Want a Successful Book Launch?

Blog_image_cabaret_handoutUnless you’re signed up by one of the major publishers who have an invitation list of the movers and shakers in the (principally London-based) literary establishment, it’s unlikely you’ll be offered a conventional book launch where people politely sip warm white wine and avoid eye contact when they pass the table where a publisher’s assistant is selling your book.

I’m with a small independent imprint and my pulling power is zero among the critics whose approval could turn my novel Out of Such Darkness into a bestseller. If you have the same problem but still want to do something to mark the publication of your book then my advice to you is do it. Celebrate your achievement.

The general response to our “event to celebrate the launch of Out of Such Darkness” has been so positive that I have the temerity to suggest that there are some rules that you could follow to ensure that your book launch goes as well as mine:

  1. Make it an ‘event’ not a run-of-the-mill launch. In our case the novel’s link to the film Cabaret gave us a hook and we organised Cabaret-style entertainment by three extraordinarily talented aspiring opera singers . They tailored their programme to fit the themes from my book. They even added a verse to one song that gave the book a humorous plug.
  2. Because it’s an ‘event’, you can charge a nominal entrance fee and sell tickets in advance. Our tickets were only £3. We sold over 100 and nearly everybody who bought one turned up. So we knew in advance how many to cater for and we were able to break even after all the costs.
  3. Invite anybody who knows you. The 100 who came to our launch were family and friends and people in the networks that I have through other interests. Many in the last group didn’t know I wrote books until they received the invitation flyer (pictured).
  4. Use a venue with a bar. You may provide a welcoming drink – we couldn’t afford to – but after that your ‘guests’ buy drinks at the bar. The important critic from the quality national who accepted the complimentary ticket can still be plied with free drinks if he or she turns up. But will they?
  5. Ensure a relaxed atmosphere. Because of the theme our audience was seated round tables cabaret-style and I’d recommend this. The Trio Project insisted that I ask the audience to feel free to roam the room, go to the bar and chat. They didn’t because they were transfixed by the trio’s virtuosity. But it set the tone.
  6. Work the room! I don’t mean this cynically but if everybody feels they have had a welcoming word from you as they settle down and wait for the ‘turn’ to come on they’re in a positive frame of mind before things start.
  7. You don’t have to read from your book. I didn’t because we have a book trailer to do it for me. I was free to try to be interesting about the novel’s provenance. In the case of Out of Such Darkness it’s relatively easy because of the three inspirations: the film Cabaret, the book Marathon Man and my 9/11 story. They’re strong enough hooks for me to talk enthusiastically without fluffing my lines.
  8. Don’t be diffident about your book. I said that Out of Such Darkness is my best novel yet. It’s true. I’m proud of what I’ve written.
  9. An obvious one: have a book-buying table and a separate signing queue.
  10. And finally, the one I failed on. Don’t underestimate the demand for your books. If you have 80 people attending have 80 books in your stock. Okay, not everybody buys but some will buy more than one.

There you have it – ten golden rules.

In summary, yes, the Out of Such Darkness event was principally for family, friends and people I know and the majority of them have an interest in writing and reading but it doesn’t detract from the fact that we hit upon the formula for generating a huge amount of goodwill and warmth for a writer without a reputation.

A London-based agent who was at our cabaret event said: “I’ve been to many, many book launches but never one like this!” I hope she meant it in the same way as one of my writing chums who said: “that was a book launch!”

Good luck with yours.

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