10 Tips for a Successful Book Launch

SONY DSCMy experience with book launches is limited to two, one of which was my own, so perhaps I’m not the authority on this subject.  But, as always, what I didn’t know led me to read, investigate, ask questions, and eventually follow my own path. What I learned along the way suggests that book launches are as varied as the books they are celebrating and as unique as the individual writers. With that in mind, I offer my tips for creating a memorable book launch based on my first experience.

  1. Celebrate! Soon after publishing my book, a fellow writer gave me great advice: Take time to enjoy this moment. It’s fleeting. So, I wanted the book launch to be a celebration. Despite my book’s dark subject matter, I didn’t want the event to be dull or overly serious. It was meant to be a joyful day, and it was.
  2. Venue. It took some time to choose a location that was appropriate for my book launch. Several ideas were floated around. Space and cost were factors in our decision. Finally, we decided on the ParkSide Centre, a site that focusses on events for seniors. Perfect! Easy accessibility, parking, and an existing clientele that included my target audience.
  3. Socialize. I planned the occasion, but made sure the first part of the launch allowed time for people to arrive, grab a coffee or treats, chat and mingle. Although I had chairs and tables, I wanted people to socialize, so there was some open space as well. I made every effort to greet friends, families and guests. One guest commented that he and his wife had passed right by the door because they assumed this couldn’t be the book launch; there was far too much activity and noise. He probably expected a more serious, academic occasion. I think he was delighted to find us in a more festive mode.
  4. Music. My husband, a high school music teacher, suggested our school’s guitar ensemble. The young musicians played as guests arrived, supplying background music and creating a lively atmosphere. Later, my husband, also a guitarist, and my daughter, a violinist, played a tango duet requested by my mother. It was a lovely tribute to my parents and prepared the audience for my more serious speech and reading. Don’t underestimate the power of music to set the tone for your event.
  5. Food. We kept food and drink simple: coffee and pulla (Finnish coffee bread) along with other goodies. What’s an event without yummy treats? My book launch took place in the afternoon and my father’s an avid coffee drinker, so it seemed appropriate.
  6. Visuals. I ran a slideshow of family photographs dating back to the 1930s to present. Some included images I’d taken during my research trip to Poland and Germany. Guests enjoyed viewing and discussing the pictures. It also meant that eyes weren’t always on me when it came time to speak.
  7. Stories. A book launch provides an opportunity for the writer to share personal anecdotes with the audience, stories they might not read in your book. In my case, I described how my book almost didn’t happen (read here). I took the opportunity to thank my guests and those involved and followed with a short reading. It was my first chance to talk to an audience about the book and provided me with enough confidence that when I was invited to speak at a library event I jumped at the chance. I also read a short passage, made more poignant to the audience by my father’s emotional reaction.
  8. Connect. Of course, my father and I took time to sign books and talk to each guest. My father commented that he was so nervous that he could barely sign his name. Priceless! I valued that time as I was able to connect with old friends, family members, colleagues, as well as meet new people who were interested in my father’s story.
  9. Costs. Although it is time to celebrate the book, I didn’t want to overspend. The more significant costs were the rental of the space and food, while I saved by enlisting friends and family to help. Along with the guitar ensemble, my daughter and her two friends sold books and gave out bookmarks, and my son gathered email addresses for a mailing list by having guests enter a draw for a free signed copy of the book. A few flowers in some dollar store vases and we’d created a nice atmosphere. Relaxed and inexpensive.
  10. Enjoy. This is the big day, so take time to enjoy it. Although there are other events, like book signings, conferences, fairs, library talks and book club meetings, the book launch you create is all your own. While it requires some preparation, it should not be stressful. Once the day arrives, let it happen and savour every moment. You deserve it. After all, you wrote a book!