Guide to Book Launch Events
As an author you want to ensure that your new book is a success. Of course, success is measured in different ways. Not everyone wants to be the next JK Rowling or Paulo Coelho. For a publisher, it is important to satisfy a core audience whilst giving the book a chance to grow with increased exposure. A book launch can serve as both a celebration following all of the blood, sweat and tears as well as kickstarting your marketing campaign. However, with millions of books launched every year how are you going to make your book launch event stand out?
Organising a Book Launch Event
Types of Book Launch Events
Feel free to get creative but the basic components of a traditional book launch are still effective. The following, or more likely a combination of them, are all forms that your book launch can take:
- Introduce yourself, the book, and your writing process – it’s why everyone is here – they want insight and to feel like they really ‘understand’ you.
- Interview with author – a relatively informal interview at a book launch can be a fascinating and rewarding experience for all involved. Make sure the interviewer is relevant and qualified – the right pairing can ensure the success of the event. When Tina Fey was interviewed by the editor of the New Yorker, David Remnick, for her autobiography launch it was a genuine success.
- Reading – most book launches will include the author reading from their latest work. Read a carefully chosen short passage – practice reading it, and keep it short. It is important that the reading is strictly a teaser not a zzzzzzzs’er with a five minute limit a good idea.
- Q&A – Warning: handle with care. This is always a risk as the questions from the audience can be more about sounding clever in front of their idol than asking genuinely probing and insightful questions. However, having an open dialogue with the audience is a sure fire way to create engagement. A question and answer session with a roaming microphone and some clear ground rules can work well. Set-out a limited number of questions and communicate this to the audience.
- Signing – you may get cramp, you may have to suffer some awkward encounters but a book signing is often an important part of any book launch.
Theming Your Book Launch Event
It’s important to make your event stand out and be genuinely engaging– it’s a chance to get your book before the right people and make them remember it. These
will ideally include journalists and making a good impression is vital. When it comes to your guest’s enjoyment, some form of food and drink (particularly of the alcoholic variety) can go a long way. You don’t have to spend lots of money but preventing people from being peckish and thirsty should help focus their attention. One way in which to make an event memorable and newsworthy is to theme it – the trick is to avoid being cheesy and to be original. Easier said than done, we know!
Take a theme from the book – be it a novel, biography or non-fiction work – and think how you can apply this theme to the event to make it unique. What period is it set in? Are there larger themes that your work addresses that you can incorporate? Perhaps you can use actors and incorporate elements of immersive theatre to make it memorable. There might be something unique about the events venue that you can exploit. Get live musicians that fit in with the theme or even get guest speakers to engage in related debates. Is there a way that you can make the drinks and nibbles tie-in with your book? Don’t be afraid to brainstorm around the idea and run with it creatively.
Who to invite to your book launch?
Will it be a public event or a private launch? This is a key consideration and determines who you should invite. The answer is largely the same either way – you need to invite the right people. But who are these illusive characters that will help your book onto bestseller lists the world over?
- Journalists – getting journalists to attend is key so ensure that you remove any obstacles that may prevent them attending. Think location, time, incentives – all of which we’ll cover later.
- Influencers – these can include members of prize judging panels such as Man Booker, Costa, Richard & Judy.
- Radio/TV – who produces book programmes on the BBC? Who presents these shows?
The publisher Moonrat offers some excellent advice in his blog when it comes to who to invite and matching it to a suitable space – “Put together an invite list. Knowing the names of the people (and how many) you expect is really key to securing a venue.”
Moonrat then suggests putting the guests into the following categories: “Definitely will show up come hell or high water; Can probably count on him/her as long as s/he is in town; Might come; There’s some chance s/he will show up. I do this pretty frequently, and always use Facebook and LinkedIn as well as my email address book to cross-reference who will be in the area.”
The Book Launch Venue
Some book launches work well in bookstores – it is after all an obvious choice – just look around you! They also tend to be centrally-located, staff will promote the event on your behalf to relevant people and have experience in hosting similar events. There are, however, conditions involved that can be restricting. You could opt instead for an events venue that will give you more creative freedom and open up possibilities. Many event venues ideal for book launches offer a blank canvas space that allows you to realise your vision. Or again, think outside the box, and host the launch in an unusual place that is relevant to your book.
When thinking about location, the main consideration is are the right people able to get there easily. Consider transport links, parking, traffic and ensure that it can be easily accessed.
When to hold a book launch?
In the evening and midweek. Tuesday to Thursday is ideal. Unless it is a very high-profile event, keep it early evening so people can attend after work and be able to relax knowing they can get home on time.
Promoting your Book Launch
Once you have arranged the date, time, venue and your invite wish list, it’s now time to turn your attention to promotion. Do you have an email list of subscribers? A contact book? Facebook fans? Let them know the details of the event. Social media platforms are a great free way to reach relevant people. Reach out to people on Twitter and ask for Retweets. There are a number of literature magazines, blogs, and nights that will be happy to share your event to their followers. The following are a few more promotion ideas:
- Connect with listing sites and event Twitter accounts
- Strategically placed posters and flyers can still be effective
- Create a Facebook event specifically for the event and invite people to join
- Connect with people via LinkedIn and share your invite with them
- Create unique content on your website that you can then share with people on social media
How to hold a virtual book launch
Since late March 2020, book launches have suffered the same fate as many public events in this challenging pandemic era. The traditional book launch has become difficult, if not impossible to host as the public willingness to attend gatherings in close proximity is at an all time low. For publishers and authors this is a huge blow as readings, signings and in-store launches form a big part of the promotional playbook and help to drive revenue.
We’re very fortunate to live in an age where technology can allow us to credibly re-create a virtual alternative to an in-store book launch. Don’t let your book fly under the radar of the literary community, it’s time to plan your own virtual book launch!
