I'm pleased to welcome back Ellen Cassedy with today's guest post on how to plan for a successful book promotion party. Book parties are often used as part of the launch of a new book, but keep in mind that you can also plan a party to celebrate a book that's been out for a while.
Book Party: Five Steps to Success
by Ellen Cassedy
I recently hosted a book party for my poet friend, Yermiyahu Ahron Taub, whose new book is Prayers of a Heretic (Plain View Press). A big success! Follow these five steps and you can’t go wrong.
1. Make a plan
Ask a friend to host. The emotional support is priceless, and you won’t have to worry about cleaning up your own place. Instead you can focus on getting ready to present your book.
Choose a convenient time. Ours was Sunday afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Don’t be afraid too few people will come. Right from the start, Ahron and I agreed that we’d go ahead with the party even if numbers were small. A book party is great practice for talking about and reading from your book, and the contact with supportive listeners – no matter how many or how few – supplies you with energy and confidence for doing more.
Don’t worry that too many people will come. If some guests have to stand, that’s fine – and exciting! My place isn’t huge, and we didn’t have a chair for everyone, but we made it work.
2. Send out invitations
Email invitations should go out three or four weeks in advance.
Subject heading: “Invitation to a book party.”
Keep it short. Include date, time, address, directions, and a link, like this: “Books will be available for purchase at the party. If you if you can’t make it, you can order the book here.”
Provide a brief description of the book, including a short blurb.
Ask people to RSVP. This will help you plan the food. And once people have said they’re coming, they’re more likely to do so.
Divide up your list into batches to avoid spam filters.
Use Facebook, Twitter, and local list-serves to spread the word. (Rather than put my address on these public notices, I invited people to email me for directions.)
Cast a wide net. Don’t be shy. Invite friends, neighbors, coworkers, family. Ask your host to do the same. Among our guests were someone’s acupuncturist, someone’s mother who was visiting from out of town, someone’s nephew’s girlfriend.
Remember that sending out these notices is a way to let people know about your book, even if they don’t come to the party.
Don’t panic when you receive a flood of “Sorry, I can’t come” messages. Those who can’t come will tend to let you know right away. Those who can come usually take longer.
Follow up with a reminder one week before the party.
3. At the party…
Eat and greet. Serve simple food and drinks. No need for anything elaborate. We had dips, crackers, cookies, wine, and water. Let people mill about before and after your talk. Introduce people to one another. It’s a party!
Plan a 15- to 20-minute program: Forty-five minutes in, ask your friend to introduce you. I talked for three minutes about my friendship with Ahron and what I love about his poignant, funny, painful, delicate, gemlike poems.
Talk and read. Ahron stood at the “podium” (a repurposed plant stand). He briefly described his book, then introduced and read an assortment of five poems – one about childhood, one about an experience inside an MRI machine, one erotic. He made sure to end on a particularly striking note.
Q & A: Take approximately four questions.
4. On to the signing!
We set up a small table where we put out a stack of books for sale. How big a stack? Not so big as to seem embarrassing, but enough to let guests know they’re expected to buy. Ahron signed while I took the money. Cash or check. I came prepared with change.
Ahron brought a few copies of his previous books, too, and sold them all.
5. The end
After everyone leaves, sit around, nibble at leftovers, and glow.
Forty people heard Ahron read his poems. Twenty-four bought books. One took home the wrong coat.
We reviewed the chuckles, the hushed attention, the interesting questions – and a job well done!
About thte Author
Ellen Cassedy’s Tips for Writers can be found at www.ellencassedy.com. Her book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust (University of Nebraska Press, 2012), won the 2013 Grub Street National Book Prize for non-fiction.