A launch doesn’t have to be a Foyles Literary Lunch, nor in a bookshop, nor need hundreds of attendees. A writer friend of mine booked a double table at his local pub, invited a few friends and ended up speaking to the whole pub and selling over a hundred books. If your book relates to a place, you could launch from the tourist bookshop, a hotel, club venue, museum, or a friend’s garden, art gallery, or community centre – in short, anywhere where potential buyers might gather.
Some are like standard parties – milling, lurking, laughing, but centred around the author and the book. A five to ten minute pause will allow the author to thank everybody, read a short extract and invite the publisher and agent (if present) to say a few words. Then attendees can buy copies and queue for the author to sign them.
A more structured launch, sometimes called ‘An evening with [insert name of author]’ is ticketed – usually at a modest amount redeemable against the cost of the book. Attendees are offered a glass of wine, fizz or soft drink on arrival. After five or ten minutes’ mingling, they sit down to listen to the author give a talk for 25-30 minutes and read an excerpt from their book. A question and answer session follows, then buying and signing, and more mingling.
Here are my top tips…
Don’t wait to start planning. Although a beautiful book is a pre-requisite, you must think about where, how and when as soon as you’ve sent your manuscript in.
Network in real life at conferences, courses and events, and virtually on Twitter and Facebook. Try to meet as wide a circle of people as possible. Apart from the pleasure of talking with new people and learning new things, you may come across published authors in your genre or known specialists in your field. Ask them for their thoughts, their advice, but in a polite way. Who knows, they may come to your launch and add some magic dust.
If you’re thinking of a bookshop launch, go and buy some books there and become known to the staff. Make an appointment to go and see the owner or events manager. Be business-like. Find who is responsible for your genre, tell them a bit about the book and give them a free copy.
. Before making an approach, ensure you or your publisher has already loaded your book on to Nielsen Bookdata so that the shop staff can check you are a pukka author. Have your Bookseller Information Sheet in your hand and a good quality business card with your contact details. Prepare your ideas for getting the audience in - your friends and more importantly, the general public - and how you’re going to publicise the event. Invite the mayor and consort – the local press usually follows them. And if you have secured a 'name’ to come along to your launch, mention this as part of your pitch. The writer and broadcaster, Sue Cook, came along to my first launch to introduce me.
. The key to a successful evening is, rather predictably, preparation. Write your talk, speak it aloud, condense it on to cards, but practise it. Make sure the launch venue has glasses/plates/bowls or take your own. Do offer a drink, both alcoholic and soft. You don’t need fancy canapés; good supermarket nibbles are fine. Take plenty of postcards (you can put one on each chair beforehand), bookmarks, pens, etc. and a guestbook.
If your sales aren’t going through the venue’s tills, e.g. at a library, then designate a friend to take the cash. You won’t have time – you’ll be busy talking to people and signing books.
And smile. The audience has come to see you. They want to hear what you have to say. And they can be incredibly lovely when they queue with their book for you to sign.
Always sign the title page, never the cover or a blank leaf. Check how names are spelled. Be very careful of Nicky/Nickie/Nikki/Nic and don’t let’s talk about all the Kate/Catherine/Kathryn permutations!
Arrange for somebody else to take plenty of photographs especially of you holding your book. You can then use these photos to publicise your book further!
Post photos on your blog, Facebook pages, send a brief write-up to the local paper and monthlies’ social pages.
And don’t forget - once everything’s ready on the night and it’s five minutes to go, take a deep breath, smile and prepare to enjoy it.
Read more about Alison, Romans, alternate history and her writing on her blog