Friday, February 21, 2014

A little book launch . . . a lotta fun . . .

Oofta. What a day. My launch party for Standing Stones. I'm right in the mainstream of those writers who resist marketing, but one strategy intrigued me:  the launch party.

Caught between advice from marketing gurus who plan elaborate book launch parties and spoofs that recommended several bottles of wine, I wondered what would work for me -- a self-published author with a limited budget and an inclination to stay home.

Knocking myself on the head with 'should' was not productive (as in, 'I should have organized this last month'), so I ordered paperback copies a month ahead, set a date, sent invitations by e-mail, and sent out a press release to our local paper (into the black hole). 

On the appointed day, I ventured forth to my favorite coffee shop here in Spokane -- Forza Coffee Shop serves Sweet Venetian coffee lattes, my favorite occasional treat.

What worked!

Invitations by e-mail brought a variety of people in and notes from those who could not come. The e-mail invite included a pic of the book cover and was sent to my friends from writing groups, quilting, and swimming. Two of my writing groups (Spokane Authors and AAUW) forwarded my invite to everyone on their list. 

The invite sounded something like this:  Drop by to help Beth celebrate the release of her new book, Standing Stones. Rachel will play a little classical music. Enter a book drawing. No purchase necessary -- unless you would like a cup of coffee! 

The no-host coffee bar venue was perfect. I scheduled a large meeting room with lots of comfy chairs and a big table. Some 30-35 people dropped by; some bought coffee, nearly all stayed to chat. Copies of my two books were arranged on that big meeting table with this sign:

If you would like to buy a book, 
the red-winged blackbirds will sing spring, 
and all the snow will melt. 
You really don't have to buy a book, but 
if you would like to take one home, here are the prices. 

The timing was perfect! The two hour no-host coffee drop-in was set up for 9:30-11:30, right after my swimming class to make it easy for my swimming buddies to drop by.   Two ladies who love historical fiction found out about the launch from friends. Two ladies wanted the link to Amazon for the Kindle edition. And attendees bought books!

What I will do differently next time!
  1. Make BOOKMARKS with websites and book info! People can give them to their friends.
  2. Think about what to write in the book ahead of time. Everyone wanted a personal note! At one point I had three books backed up to sign. 
  3. Post a sign at the venue, directing people where to go. 
  4. Have a formal sign-in to capture who attended, if they want to be added to newsletter, etc. 
  5. Move around and keep talking to different groups of people.
  6. Make sure the venue is large enough. A few people had hearing problems, which may have been exacerbated by the small room.
  7. Plan something extra! Before I set up the open house, one friend asked if I was going to have 'eye candy'. Well, that was a good idea, but I opted for my daughter to play classical violin. Everyone loved her playing a small 10-minute concert.  
  8. Have someone else collect the money. 
  9. Maybe ask for reviews . . . this seems a bit forward to me. 
  10. Make posters to publicize the event about a week before. Post at libraries.
  11. Don't drink coffee before the event. 
I ended the two hour session amazed by how many folks came to celebrate with me. One friend made soup so I wouldn't have to worry about cooking that day. Folks really talked to each other, and I saw connections between people I knew from different groups who didn't know each other.

Several times attendees wanted to talk more about their own writing journey (which was fine with me); others were curious about my book, how it got started, how much time it took, what research I've done, why I chose to self-publish. All these questions were easy to answer, and everyone seemed interested in the next book out.

I hope this overview helps you plan or feel better prepared for YOUR book launch party. For self-published authors with that shoestring budget, my suggestions may help you look at the launch as a time to celebrate your accomplishment.

If you've already had your book launch, any tips to share?