On Saturday, October 29th, my friend, Carolyn, was kind enough to host a Friends & Family Book Launch for Skeletons in the Attic. This was my second time organizing a book launch (the first one, for The Hanged Man’s Noose, was hosted by my friend, Sharon, in September 2015). Both events were well attended and really successful, although I learned a lot from the first event, and incorporated those lessons into the second launch. I thought I’d share 1o tips here:
Pick your location: If you’ve got a huge number of friends and family, you might consider renting a place, but unless your publisher is contributing to your expenses (neither one of my small press publishers have a budget for that), it’s best to minimize your expenses. Having it in your own home seems a bit desperate. The solution: ask a good friend with a house in a central location to host it for you. I was very fortunate to have two friends offer. NOTE: Hosting simply means providing their home as the venue. As the author, it is your responsibility to provide everything else: the food, drinks, napkins, plastic glasses, paper plates etc., as well as doing the set up and clean up.
Ask two friends to help: Ask a friend to be “bookseller” for you, and another to be “bartender.” For both my events, my friend, Donna, acted as bookseller, but I priced the books, had lots of change for her, and made up a paper that allowed her to simply tick off a column every time she sold a copy of Skeletons or Noose, thereby keeping inventory at the same time. Donna used to be a librarian, so she’s a natural as a bookseller. Nina was my bartender both times, which involved pouring wine or water. Keep your drinks simple. I had a box of red and a box of white, and bottled water. Nina has a very outgoing, sparkly, personality, making her the perfect bartender!
Pick your date and time: Select a date at least a month out to give you time to sort through the details and invite people. My first launch was 2-4 p.m. on a Saturday. The second launch was 1-3 p.m. on a Saturday. I think 1-3 is a better time slot. This way, if people do linger, you’re not getting close to dinner time. Be sure to let your guests know that this is like an open house; guests can come at any time and stay for as little or as long as they’d like.
Select your guests: Both my hosts were comfortable with about 3o guests. I invited 40 to each event, knowing that 8-10 people would likely have other plans. This turned out to be the case.
Send your invitations: I used E-vite, which lets you manage the invitation. People can RSVP and message you. E-vite also sends a reminder a couple of days in advance. E-vite has several free template options which are easy to work with and personalize.
Buy your supplies: Start this early to take advantage of sales. The dollar store is the cheapest place to buy napkins, paper plates, and plastic glasses/cups. In addition to the wine and water, I also had cheese and crackers, a fruit tray and a veggie tray. For dessert, I bought a large box of chocolates, which I split up and put on small paper plates here and there. You want everything to be finger-foody, and you also want to keep your costs down.
Selling books: Not everyone will buy a book (some may already have bought your book on Kindle, for example). Others might buy two! Have bookmarks as free takeaways (I recommend GotPrint.com). I personally sold about 30 books at each launch. I also gave a free signed copy of my book to Donna, Nina and Carolyn as a thank you for helping me. Bring more books with you than you hope to sell. You can always take them home with you! If you’re lucky, you’ll break even on the day, but remember, this is about celebrating your success, not making money.
Be prepared to do a reading: I didn’t read at my first launch, but I’ve gotten more comfortable with this now. I prepared a three-minute reading for Skeletons, and it was well received. Be sure to thank everyone for coming and especially your host and helpers.
Be prepared to mix and mingle: Mingling can be difficult if you’re signing books, but be sure to take time to talk to everyone who took the time to come. It can be a bit overwhelming. Donna was quite good at keeping me on track.
Have fun: This is your day. Savour every moment and count your blessings that you have friends and family who will support you on your journey. It doesn’t get better than that.