A Book Launch Should SOAR!

Monday, September 17, 2012


A Book Launch Should SOAR!
Recently, I’ve attended several Book Launches, and come away thrilled for the author but disappointed in the event itself. Often it was so uninspiring that I didn’t even purchase the book.

A book launch should do just that, launch a book and its author out into the world creating excitement and buzz that will make each person within earshot run to the purchase table and clamor for an autograph no matter how long the lines may be or how long the wait.  

September 25th is the date of one of my critique partners book launch for her debut non-fiction work titled, Lessons Learned: The Story of Pilot Mountain School. While helping Gretchen Griffith plan her exciting day, I came up with several things to consider.

Location, location, location:
Most book launches occur in a book store, but they can be held at other venues. Think about a venue that has a connection to the story being told, a place where you or your story can gather the most fans. That might be a church or library or museum, a recreation center or an old town hall.

The launch mentioned above will take place in the actual school, the star of the book. Fortunately for Gretchen, Pilot Mountain School has been renovated to include an assembly room (the former gymnasium), multiple shops (former classrooms) as well as a restaurant (the former cafeteria). It has become the gathering place for many of the former students who were interviewed for the book. For Lessons Learned: The Story of Pilot Mountain School, the perfect venue for the launch is the school itself.

Room Set up:
The room should be large enough to include seating, plus three or four additional tables with room for lines to comfortably form.
a.       One table for book purchase: This table should be located away from the autograph table, across the room, if possible.  
1)     Make a large foam board book cover with the price + tax, clearly indicated.
2)      Post forms of payment accepted, especially if it’s CHECKS OR CASH ONLY. For checks, list to whom the check is to be made out. Book store sales eliminate these concerns.
3)      Have a bookmark or flyer that folks can take with them that indicates where book can be purchased with a credit card. Book sales will be lost at the launch if sales by credit cards are not available.
b.      One table for book signing: Preferably away from book purchase table.
c.       One table for resource materials or display materials that relate to the book: This table should be placed next to and prior to the autograph table so that those in line for an autograph will have interesting things peruse while they wait. This might not be necessary if you’ve done a picture book or a work of fiction, but you could still have photographs of the child or location or pet that influenced your story. You could also include a photograph of your work space, notes taken, copies of original first and second drafts, edited versions of your manuscript, rejection letters, anything that relates to the process of creating the book you’re launching.
d.      Refreshment table: Place this table way away from the other tables. Invariably, drinks spill and books get ruined.
e.      Chairs: There should be plenty of chairs to accommodate anticipated numbers. Someone should know where and how to get additional chairs should they be needed.

Things to handout:
Some folks attending will not be purchasing a book. You will want them to leave with information for purchase later or information that can be shared with family or friends.
a.       Business card: include contact information along with website and blog information. I’ll assume folks visiting your website or blog can find where to order their book from there.
b.      Bookmark: Have a bookmark made of your cover. Include website, blog and purchase information. Also include your contact information for presentations and school visits, assuming that you do those.
c.       Flyer: half sheet easily printed on your computer with all pertinent information on it. Print it in color so your book cover pops.

Autographing --Your Signature: 
Don't use your legal signature in your books! Create new one--add loops and swirls or only use your first initial--something other than the one you use to write checks. Unfortunately, we live in an age where identity theft is all too common. Five years ago this wasn't a concern. Today, it is. So work on creating a new signature for your autographs.

What to Autograph:
Decide ahead of time on two maybe three things to sign in books. Believe me, in the excitement of the event, you’ll be thankful that you thought this through ahead of time.
a.       General autograph for most purchasers
b.      More specific words for family and friends
c.       Specific words for those who may have contributed to the book.
d.      Keep autographs short and sweet. If you’re fortunate enough to have long lines at your launch, you’ll need to autograph as quickly as possible.
e.      Avoid lengthy conversations.

Actual Autograph Signing:
If you anticipate long lines eagerly waiting for an autograph, consider having a helper standing between you and those waiting whose job it will be to record on sticky notes the correct spelling of the person to whom the book is to be autographed. This will save time and keep the line moving.
a.       If you do not use a helper as indicated above, always ask folks to spell the name of the person you are signing the book to. Print it out on a sheet of paper that they can see before you sign the book.
b.      Even simple names like Sandy can be spelled in multiple ways; Sandi, Sandie, Sandee.

Your Presentation:
Hopefully you will have attended other book launches so you have a good idea what you would like to say at yours. Always keep in mind your audience and what you think they’d like to hear. Ask yourself, “what do I want to hear when I attend a book launch?”
a.       Keep it simple and short. Less than 30-minutes preferably, fifteen to twenty even better, unless you’ve been told otherwise.
b.      Stand unless the table where you are seated is elevated. If you want a podium, request one.  
c.       Use a microphone.  Even in a small room, if it’s crowded, it will be difficult for some to hear.
d.      Speak slowly.
e.      Consider using Power Point slides to enhance your presentation. If nothing else, have a Power Point slide of your book cover projecting on the wall.
f.        Consider sharing basics about you and your story:
1)      Did you always want to become a writer?
2)      Did anything about your personal life enhance the writing of the story?
3)      Where did you get the idea for the story?
4)      How long did it take you to write it?
5)      How long did you take to find a publisher?
6)      Where there any parts of your story you found difficult to write?
7)      Did you know how your story would end before you began?
g.       Only read from your book if you can read aloud with expression. This is a pet peeve of mine. I’ve yet to attend a book launch where I’ve felt the reading of a passage from the book was an effective use of time.
h.      If you’ve written a short picture book, you might consider reading the entire story.
i.         Only read from your book if you’ve explained to your audience why you’ve chosen to read that particular selection.
j.        If you do read a passage, make sure it’s short and sweet. Stop in the middle of something really exciting so the audience will want to buy the book to find out what happens next.

A Book Launch should SOAR, like a rocket taking off. Think ahead, plan ahead and yours will lift your audience right out of their seats and send them clamoring for your wonderful book.

Share your successful book launch ideas. We all learn from each other. 

Happy Launch! 

2 comments:

Carol Baldwin said...

Hey Sandra! Nice shout out for Gretchen and good advice. I found your blog when I googled her. I hope I can put your ideas into practice one of these days/years!

Gretchen said...

Hi Carol and Sandra,
I'm counting down the days to launch, deciding what format to use and what to say and do during my fifteen minutes! And yes, I am doing a quick reading. First page and last. We'll see how this goes. Thanks for all the great ideas. You can bet I'll use them.
Gretchen

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Hi! I’m Sandra Warren, a writer with very eclectic writing tastes. I’ve been fortunate to have publications in multiple genres including children’s, gifted education, parenting, how to, poetry, journal, educational activity guides and biography as well as audio and video production. I'm a city gal recently transplanted to the mountains of NC where glorious mountain vistas inspire latest renderings.

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