My last book launch party was in December 2021 for My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister. I want to share the author events I have hosted for anyone looking to arrange their own live book promotion.
Lived, breathed and dreamt your wonderful book for however long it has taken you to write it. If you’re anything like me, the planning, thinking and inspiration part of your novel lasted longer than actually putting it together.
You have an amazing cover – the type that readers throw the old adage away and judge ‘yes, I do want to read this’.
If you’re lucky, an audiobook narrator has agreed to produce the listen-to version of your words.
All you need now is actual readers (like the reader in the photo above).
Your publication day may have felt like an anti-climax. That’s only natural; all that work, all that pulling words from your soul and no doubt money you have thrown at your wonderful book. If no one has read it or agreed to publish it for you, publication day can play with your mind. You may find yourself seeking validation, asking your friends and family to read and review if only to prove that you haven’t wasted your time, tears and energy.
Author events are your chance to show everyone in a live setting the amazing book you have published.
LOCATE A VENUE
Your first step will be to choose a venue willing to host your event. Libraries are a good way to start, I only know how library services work in the UK so bear this in mind when reading this post. Libraries are run by the local authority, so start with your local library. Make contact with a librarian and ask if they host author events for local writers. Most UK libraries have a contact page (in my case, Bury Library is found on the council’s website). I have found that the best way to make contact is by actually visiting the library. I used to attend a creative writing group and got to know some of the librarians. Find out how your local library engages with its customers, granted there aren’t as many events listed on my local library’s page post lockdown but things can only get better. Start attending other authors’ events if available at your library.
My very first book launch party was held at one of Bury Library’s satellite venues. Castle Library in Bury had room for twenty guests, two librarians, me and my books when I launched ‘Quirky Tales to Make Your Day‘ my first short story collection. Bury Library charged a nominal entrance fee and took care of the advertising – although when I announced the event on Facebook I had messages and filled all twenty places with people I knew (more on this later).
My second author event was at another library in the Bury area.
I would say the most successful book launch party was hosted at a pub in the town centre, Broad Street Social. This bar is independently owned and willing to host events and ‘pop ups’ for local food and art businesses. After attending a poetry night last Halloween at Broad Street, I asked if I could launch my next novel at their venue. The owner suggested a Sunday evening, they got more punters through the door and I got to talk about my book – win/win.
As you can see, I was joined by the super talented Lindsay McKinnon. Lindsay is the voice-over actor who produces my books.
Also, keep your eye out for local events. Book sales and appearances at library open days, brewery open days and a charity music festival in my hometown (they have a poetry stage so why not a novelist and narrator friend?)
You’ve written a book and have a box of author copy paperbacks on order, you have secured a venue, date and time for your book launch party. Now you need some guests to attend your event. Ideally, a good mix of your loved ones and strangers is the preferred guest list. Your friends and family will cheer you on, laugh at the right moments and make you look like a superstar. Strangers are potential new readers and fans of your work. I have thrown several author events and am still not at the stage where potential new readers attend. I am not disheartened though, I will keep going with author events. I believe that if you do them regularly enough then those people who considered attending last time will turn up this time. It’s hard work but eventually, I am hoping for a local following.
Your friends and family are a tricky subject. Some authors feel their inner circle is too close to read their books. I agree, I have mixed feelings about my husband reading my books, my daughter says ‘she can just hear me – not a character’ and two of my closest and longest time served friends are on strict orders to wait for the DVD to come out. I do have a friend who can laugh loudly at just the right moment. This is one of the reasons that you should be most grateful for any support your friends and family can offer especially if it means that you won’t be alone at your book launch.
Friends and family may well bring a plus one – someone who your guest knows loves books.
Let’s talk about strangers, why would they attend your book launch if they’ve never heard of you?
I always hope that a local book enthusiast who is a big supporter of local business will attend (this goes back to the ‘I’ll attend the next one’ crowd).
An indie author’s nemesis, I know but if you don’t advertise your book launch, no one will come. It is time to think of everything. Social media – use the hashtag #sharingiscaring and some of your friends and contacts might just take the hint and share your event on their profile with friends and contacts you don’t know. With Facebook, you can create an event and send out invites (don’t be disheartened if people don’t respond – I have found that those who respond don’t show and random folk that never like or comment on anything have turned up in the audience).
