Book Launch Parties -- Worth It? Fun? Effective Promotion?

What to think about when considering a launch party

A reader writes:

Do you have any advice on book launches? Are they even worth doing, or are they something you do more for "fun" than for actual book promotion?

The short answer to this question is yes — generally, at the beginning of your career, a book launch is much more for fun than promotion. That said! If you want to throw a party, you should throw one!

Many people like celebrating their book releases. If you are one of those people, yes, it will be “worth it” for the enjoyable time you’ll have, and I encourage you to plan yourself a party. If the only reason you’d do it is for sales or promotion, though, it will almost certainly not be “worth it,” and you shouldn’t feel at all bad if you skip having one. (If you’re an exception to this rule and it would be a good promotional tool for you, your publicist will be able to tell you, and possibly plan it for you.) Personally, I don’t like throwing myself parties and it stresses me to plan them, so I give it a miss for myself. But I like going to others’ book launches and toasting their new shiny releases!

So let’s say you’ve decided to throw a party. Reader, I can tell from the rest of your letter that you’re in traditional publishing, so I’ll gear that way, but for people in self-publishing, the advice is mostly the same except you will probably have to use a non-bookstore venue and, if you want to do book sales, handle your own POS (point of sale) through Square or similar.

Things to consider about throwing a book launch party:

Advance Planning: Coordinate With Your Publisher

If you’re thinking about throwing a party, check in with your publicist or editor about it. Share any tentative plans with them, and see what they think and if they have any advice. It’s possible they may be willing to help coordinate things with a venue or make recommendations. They may caution you that it probably won’t be worthwhile from a sales perspective, so you’re in good shape if you can tell them you know that and you’re just looking to celebrate.

Be warned that your publisher might be piling a lot of other promo work on you during your release week, so make sure adding in a party won’t stress you out too much!

Sometimes bookstores fill their schedules a few months in advance, so especially if you want to use a bookstore, make sure to start planning ahead of time.

Venues and Sales

Indie bookstores are one of the most common venues for release parties, and they are familiar with the type of event so can help you out. If you want to go with a non-bookstore venue, it’s still useful to check in with a local indie and see if they can host sales for you on site. If not, you may have to figure out handling sales yourself or forego doing book sales at the event.

Conventions are another place authors sometimes host a release party. You can ask the convention if it’s possible to get a room and a time slot. (This may also be something your publisher can help you coordinate.)

Other than that, a book release party can be in any venue within your budget!

Food, Goodies, and Games

People love food! You can go with snacks and finger foods, and you can also do something celebratory like a cake. If you want to serve alcohol, wine is a good standby. (Of course check with the venue about the food and drink rules.)

Many release parties give out goodies related to the book. In addition to swag like postcards and bookmarks, this can be small three-dimensional tchotchkes you buy to give out that are on-theme for your writing. I’ve seen things like fun origami or tiny plastic sculptures / toys that had something to do with the book being released.

Drawings and giveaways are also fun things for a book release party.

Autographing, Reading, Questions, and All That Jazz

You can integrate all the “standard” stuff you want into your release event, like doing a reading from the book, doing an official Q&A, or autographing for people. Don’t forget your signing pens!

Even if it’s an intimate turnout, have a few close friends you can delegate tasks to if you need to, so that everything keeps flowing smoothly when you have to concentrate on the book stuff instead of being a host.

Publicity and Expectations

For a first book especially, don’t expect many people you don’t know to show up. It’ll probably just be family and friends. But that can be a very fun way to celebrate a book release!

If you’re at a bookstore, they do help publicize events, and you can also send press releases, push the event locally, or put out the word on social media. But for a beginning-career author this probably won’t bring in many curious new readers, so keep your expectations realistic.

Look at it as a fun party you get to have with family and friends to toast to a milestone in your life. Don’t lay out time or money to plan a party any more lavish than would delight you for the purpose of celebrating your book with those people, but for that purpose, make it exactly as big or fun as you want. Celebrate your book and be proud!

Online Release Parties

In this digital age, it’s also possible to throw an online release party. Most of the time people do this through Facebook. This can be an especially great option if your family and friends are spread out all over the world. It’s also usually lower stress / lower cost to plan, and is a great alternative if you’re already good at social media. Like with a live release party, loop in your publisher, and make sure your family and friends know to stop by and celebrate with you (which will also help keep it lively).

If you know someone else with a similar release date, it’s also easier to do a joint online release party than a live one. Joint events are also great in person, but a little more difficult because it’s less likely you’ll have someone local with a similar release date. But online you can party together and feed into each others’ releases!