Why an online book launch?
A cancelled book tour is painful, but it shouldn’t be the end. An online book launch can still engage and inspire existing fans and reach new audiences.
Books are much needed entertainment
As strange as it sounds, right now has never been a better time to write, publish and release a book. Whether through lockdown restrictions, working from home or limiting our potential exposure to infection, we’re all spending much more time at home. Consequently, this has led to a demand for entertainment be it board games, video games, TV shows, films and, of course, books.
The appetite for UK readers is especially large with retailers like Waterstones reporting a 400% increase in sales in March 2020. Ultimately, people are now consuming books at a faster rate and are buying more of them. Adapting your plans to set up an online book launch means that you can cheaply and easily get the word out and take advantage of people’s heightened desire for fresh reads!
Safe and reliable book promotion
By delivering your book launch virtually, you can guarantee the safety of those attending in a way not possible if delivered physically. Many people are very hesitant to mix at events like they once did and sharing a glass of wine and nibbles is going to be quite a large ask in the post-covid era. Government safety advice on household mixing and capacity limits also tend to change depending on the state of infection rates. This means that even if you had a venue booked and a packed attendee list, restrictions could change literally overnight and the event would have to be cancelled. The ability to go virtual for your book launch is therefore a lifeline you can’t ignore.
How to host a virtual book launch
Hosting a virtual book launch is actually very straightforward because unlike other larger virtual events (conferences etc) there is a lot less reliance on multiple technology platforms, presentation, video and media. This means that there is less worrying over how to organise lots of technology into succinct harmony. A successful virtual book launch comes down to the event structure, the visual/audible clarity and interactivity quality.
Decide on a virtual book launch venue
The great thing about going virtual for your book launch is that you don’t have to find a venue to cater to a certain audience size as they won’t actually be physically present! You therefore have a large choice over many possibilities when it comes to venues. Although you could stream the event from your own home, hiring out the backroom of a bookshop or interesting location for an evening really gives the event a professional edge. Either way, the first step to hosting a virtual book launch is to find that perfect backdrop.
Send out your virtual book launch invitation
With the venue, date and time locked in place it’s time to send out the invitations. Using the methods for book launch promotion mentioned earlier in this article you should market your book launch to your target audience. American author Joanna Penn has written a fantastically detailed guide to marketing a book launch which includes specific social media promotion. Regardless of your niche or who you intend to target, make sure that the event information, time and date is clearly advertised.
The next task is to decide what video streaming platform will best serve your needs. As previously mentioned there’s no real need to go all out on an expensive solution as there are plenty of free platforms that work great.
Remember a book launch is not a webinar and attendees are seeking an intimate personal experience. With this in mind, you need to find a platform that allows the audience to participate, ask questions or even talk to the author. The following are all good for this purpose and also come with built in encoders to convert raw video and audio into a live stream format:
- Facebook Live
- Instagram Live
- Periscope (Twitter)
Book Launch Perspectives
An Author’s View of a Book Launch
As a publisher, you will want to keep your author happy whilst achieving your own objectives from the book launch.
In an insightful piece in the Guardian, author AL Kennedy explains that book launches are not something authors look forward to: “It seems that for many of us, representing our work in the wider world always feels both disappointingly anti-climactic and weird.”
There are also a number of emotions that come into focus when a very personal project enters the public domain and is open to scrutiny. Kennedy explains: “Publication is when something with which you’ve spent a lot of time definitively walks away and belongs to other people who either get it, or don’t get it.”
It is worth bearing these points in mind when planning a book launch. A happy and relaxed author is one that is more likely to connect with the audience and help make the event memorable.
A Publisher’s View of a Book Launch
Ra Page, founder of not-for-profit short story publishers Comma Press, has one piece of advice: “The key to a really successful book launch is having the book printed on time…. not having the book there to actually launch can actually take the shine off proceedings…”
The point may seem an obvious one but without the physical book, the launch is doomed. It is vitally important not to underestimate how difficult it can be to actually see your book in print and to deadline. Do not hold a launch event until you have the the book grasped firmly in your hand.
Book Launch Venue London
When it comes to literature in London, there’s one place that instantly jumps out – Bloomsbury. From the Bloomsbury Group of revolutionary writers in the early twentieth century to the publishers of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter franchise, Bloomsbury is teeming with the power of words.
Bibliophiles from the world over can soak up the unique atmosphere in many of Bloomsbury’s leafy Georgian Square and tuck into a tome in a laidback café. So when it comes to holding a book launch, there is no better place in the country to host it than our Bloomsbury event venue, 20 Bedford Way.
20 Bedford Way Facilities
20 Bedford Way has a number of event spaces ideal for a book launch. Logan Hall has superb acoustics and excellent sight lines, so although it can seat up to 910 people you still feel part of an intimate and special event. It also has a dedicated green room, AV and skilled technicians.
The location of 20 Bedford Way is one of its chief attractions; Euston, Kings Cross and St Pancras railway stations as well as Russell Square, Holborn, Tottenham Court Road and Goodge Street tube stations are just minutes away providing easy access to all parts of central London and connections to the UK and Europe.
Capitalising on the heritage of the area, a central London location with fantastic transport links as well as a unique building with real character. It goes without saying that we have all of the technology to ensure the event goes without a hitch.
Kevin Pietersen Book Launch
Kevin Pietersen in association with Waterstones chose to launch his autobiography at 20 Bedford Way. The enigmatic Pietersen ‘revealed all’ in KP: The Autobiography, telling the remarkable stories behind his international career and the controversial events that marred it. Kevin Pietersen took part in a conversation about his incredible career at 20 Bedford Way, engaging the large crowd with his personality and wit.
Main header image via Flickr by AZ.