Updated: Feb 27
I must admit I was nervous about my book launch. It was my debut novel, and you only get one shot at your first launch. At the end of the day, I couldn’t have been happier.
In the spirit of what a constructive group we creatives are, I thought it would be good to document what worked and what didn’t for those looking at a launch in the future.
1. Timing. My book was finally received from the printers just before Christmas, but there was not a sufficient gap to be guarantee its availability and provide a reasonable notice period for people to attend. A critical component of the timing was to provide people with enough notice to arrange their diaries, but not too much so that they forget about it. I think two weeks was perfect. You should also avoid any week shortened by public holidays (and Monday or Fridays).
2. The invitees. Err on the side of ‘more is better’ here. Think of who might like to attend from all of the circles you move in. Sometimes you might be surprised who turns up to these things. I belong to a couple of professional societies, so tapped into those networks. Friends, families and colleagues were invited too. I guess about a third of those invited attended. I also put a couple of flyers on notice boards at local libraries, but I wasn’t aware that anyone attended via seeing these notices.
3. Ticketing. I used Eventbrite which was free for a limited time trial. Though the launch was free-of-charge the fact that someone filled in a ticket resulted in a great list of contacts and an indication of who had really committed to attend. An added bonus of Eventbrite is that your event will be posted (along with lots of others) for local people to attend if you choose to make the invitation public. Again, I don’t think anyone attended as ‘randoms’ from this source, but it was worth a try.
4. Catering. It would have been easy to spend a lot of money on ‘professional’ catering. I made it clear in the invitation that the catering was a ‘snack’ (not a three-course meal) and that it was a glass of sparkling on arrival, so I made sure expectations were managed. I think the snack table looked pretty spectacular though.
I ended up over catering the drinks. I guessed about 4 glasses to the bottle, with some contingency and bought 24 bottles of mid-range Australian Sparkling wine. I ended up with almost a dozen leftover. I’m sure I can consume this myself – so no real problem! I also had bottles of cold water available for those that had this preference. Make sure you cater for people with dietary restrictions and label accordingly. A plate of vegetarian sushi (without soy sauce) covers many dietary issues.
Catering by Connie
5. Venue. There are a lots of great community halls available, especially midweek. I took a drive around a few of these before I settled on a suitable one (Grenville Hall in Tuart Hill). I wanted a relatively modern, air-conditioned building with available parking. There are few things more annoying than rolling up to an event only to have to do the block multiple times to find a parking space or parking 2 kilometers away and having to walk. The venue was also relatively central, as I anticipated guests would be coming from both north and south of the river that divides Perth). Space was also a consideration. Err on too big rather than too cosy. Many places have partitions that can be used to enclose the space if required.
A captive audience
6. Equipment. Chairs and tables are normally supplied with the venue. I checked on these prior to the night. A table for drinks, another for food and a table for book signing and sales worked. I took a small cluster/coffee table from home for the front of the venue to sit at. This was also easy to transport in the car. I didn’t have photos or a PowerPoint presentation, but this is something that you might like to consider as a backdrop or where to place additional information. Similarly, I didn’t have a microphone or speakers. In retrospect, this might have been a good option. I went low tech and just had someone in the back row wave if they couldn’t hear, as a prompt for me to speak louder. The other invaluable equipment was a Square. This is the little e-commerce gadget that connects to your phone for direct transfer of funds from book buyer's credit cards to your bank account. You know, you’ve seen them at markets and cafes. These gadgets cost about $60, with fees for the transfer being less than two percent. It makes selling your books so much easier in an increasingly cash-less society.
7. Schedule. I’d been to one or two book launches in the past – literary espionage? The schedules are pretty similar in my experience:
a. Standing drinks and food
b. Acknowledgement of Country
c. Introduction by the MC
d. Questions from the MC
e. Questions from the attendees
f. An author reading (~5 minutes)
g. Wrap up and thanks (don’t forget to ask for reviews)
h. Book sales.
I had 'rehearsed' answers to about 20 possible questions. This didn’t mean that I parroted responses. It meant that I wasn’t caught offside and had a considered response. When you or the MC asks for questions make sure you request that those that have read the book avoid spoilers. “When Professor Plum killed Miss Scarlet in the library why did he choose the candle stick?”. The last thing you want is an enthusiastic reader killing potential sales.
Send me an email (email@example.com or via this website) if you’d like my list of questions.
8. The MC. I was extremely fortunate to have a friend that is a great public speaker and a bibliophile. She kindly allowed herself to be coerced into being MC for the evening. She did a wonderful job; assisted with the schedule, asked introductory questions, facilitated questions from the audience and kept me on track. She also skillfully summarised and repeated the question if it wasn’t able to be heard by everyone in the audience.
The author (Left) in full swing during question time.
9. Lessons learnt.
a. The preparation and shut down always takes longer than you think. We averted a dispute with a group that was using the hall immediately after us – but only just.
b. Make sure the air-conditioning is on well before people arrive (it always warms up when there are bodies in the room).
c. For the Square I should have made the auto shutdown delay on my phone longer – but other than that they are simple to use and most customers are comfortable with using them.
d. Rope in people to help. If people are going to be there give them a job (e.g. taking photos, collecting glasses, chairs, etc.). Most are happy to help. My friends and family were fantastic at the rapid shutdown that was necessary.
e. Relax and have fun. It’s your night, don’t be afraid that you will be the centre of attention.
f. Have someone i nthe crowd take a few photos (thanks Katelyn)
g. Take, and give praise graciously and authentically.
h. Have fun. Have glass of that Sparkling wine, especially if you’ve over-catered.