Some publishers don’t see the utility in second book launches. I confess, I’m not sure why. To me, a book launch is an opportunity to build buzz. Buzz sells books.
What I’ve learned as a realtor is that you build sales by word-of-mouth. Every satisfied client is a potential advocate for your services. We learn in real estate that requires not just exceeding their expectations but staying in touch. Pop-bys, cards, newsletters — to be a successful realtor in a crowded field, you have to always be top of mind.
To be honest, I don’t think it’s any different for authors. There are a lot of books out there. It’s not enough to have a good, or even a great, book — people have to hear about it, and that means you need advocates — people eager to tell their friends. A book launch is a way to build that kind of excitement, and I don’t think it much matters whether is the first, second, or fifth book. It’s a way to thank your loyal readers and remind them you’re still around.
Now when most authors think of book launches, they think of something in a bookstore, with a few bottles of wine and some appetizers. I think that’s a missed opportunity.
There’s nothing wrong with a book launch in a bookstore but why not make it an event? I’ve often thought that mystery novels are really well suited to Hallowe’en style parties. Have a few people dress up as cops, or ghosts, or dead people. (Jill Edmondson had a friend wear her old wedding dress at her launch for Blood and Groom. It was all ripped and covered with blood – brilliant!) In fact, Open Book Toronto ran an entire article about Jill’s launch called How to Throw a Memorable Launch Party: Get the Buzz Going. They had this to say:
At the launch party for her first book, Blood and Groom, a hostess wearing a ‘bloodstained’ wedding gown greeted guests, and handed each a promotional rose with the title of the book printed directly on the flower. Of course, since this was a wedding themed mystery, the party included a rather macabre wedding cake with the groom splayed out in (cherry pie filling) blood at the base.
… For the visuals at the Dead Light District party, there were cocktail napkins with the book title and the date printed on them below an image of a lipstick kiss, and each guest was given a real rose emblazoned with the book cover. The Dead Light District cover was shown in many other accoutrements as well, such as on a plaque by the entrance and on a tee-shirt worn by one of the guests. In keeping with the Mexican theme, the centrepieces on tables throughout the room included — what else? Cacti.
There are all kinds of wonderful places to have a launch that stands out.
My Inspector Ramirez series is set in Cuba, so I had a launch in Toronto last year in a Cuban restaurant. For the larger one in Ottawa, (as I will again this year again) I held it in an Art Gallery that was large enough to allow for live Cuban music.
If you look at my post on what I did to market my book in 2012, you’ll see some pictures. We had fabulous Cuban food. There was a cake that looked like a 1957 Chevy and two neon palm trees. I found Spanish language caution tape on-line and wrapped it around tables – we even had one of those red flashing cherries (portable lights) that sit on the dashboard of police cars like a red strobe.
Because my publisher is Penguin, we had Penguin crackers, cigars with Penguin logos and cupcakes with Penguin picks. And of course lots of rum and cerveza, as well as exotic fruit drinks and a pinata shaped like a Cuban police car.
We even had Penguin logo chocolate cigars!
The thing about a book launch is it gives you a chance to reconnect with the people you’ve met at author events. If you can get them really excited, those are the people most likely to tell their friends about your launch and your book.
I try to get some guests who can help create that kind of buzz just by showing up. Last year it was CBC radio host Robyn Bresnahan from Ottawa Morning. Robyn’s a great mingler and she was happy to have her photograph taken with dozens of party-goers. She’s coming again this year.
Mario Carlucci from CBC Radio hopes to join us this year. Anne Archer, who does the CBC Book Panel, will to try to make it as well. Last year, fellow authors included Hayden Trenholm, Hilary Macleod, Linda Wiken, Mark Bourrie, Barbara Fradkin, and Brenda Chapman, among others.
Don’t forget local politicians. I remember being at an office-opening event at my accountant’s office years ago (that’s Doug McLarty) and hearing the buzz when our then mayor, Larry O’Brien, and Cabinet Minister John Baird, walked in. Doug had a professional photographer on hand to take pictures; that impressed the heck out of me. Now I do it at my launches too.
Last year, Yasir Naqvi, my local MPP helped me cut the cake.
Katherine Hobbs, my Kitchissippi City Councillor (also active in Capital Crime Writers) was there too. That’s Katherine (second from the left) with Darlene Cole, Brenda Chapman, Barbara Fradkin, myself, and Diana Kirkwood.
Mayor Jim Watson confirmed yesterday that he’d be happy to attend.
When you’re inviting people, don’t forget your book clubs. I attended a lot of them last year. (Here’s a couple I went to, and loved!)
Five (that’s almost 40 people) have rearranged their book club nights to hold them at my launch. Very cool!
This year’s menu so far (and it’s all potluck) includes empanadas, pork adobo, corn fritters, shrimp/avocado salad, Cuban salad, a variety of Cuban appetizers, rum pudding, rice krispy watermelon wedges, mini-cheesecakes, rum cake, gluten-free cupcakes, mojito cupcakes, and of course, that amazing Cuban cigarbox cake. (The great thing about asking your guests to do something is not only are they happy to, but then you know for sure they’ll show up!)
Part of creating buzz is creating an event where the food is so great that people are eager to come back. The wonderful thing about a potluck is people bring their best stuff. No one is overburdened by preparation or cost; it’s a great way to hold a big event without spending a lot of money.
Speaking of big events, as of last night, I had 190 tentatively confirmed which means I now have to cut off invitations or we’ll exceed the venue’s capacity. But that’s a nice problem to have, don’t you think?