Hired, Fired, Fled

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Top 12 Need-To-Knows for a Successful, Non-Sweaty DIY Book Launch

Top 12 Need-To-Knows for a Successful, Non-Sweaty DIY Book Launch

1.     Arrive on time

It turns out, and don't be massively, jaw-droppingly surprised to read this, that guests don't appreciate the author-organiser showing up late to his own book launch. There I was telling everyone to show up on time as "we only have the venue for a few hours..." and what do you know? Yep, they show up on time. As in, bang on time. As in, the bouncer had to stop them pushing in, telling me later that if my stepfather had been 60 years younger he'd have "taken him out". But there was to be no octogenarian versus pro-wrestler punch-up, as I arrived just in the nick of time, rushing everyone in, showering them in a thousand apologies.

2.     Heat builds fast in a small space

Now, it's likely that this is a specific problem to the venue in which I held my launch, but heat builds... fast. I did check the place out before holding my event, but there were far less people. It seemed cool; it seemed comfortable; it seemed 'trendy' - no less - and it was... but it was still damn hot. Put another way, the following day, a friend said to me, "brave choice on wearing that shirt, mate, brave choice..." 

3.     Older people want quieter music. Younger people want louder music... You can't please 'em all.

This is probably of little surprise... Just as you're trying to set-up your signing table - because you arrived late, so you're struggling to engage in small talk while shifting several boxes of books - people are approaching you, some asking for the music to be quieter, some asking for it be louder.... oh, "and it's super hot, so could you turn the A/C on..." all of which needs to ignored. Have the volume where you think best, and stick to your guns. You can't - and won't - please all the people all the time.

4.     People will come a long way for your book launch

This one I found very touching. My father flew in from Bulgaria. Three friends flew in from the east coast of America. Two flew in from Zurich. Others crossed the United Kingdom, or indeed, crossed London by tube and bus, which, for a Londoner, is considered as much of an effort as driving six hours down the M1. And if people are willing to make that kind of effort for you, you need to make a similar effort for them. Put on drinks, food, maybe live music, maybe more, depending on your budget. Don't go into debt over your launch night, but do what you can to entertain everyone who's made an effort to be there.

5.     Sign your books in advance

This was advised by everyone, and I'm glad I did it. The only caveat: leave space for a personal message. Some people won't care, but some want a short personal message. The less you have to write on the night, the more time you'll have for talking, selling, and partying, so have your books prepared in advance. Supposedly there's etiquette as to where to sign: it should be on the title page. I doubt it really matters, but some people like things done the traditional way, the established way, so it's good to follow suit - the less you seem like a clueless, self-pub author, the better.

6.     Everyone has an opinion on when the event should be held

If I had a pound for every time someone asked me to shift the launch night to another date... oooof... I'd be at least a six quid up... even so, it's tricky pleasing everyone. I held mine on a Friday night, as the professional crowd wanted to be able to drink and party. Others said it should be held on a Thursday, as that's when the media can come, but media coming was always a long shot. I'd focus on the kind of night you want - a party/quiet drinks/a rave etc. - and set the date/venue accordingly. Holding it on a Friday meant that some people couldn't come due to weekend travels, but conversely everyone who did come could let their hair down and party all night long...

7.     Don't stress over numbers

Pick a place that holds lots of people. Pick a location that's easy for them to get to. Don't stress over listing every person who's able to come. Make it an open event. Let friends bring friends. After all, this is about introducing your book to as many people as possible. Have an open door policy, and friends will bring friends. Others won't show up, but so be it. Ask everyone you know. Expect about a 20-30% drop-out rate, but friends of friends will probably make up the shortfall. At the end of the day, it's always nice to meet new people, and they'll probably buy a book.

8.     Check corkage fees and minimum spends

It can often be cheaper to bring in booze and pay corkage on it. Check costs. Do your numbers. Pick the best option. There's no need to serve Dom Perignon at a book launch! For the venue choice, I went down the road of taking a venue for 3 hours, with a minimum spend of £1500, which we just met. And I mean 'just': the total spent over those three hours was only £30 over the minimum, racked up by about 120 people. You could hire a venue, but that money never comes back, so it's usually best to take a space in a pub/bar/club, and think carefully about the min spend. If your friends are going to stick around, and are high rollers, then maybe go for a higher limit, but be careful - you don't want to be left picking up a bill at the end of the night.

9.     Rehearse your speech

 You'll want to tell everyone about your book, and what it's taken to write it, but you'll not want to bore them to the exit. Admittedly I may have gone on a tad too long, but I knew it was a tad too long before I started; plus, I chose not to read an excerpt - people are perfectly capable of reading for themselves... Either way, rehearse lots. To yourself. To your girlfriend/boyfriend. To your dog. Get the flow. Get comfortable with it. If you hate public speaking, it's over fast. If you love it, it's over faster. Either way, thank all the important people who need thanking; tell everyone they can buy a signed copy; and then get to the bar for a cold one. 

10.  Remember your marketing materials

Print your own bookmarks to remind people to post a review on Amazon, and remember to slot them into every book... which I only remembered after selling 20 copies. But not to worry, as you should still have your email list, having taken an email address off everyone who's bought a book... which I also forgot to do... but not to worry, as you'll be connected to everyone on Facebook. Or will you? Well, hopefully, but be sure to do the email list if you're not strong on Facebook. Or just get on Facebook. If you're not using it you're doing your book launch a huge disservice.

11.  Breathe... it's just a party

You will get stressed, as being the author-organiser means everything is on you, but try to have fun. You'll be torn from one conversation into another, but it's an exciting evening, so try and enjoy it. Just don't get distracted from the vital job of selling books. That is Task 1. Task 2 is encouraging everyone to review your book. Task 3 is thanking everyone for coming. And Task 4 is enjoying yourself. At least as much as possible. You might find yourself outside, by the bins, breathing deeply, trying to calm yourself before your speech, but so be it. Return re-invigorated, do your best, and everyone will see how much the evening means to you.

12.  And finally… you guessed it, wear a dark shirt!

 Especially if you're holding your launch in a hot venue.

Good luck, and if you've held a launch, share your tips, post a comment.

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