Since my launch party for The Rooms Are Filled a couple of weeks ago, I’ve received a lot of questions from fellow writers and also from people just curious to know what goes on behind the scenes for a book launch. Based on the questions I’ve gotten, here are my top tips:
- Type out what you’d like to say verbatim, in a casual conversational tone. Read it. Create a brief outline based on it. Read it. Create an acronym of key words and memorize it to remind you if you go blank during your talk. My acronym was QWCRQ. Each letter stood for a keyword to remind me what I wanted to say: Question – Write – Choose – Read – Questions. I wrote the acronym in the top corner of the first page of my book, so I could easily view it if necessary (it wasn’t, but it relaxed me knowing it was there).
- Create a nice flier (I made mine through Microsoft Office & printed at Kinkos) and hang them around town. Some local libraries required permission, but other places—the train station, local ice cream shop, hair salons—let me do it without question. I was lucky in that my local Barnes & Noble created signs and hung them in the window and at the Information Desk (along with a stack of books to pre-sell), but if your launch location doesn’t do that, maybe they’ll let you hang one of your fliers in the window.
- Bring an extra tablecloth – Target has nice, cheap ones. This is in case the venue's is ugly or dirty, or you're using two tables.
- Bring an extra box of books in case the store runs out.
- If you have a good candidate, it’s not a bad idea to ask someone to introduce you. I knew my high school creative writing teacher would be there, so a few weeks before the event, I asked him. He spoke for three minutes and had people in happy tears, me included. (That's him and me up above.)
- Provide a few snacks and something to drink, even if it’s just pitchers of water. Don’t go overboard – no one seemed to expect this.
- Write something to help you relax near the passage you are going to read. I wrote “Henry & Clara.” Those are my children, and the thought of just sitting on their beds and reading aloud to them as I had a thousand times helped me enjoy the moment. Also, read more slowly than you think is necessary.
- Have someone sit with you at the signing table to, a. nicely move people along if they’re talking too much, b. say hi to people and introduce or re-introduce them to you when it’s their turn; this also avoids the embarrassment of forgetting a name, and c. ask people to sign up for your newsletter. Which brings me to:
- Have a sheet at the table where people can sign up for your author newsletter.
- Use an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie marker to sign.
- Know how you’ll sign your name. Because it was my launch and filled with people who know me, I simply wrote, “Jessica.” Also because I have a very long name: Jessica Null Vealitzek. In the future, I’ll probably alter that to JNV or JVealitzek.
- Have at least 3 go-to phrases for signing. I had one, and wished I’d had more. I didn’t anticipate how blank my mind would be. And also recognize that, especially for people you don’t know, simply writing “For: Barb” and then signing your name is enough. I also like “Happy reading” and “Much love.”
- Be prepared for people to say, “Personalize it!” or “Write something witty!” And then be prepared when nothing witty comes to mind.
- Have someone videotape the whole thing so you can relive it (and maybe use for promotional clips). During the event it was all a blur, kind of like my wedding.
- Send a thank-you note to the bookstore people who helped organize the event.
- Be yourself! It’s trite, yes, but the best thing to do when speaking to a large group of people is to be yourself. Prepare, prepare, prepare. Then step up and be yourself.
What did I miss? Add in the comments!