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Friday, May 16, 2014

Hosting a Successful Book Launch Party

at my book launch at Ally's Bistro, May 1, 2014
(photo by Nicole Fischer,

This is for my writing friends. So many of us are publishing books these days that there's a lot of curiosity about hosting a "book launch" - a term representing your very first public party celebrating the publishing of your new book.

Since 2011, I've published three books and hosted three book launch signings. The one that I hosted on May 1 was by far the most successful. It took me three tries to get it right. Here's what I learned the hard way:

1. People need to see something at least three times before they really "see" it. Publicize, publicize, and publicize. This means sending press releases to all local media including Internet media, putting pithy invitations on your Facebook page and Twitter account, and doing an email blast to any people on your email list who might be remotely interested (or know someone who might be interested). Make a special Facebook invitation, which will create a page for your event. Create little flyers and set them out at the venue a couple of weeks before the event. Include interesting photos on the invitation, showing your book cover and perhaps an attractive feature of your book launch venue (mine was Ally's Bistro, a moderately-priced independent restaurant). Post a larger version of the flyer at the library and/or other local public places. Don't forget word-of-mouth. When people say, "How are you?" or "What's new?" tell them about your event and hand them a flyer.

I used this image from Ally's Bistro on my flyers/invitations.

I also used this image.

2. Less is more. Keep your press release and invitations short, to-the-point, and snappy. Press releases should be no more than one page long and include your contact information. Choose a salient feature of your book and select that as your thing to highlight. Author Karen McQuestion always says, "Let people know what they'll get from the book rather than just telling what the book is about." (See my press release and invitation at the end of this blog post.)

3. Timing is everything. Send out your first promo blast two to three weeks before your event, with a "Save the date" note. Repeat your blast about four to five days before your book launch. I only repeated the email blast to people who had responded with interest to my initial email.

4. Use the sweetener effect. People like food. You don't have to splurge for a fancy feast. Since my book is called Dessert First, I offered lemon bars, oatmeal cookies, and brownies with coffee at a place that serves dinner, soft drinks, wine and beer. That gave people the choice to make an evening of it. I wound up spending a little more than a dollar per person who attended. Plenty of my guests purchased food and beverages on their own, a nice way to say "thank you" to the restaurant, I thought.

5. Consider an unconventional venue. Authors often think of book stores as places for signings, but there are many other venues that would let you host your party at no charge for the space, in order to increase their foot traffic. On May Day, I had more guests, sold more books, and spent less at the restaurant than I had at the bookstore where I had hosted my first two signings. The book store takes 40 percent of the cost of the book. I only spent about 18 percent of my total "take" on dessert and coffee. The space itself was free.

6.  Anticipate your crowd. I didn't ask for RSVPs, but enough people replied to my email blast and word-of-mouth that I knew I had at least 30 to 40 people coming, instead of the 25 I originally hoped for. Knowing the number had gone up led me to warn the restaurant owner to be prepared with  more food. She also removed the tables in the room and set up chairs instead. We still wound up with standing-room-only, hosting about 55 guests. Some stood in the hallway outside the room. I read loudly. It would have been nice to have a mic.

7. Engage your audience. I learned this from Karen McQuestion who learned it from Pat Lorenz. Thank your guests for coming, relax them with cheerful banter at the start of your presentation, and offer a drawing for a free book.

8. It pays to advertise. The drawing for a free book is a way to sneak in a commercial for your new book as well as your other books. The winner of the drawing gets to choose your new book or one of your previously-published ones. I always do the drawing right after I begin my program. I usually have people put their names on sheets of paper as they arrive, to expedite the drawing.
Here I'm telling about the choices of books in the drawing.
9. Read - but not for too long. I allowed for an hour of "open house" from 6 - 7 pm. Then at 7 pm I began my program and read for 15 - 20 minutes at the most. Better to leave them wanting more than snoring. My book has different sections: humorous, thoughtful, nostalgic, and poignant. I chose to read only the funny ones for the launch. The people were laughing their heads off - what a rush for me! I felt like Carol Burnett. I announced page numbers because some people wanted to read along in the books they had already purchased.  I marked the pieces I planned to read with tabs and kept other pieces tabbed just in case I wanted to make a quick change. At a senior luncheon that took place a week after my book launch, two great-grandpas had nice naps during my reading. Sometimes there's nothing you can do about that; I enjoy a good nap, myself.

