For most writers, launching your book is a big deal. You finally have the finished product in your hand. Now it’s time to share it with the world.
However, a successful book launch begins long before the author takes to the stage to read.
Sandra Craven, a former teacher and presenter, and current member of the Medicine Hat Rhyme and Reason Writers Club hosted an evening full of tips for a successful book launch.
“Every author needs a book launch survival kit,” said Sandra. Her list of items for that kit include tablecloths, easels, felt pens, painters’ tape, scissors, flip chart paper and sticky notes. Keep all those items in grab-and-go container.
Hopefully the event venue has the book launch location and time clearly advertised. If not, use your flip chart paper and felt pens to create signs for your reading. Easels can be used to display your book and tablecloths help create the atmosphere. Set the stage for your reading and add more interest by including items that bring attention to the book.
“But remember not to display anything you can’t afford to lose,” says Sandra.
Like any successful production, it’s the behind-the-scenes people that can make a big difference.
“Get people to help you,” said Sandra. “You need a guard, ticket takers, people to handle the money and sell books and someone to be in charge of refreshments.”
The guard will stand near the book table, welcoming people and ensuring that none of your books or display items go missing. Ticket takers can take tickets if you have them for your event, or they can oversee handing out name tags to all the participants. (Tags help the author connect with listeners by allowing him or her to call audience members by name.) A person at the book sale table can take care of selling while the author signs books or talks with participants. Finally, one person can ensure the refreshments are ready to serve at the end of the reading.
While Sandra acknowledges some of these duties can be doubled up, it is important to remember you can’t take on an event like this on your own.
Then implement the P.I.E. principle: participation, interaction and engagement.
“Greet people at the door,” said Sandra. “Welcome them in. Use their name. Use humour to put the audience at ease and get them interacting with each other. Create a connection between yourself and the audience and between audience members.”
Sandra also recommends authors use the space on the stage to their advantage. Move around so you can connect with participants on different sides of the room. Make your movements deliberate and purposeful. No wild gestures. Take a sip of water to give yourself time to collect your thoughts and slow down if you are feeling nervous.
When it’s time to read from your book, make sure you have the passages well marked with ribbons, bookmarks and/or sticky notes. Keep your podium close to the audience. Read slowly and loudly. Use a mic if available so the listeners at the back of the room can hear as well. Find a “hook” passage to introduce the book. Then share a couple of other passages from the book. Do not read more than two pages at a time.
After the presentation, take questions. Use the person’s name when calling on them. Repeat the question before answering. Keep answers succinct and on point.
Have a prearranged sign or comment that alerts your helpers to arrange the refreshments. As the author moves to the signing table, the book seller can move to the table where participants can purchase the books. Clearly post prices on the table.
According to Sandra, it’s important for an author to connect with the audience. A participant who feels personally involved is more likely to buy a book.
Most of all—enjoy the event. After all, it has taken a lot of work to get to this point.