08 Feb The Return of the Book Launch
The Big Book Launch Comeback!
I remember when I first started working in publishing (that was, ahem, over twenty years ago), book launches were a sine qua non. No sooner had the production team hit the print button than the publicists were dusting off their media lists, planning the canapés and working out who the guest speaker would be.
And then came the steady breath down the neck of the finance team. “Those canapés are too costly, did that media person attend the event? who is that guest speaker anyway?” And, just like that, it seemed that book launches were off the agenda for the average author. Or, there was a small financial contribution set aside that the publisher might make to the author’s self-funded, self-planned event.
As a publisher in big commercial houses myself at that time, I was persuaded of the “waste of time and money” theory. I’d attended too many events at which I’d witnessed the poor author in front of a handful of people trying to muster even a molecule of the passion and energy that it took to create the book in the first place.
But, hurrah, it seems that the Book Launch is making a comeback, particularly for self-published authors.
When Captain Honey published its first title, The 50 Book, in 2013, we held a very successful event at Kinokuniya Bookstore in Sydney (here’s some pics of the event). We had canapés, media in attendance, and a celebrity (Deborah Hutton) guest speaker! The bookstore sold around 40 books and said that it was the busiest and most ‘buzzy’ event that they had held. Yes, this event took a bit of planning but it was well worth it both for the book sales, and for the great celebration of all our hard work.
Late last year, we attended another fabulous book launch, planned and hosted by one of our authors, Kate Ramsay. We’d been working with Kate on her book, Go With Love: A Memoir about Loss, Love and Learning for some time. It’s a beautiful, heartfelt book written over many years about the illness and untimely death of her husband, Des. A book launch, for Kate, was the final step in a long journey that both chronicled her grief and carved out her place as a writer.
This needed to be celebrated, and Kate did so in style with over 50 friends and family in attendance.
On a commercial note, Kate sold over 30 books at a launch at her local bookshop in Mullumbimby, ensuring that the event both covered costs and returned a bit of profit for her. Kate had a long-term relationship with that bookshop as a regular consumer of books over many years, and the owner was more than happy to support Kate in her launch and in selling her book. The event was a great success. The photograph in this blog shows our own Natalie Winter (who designed the cover for this book) and daughter Dexie attending the launch and chatting to gesticulating author Kate Ramsay, and event speaker Dr Ellen McGirr. (As Kate has strong links to both Sydney and Adelaide, two further events are in the works. Sydney-siders, can hear Kate talking about her book at Glee Books on 5th March).
Tips for a Successful Book Launch
If you are considering having a book launch for your self-published book, keep the following in mind:
Can you ‘pull a crowd’? You probably need a minimum of 30 and preferably 50 people to create an event with the right buzz.
Promote the event. Have a simple invitations nicely-designed and send out as an email attachment to friends, family and target media. You might also want to have some printed copies to hand out and place at local venues. If budget allows, get a small number of A2 posters created and place them at the launch venue or other appropriate place.
Don’t over-cater. People don’t expect a lot of free wine and endless canapés. A glass of fizz and a platter or two of homemade goodies is usually enough.
Do host. Make the event as professional as you can and help people to feel relaxed by welcoming and introducing guests as you would at a party. If you can, persuade a family member to don a black shirt and act as waiter/bartender for the event.
Pick the right venue. Partnering with your local bookshop usually works best, as they can promote the event and sell books for you. But you can also hold a small launch at home or a large-scale event at a community centre or other appropriate venue. Sometimes, a bookstore will come along to your event to sell books for you.
Pick an appropriate time. Daytime book launches work really well for kids’ books and also if people live in rural areas, and may have to travel for the event. They are also a good idea in winter. Evening book launches are after-work affairs, starting around 5.30 pm and finishing around 7.00 pm. (Some authors choose to hold an after-party with close family or friends which can kick on from the launch.)
Schedule the event. Give people an arrival time and then plan the speeches for about one hour after that. It’s a bit like at a wedding, most people wait for this part and then it’s okay to leave.
Organise a launch speaker. Ideally, you should have a speaker to introduce you and officially launch the book. That speaker will normally praise you and the book and hopefully encourage people to buy it! They will then handover to you to say a few words of thanks and direct people to the signing table.
Set up a signing table. This should be simple and visible, with lots of books piled up ready for you to sign.
Have fun celebrating your great achievement!