When authors finish their books, it is generally the end of a long journey: seemingly unending edits and rewrites; decisions and more decisions about your layout design; thoughts on which social networking you should use; and, whether your book should come out during a particular month to coincide with the book's theme. I know this all too well, having finished a book, and investing hours into what would be my next move.
But whether authors know it or not, finishing your book is actually the beginning. This is why book launch parties can be a great promotional tool. If done right, they can provide crucial momentum. Authors can use them to connect with the people who make up their core support network, do some self-congratulating in an artful, not-so-obvious way, and creatively market their book to new people in attendance.
One of the best book launch events I have ever attended was organized last year by writer Stella Mowen. A Seattle entertainment executive and nonprofit CEO, she is author of the coming of age novel Until the Beat Stops, an amazon editor's pick for 2014. Her notoriety in cultural circles, helped her tremendously in the literary world.
Looking to keep the momentum going, she organized a standing room only event to celebrate the book's early success. I remember her event for its great location, delicious food, non-stop entertainment, and dynamic mix of hundreds of people who reflected Seattle's extraordinary and awe-inspiring diversity. It was a template for how any author can make a big splash.
I decided to reach out to Stella because I know lots of authors (and future authors) who could benefit from her event-planning expertise. She was gracious enough to provide some tips.
What are your tips on picking the best venue for a book launch?
Throwing your book launch party is a monumental celebration and it should be reflective of your spirit as an author. The five main factors a writer should consider when planning their release party are the audience, location, day and time of the event, budget, and atmosphere of venue. I recommend making your guest list in excel and adding a column for which city your guests are located in and where they work so you can keep the availability of your audience in mind when picking your location. For example, 60% of my guest list worked fulltime Monday-Friday in the South Lake Union neighborhood of Seattle, so I opted to choose a venue in that area that was available on a Friday night to increase the chances of my guests being available to attend my event.
Would you advise an author to work directly with the venue to promote the event?
Yes, an author should pick a venue that has an atmosphere that is in line with your spirit as an author and a large part of a venues atmosphere is a direct result of the owners and staff. I got incredibly lucky. The owner of the venue was readily available to meet with me and answer any questions I had. The owner and I had an immediate friend connection as we bonded over the subject of my book. As a result he offered to utilize his business email list to help promote my event and allowed me to place fliers in his business for weeks leading up to my event at no additional cost to me. He and his staff were a pleasure to work with so it was an easy decision to invest part of my budget in renting his space over the other locations I was looking into to.
What overall approach did you use when promoting your party?
My goals around my launch party were to 1) raise money for the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer, 2) to celebrate my accomplishment with my loved ones and friends, 3) to have an amazing music performance, and 3) raise brand awareness around my self-published novel. Keeping the budget for the party small allowed for more money that could be donated to finding a cure. So I had to be smart about promotion because it can get very expensive and not necessarily result in the highest return on your investment. There are several free promotional tools you can use to get the word out such as sending a press release, Facebook invites, email outreach to local event websites, reaching out to Twitter tastemakers to Tweet about the event, and most importantly, word of mouth via your friends and family.
Author Stella Mowen at her Seattle Book Launch. Photo Courtesy of Michelle Moore
You had a number of people in key people positions assisting you. How were you able to enlist your help?
The hardest step was to ask for the help, but once you do you will be amazed at what your friends will bring to the table to help actualize your dream event. I was incredibly lucky to have had so many people go above and beyond to help throw my book release/fundraiser party. My fellow non-profit Founders from The First Hill were a dream team and met with me weekly to help execute the details of the event and to help get the word out. Noted photographer Michelle Moore took new headshots for me to use in my promotional materials. Tammy Ferguson from the South Sound Making Strides Against Breast Cancer committee chair was incredibly helpful and we raised over $2,000 in ticket sales. My friends offered to take care of decorations and to host the event, providing much needed fliers and posters, as well as catering and cooked food fit for royalty. Overall, everyone was incredibly supportive and I couldn't have done it without them.
What was the biggest thrill about organizing your event, and what was the biggest challenge?
The biggest thrill was pulling it all together and bringing people from all walks of my life into one place for a great celebration. I could not believe how many Pacific Northwest based brand reps donated products to raise money for finding a cure and supporting a local author. The biggest challenge was trying to spend time with everyone at the party which, I suppose, is the best challenge any author can ask for!
To find out more about first time author Stella Mowen, follow her on Twitter.