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[SWP: Behind the Book] Launch Party Tips
Written by
Jessica Vealitzek
February 2018
Written by
Jessica Vealitzek
February 2018

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Bring an extra box of books in case the store runs out.
  5. 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.)
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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:
  9. Have a sheet at the table where people can sign up for your author newsletter.
  10. Use an Ultra Fine Point Sharpie marker to sign.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.”
  13. Be prepared for people to say, “Personalize it!” or “Write something witty!”  And then be prepared when nothing witty comes to mind.
  14. 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.
  15. Send a thank-you note to the bookstore people who helped organize the event.
  16. 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!

* This post was originally published in April 2014.

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  • Jessica Vealitzek

    I love that, Betsy! I'll go check it out...

  • Betsy Teutsch

    Great point about the food/drink.  People don't go to book parties for the food. If there is food, it's fun for it to be thematically linked.  I just attended a great book party for Cheryl Rice - a SWP author. - some of the guests were actually in her memoir and she put the page number on their nametags - what a great touch.

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    You're welcome, Nina - thanks for reading!

  • Nina Gaby

    This is terrific and I hope to be able to implement each idea- except for the teacher one- any classes I've ever had were on-line and long ago. But will try to think of someone else for that introductory role. Thanks!

  • Yes, good question. I'm waiting for that moment; so far, I've planned things mostly in places I have friends and families so they can help spread the word and bring their friends. I've heard that unless you're well-known or have local connections, many book stores aren't doing readings for this reason. But, if it does happen, smile at those two people like they are your most favorite people in the world (because at that moment, they are), pull up a chair, and start a conversation about your book, I say.

  • Kelly Kittel

    I recently read a FB post by Joyce Maynard about a bookstore reading she gave a week-ish ago in the Bay area for which only 2 or 3 people turned up, so we shouldn't feel bad!

  • Jane, your question about nobody coming is a good one. I've had two events, both heavily publicized by myself and the venue hosting, local paper event listing, etc. My audiences were still almost exclusively just my good friends, family, and acquaintances. Bottom line, if you are an unknown author, you need to generate your own crowd or you end up with 2-5 people who just happen to wander by... unless it is a book club event.

  • Jane Hanser

    Okay - how about - what if nobody comes? I know what I"m going to write my first blog post on....

  • Thanks so much, Karen. 

    Dylan - woohooo! Have fun!

  • J. Dylan Yates

    Thanks so much for sharing this wisdom, Jessica. My turn tomorrow!

  • Thank you for these tips, Jessica. Best regards for the success of your book, and all of your writing!

  • Wonderful - thanks, Brooke!

  • Thanks so much, Claire. Yes - of course you can! That's why we're here, right? Because we care enough about writing to jump into it. 

  • Thanks, Liz & Maggie. Yes - always more to think of, right? 

  • Claire McAlpine

    A wonderful post, it sounds like you anticipated nearly everything and how wonderful to have your teacher introduce you, that moment would be worth reliving I am sure. I hope one day we can all be contemplating a day like this. :)

  • This is so helpful, Jessica. I'm going to add this link to the author handbook. Brava!

  • Great tips, Jessica. I passed the link on to another writer friend of mine :-)

  • Maggie Bolitho

    In February I went to a seminar on public presentation by performance artist, Ivan Coyote. She had excellent pointers on how to put your best self forward. I summarized some of them here:

    Things I forgot to put on that list:
    1. always be the best dressed person in the room

    2. speak to the back of the room

    3. rehearse your piece at least 20 times before your performance date.


  • Jessica Vealitzek

    Exciting, Jean! I look forward to hearing about it.

  • Jean P. Moore

    Thank you for this, Jessica! Very helpful, useful information. My launch will be at a B&N in June, so you can be sure I'll be reading this over more than a little between now and then!

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    And thank you, Barbara. I forget too. And my publicist tells me to mention feedback I've gotten that it's a good book club book, and yet I always forget.

  • Jessica Vealitzek

    Thanks Cassandra & Thea. Jenni - nice tip! That would really help the flow.

  • Kelly Kittel

    Yes, send it to me please!

  • Thea Constantine

    Thank you so much Jessica (JVN) Great info--I look forward to the day I can use it!

  • Jenni Ogden Writing

    Great tips, especially the ones about how to "memorize" your casual speech! If you have a book signing where there are a lot of people lining up, most of whom you don't know, ask your helper to move down the line giving each person a small piece of paper (or stickie) and on that they write their name, or the name they wish you to sign, and if they want more than "For Sara.."  what that would be. (Most people are happy with the simple "for Sara" but occasionally there might be something else, say if it is the reader's 100th birthday, they might want "For Sara on her 100th birthday" (!!!) But at least if everyone does this before they get to the signing table, then you don't have that worry that  you'll forget your mother's best friend's name at the crucial moment.