Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Launch Party - What Worked and What Didn't

When I decided to host my own launch party, without involving publishers or bookstores, I knew there were risks. What if no one showed up? What if I got stuck with all those books? As a first-timer, it was a bit nerve wracking.

Of course, once my wife was on board, her organizational and decorating skills made me feel more confident with each passing day. She has an innate talent to magnetize an event, which has been well-honed on church and family activities.

The party is over, and it was everything we hoped for. Even the single uncontrollable factor, the weather, cooperated. We sent out 150 paper invitations, and touched another 500 or so online. Close to 200 showed up. We had prepared by buying 100 books wholesale, after agonizing over the number as being too high. The number turned out to be dead on, as the party started at 6pm and ALL the books were signed and sold before 8:00pm.

The food was another concern: No matter how much we packed into the back of the pickup truck before the party, it didn't look like enough. But as it turned out, despite the crowd, about half of it was left over. I think the key here is being up-front that you are serving "light refreshments". People have dinner before or after they come, they don't expect much, and they don't consume much.

The venue and decor were perfect for what we needed, and we had plenty of help from family to set up and take down. The "open house" format gave everyone a 3-hour window to show up, and the bulk of them came in the first half. It was all over by 8:30.

How successful was it as a launch? Well, we put the first 100 copies of the book into the hands of people who will read it, all signed and personalized. From this group of readers will come the first wave of online reviews and verbal recommendations. Certainly we succeeded in setting up that initial "launch" group. Financially? Forget about being in this business for the money. The receipts from the books sold will not come close to covering the overall cost of the event. The plan is more long-term, strategic: If this core group of 100 readers likes the story and spreads the word, the results will pay off in future months, combined with additional signings, appearances, and online promotional efforts. At the party, I was able to ask people if they would consider helping me with promotion. I asked people face-to-face if they would consider the book for a Whitney Award nomination when they turn the last page. I can't do all that if I just point people to bookstores. In that sense, the event and all the preparation and work leading up to it were well worth it.

Click HERE to see pictures from the party and more information about how it went. In the coming first quarter of 2011, my focus will be more on bookstore appearances and the WOMBAT marketing program. Here's wishing you all a Merry Christmas and best of luck in your own promotional efforts.


Stina Lindenblatt said...

Congrats on the successful launch party. And thanks for sharing what you did. :)

Steve Westover said...

Congratulations Michael! It sounds like a wonderful success. I think you should be very proud of your efforts and your success on the launch.

Stephanie Black said...

Sounds like a fantastic success! And yeah, I can relate to your comment about not being in this for the money :)