New Book Launch and Marketing

Yvonne's book launch - 02So your baby is in the hands of your editor and you look at a blank screen asking yourself, “What now?” This is the stage that gives new writers their biggest challenge. IU is here to help.

If you’ve been reading the advice on social media you will have already begun to let your potential fans know the book is near completion. You’ve posted the cover on Facebook and Twitter and your blog/website. You’ve posted regular updates or tidbits there as well for the last three months – to keep the anticipation going. You’ve collected email addresses and organized them so you are ready to send out invites to all those who have given you permission. No? Don’t beat yourself up. I suck at all that, too – but now that my fourth novel is almost here I’ve been learning. So will you.

With each new book I publish I pick up new ideas, tricks, and tips that help me sell more books and find new readers. Some of it’s fun. Most of it, sadly, is plain hard work, especially if, like most writers, you are an introvert. On the other hand, much of it can be accomplished online so you don’t have to place yourself into many uncomfortable situations.

I have compiled a checklist for myself. Most, but not all, of it is aimed at my local physical launch. It’s a party – a party I want the public to know about and come to – even if they know nothing about me and have no intention of buying a book. Why? Because they often change their minds. They attend out of curiosity, or for something to do on a wintry Saturday, or they like me, or my work piques their interest. If they don’t buy my book they may pass on my information to someone else they think might like it.

To that end I do several things. I order posters and bookmarks from my printer. I make sure they are attractive, include a picture of my cover, a few lines about the book, and the particulars of where and when the party takes place. I add links to all my media kit and my website/blog. By this time I have already booked the location. This can be a local bookstore, a small hall, even a restaurant. Bookstores and restaurants will often be eager to work something out with you because it brings them business, too. Don’t be afraid to ask – or to negotiate.

Now that I have more than one book I will include small pictures of my other book covers on my posters and bookmarks. Seeing that an author has more than one book published adds credibility. Or, if the new one doesn’t grab them, perhaps an earlier one will nudge them to check you out

I always include coffee, tea, and goodies as a minimum. I know one author who held her launch in a restaurant where they offered a special menu for attendees. For me that was a bit over-the-top, but people came and ordered dinner so I guess it worked. This time I have booked a small hall and I will bake my own goodies. A local coffee shop will donate coffee, for which I will be happy to post a thank you next to the urn. If you don’t bake perhaps a local bakeshop or coffee shop will sponsor you or supply the goodies at a cost you can afford. Food is important and worth paying for. People will go to events that have refreshments far more often that those that don’t.

If you can afford it, or if you can get a local business to help out, provide some swag for attendees: fridge magnets, key chains, anything cheap that feels right for your style.

Aside from asking local businesses to place my posters in their windows, I plan to contact all the local media to ask for an interview or feature:  newspapers, radio, and TV. Small local media are often eager for local stories. You may be surprised at how accommodating they are. What’s the worst that can happen? They decline. All you’ve lost is a little pride.

The most important thing – make sure you order enough copies of your books well ahead of time. The last thing you want is to run out of books to sell. How many is right? I can’t really answer that. For a first book I’d suggest thirty, but for myself, I’ll have a least sixty of the new one and several sets of the trilogy as well. I have found that what I don’t sell during the launch won’t sit on my shelf for long.

That brings me to word of mouth – your best advertising. Tell people you are a writer. Be enthusiastic about it. And always, always have bookmarks with you to hand out. Most people will gladly accept a glossy, colourful bookmark. If they don’t buy your book that bookmark may still catch someone’s eye who might.

At the actual event I usually have my books at a special price. Yes, I make less, or almost no, money, but I want the readers and it is worth it to me to take the hit. That’s just me. You may not want to do that.

On the day, have a table displaying your poster and books, a chair to sit on, and pens to sign books. Come out from behind that table.  Greet people as they arrive, thank them for coming, hand them bookmarks and direct them to the coffee. In other words, be a good host. It will help guests feel more comfortable – and more inclined to buy.

If you can manage it, offer to do a reading. If you are too shy, perhaps a friend can be roped in to doing it. If you plan a reading, have chairs for guests.

That takes care of the party. But I ask businesses to accept bookmarks to distribute as well. And I leave bookmarks at my gym, give them to my choir members, and other groups I belong to or frequent. They rarely fail to generate interest.

Some folks suggest business cards as well. That is an item I have dropped from the list. People tuck them away, where they never see the light of day again. Colourful, glossy bookmarks work much better.

I also host a Facebook launch Party, using Lynne Cantwell’s scripting advice. Another idea that many find helpful is to join or host a blogtour.

Oh. One last word: Don’t forget to have fun.

