Should you or shouldn’t you host a book launch party? I have to admit, as a debut author, this was the promotion event that scared me the most. Yet, it was one of the first events I scheduled. As soon as I had a pub date, I introduced myself to my local independent bookstore and asked about setting up a launch party. Looking back, it was one of the best things I could have done for my career.
Seriously? One of the best?
For me. Yes.
My book launch party was a domino that knocked over a whole lot of other dominoes. Dominoes I had no idea about until they started moving.
1. Introverts Anonymous
Being a shy introvert is a huge hurdle. At a launch party you have to stand up and give a speech. Just you. About you and your book. Breathe. Deep. Don’t. Die. I have spent pretty much my entire life until now avoiding such a scenario. Fear of public speaking–I got it bad.
Right after talking to the book store folks, I joined Toastmasters. I have love/hate feelings towards this group. Toastmasters is effective. It plain works. However, you have to make it work. The more you throw yourself into the roles, and sign up to give speeches, the faster you progress. Yes, to get over the thing you fear, you have to do the thing you fear. Over and over and over again.
My particular Toastmasters group is amazing. They have a mix of veterans and new members. The feedback is insightful and the support is solid. What’s to fear, right? *laughs awkwardly*
I wish I would have joined years ago. Through my weekly experience at Toastmasters, I had enough practice before my launch party that I wasn’t throwing up as I had feared. And I had enough presence of mind that I only forgot 1/3 of my speech.
And here is one of the surprising dominoes: Having a launch party forced me to practice public speaking, which has led to an increase in confidence about being a professional writer.
2. Old-fashioned Networking
Are you burned out on social media? It’s time to get out of the house and meet some people face to face. Because I introduced myself early enough to the bookstore, I got an invitation to a YA event months before my book came out. Changing Hands Bookstore introduced me as a “preview” author and I got to practice being on stage with a group of other YA authors at YAllapalooza. (see #1 above; groups are good)
At this event, I received another invitation, and this one completely caught me by surprise. The books and authors manager for Phoenix Comicon was in the audience at YAllapalooza and approached me afterward to talk about being on a panel at Phoenix Comicon the weekend of my book launch. *blink* *blink* YES! How amazing is that?
Surprising Domino #2: Making yourself visible leads to other opportunities.
3. A Time to Celebrate
If you are a debut author, don’t stress out about bringing in a crowd. No one knows you yet, except for the people who have supported you along the journey–your friends and family. They are going to be 99% of the people who show up to your event. (See #1 above–fear not. These are your people; they know you; they support you, don’t be afraid of talking to them!)
More than anything, this is a time to celebrate. You finally have your book! Add a few special touches to make the event memorable for you and fun for your friends, and you can call it a success. Here is what I did. Maybe it will give you some ideas:
- I added a fundraising option to the night. My novel is YA and I didn’t expect all my friends to be interested in a novel aimed at teens, so this gave them another option for participation. I invited the director of Dress for Success Phoenix to come and talk about the organization and that night we collected handbags for donations. The Phoenix Art Museum was hosting a traveling dress show at the time, and they donated admission tickets for a drawing.
- My friend and our daughters made a cupcake pull-apart dress cake to match the theme Cinderella’s Dress. It turned out even better than I had imagined.
- I used the first book I took out of my box of books as a guest book. I signed it to myself, then had everyone at the event sign it, too.
- My main character learns the art of tatting lace, so my uber-talented friend who taught me how to use a shuttle and thread brought a display of some of her work and demonstrated tatting while I signed books.
- I made simple tatted bookmarks to hand out as rewards to those who asked questions during Q&A time. As for other swag? Most advice I’ve read says stick with bookmarks. They’re cheap and easy to hand out. And they’re cheap. *did I already say cheap?*
Recently, I interviewed Austin Aslan about his debut launch. He did something I’d never seen in a book launch, which I thought was a great idea for bringing the group together and I wish I’d thought of it! You can watch here:
So, the debut book launch party. Is it worth it? Yes, I think so. In addition to the above, it marks a milestone in your life. It’s a big deal. So make it one.