By Melissa Face
While I am still about a month away from the retail release day of my essay collection on parenting, I Love You More Than Coffee, I have had copies in hand since December. And because I couldn’t wait to get my feet wet (and take advantage of Valentine’s Day shopping opportunities), I have been holding pre-launch events since early February. So far I have been having a blast and learning more about the process than I ever imagined. For anyone who is preparing for a book launch or who is already hosting readings and signings, here are a few things that have worked well for me:
1. Celebrate It! – I treated my first couple of events with the same celebratory attitude as I do my children’s birthday parties. They are pretty similar, after all. From its conception, my book has been a great source of pride (and hard work), and now that it is out in the world, I want to throw it a party! There are so many ways to do this, but some things include making goody bags with treats and bookmarks, and serving cookies or other snacks at an event. This works especially well if the food item fits your book theme. Celebrating and advertising look a lot alike, but celebrating has a much more positive connotation. Remember, though, that the most important thing to convey is genuine excitement about your book. If you aren’t excited about your “baby”, you cannot expect anyone else to be.
2. Host at Popular Venues – While book events are no longer confined to bookstores, it is helpful to choose a location that is popular in the community. This way, when the author and the venue co-host on social media, there is a draw from regular supporters of the venue, even if they don’t know the author. Plus, co-hosts can find fun, creative ways to promote each other’s products. I held my first event at a local coffee shop (perfection!) because coffee is in the title of my book. They created a special drink menu (for the day), themed to several essays in my collection. This made my event more personal with guests able to purchase drinks like the “Mommy van Gogh” and “Sleepless Nights”, and it created no extra cost for my co-host or me.
3. Have Fun With Themes – Play off the themes in your book when selecting giveaway items and venue locations. I am fortunate to have “love” and “coffee” in my book title, which makes theming pretty easy. I have taken advantage of Valentine’s Day and numerous gift items related to love and coffee. If your book’s themes are less conducive to marketing, consider working something around a main character or even the book’s setting. Check out nationaldaycalendar.com for some inspiration. People love posting and commenting about days like National Coffee Day, which happens to be Tuesday, September 29, in case you were wondering. Take advantage of it!
4. Read for Your Specific Audience – Considering one’s audience is one of the first lessons a writer learns, and it is vital when preparing for a reading. My book is a collection of essays on parenthood, and I have a variety of themes and topics from which to choose. So far I have read something different at each event. When I was invited to speak at a local Rotary Club meeting, for example, I knew that would not be the best place to read, “…this morning I have wiped poop off two different butts, and neither was my own. How is your day?” They may have laughed, and they likely would have understood, but I took the time to find something geared to an older, more reserved crowd. I was glad I did.
5. Anticipate Questions – Expect all types of questions from guests at your event – from the interesting to the intrusive. Prepare some responses in advance that are honest yet upbeat. If someone asks how many books you have sold (this is rude, by the way), simply tell them that you aren’t sure. And in that moment, how could you be? Someone could be adding your book to their online shopping cart right that instant, so there is no way you could possibly know how many copies you have sold. At one of my events, a lady asked me how I planned to compete with websites she could visit to read about parenting topics for free. I told her that my book was marketed as a gift book for parents, and it’s hard to wrap up a website for Mother’s Day. She did not buy my book at that event, and that is okay. Expect strange questions, and have a few responses prepared so you can remain positive on your day of celebration.
Holding my book for the first time this past December was one of the best moments of my life. At that point, my dream had already come true, so everything that happens from now on with sales and publicity will only be a bonus. Of course I want to sell books, but that isn’t the only measure of my success with this project. I’m having an amazing time, and I hope this is the first of many publications.
Best of luck to you and your “baby”!