10. Visual aids are great. If a Powerpoint projector is available, I like to project pictures from my book as I read a section that goes with the picture. There was no projector at the book launch, but I held up my book to show the pictures inside.

11. Ask for questions. This is the part I always forget, but if I write it here, maybe I'll remember it sometime! People usually have good questions that surprise me.

12. Have an assistant. My husband was my gracious book-seller so I could keep busy greeting people, reading, and signing books. (I use my favorite pen.) At smaller book talks (to book clubs, civic groups, and church groups), I do fine as my own book seller.

13. Keep clear records. I learned this the very hard way, argh. Before your signing, make a list of how many of each of your titles you're bringing along. This makes for easier accounting afterward. Remember to account for the one free book you gave away in the drawing! Besides keeping careful records of your book sales, retain receipts for what you spent on food, printing of flyers, etc., for tax purposes.

14. Be forward-promoting. Mention that you're available to speak to community groups and book clubs whose members buy your books. Distribute your business cards, book marks, and book order forms. I've had calls since the book launch - some to buy books (based on publicity I posted on a local Internet bulletin board) and others to buy books and have me visit book clubs.

15. Bask in the glow. Writing is solitary work. We writers seldom know how our words affect others. It's heartening to have evidence that people appreciate some of the things you've written. Let that fuel your next writing!
Note: keep water handy and have a table near where you read.

 Flyer (Note the clear directions to venue):

Come have some laughs…and dessert!
May Day Book Launch
“Dessert First – Glimpses of Wisconsin Life”

Gail Grenier
Appearing at
Ally’s Bistro
N72 W13350 Lund Lane – Menomonee Falls
NW Corner Appleton Avenue and Good Hope Road

Thursday, May 1, 2014
6 – 8 pm
Reading at 7 pm
Books available for purchase & signing
Entrées and adult beverages available

Press release sent to media (note the local slant):

Gail Grenier Sweet
[street address here]
[phone number here]

For Immediate Release


“Dessert First” Book Launch May 1

          Menomonee Falls author Gail Grenier Sweet will celebrate the release of her new book, Dessert First, at a May Day book launch party in the Falls.

          Grenier Sweet wrote features and columns for the Menomonee Falls News for more than ten years. She now writes books with the author name of Gail Grenier. Dessert First, subtitled Glimpses of Wisconsin Life, is a collection of true stories that are in turn funny, insightful, and touching. The stories reflect life in the Menomonee Falls area and other state locations during the past 60 years. Photographs – both new and nostalgic – are included. 

          The Dessert First May Day book launch will include dessert and is free and open to the public. It is scheduled for Thursday, May 1, from 6:00 – 8:00 pm, with a reading at 7:00 pm, at Ally’s Bistro, N72 W13350 Lund Lane, on the northwest corner of Appleton Avenue and Good Hope Road in the Falls. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Book sales benefit HOPE Network for Single Mothers, a local charity the author founded in 1982.

Gail Grenier's books are available on They are: Dessert First, Don't Worry Baby, Dog Woman, and Calling All Horses.



  1. I was soooo hoping it would be a success! Glad to hear so many people attended -- I've always told you that you're charismatic. You looked great in the photos. This was a good tutorial for anyone doing the same....

  2. Just found your blog. Wonderful and thanks for sharing so much.Wow, these are so gorgeous & beautifully content.

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  3. These are very helpful tips! Following your advice can make someone’s book launch party a sure hit! But aside from those, adding some games into the program is also fast becoming a trend. It’s fun, and it lets you and your readers become more intimate with each other. Though I understand it really depends on the crowd itself if that would be a wise addition. Anyway, hopefully that helped. All the best!

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  4. Thanks for posting this informative article thanks for sharing your great post,wish you have a nice day,happy every day.

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  5. This is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I ever saw.

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    1. Thank you Mary. What a great compliment! I appreciate it.

  6. Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!
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