Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How to Plan a BIG Launch Party

Here's the thing about launch parties: how YOU want it to be is exactly how it should be. If you want a cozy party with 30-40 people in your favorite indie bookstore, that's what you should do. If you want it to be with a dozen of your friends in a restaurant, that's what you should do. If you want it in a larger location with a few hundred people, that's what you should do. If you want it with your significant other and no one else at an ice cream bar, that's what you should do. Your publisher doesn't care how you do it (or even if you do it at all), so it really should be nothing other than exactly what you want.

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.)

Keep in mind that if you have a ton of people there, your signing line will be long. It's helpful if you give them something to do. (My book is middle grade, so I knew I'd have a lot of kids there. I had three activities going to keep them entertained while their parents stood in line. (Shrinky Dink book covers, invention creation with toothpicks and mini marshmallows, and a scene recreation from the book where kids could slingshot foam apples at posters of the bad guys.) I also had a video looping in the background so people could watch if they wanted. It was my book trailer, the filming of the book trailer video, and random book journey-related pictures.)

Speaking of the signing line-- if you expect a lot of people there, it's helpful to print out signing line tickets to hand out as people come through the door. Print 20-25 of the letter A, then 20-25 of the letter B, etc. That way, you can call all with the letter A to the line first, then Bs, etc., and people aren't having to stand there for so long.

Choose refreshments that are easy to grab and eat while standing, and that don't easily make a mess. I chose cookies, because if someone bumps into you, you're not going to be spreading frosting. But if you do want to go the cake route, consider cupcakes, because they don't take a plate and fork. Word to the wise in regards to cookies: kids don't just take one. Also: they freeze well. So plan extra, and take them home if there are leftovers. We had 500 cookies and 500 people. The cookies were gone to the last crumb in ten minutes flat, and most people didn't even get one.

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.

Location:

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.

Size is a huge thing to consider as well. My library wasn't quite big enough, so there were about 20 people crowded around the outside doors during my speech. It was uncomfortably crowded. If you get too big of an area, though, it can feel like no one showed up. So try to guess how many people you can get there, and choose an appropriate venue. Libraries are a good choice, obviously, but Elementary Schools, Junior High / Middle Schools, and High Schools all have gymnasiums that might work, or even auditoriums. But most importantly, choose one in the best location.

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:

My target audience is kids 3rd to 6th grades. So I lined up school visits for all 3rd to 6th graders in four of the schools closest to my launch party location, and did assemblies for them. I visited two on my launch day, and the other two in the two days preceding. I gave a presentation that had a positive message (working with their strengths, changing the world), but also talked about how characters in my book did just that. I ended with my book trailer (best use of a book trailer ever, imho). TONS of the kids from those schools came with their families (especially because they knew right where the library was). I told them that they DID NOT have to buy a book to come-- they could just come to get their bookmark signed (which I gave them at the visit), and to ask questions. Most who came, though, did buy a book.

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.

Advertising it:

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.

I had a designer make postcards, and I mailed out about 150 to friends and family and other people who were a part of my journey. I mailed to family outside of the area, too. (I figured it's akin to a birth announcement-- it lets them know my baby is out in the world.)

When I hit 100 likes on my author Facebook page, Facebook gave me $50 in free advertising. So I created a Facebook ad for my launch party, and targeted it to friends of friends (because I figured then they'd have someone to go to it with), and people who "liked" other authors in my area who also wrote middle grade. I figured that even if I didn't get a lot of click-throughs, it would be on people's mind if they saw it a few times. And if they weren't interested in the launch party, at least it got my book on their mind. I didn't even get close to spending the $50. I actually didn't think I went over $15.


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.

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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:



photo credit for cookies: Mrs Magic via photopin cc

16 comments:

  1. This is all such fantastic advice, Peggy. Thanks for sharing it. I'm going to try to remember it in case I ever have a book signing.

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  2. I am so bookmarking this page. Great ideas! And your launch was so much fun.

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  3. I feel so tired just reading all the work you did! But it's giving me some ideas...thank you!

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  4. Love this post! *furiously scribbles notes* Thanks for sharing what you've learned, and congrats on what sounds like an awesome launch!

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  5. Great advice - sounds like fun!

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  6. Great advice--especially about considerations for the venue. My YA book is partly set in a local abandoned youth facility, Preston Castle, and I'd so love to do a launch there! I think family and friends would make the trip 40 minutes out of the city, but I'm not so sure about random people/new readers. But we could combine it with a paranormal tour, hmmm . . .

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  7. Wow, Peggy, will you just take over planning mine?? You seriously rock. :-)

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  8. Great planning and ideas. I'm bookmarking this page for the future:) You did an incredible job. I'm sure my son would have gobbled 10 cookies in heartbeat.

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  9. It was a success! Then again, everything you do is a success. That's why I'll be begging at your door to do very specific things for me when the time comes!

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  10. Wow! Great post, Peggy! So many wonderful ideas! You really thought your way through this. I'm bookmarking this for Someday When I Need It :)

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  11. Awesome advice! I'm not shamelessly saving this to my computer or anything. No siree.

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  12. What great advice - I've just done a big launch like this and I wish this post had come out sooner! I DID sell out of books - in 40 mins!!! So quite a few people went home empty handed. We knew the numbers but what be hadn't reckoned on was the multiple purchases people made - one woman bought 8!!! I think it was because Christmas isn't that far away and so they were buying presents for all their young relatives! So take heed!

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  15. That’s true! Launch parties are very important in any venture, particularly in a business launch. It helps build a good first impression, and can also be a tool to showcase all of your products and services. Making it as perfect as possible is really a must. And with the help of these tips, it will be easier to achieve. Thanks for sharing!

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