Planning A Launch Party For Your Self-Published Book

So your paperback version of your book is almost ready. How do you let the world know?

One way is to host an in-person book launch party. (You can also have an on-line party, but that’s typically directed toward ebook sales.)

In the days of traditional publishing, your publisher probably would arrange a party at several books stores in different parts of the country. Now both traditionally and independently published authors usually need to take the reins on planning.

So let’s talk about the why, when, who, what, and how much of your party.

Here’s one of the book release banners I created using

Reasons To Host An In-Person Book Launch Party

The best reason to have any party is to celebrate, and that’s the best reason for a book launch party as well.

You’ve worked hard, you’ve finished and published your book, and you want to celebrate with other people. Don’t lose sight of that as you plan. Have fun!

A party also helps raise awareness of your book, especially among people who don’t read on ereaders.

People tend to assume if you publish your own work, you only publish in ebook editions, even if they see an ad or a Facebook message that says otherwise. But when you invite them to a paperback book release party, it sinks in. You’ll be surprised how many people will attend and tell you they didn’t know your books were available in paperback.

A party also gives you a reason to contact people. Very few people want a “buy my book” message in their email In Box or on social media, but a party invitation is different. It’s fun.

It also gives others a reason to talk about your book. They may mention that they’re going, invite others along, or talk about the event afterward.

Where To Host Your Book Release Party

If there’s a bookstore that’s carrying your books, you can approach the manager or owner about having a party there if there’s space. A store that doesn’t carry your books might also be willing to host if it will help bring new people to the store or increase sales. My view is, it can’t hurt to ask.

But don’t feel limited to bookstores.

It can be easier to get people to come to a bar or restaurant, and those venues make it feel more like a celebration than a book reading.

Also, a bar or restaurant makes it easier to serve food and drink. While I’ve been to book release parties at bookstores where they allowed the author to open a few bottles of wine, usually the snacks and drinks are pretty limited.

The easiest and least expensive places to host often are ones where the cafe, bar, or restaurant is one with counter service. Most managers or owners are happy to reserve a portion of the space for you. You handle your own book sales, and the establishment makes money off people buying coffee, drinks, or appetizers.

If you want to treat your guests, you as the author can buy appetizer or pastry trays and/or pick up the tab.

I’ve recently been to an evening book release party at a private room in Chicago’s House of Blues and a Saturday afternoon one in a small Italian restaurant where the authors reserved the whole space. I’ve hosted parties in a Cosi cafe and in a coffeehouse, and I’m having one in Soppraffina Market Cafe in downtown Chicago later this month.

If you’re inviting a small number of people, you can also host at your home or at a party room if you live in a multi-unit building. (The lawyer in me insists that I remind you to check to be sure your liability insurance will cover this type of event.)

Whom Should You Invite?

In person parties are about connecting with current fans and reminding acquaintances, friends, and family that you have a book (or books) out rather than bringing in new readers. That’s because unless you’re already famous or you’ve written non-fiction on a hot topic, it’s unlikely people who don’t already know you (at least through a mutual acquaintance) will attend your party.

One exception is that sometimes someone you invite will bring a friend, and that person will become a fan. That’s always a good thing, so let people know that they are free to invite others.

Invite friends, family, acquaintances, and–unless you’re keeping your writing and work life separate–coworkers and other business associates.

Also invite anyone else you’re in touch with who you think might be interested, even if you’ve never talked about books with that person before. You never know when you’ll discover that a person you’ve met once or twice really enjoys the type of book you write and will be thrilled to discover you’re an author. Sometimes these people become your best advocates.

Remember, this is the perfect time to let everyone know you have a book out.

Don’t worry, if people aren’t interested, they’ll RSVP No or simply delete the email or invite. As long as you don’t hound them about why they’re not attending, you won’t offend them.

How Much Will This Cost And How Much Will You Make?

For most authors, an in-person event isn’t a money maker. In fact, it might cost more than you take in. Think of it as advertising and, again, as the celebration it is.

How much you spend depends on your budget. The event I attended at the Italian restaurant had a lovely appetizer table and an open bar. I didn’t ask, but it had to be quite pricy, I’m guessing at least $40/attendee if not more. The second event I attended had appetizers that were passed by servers and a cash bar, including for water or soda.

If you are on a tight budget, though, you can opt for the bookstore or coffeehouse approach and have limited refreshments or let people buy their own.

The event I had at Cosi cost me about $100 for sandwiches and pastry trays. (The manager gave my guests a 10% discount on their drinks, which was nice.) I also spent about $40 on drawing prizes. I sold 40-50 books, netting $4 per book.  So I broke even on the event, but I also added quite a few people to my email list.

For my September 21 event, I’m threading the needle price-wise. I’m having an appetizer bar and passed hors d’oeuvres as well as non-alcoholic drinks, but it’s a cash bar for alcohol. (As you might guess, including an open bar would have nearly doubled the cost.) This will cost about $27 a person.

Will I sell enough books to cover that? Probably not, but it’ll be a great time.

What Do You Do All Evening?

Most book release parties last a couple hours. To make it more fun for your guests, it’s nice to do more than have your books available.

I usually have a trivia quiz about the events in the first 1-2 books in the series and a separate drawing for anyone who signs up (or already is on) my email list.

Prizes usually include an autographed book, a $25 Amazon gift card, an Audible download code, and having a character named after the person in a future book. (To my surprise, that last one is the prize almost everyone wants.)

It’s a good idea to enlist a good friend to handle book sales so you can chat with people and sign without sitting behind a table all night.

You can also read some pages from your book. I personally don’t usually do that, as it changes the party atmosphere. One author I know played a portion of his narrator’s reading of the book. I’m considering asking the narrator for The Illumination how she feels about that, as she has a wonderful voice, and I’m so excited about her take on the characters.

Some authors, rather than sell their paperbacks, give them away and ask people to write reviews.

I haven’t tried this myself and am a little skeptical. Some people will attend and buy (or accept) a copy of your book to support you, but they may not be big readers or may not read in your genre. So while they may mean to write a review, they may never finish the book and do it, and you’ll be left with an acquaintance or friend who feels guilty every time they see you. (Sort of like when you loan someone money.)

And if it’s not their usual genre, you run the risk of them disliking the book and either avoiding writing the review or writing a poor or lukewarm one. See guilt issue above.

Despite that, if you want to try this approach, my advice is to give out the books and say something like, “If you like the book, please write a review. It’ll really help me out.”

Good Luck!

If you have questions or have already hosted your own party and want to share your experience, please post in the comments.


L.M. Lilly

P.S. If you’re in the Chicago area September 21, 2017, and would like to attend the book release party for The Illumination to get ideas and help me celebrate, here’s the info.

2 thoughts on “Planning A Launch Party For Your Self-Published Book”

    1. Never tried that but it sounds like it could work great. It reminds you that it’s a party and the point is to have fun. You could let your guests know you don’t expect a birthday gift other than their presence, but if they want to get a copy of your brand new book it’ll be available. There are probably a lot of fun tie ins you could do as well. A cake with the book cover, candles that somehow relate, party favors, etc. Congrats on your new book! If you go ahead with the party and want to comment again after, I’d love to hear how it goes.

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