T. S. Poetry Press published Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me by Karen Swallow Prior. Named a Best Book of 2012, this compelling memoir arranged around the classic literature that helped shape the author’s life released to warm reviews and well-deserved accolades from countless book lovers. As chair of the Department of English and Modern Languages at Liberty University, it made good (and convenient) sense for Karen to host her book launch at her campus bookstore. (It also makes her a wonderful instructor in our Poetry Classroom series this month on classic love poetry.) We asked her to share, with readers who might be looking toward publication, her tips for a successful book launch event.
The first step to ensure a successful book launch is to choose the right venue for your book and your audience. For me, the perfect venue was my campus bookstore since I knew a large part of my first readers would be my students. Fortunately, my campus bookstore is a part of a national chain and brought considerable corporate experience and resources to the event. However, even if your book launch is not in such a setting or with a ready-made audience as I had, perhaps some of the steps I took (and some of the things I watched the bookstore do) to make my book launch exceed my best expectations can be useful in other types of venues and circumstances.
How to Promote Your Book Launch
2. Choose a time that fits your target audience. We began the event at 6:30 to allow people who might have plans for a later event on a Friday night (go figure!) to stop by first. We also chose the end time of 9:30, the book store’s normal closing hour. Three hours seemed like a long time to me at in the planning stage, but it turned out to be the perfect length.
3. Print “save the date” postcards. Postcards are great not only for mailing out, but also for handing to people and leaving short stacks in various places. I mailed the cards to friends. I delivered them to colleagues through office mail (free!) I handed them out to my students and left piles of them in different offices.
4. Make posters. Be sure to put them up in local coffee shops and other places likely to attract readers.
5. Create a Facebook event and invite everyone.
6. Contact local newspapers and radio stations and arrange for interviews about your book and the book signing. Do this several weeks in advance in order to allow scheduling time.
Planning Your Book Launch
1. Arrange for a professional (or skilled amateur) photographer to attend and take pictures. You’d be surprised at how readily someone might volunteer his or her services. I put out a request on Facebook, offering an autographed copy of my book in exchange for services and got quick responses and more than I needed.
2. Arrange for a musician or instrumentalist to play background music during the event.
3. Ask local food vendors to donate food: pizzerias, sandwich shops, etc., are often willing to donate sample size portions for events. Or provide it yourself. People will linger longer and attract others to do so.
How to Enjoy Your Book Launch
1. Be flexible. I had no idea how many people would come or what the flow would be like. We promoted a reading as part of the event but didn’t schedule it for a certain time. It worked out that there were two brief lulls during the three hours, so those were the times I gave the instrumentalist a break and gave a short 10-15 minute reading.
2. Spend time with each reader who asks you to sign the book. Stop to have your picture taken with the person. It’s okay if the line gets a little long. It adds to everyone’s excitement.
3. When there is a lull, get up and mingle or bring a friend with you to keep you company during those times. You’ll be glad for the break!
4. Honestly, I didn’t plan this—someone just brought them for me. But now I’d recommend you make sure it happens: have a beautiful flower arrangement at the book signing table. It adds to the festive air, looks beautiful, and makes you feel even more special all night long.
5. Remember that one famous writer and blogger has said that if you sign five books at an event, that’s a success. No matter what, have a fabulous time!
After the Book Launch
1. Post your book launch pictures on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter. Don’t be shy about including a link to the book, with at least some of the pictures. And remember to tag a few people who were at the launch, who might be excited to share the memories.
2. Use your book launch as a writing opportunity. For instance, write about it for a popular website (or two, or how ever many you can find). Change the angle as you write, and you’ve got grist for a few opportunities.
Buy a year of Every Day Poems, just $5.99 — Read a poem a day, become a better poet. In February we’re exploring the theme Purple, Plum and Indigo.