1. Scheduling your book launch, when, where and how
Do I have to schedule my own book events? Yes, most likely you will arrange your own events. Sometimes you'll have a publicist who can help you schedule your launch or at least get you contact information, but generally you'll be reaching out yourself.
Most authors and illustrators will have their book launches at a local indie bookstore. Contacting a bookstore when you are a debut author can seem intimidating, but it's actually a very simple process. You can stop by in person and introduce yourself and inquire about hosting a book launch, or you can simply email them! For those of you wondering what to say in your email, something like this generally does the trick:
I also include the cover image, description of the book pulled from my publisher's website and the ISBN.
Don't have a local bookstore? Try your local library. Most libraries have a meeting room that you can book, often for free. The downside is that you'll have to sell your own books, but it's a good option for those who don't live near a bookstore.
When should you have your book launch party? Generally within a week of the book coming out, if possible. You want to make sure it's close enough to the release date that your friends and family won't have already gone out and bought the book somewhere else. Book launches can be hosted on a weeknight evening or on a weekend day. Since the main attendees will be your friends and family, consider when they'll be able to attend. If you know mostly families and kids, a weekend event might work best. If you're mostly friends with adults, a weeknight might be ideal.
Should you have multiple book launch parties? Some authors and illustrators want to have multiple events at various bookstores, which is fine, if you think you can attract an audience to more than one event. But check with the first bookstore to make sure that your second event is not in competition with your first. If you schedule too many events too close together in time and geographical area, the first bookstore might think you are drawing away potential sales.
Now invite your family and friends! Create a Facebook event, send out an evite, an email, post on social media - all of those are options to get the word out. Create a simple little graphic that you can use to post on social media. It doesn't have to be fancy, but a tip: rectangular works best on Facebook and Twitter. Here's mine, that I created while at my day job using MS Paint. I was serious when I said it doesn't need to be fancy.
2. What happens at a book launch?
Book launches can be as simple or as complicated as you want, but most book launches seem to have the following elements:
Book reading (of course)
Snacks! (optional, but everyone seems to have snacks). Some authors and illustrators will have themed snacks, like these snake-shaped cookies from Kathryn Dennis' book launch for SNAKES ON A TRAIN:
Q & A, or talking a little bit about the inspiration behind the book or showing process
3. Optional book launch activities
Many authors and illustrators will incorporate some other activity into their book launch. Some ideas include:
- Trivia (have a book about an animal? how about some trivia questions about that animal?)
- Giveaways of prints or artwork (you can hand out raffle tickets or give them out as prizes for trivia)
- A quick craft related to the book (just make sure to tell the bookstore if you need a table for the craft, and make sure it's easy enough that it can be done by kids on their own - you'll be too busy signing books to run the craft)
- Coloring pages to take home
- Photo ops
At Kathryn Dennis' book launch for SNAKES ON A TRAIN, stuffed snakes were hidden around the bookstore that kids could find (and take home!)
Photo ops! Make a craft AND take a picture from one of my book events for QUACKERS:
Kelly Jones with a photo frame that you could pose with (and post on social media afterwards!) at her book launch for ARE YOU READY TO HATCH AN UNUSUAL CHICKEN?
Swag: is it necessary? No! Is it fun? Yes!
Some of the most common items I've picked up at book launches are bookmarks, buttons and stickers. Bookmarks seem the most desirable to bookstores and libraries, stickers are the most coveted by kids, and while I love buttons, they do have sharp pointy bits that need to be kept away from the really little ones.
Buttons: fun but can be pointy!
Bookmarks acquired from various book launches:
Stickers from Kathy Dennis' book launch:
Some of my favorite places for getting swag made include Purebuttons.com for buttons and Gotprint.com for bookmarks. I haven't gotten stickers made but these pictured above are from Moo.com.
For further book launch advice, see this excellent post by author and bookstore events host, Lish McBride: