Usually if you are published by a traditional publisher, they will organise the launch of your book for you. You will just need to show up and prepare to be fabulous. Sometimes though, even with a traditional publisher, you might want to organise a launch for yourself.
For my recent book which is published by Penguin South Africa, I organised two launches myself, one in Maun and one in Windhoek. In Maun I was completely on my own, at least in terms of the publisher’s assistance.
There was not even a bookseller there, so I had to buy the books with my author’s discount and have someone sell for me at the launch. In Windhoek, it was a more collaborative effort because the publisher paid for the venue and the refreshments and a local book store sold books at the event. But the organisation was down to me. If you have self-published your book, the entire book launch will be yours to pay for and organise. A successful launch will require some planning and organisation so here are a few tips.
1. Organise the venue
You could have the launch at a bookstore which would make it easy for selling, but the space available is usually pretty small and most bookstores will charge you for the venue. You might want to think widely. When I was organising the Gaborone launch for The Bed Book of Short Stories (Modjaji Books) I decided it might be cool to hold the launch at a bed store. I approached Mma Bolao and they agreed. You might also think of asking your local library. Maybe your book is about finance; why not see if your bank manager will let you use the banking hall after hours? Nothing is off the table, think widely and make sure you think of your guests - what venue will be best for them?
How much money do you have to spend on the launch? If you are a self-published author you will need to make sure there are enough books at the launch too. Consider all of your expenses including any marketing you might want to do, refreshments and entertainment.
3. How to get the word out
We are lucky nowadays because social media is available to let people know about our book launches. If you do not have a Facebook and Twitter account get one immediately. You should send out press releases to the newspapers and radio stations. What I have found in Botswana is that it is best to send an already written article
4. Guest speaker
You do not have to have a guest speaker but if you can get a relevant person who has a following in their own right that might bring more people to the launch it might be a good idea. Also if the person is genuinely enthusiastic about your book, they will surely pass that enthusiasm onto the guests.
Make the event fun for your guests. You might hire some musicians. I know a writer friend whose book is about a strip club and she invited strippers to her book launch. You also might think of having some give-aways. Maybe a raffle for a copy of the book. Perhaps your book is a cookbook, how about making some of the recipes and giving out a cake or some biscuits as a door prize?
6. The Programme
It is up to you how the programme is organised. Maybe you do not like reading in public, you might get someone, perhaps an actor, to read an excerpt of your book. You could perhaps have someone interview you about the book and the writing of it. Mix in some entertainment. Leave enough time at the end for people to buy books, have a snack or a drink and to get the book signed.
7. Publicity at the event
If possible, get someone who will take photos at the event. The person can also be tweeting and putting updates on Facebook about what is going on. Make a hashtag for your event and tell the audience members what it is so they can also tweet and update their Facebook pages to keep the excitement bubbling.
If you are going to organise a book launch try to get the maxim out of it by being organised and thinking widely about the event to make it a real experience for your guests.