Here are my suggestions to plan a book launch party on a budget.
Choose a location with plenty of parking for easy customer access. Freestanding stores or shopping mall locations generally have plenty of parking.
Also choose a location where the author will make money on the book sales. Barnes & Noble, Indie Bookstores, or a book consignment location generally take 50% of the retail price. Authors may choose to a launch their book at a kid friendly, non-bookstore location. If the target audience will be mature adults, a winery or local brewery is an option.
If the location has a coffee shop or bakery like Barnes & Noble, notify the bookstore additional staff may be required during the launch party. Many parents will purchase a coffee while the kids are quietly sitting during your reading.
Choose a time that is parent friendly, before or after nap time. I like the 2:00 to 4:00 window because attendees are fed and rested.
Try to call the “book launch” a “launch party” or celebration. By calling the event a “Launch Party,” the message to attendees is come celebrate, relieving the pressure of purchasing a book.
I’ve seen launch parties over 300 attendees. That launch was for the third book in a popular series. I like to invite children, parents, teachers, librarians, and potential attendees with a postcard. Postcards look like a birthday party invite with: the book cover image and website on the front; date, time, and location on the back. People who don’t attend the party have the information to purchase the book.
Serve prepackaged snacks. Cake, cookies, punch, and sodas are traditional, however a designated server is required to serve and confirm food allergies. Cake, cookies, and punch are perishable and must be thrown away. They also require plates, silverware, and cups. Prepackaged snacks are clearly labeled, portable, and quantifiable for parents. Unopened prepackaged snacks can be returned or used for another event.
Giveaways entice attendance. Don’t give away more than you expect to earn at the launch. If planning to giveaway $500 at the book launch, consider donating $500 in books to a school. The donation may reach more readers than planning a launch party.
Set a budget and stick to it! The budget may be $2 per attendee. Bag of cookies ($.25), juice box ($.25), helium balloon ($.10), goody bag (bookmark, candy, stickers, notepad, coloring page, activities) ($1.00), party hat ($.40). For under $2 each child goes away with something entertaining. Be sure candy isn’t a choke hazard and goodies are age appropriate. If 1/4 of the attendees buy a book at full retail, an author should make a reasonable profit.
Advertise in free outlets in the area where the launch party will be hosted. Mention it’s a book birthday party full of fun events to celebrate the new book. Also mention readings or giveaways. Avoid saying: “buy my book,” “purchase my book,” or “bring your wallet.” The vibe should be “celebrate with us.”
- Libraries: patrons check out the library’s free copy, don’t focus must time there
- Preschools, Daycares, Mommy and Me groups, and schools: are your best customers and attendees
- Newsletters: community, work, professional, and book newsletters
- Radio: The Authors Show, local radio, public radio, etc.
- Social Media: Create a Facebook Event on the Author’s Facebook Page
- Family/Friends: family and friends will have probably purchased your book, include them to boost attendance numbers
- Use banners, tablecloths, bookmarks, etc. during the launch party.
During a Skype School Visit, I invited a teacher and her class to attend my launch party. Her school allowed her to bring a small school bus of students to participate!
Personally invite three times the people you want to attend. If the goal is 300, personally hand out 900 postcards in your neighborhood: restaurants, hair salons, grocery, kids sporting events, church, etc. Be selective. Invite people you want to attend: children, parents, grandparents, teachers, and family.
Personal invites show you want people to attend. Invites left on windshields in a store parking lot show people they are a number.