. It was one of those things I did a little bit at a time, when I needed a break from all the other stuff going on. And it was an incredible payoff at the end of a really long, hard road. I wouldn't change my launch party for the world. If you'd like to see some of the pictures from the launch, you can check out my post on my personal blog, Will Write For Cookies.
Peggy Eddleman is the author of the middle grade action / adventure SKY JUMPERS (Random House Children's Books, 9/24/13). She lives at the foot of the Rocky Mountains in Utah with her husband and their three kids. She enjoys painting, playing games with her family (especially laser tag), and of course, reading. You can visit Peggy online here: