Friday, October 24, 2014

Notes from a DIY Book Launch

This morning I held a book launch for my first published book, and, since I am also my own publisher, I was the one who had to organise and run the event. Here are some considerations that worked for me, and some wish-I’d-thought-of-that-earlier ideas that occurred to me during and afterwards:

1. Food and books. It seems like a good idea at the time to treat one’s guests to yummy cake... Luckily I have two small children, so, as par for the course, I grabbed a packet of wet wipes as I dashed out the door – and placed it on the table beside the books for cleaning any sticky fingers.


2. Crack open as many of your sale copies of your book as you have time for, and check that there is nothing obviously amiss. I had a book with two folded pages, with the print broken across the fold line - embarrassing when someone picked it up for a browse and pointed it out.

3. Hire a “publicist”. If you own a teenager (or can borrow one), this is a perfect job for them.

I’d had in mind that I would take some photos with my phone and upload them to my Facebook Page when things got a bit quiet, so I could run a virtual launch at the same time, but the quiet part didn’t happen. I also didn’t work up the nerve to ask someone to take photos of me until the end.

Instead, have someone who knows their way around a phone and social media running around taking snaps and tweeting or Facebooking on your behalf (but not pretending to be you, of course – Facebook Pages can have multiple contributors, so simply add your “publicist” and select an appropriate role).

If you do a reading, have your slave “publicist” record it on your phone, upload it to YouTube, and then post the video on Facebook.

4. Hire a “stylist”. Again, a great role for a bored teen (as long as they don’t have it in for you). This job involves a quick check that you don’t have spinach in your teeth before a photo/video session, that your hair (piece?) is in place, clothing and jewellery straightened, etc.

5. Hire a “PA” (who could double as your “stylist” if you’re running out of victims to rope in). This job involves bringing you water, lip balm, pens for signing, or your phone if you have a call or a message. Perhaps even making a note of numbers of copies sold, and replacing the books on display as they sell.

6. Keep it simple (unless you have all these people, plus an event co-ordinator and crew, available to run around for you).

My car broke down yesterday, so I planned my worst-case-scenario on having to walk to the location with books and cake in a back-pack, carrying a two-year-old. Luckily I didn’t have to do that, but, after that, everything extra was a nice bonus rather than a necessity. Simple equals less stress.

What about you? Have you stage-managed your own book launch, or do you have a publisher who organised your launch for you? What went wrong, or right, on the day?

Elle Carter Neal is the author of Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin, a science-fantasy for tweens and teens. She blogs about the craft of writing at HearWriteNow.com

15 comments :

  1. I kept waiting for all these helpful publicist/assistant elves to materialize like magic. It hasn't happened. I thought my teen children would be excellent publicists (they weren't). A publicist is probably the one expense that would be worth paying for. It is a special skill set. While Amazon does an amazing job of recommending your books for you and selling them all over the world, it does not negate the need to promote them yourself. I've always thought group events would be fun: getting writing friends together to sign and go to literary festivals, etc. It's harder to herd writers than one might think.

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    1. LOL, yes. I think it could work with an older teen who is not your own child. It could look really great on a resume for a kid who is starting to think about work or part-time work. But, yes, as Dani mentioned, it is probably best to spell out exactly what you expect them to do.

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  2. Ah, another challenge. Love your suggestions, Elle. Also acknowledge the reality of Diana's observations. In fact, I am particularly drawn to the idea of a group event. This might be especially doable in a town/city/area that supports writers, artists, musicians, etc. Great post, Elle. :-)

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    1. With a strong co-ordinator, and plenty of notice, a group event would work really well.

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  3. Great photos Elle - and the comments about publicists, stylists, etc. make me think we need separate posts about that, because who actually knows what that means - and the different levels available. We could tie that into building "street teams" using slaves... er, I mean, teens. Right?

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    1. Good idea. It should really be detailed in writing what is expected, especially if you're going to part with hard-earned cash for the service.

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  4. The idea of having an actual launch makes me sweat. After 7 books, having a launch now seems a bit after the fact. Where would I have it? Who would I invite. Though my family supports my writing, no one has read any of my books since the beginning, when I forced them to. I'm glad you had a successful one, Elle. Made all that hard work and angst worth it. Me? I think I'll just remain anonymous.

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    1. I know what you mean, Polly. It was my friends who urged me to do something to celebrate and one in particular who was not going to let me get away with not having a book launch in some form. This time, I used Facebook and invited everyone local to me whom I actually had met in real life. So no strangers. Next time round I will go even more intimate and invite just my close friends and make it more of a thank you party for my cheering squad. Because that's what it turned into, and I really liked it that way. And then I can hold it at my house and keep things even simpler.

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  5. I hired a publicist for my first book, but mostly what she did was tell me what I needed to do (lots). Since then I work with a VAA (Virtual Author's Assistant) who does much of the marketing work that my publicist once told me to do.

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    1. I think being able to train someone to handle the tasks you don't have time for is really worthwhile. It sounds like your publicist was more of a "coach" than anything else. Sounds like a blog post, Kim - what were all the things she told you to do and did her suggestions/commands work?

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  6. I should jump in and mention the BBT Cafe on Facebook for online publicity events - a lot of these people are very well trained in social media and blog book tours, and will help you for free in exchange for the same help in return. Team works pretty well if you know the right people.

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  7. I am several things: professional marketeer, introvert masquerading as an extrovert, and major nudge. I did my own book launch. I asked my local library, which doubles as a wonderful community center. The Friends of the Library offered snacks; I had a cake decorated with my book title and my name on it. Yes, I took pics which I posted on FB. My husband took care of the money who I could sign/hug/laugh/joke with those who came. One of my best buds wrenched the camera out of my hands (what was I thinking? Selfies?). Things went smoothly at the physical launch. Then, it was off and running with my social media connections.

    Yes, it took pre-thinking and a lot of moxie to pull everything off. With book 2 in my Mad Max series coming out in June 2015, I'll be doing a lot of marketing of the current book to keep interest. Hope it all works.

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    1. Yes, husbands, wives, partners, and friends should definitely be bribed--I mean hired--as event staff :-)

      I wish I'd tossed my phone to someone sooner and encouraged photos with more people. Good thing is there's always next time.

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  8. I did everything myself and I am not a "spring chicken." It was tiring, but well worth it. The joy and excitement I saw in the eyes of the children (and sometimes even the parents) when they got to meet me - "a real author," and have a signed book was something I will never forget.

    I was told I did such a good job of contacting everyone and thing I could think of to let them know that I was having a book signing(s), that one location thanked me for the new clientele I introduced her to!

    I also had candies for the kids and bookmark handouts. The more you give, the more you get.

    At each book signing, I had a notebook where I printed the name of the child who the book was signed for, along with the name of the parent and email address. I did this for two reasons: 1) Having the name in front of me, there was less chance of writing it wrong when I autographed a copy. 2) At a later date, I sent an email thanking the parents for bringing in their children and for purchasing books. I found with the later, that some parents continued to follow me through my blog and some forwarded my info to others who eventually purchased the book as well.

    I enjoyed visiting schools and reading my book, The Big Bad Rain Monster. I also enjoyed discussing how I did it all myself to children of an older age interested in the same. This also brought more success for book signings.

    To do it over again, I think I would haul in helpers specifically in the area of going into stores, churches and other locations to leave flyers announcing the book launch/signing.



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    1. I had a clipboard with sheets of paper for any purpose, but mostly for the person buying to write down the name they wanted me to sign the book to. Came in handy.

      And, school talks... now there's another post.

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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