How to host a book launch

Book launch cr Aleksandra Warchol from ATP Media

Photography – Aleksandra Warchol from ATP Media

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 😉

Convergence book coverChoose your venue

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.

Photography – Aleksandra Warchol from ATP Media

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 your book launch as a party

Photographer – Aleksandra Warchol from ATP Media

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.

Theme your party cr  Aleksandra Warchol from ATP Media

Photographer – Aleksandra Warchol from ATP Media

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 FrenchAuthor bio

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.

A knitted book launch

I love an ingenious book launch – something that engages and intrigues attendees (and passerbys!), firing up imaginations along the way.

Knitted cab cr Ian Thomas

© Ian Thomas

This is easier said than done. For one thing, you need to have produced a book that offers up relevant ideas that will garner these kinds of results. Secondly, you need to have the kind of lateral thinking that comes up with those ideas in the first place.

Safia Shah achieved this on both counts, in reams, for her rambunctious children’s book, Carnaby Street’s Great Uninvited: Around the World in 80 Years, which celebrates, endangered words, eccentricity and, um, knitting.

CarnabyStreet cr Paul Knivett

Photo © Paul Knivett

The book features a young girl called Carnaby Street who lives in Morocco with her brother Oxford, her pet aardvark Alice, ten tiny tortoises, Martin the cat, her father (who is writing a sequel to the film Casablanca) and her sun-worshipping mother. Into this world a stream of peculiar relatives begins to arrive, including knitting-mad Great Aunt Amelia.

“The stories were easy for me to write as the colourful characters are based on relatives of mine and the mad romps played out in the pages of the book are generally scenarios that actually happened in my childhood,” admits Safia. “ To give you an example of how the stories reflect real life, I live in Morocco, my twin brother has by complete coincidence written a sequel to Casablanca, I have tiny tortoises living wild in the garden and my mother is a compulsive knitter.”

CarnabyStreet-3 cr Paul Knivett

Photo © Paul Knivett

For Safia the idea for creating a car cosy, or in Safia’s case a car cosy, for the book launch made perfect sense, as that’s exactly what Great Aunt Amelia does in the book. “Once I had the idea for the car cover, I needed knitters.”

Help came in the form of Sue McBride and the Materialistics, a South Shields based knitting group known for their fearless knitting escapades.

“By collection day, they were so focused that they were still knitting flowers and ladybirds and attaching them as the taxi was driving away!”

Creations for the car cosy include incredible knitted representations for characters ranging from picnic-munching tortoises to Alice the aardvark.

“My very favourite panels must be those showing the endangered words (knitted of course). These are great words like ‘snarky’ and ‘plodging’, ‘flizzy’ and ‘brouhaha.’”

When news spread about the knitted cab, Safia was invited to take the knitted masterpiece to the Knitting and Stitching Show at the Alexandra Palace, and drove through the vibrant vehicle streets of London. “Suffice to say,” Safia comments, “this is not an easy vehicle in which to ride incognito.”

Safia Shah knitted cab cr Ian Thomas

© Ian Thomas

When the taxi arrived, it created a buzz of curiosity at the entrance to the Knitting and Stitching show, and resulted in Safia being offered masses more opportunities to publicise her writing.

“It turns out that many teachers are keen crafters, so I’ve had endless requests for taxi visits to schools, which I am more than happy to fulfil!”

Find out more about Carnaby Street’s Great Uninvited and all those endangered words at  www.carnabysuninvited.com.