Local press. In Bury, we have a local newspaper The Bury Times; they have never responded to any of my press releases about publications or book launches. I bet if I paid for an advert, they would be alright with this. The reason I haven’t paid for an advert in the local newspaper is that a local advertising magazine let me do it for free – and because they were really helpful and answered my emails I did pay for a colour advert in their magazine.
Newsletters. Ask guests to your author event to join your newsletter. They will get to know when you are next appearing live.
WHAT TO SAY
Prepare and rehearse your favourite excerpts. Print them out – in my case, I like to use large print or sometimes I transfer them to an E-reader.
I start by thanking my guests for attending the event. I usually give a very short speech about how and why I started writing, aiming to give hope to the audience that they could write a book too.
I am lucky. Lindsay McKinnon narrates my books and has performed readings from my novels. I have found that novels don’t really lend themselves to live readings, so having an actor read using accents has been really impressive.
If you are hosting the event solo, you could start by reading your book’s blurb and a sample of a few reviews. You have to put yourself into it, read as you imagine what your character sounds like. I have read poetry at an open mic night recently (just to keep my nerve up) and this has been helpful.
Some authors throw the floor open to questions at the end. In all honesty, I have only seen this work with famous authors. It has been great if people are asking questions about how they can start writing, but at one of my events I had a question telling, rather than asking me how I should go about my indie author career. For those interested, I already have been published in women’s magazines.
FORM A WORKING PARTNERSHIP WITH SOMEONE
This is a long shot, but I was very lucky. In 2019, I was approached via ACX by Lindsay McKinnon auditioning to produce the audiobook version of Curmudgeon Avenue. If you like audiobooks narrated by a professional, funny, talented voice actor who can act in any accent and has perfect comic timing, I can recommend any audiobook that Lindsay has produced (link behind her name).
Is there any difference between a book launch and an author event?
You could give away a signed copy of your latest novel. Last time I did this I volunteered my husband to give out raffle tickets at the venue of my book launch. He returned with a little book of raffle tickets telling me that everyone looked at him as though he was crazy – I think because raffle tickets are usually paid for. Note to self; put FREE RAFFLE on the advert.
My mother-in-law won this paperback of My Half-Sister’s Half-Sister and the fancy tote bag I had printed up via Vistaprint. People shouted ‘fix’ – it wasn’t a fix and they only had themselves to blame for not accepting the free raffle ticket from my wonderful husband. I might do things differently next time!
BOOKMARKS. Only give away something that people will remember you by. Bookmarks and business cards may get thrown away but some of them will end up at the bottom of a handbag, or the inside of a wallet to be found at a later date. These are your future fans, your future readers – you’ve written a book, you know how difficult it is to get people to read it. Many of the print companies allow you to add a QR code which I think is awesome.
This is a tricky one.
At my last book launch, I wasn’t going to feed my guests but my husband paced up and down ‘Have you even ever been to a launch?’ He was talking about traditionally published or signed recording artists whereas I (his wife) am a penniless author. I’ve hosted them without a buffet in the past and this went down fine. Check with your venue. Last time I held a book launch at a library, they changed things and asked me not to bring cake (mainly because cakes make crumbs). At my last book launch, I paid for a grazing platter from my friend’s local business Sambhavis Bites and Pretty Platters. Unfortunately, they didn’t have business cards so my good intentions of promoting my friend’s business didn’t really happen. Plus it meant I made no money out of the books I sold. Next time, I think I will do this differently and ask the venue if they would allow a ‘pop up’ for a food business to come in and guests can buy food if they want.
In all honesty, having food at your book launch didn’t bring in the crowds and was more of a distraction than anything.
I am painfully shy. Just to give you an example, I have recently joined a book club hosted by Liverpool Community Radio. This was only possible because they telephoned me to participate in the programme. However, towards the end, they played an interview with another author and I sat in silence for a full fifteen minutes because I was too shy to ask if they wanted me to stay on the line. I couldn’t get my words out. THAT IS HOW SHY I AM.
However, when I have stood up in front of other people to tell them about my books, I have had no problem. I have surprised myself at how many people listen.
And you will too because you have put everything into the books you have written.
I would say go for it. Below are a few photos from my book events.
Thank you for reading today’s blog post everyone. Good luck with all your book launches and author events, Samantha 🙂
PS if you are reading this post before April 13th 2022 I have a free sample for you HERE