Author: Yvonne Hertzberger

Yvonne Hertzberger is a native of the Netherlands who immigrated to Canada in 1950. She is an alumna of The University of Waterloo, with degrees in psychology and Sociology. Her Fantasy trilogy, ‘Earth’s Pendulum’ has been well received. Learn more about Yvonne at her blog and her Amazon author page.

32 thoughts on “New Book Launch and Marketing”

  1. Good advice – and good to see someone else focussing on the ‘local’ as much as on the international! For these events, it’s always worth inviting staff (ideally the managers/owners) of local bookshops too, plus any media contacts you might have. They’ll expect freebies, but it’s a small price to pay for the personal contact with such people in an environment that you control. For my debut novel I got lucky and a journalist from a national magazine did an on-the-spot interview which resulted in a three-page article… and a great launch for the book! (Never quite been able to repeat that one sadly!)
    And if nothing else, events like this are a lot more fun that trying to come up with endless Facebook posts!

  2. Your list is a great resource, Yvonne. And I would have to agree–restaurants can be quite accommodating. I’ve had a few launches using local ones and they’ve been a lot of fun. In addition to helping out local businesses, attendees enjoy being able to order drinks and food once they’ve checked out the books, making for even more of a party 🙂

  3. I’ve done book signings at restaurants with great success. I publicized it with Facebook and Meetup events as well as local posters. I even provided musical entertainment at no cost with a band that I perform with. At the launch signing, a close friend even brought a cake with the cover of my book done in icing … a local grocery store did that from a photo.

  4. Ooh! Thanks for all these great ideas! I’m bookmarking this for frequent reference. I hadn’t even thought of swag like keychains. I’m going to look into having my next book’s title on those. As you say, most writers are introverts, so kudos to you for contacting local media! Not sure I’m there yet. ::gulp:: I also like Alan’s idea of inviting the book store managers/staff to the book launch party. Awesome, useful stuff, Yvonne!

      1. You can! Local media are not ogres – they rely on local stories to earn their living. I’ve never met a print or radio journalist yet who isn’t happy to talk if you find the right time – and what better time than at your own book launch? Even if they don’t run the story this time, you can never have too many contacts. As Yvonne says, just go for it!

  5. Thank you for sharing. Great suggestions! I have a post about book signings coming out on Wednesday (some of your suggestions have been included… thank you) and have been thinking about the right amount of fuss. Most of the time, we don’t get the money back so it’s best to watch the budget and still make it nice. I think without your swag people will be fortunate to get to meet you and hear about your stories. Plus, the sweets are always a bonus!

    I give you credit for collecting email addresses. I fail terribly in that department. 🙁

    Good wishes on your upcoming release Yvonne. Excited!

      1. Thank you! It just seems silly to spend more money than necessary… though it is tempting!!!

  6. You guys have A LOT more friends than I do! I’ve never sold more than 20 books at a launch party and don’t have the kind of friends who’d come out and buy multiple copies for everyone they know. I also live in a place where bookstores don’t host or carry indie or small press published local authors unless they’re really, really good friends with the owners, and other venues are quite expensive. I did have fun with a virtual launch on Facebook, using my LEGO minifigures and town, a couple of years ago, and while it may not have sold a lot of books, it gave me the push to do LEGO-related programming along with my books.

    1. I’ve been told that the average number of books sold at a live event is about 32-34 – and that includes for big name trad published authors. So 20 books is actually quite good. And each time you do it you’ll get more people and sell more books because you’ll have more than one to sell. Keep up the good work and don’t get discouraged.

      1. If the average is 32-34, a max of 20 kind of sucks. (My average at live events in general is around 5.) In the interests of full disclosure, I’m diagnosed on the autism spectrum, so my social communication skills aren’t quite there. I’ve been published traditionally in the past, mostly with smaller publishers, and have relied on the publishers’ support for marketing rather than my own initiatives. I’d like to become a hybrid author to have the freedom to write and publish what I want, but I’m coming to realize that doing it yourself requires exceptional social skills to make it work.

        1. Twenty isn’t bad when you realize that the other number includes ALL authors, even those promoted by their publishers. I sympathize with your particular barriers. But I also see that you have the intelligence to write well. Maybe it’s time to call in some support in the social skills area so you don’t have to go it alone. You’ve come this far. Good luck to you.

  7. I think I need a PR person. Ha, ha! The entire self-publishing process can be overwhelming. Sounds to me like you have a handle on it, Yvonne–and for that, I applaud you. Thanks for all the helpful advice. The bookmark idea is very appealing to me. 🙂

  8. Yvonne, thank you for all this timely advice. I did a lot for my debut novel and for some reason am feeling slower off the mark with my second one, which I thought I’d publish this fall. But like you, I want to get reviewers in place which I did for the first one. That helped sales immeasurably. So, I’ll probably publish in the spring if I can’t get it together before then.

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