Author and editor Mike French offers his tips on throwing a successful book launch.
When your book is released into the wild you need to celebrate. After all it’s taken you forever to write the thing and there it goes all on its own where it might be killed by foxes or mauled by hungry bears. And there’s nothing worse than having a launch date where nothing happens. Believe me I know – it will rain if you don’t do anything. Guaranteed.
And no, you can’t celebrate on your own, you’ve spent 12 months on your own writing. This is the time to do a book launch and invite everyone who knows you. Scary? Well, not really if you plan it as a celebration – let’s call it a party. Your friends will want to come to a party. People like parties. Not all your friends will like standing around a bookshop making polite talk whilst re-reading your back cover for the millionth time. They will like a party though – did I mention that?
And really, this is the way to go. If you set out with the aim to sell loads of your books as your prime motive – well it just won’t be so good – but if your focus is on making sure everyone has a good time, then it will be brilliant. Simple. And of course happy people will buy your books as well 😉
For the launch of Convergence, my latest novel, I used a friendly local café based in an arts centre for my party. That meant I could easily lay on food for guests and there would be a plentiful supply of coffee and beers for sale over the counter. It worked without breaking the bank and we packed out the venue.
Get your invitations out early
I knew it was vital to make sure I invited people well before the event. I also posted them invites. Use social networks as well but don’t depend only on them – people like a proper invite popping through the letterbox. If you have a friendly library they might put a poster up for you as well and the venue you choose will normally happily put out invites and posters.
Get other people involved
Don’t be afraid to ask people to help you. There’s nothing better for getting an event to work than to see it as a joint venture with a group of friends. For my launch I had some great mates helping sell the books, hosting the evening and even filming and taking photographs.
Plan it as a party
Make sure you do plan it as a party – spend your time thinking about how to make it fun and think of a theme based around your book. In Convergence Ronald Reagan appears as a clone and the novel is part of a trilogy called The Dandelion Trilogy; so we had Reagan masks, Reagan posters mocked up to show him reading the book and helium balloons with images of dandelions on them. That, together with puzzles of the book cover for the kids and music referenced in the novel in the background, helped build a party atmosphere.
At times it felt like planning for a wedding. What colour tablecloth should I get to put on the table with the books? What food should we get for the guests? When should we serve food? How do I want to use the different spaces in the venue? But I can honestly tell you that it is worth it. I thoroughly enjoyed my launch party. Afterwards I opened a bottle of champagne with my wife whilst one of my sons inhaled the left over helium from the balloons and fell about laughing. I was very, very happy!
Oh and it didn’t rain.
I’m still waiting to see if Convergence gets mauled by bears.
Mike French is an author and the owner and senior editor of the prestigious literary magazine, The View From Here which has been called many fine things since it started in 2007 including, “Attractive, informative, sparkling and useful” by the late Iain M. Banks. Mike’s debut novel, The Ascent of Isaac Steward came out in 2011 with Cauliay Publishing and was nominated for The Galaxy National Book Awards (which, due to an unfortunate clerical error was awarded to Dawn French). Mike’s second novel a dsytopian sci-fi called Blue Friday was released in 2012 by Elsewhen Press and was nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke award. Convergence, his third book, was released by Elsewhen Press in December 2013.
Splitting his time between his own writing, editing the magazine and running workshops, Mike leads The Luton Writers’ Group and works with ATP media in Luton. He blogs at www.mikefrenchuk.com.