How to Throw a Successful Book Launch Party

My sister, my mom and I at the book launch party for BEFORE I GO.
My sister, my mom and I at the book launch party for BEFORE I GO.

The book launch party for BEFORE I GO on Jan. 6 was one of the best nights of my life (really, it was THE best night of my life, but don’t tell my husband that. Or any of my four kids.) Around 200 friends, family and strangers gathered at Room & Board in Atlanta to drink, eat and celebrate my biggest dream come true (Well, second biggest. Ryan Gosling, are you reading this?)

But the night took about six months of meticulous planning and a LOT of help from good friends who generously donated their time, ideas and material goods. It was on par with wedding planning, but I didn’t have a wedding budget. Honestly, I had no budget. My publisher, who generously put a big marketing budget behind my book for a nice tour and ads, etc. did not allow for a big launch party. Their reason was strictly business — launch parties don’t have a big enough return on investment for them to sink thousands into one night of celebration.

But I was still able to throw one heck of a party. Here’s how I did it (and how you can, too!)

1. Enlist the help of friends. I, very fortunately, have great friends who also happen to be amazing publicists and media professionals in Atlanta, so they know a lot of the who’s who in town, as well as a lot about event planning. And they were willing to put in phone calls and emails and time on my behalf. But even if you don’t have friends with those credentials, your friends can certainly still be helpful. You just have to know what to ask. Maybe someone’s brother-in-law owns a restaurant and would be happy to let you use the space for one night — bam, a free venue. Or someone else has a friend that’s a reporter at the local paper— bam, free publicity. You just have to ask!

2. Befriend your local independent bookstore. You should do this anyway, as indie bookstores are amazing and can promote and handsell the heck out of your book. But they can also be the bookseller at your launch party and help promote your launch party at their other events and to their customers. FoxTale was not only the great bookseller at my event, but their cozy store is now my home away from home, and I try to attend as many events there as I can to support them and other local authors.

3. Get sponsors on board. We had great bites from JCT Kitchen and drinks from Vixen Vodka and Candoni Wines. They all generously donated their goods in order to get their brand in front of the 200+ people that were attending, as well as the media that would be covering the event. It was a win-win situation for everyone.

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This is the invitation we posted on social media, as well as sent out to all the media outlets in Atlanta.

4. Create buzz. A few months in advance,you want to send out a press release about your party, listing the sponsors and letting media outlets know about the event and your book. Then send out a reminder invite a few days prior. You’ll also want to Tweet and FB the heck out of your event — every time you get  a sponsor on board or a countdown to the party. Get people excited about it! We also had a FB event page where we invited everyone we could think of and I again enlisted my friends to help spread the word on social media.

5. Have a raffle or giveaway. Entice people further to come to your party with even more freebies. We did a big raffle and donated the money to Susan G. Komen (We raised more than $800!). It was a nice fit, as my protagonist in BEFORE I GO is fighting breast cancer, and I loved being able to use my party as more than just promotion, but also as a way to give back to the community. For the prizes, my friends and I contacted local businesses and asked for donations. You’ll be surprised how many people are willing to donate items — especially if it’s for a good cause.

6. Keep organized! There were so many moving parts to this party, so I kept a big master list where I wrote down my last correspondence with each vendor and confirmed raffle prizes, etc, so I knew exactly what tasks I had left to complete. That way, nothing fell through the cracks and on the night of, I was able to enjoy the party, without fretting about the details.

7. SAY THANK YOU. I could not have thrown my party without the help of very many generous friends. I’m indebted and grateful to all of them and let them know during the party planning, during the party and afterward. It’s not nearly enough repayment for what they did, but at least they know how much I appreciate them! And if they’re ever throwing a party for their own life achievement, I’ll be the first person in line to help them plan it.

Have you thrown a book launch before? Do you have any great advice that I’ve missed? Tell me in the comments!

 

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Colleen Oakley is the author of BEFORE I GO (Simon & Schuster/Gallery, Jan. 2015), a love story. A former editor for Marie Claire and Women's Health & Fitness, she's now an Atlanta-based freelance writer. Find out more at colleenoakley.com.

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