So You're Planning A Book Launch. Do You Know What You're Doing?

Posted at 12:54pm on 30th June 2016

MY BOOK LAUNCH

With all the trauma of the British referendum to leave the European Union last week, I can’t quite believe that it’s now a fortnight since the launch of my latest book, Chosen?  The second novel in the Evie Adams series, it is set in Devon as was the first, Time to Shine.  It is not my intention to precis the story here, as the blurb is readily available on my Book Page, but I will just say that although a completely different story to Time to Shine, some aspects of Chosen? follow the storyline through.  Hence Evie’s dashing American friend, Scott, figures throughout, while a second dashing American, author Matt McEwan, features in no small way.  If you want to know how, you’ll have to listen to what I had to say to Fitz (David Fitzgerald) when he interviewed me on BBC Radio Devon.  The link is on the right hand side of this page.

POINTS TO CONSIDER BEFORE THE EVENT

Back to the Book Launch – with a few pointers for those of you who might be planning something similar.

VENUE & TIMING, PLUS EASE OF ACCESS

First off, I hired a hall for my ‘do’ because this gave me the freedom to put it on in the evening when I considered most of my guests would be available.  In this respect, it's important to think carefully about the age of your guests, and their commitments.  A private event doesn’t rule out a book signing in my local bookshop, but this would be during the daytime when the shop is open.

Parking was a second consideration, with the church hall I chose offering a free car park, plus disabled parking, and easy access.  A kitchen, if you're planning refreshements, is, of course, essential.

INVITATIONS

I printed my own to keep down costs.  It’s easy enough to set up a template with four per A4 page.  Use colour if you can.  I included a photograph of myself as a reminder to those who didn’t know me well, but you may be better using a photograph of your book.  For reasons that will be revealed, I chose not to at this point.  Also to be included are brief – repeat – brief points such as one line of an endorsement, if you have one, and a request for an RSVP for catering purposes.

Sadly, and I’m far from being alone in finding this, few will commit to replying and you may have to be prepared to send reminders, as I did.  It’s important, therefore, to keep a list of those you invite, with columns to indicate whether they’ve responded yes or no and, if so, how many will or will not be coming.

The ball park figure for those who will, ultimately, attend is usually in the region of a third of those you’ve invited.  I sent invitations to 195 people of whom a little over 60 came.  That was a good number, given the size of the hall, but don’t be disappointed if it’s fewer.  You wouldn’t believe how many declined because of genuine holiday commitments – theirs or the family members and friends who were visiting.  The time of year when you put on your book launch will dicate in this respect.

FOOD

Make up your mind well in advance what you will be giving in the way of refreshments, if at all.  I consulted with friends who regularly put on events at their church, and peanuts and canapes were high on the list, together with spicy crisps, not merely the salted variety.  To that I added sausage rolls and mini-cupcakes which I made and decorated in abundance, plus – having discovered that a kilo of the Sainsbury’s own cost no more than a quarter of the weight of Celebration, Roses and Quality Street - a clear bowl full of brightly wrapped chocolates and toffees.

The chocolates, I learned at the Tiverton Literary Festival, are a great attraction when you have a table at an event, or a book signing in a shop, as they provide the means of opening up a conversation with bystanders.  ‘Would you like a chocolate?’ brings them to your stand and can then easily convert into ‘Have you read my latest book?’  Flowers, too, whether real or fake, prove a headturner for people passing by.

Surprise, surprise, on the evening of the book launch, the sausage rolls and canapes disappeared early in the evening, while the sweetmeats were less popular.

DRINK

Equally surprising was the fact that the Bucks Fizz – which I’d bought well in advance on a special offer – did not disappear in vast quantities.  You do need to think carefully before offering alcohol because of the risk of drink-driving, of course, but given the low percentage of this variety, I thought I would be on a winner.  Another important factor in serving booze, is to check with the owners of the hall you’re hiring to see if this is permissible.  You may need a licence if selling.  

We deliberately stayed away from tea and coffee because of the complications this would bring – milk / sugar / no milk / lactose-free / decaffeinated etc – plus the extra washing up.   Elderflower Cordial was the other option for my guests, served – as was the bubbly – in champagne flutes ‘hired’ free from Sainsbury’s.  Yes!  Free!  All that is required is a £20 deposit, refundable on return, with a £1 penalty per broken glass.  Thankfully, we had none.

So!  With the invitations sent out, the refreshments bought and made, and the hall hired, what else is to be done?  You could, like me, have a competition, a compere, and a celebrity or two.  To find out more, you'll have to read next week's blog.

Don't forget, in the meantime, to listen to me speaking about my Evie Adams books, Time to Shine and Chosen? on BBC Radio Devon.  Click the button on the right.

Your Comments:

30th June 2016
at 5:21pm
Lots of good advice here. Thank you.
30th June 2016
at 5:31pm
Thanks Veronica. More to come. Much more! And I'm happy to do seminars anywhere in reach of Torbay. Contact me via my website to book a date.
1st July 2016
at 4:11pm
Good tips here, Mel. Maybe I should have hired a hall for 9 July as parking is always difficult on our estate but to be honest I was trying to keep costs down. Serving Fizz and Munchies too, alcoholic and non-alcoholic (alcoholic ok for neighbours!). Now I just need the books to arrive from the States!!
Mel Menzies
2nd July 2016
at 12:02pm
Thank you Sheila. I do hope your book launch goes well on 9th July despite the parking problems. Take a look at the next blog post coming up after the weekend, titled So You're Planning a Book Launch. What Can You Do In Respect of Pre-launch Promotion?

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