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Turn your Book Launch into a Community Event - to widen its appeal

Being a newbie author, I have a policy of always listening to those around me who know better and have more experience aka publisher, publicist, agent, experienced author friends. So the advice I got about my book launch was – don’t have one. Why? Because I’m a debut author and no one knows who I am. No one will come – except friends and family. My time and the marketing budget could be spent on better things.

So I set out NOT to have a book launch. But then when my friends and family, who were so excited for me and my first book being published, constantly asked when the book launch event would be, it got me thinking. How could I turn this into a book launch that people who DIDN’T know me would attend too?

This is what I did…

  1. I found the hook in my book that would be of interest and benefit to the local community. This would, in turn, lead to the media being interested so that they would publicise the community event for me. As The Harper Effect is set in the world of professional tennis, I thought it’d be great to bring real life Harpers to the book launch – young elite athletes who readers and the community could see for themselves and talk to. They could ask them questions and learn what it takes to be an elite sports person. This would benefit the community in several ways: inspire them to chase their dreams of being an elite athlete, encourage them to go after their dreams, entertain them, inform them.

  2. I created an atmosphere around the event – as we were smack bang in the middle of the Australian Open, and the book is set in the world of professional tennis, the invitations stated that we’d be serving strawberries & cream and bubbly, just like at Wimbledon. I believe this made people stay longer to chat and nibble, and they perhaps didn’t mind the signing queue when they had a glass of bubbly to hand. In terms of the cost, I sent a simple sponsorship proposal to various strawberry farmers and champagne makers. Driscoll’s agreed to be the strawberry sponsor, and I received a discounted price for Robert Channon Wines.

  3. Between me and the bookshop owner, we contacted the local media with a press release not only about The Harper Effect, but also detailing the credentials of the 4 athletes I had found to talk on the elite athlete panel. I found these amazing girls with the help of sports clubs, the local university, and local sports associations. Given their calibre, and that this was a community event that was more than a book launch, the media took an interest in the event and I took part in 2 radio interviews and 3 newspaper interviews as a result.

So the simple message is: create an event that is more than a book launch and that benefits the local community, then tell the media about it and gain sponsorship to cover costs.

Other tips:

  1. Start attending local book launches well in advance of your own. You’ll see which book shops and owners have a good space for your event, and are well-organised and well-liked. When deciding on where to launch your book, pay attention to how much enthusiasm you’re greeted with when you mention the words ‘book launch’. I was torn between two bookshops because both owners were so enthusiastic about doing the launch, but there were a couple of bookstores who didn’t return my call, or who seemed all doom and gloom about book launches. It’s a good idea to go local too – you might be paying a few trips to them in the days before the launch.

  2. Practise your speech so you know it well enough that a mind blank doesn’t take over. I wrote prompts on cards, just in case, but found that I had to hold a microphone and so the cards weren’t easy to hold/turn over…find out if there’s a lectern if you need cards.

  3. If you have the budget from your publisher, get some invites and bookmarks printed for the bookshop owner to give out to people who buy books prior to the event. Pan Macmillan’s designers put together a bookmark design, along with an invite and posters that all matched my social media banners. The posters were then displayed by the bookshop owner in their window and local businesses and the library were happy to do the same. If you need to print these things yourself, find a local printer who’ll do a good deal on a few things, and even Vistaprint can help, though I’d advise using their designer for help to ensure your images are of the right quality/size etc to come out clearly.

  4. Make lists – to do ones and to bring ones. Don’t forget some pens for signing your books, for instance!

Well that’s about it! Please feel free to throw any questions you may have my way. The verdict for me was that I was happy I went ahead with the launch. It was fun, it made me feel like my book was going out into my local community with a buzz, and I truly believed that people went away having been entertained and even inspired to follow their dreams and never give up on them.

The Harper Effect is available for purchase in all good bookstores, or from this link: Amazon

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