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Aww, yay, book launches! The best ever! I LOVE helping with book launches. The very first thing I did before I was approached to work for WDP was help hostess a book launch at the local community college. Which amounted to standing in front of the doors and telling people where the food and the books were, like their eyes didn’t work. But it felt GOOD to be Captain Obvious for one evening. I totally got a free book out of the deal.

Before any of this, I never quite appreciated the work that goes into getting one of these puppies off the ground. I don’t host or plan many parties personally, because I’m a hermit like that, so it’s still relatively new to me. Not two months into settling in at WDP, we were already helping to map out a book launch three months away, into this past February.

I had no idea how much support authors get from their publishers in regards to book launches, being the wet behind the ears admin that I am, so I did a little digging. I’m not really surprised to see there isn’t much, that it goes by the way of marketing. A lot of this falls to the authors themselves. I can kind of appreciate that, since the publishers’ funds could be put to better use elsewhere. Especially if it’s a smaller publisher where every dollar counts. I’m glad WDP tries to at least help along the authors in close physical proximity, mainly because (for me) helping and planning one is fun.

Even if your publisher is either too far away to be helpful or just doesn’t have the monies or the time, having a freakin’ awesome book launch is completely doable. A few things I’ve learned about putting one together:

Securing a venue

I’ve seen book launches at community colleges, local bookstores, libraries, and I’m attending one next month that’s in a basement of a business local to the author. Free venues are definitely preferable, and I’m sure there are some businesses with the space that would host it for free to get that many people through their doors.

This past Thursday, I accompanied the WDP publisher to Brookfield Zoo to meet up with one of our children’s book authors as she spoke with a rep to discuss her book launch. She’s been a docent with Brookfield (a specially trained volunteer who gives guided tours and interacts with the public at animal exhibits) for ten years, and it was just too incredibly fitting for her picture book, starring a coyote who wants to live in a zoo, to launch at the zoo where she’s dedicated so much of her free time. And this book is adorable – she did the illustrations herself, and they’re so amazingly good I almost did not believe her when she was like, “You know, I’ve never really drawn before, this is my first time at drawing animals like this.” O, rly? Way to set the bar ridiculously high for us peons who can’t even draw a cat without making people scratch their head (I thought it was a mouse, or maybe a seal. Cats don’t have nubs for legs, should the eyes be lopsided like that? It looks like roadkill.)

Sidenote: I was such a kid when we drove around to the back of the zoo in an area I didn’t even know existed. I was kind of in awe to even be allowed back there. There were like, giant white tents and I’m going, why are there tents? IS THERE GONNA BE A CIRCUS?! I was a wee bit disappointed we didn’t have the time to wander all day, ALL DAY. I go to the zoo, and I want to see this:

Polar Bear Ass

I didn’t this time, BUT – I GOT TO RIDE IN A GOLF CART, Y’ALL. Almost as good as a Polar Bear flaunting its ass to the crowd. Omg, I can’t even believe how excited I was to get carted around to one of the potential areas for the launch to see if it was a big enough space. I tried so hard to pay attention to what the lady and the publisher were chit chatting about, but my eyes kept drifting to the exhibits and my mind pulled one of these:

Miskadoodle’s Brain: OH MAN OH MAN GOLF CART! WE’RE GOING SO FAST! Wind’s kinda chilly, wish I’d brought my coat – ewww, there’s a new bug exhibit coming? Ugh. Avoiding THAT this summer. Hey, the carousal that I’ve never been on. Aww, we’re passing the big cats? Can we detour? Take the long way around? Hey, HEY, the vulture’s right by the fence, and it’s hideous! Aww, wolves! I can see the wolves! OH BISON! WHY AM I SO EXCITED ABOUT BISON? Oh, we’re right by the living coast exhibit? I wish we could go in. I wanna see the penguins. I friggin’ love penguins.

Anywho. Brookfield Zoo = not so free venue for a book launch. BUT. I’m very optimistic. Once the rep realized just how many people the author, being a docent, knows within the zoo and in the community and the kind of publicity that would bring, it made her rethink some of the costs, and we’re hoping to hear positive news from her soon.

However. While most potential venues probably really love to support local authors and are enthusiastic and helpful, don’t let it get you down when they’re not. I’m trying to help an out of state author locate a good venue for another children’s picture book – this author is young, so I’m actually helping his father out. We tried contacting independent bookstores in his area, and the response….kinda sucked. I don’t know if it’s because we’re a small, relatively new company, or if they’re just like that, but it was discouraging. One of them I’m pretty sure is just like that, since even their event form was unwelcoming. You are one of hundreds of requests we get all the time. Don’t be surprised when we don’t get back to you, kind of thing. Oookay. So, lesson: if they’re going to be rude and short with you, they’re not worth your business, anyway. You can still have a great launch and an awesome time without the hassle.

Guest list 

How many people you expect greatly affects the type of venue you’ll want to use. If you’re aiming for a local independent or used bookstore, know that they probably won’t have the room to accommodate two hundred people. If you want a huge blow out, a college, library, or even local community halls could swing that better.

Figuring out how many people would actually show up is a bit trickier. The rule of thumb I’ve heard is for the two hundred invites you send out, around one hundred attend. Breaking down your list into the Definitelys, Maybes, and the Wishful Thinking/Not A Chances helps, too. It’s important to have an estimate of your guest list when you begin approaching venues, too, since they’re bound to ask how many people you think will come. Also helps if you plan on having food.

(You want to have food. Please. Your helpers will love you. Everybody loves free food! It entices people, too! It doesn’t have to be expensive – make food, do a pot luck, just do cookies and punch, something. Just sayin’ 🙂

Don’t stress if you can’t get addresses for everyone. Look at it like throwing any other party in that regard. Facebook event that sucker, snail mail, e-mail, have them RSVP if you want more concrete numbers. And don’t just invite family and friends: remember your local media. Find out if there are other authors in or around your area, let your newspaper know. The launch in February at the community college had a guy from our newspaper attending, and it ended up in the paper the next day. Also, the author worked out a deal with the college where she spoke to some classes about her memoir – and she still gets asked to speak around the community.

Plan well ahead

Months. Really think through that guest list, obtain contact information, have multiple venues in mind when you’re searching. Even if you have your heart set on one, have a backup in case it doesn’t work out. If you’re a terrified public speaker like me, it might help ease nerves if you’ve practiced for a long while what you want to say, what excerpt from your novel you’d like to read.

Think about how many books you want on hand at the launch. I admittedly don’t have experience with major bookstore venues – the publisher would work it out with the bookstore concerning copies and what to do with extras. You definitely don’t want too many excess books left over in that case. From what I’ve seen, buying your own stock from the publisher and having it on hand works out pretty well, especially if it’s not a bookstore venue. Whatever you don’t sell at your launch, it’s cool – they’re yours, you can sell them at a later date.

Man, this post went from me just wanting to talk about that golf cart to All About Book Launches. They’re so much fun, even if the intended amount of people don’t show – yeah, it’s disappointing, but I don’t believe the effort is a total loss. One day *eyes get big and dreamy* one day I, too, will be the one behind the podium sweating because speaking in front of people sends me in anxiety-filled tailspins, talking about a book I wrote and praying there will be no rotten fruit available for people to lob at me.

A girl can dream.