British novelist Sandy Osborne, author of the highly acclaimed Girl Cop series, offers an encouraging perspective on in-store book launches, based on her experience of running two very successful book launch events at one of her local bookshops. (ALLi's new #Authors4Bookstores campaign will include advice on how to emulate her success – more campaign news to follow shortly.)
Not long before the release of my first self published novel Girl Cop – The Life and Loves of an Officer on the Beat in November 2012, I brazenly walked into the Bath branch of Waterstones and asked if they would host a launch for me. The Events Organiser was a bit cool with me at first, saying that they were going to be busy in the run up to Christmas, but when I said I was looking at January, she seemed to warm to me and sent me away to organise it.
Like Organising a Wedding
Well, organising a launch isn’t dissimilar to planning a wedding. Invitations, wine, glasses hire, helium balloons (colour coded to match the cover), photographer, and flowers for a special guest.
I even managed to persuade Waterstones to let me have a window display – positioning a full-sized model of me in uniform just metres from the Big Issue pitch just outside the shop along, with numerous posters/copies of the cove,r and a small table with a few books displayed on it.
I sent out invites to everyone I know. As the launch was going to be after Christmas, every Christmas card I sent included an invite! I recruited four friends to ‘meet and greet’ and run the bar. I handed out fliers to everyone I thought looked within my readership, from the checkout ladies in the supermarket to those queuing behind me! I looked out my old Dr Marten boots from the attic and organised my table display for the night.
I texted and emailed everyone in my contacts lists both before Christmas and again shortly before the event. I didn’t ask for RSVP’s – I just crossed my fingers! I also managed to get a piece in the local paper.
On Launch Day
The day itself dawned, and the people just kept coming! “The most well attended local author launch in my 25 years as a bookseller,” said the senior bookseller from Waterstones. I'd been bleating on for years to all my friends that I was writing a book, and over 180 people turned out to help me celebrate its final release on a cold January evening – and I sold over 100 books!
I am writing this post fresh from my second launch. The changes I made for this event were few.
- Having spent almost the whole evening of my first launch sat at a table signing books (I’m not complaining – I was extremely flattered by the queue of people who patiently waited to have their books signed – but I wasn’t able to mingle and the evening passed in a bit of a blur), this time I prepared a stock of pre-signed books which I left clearly marked by the till and invited personal dedications prior to the event in an attempt to reduce the queue.
- I didn’t want to deter those who wanted their books signed on the night so I also had a pile of unsigned books next to the till, and an obvious signing table was set up adjacent to the counter. The plan worked, and as a result I enjoyed the evening far more than the first launch, having more opportunity to mingle with my guests.
- In the months running up to the event, I kept a lookout for any wine deals and managed to get a respectable wine at a very reasonable price. This is one of the biggest outlays for a launch, so worth shopping around for.
- Also, to make this launch different in some way to the first, I hired a professional graphologist who provided free handwriting analysis throughout the event.
- I also invited a young singer song-writer to provide some music. This was background music and not a performance and was perfectly balanced.
“To Launch or not to Launch?”
It’s a no brainer for me. A celebration of all that hard work! Though I’m sure JK Rowling doesn’t have to wheel her hired wine glasses back to Waitrose in a shopping trolley the day after her launches!Inspiring case study of a successful indie book launch by @GirlCop Click To Tweet
OVER TO YOU
Please feel free to share your book launch tips via the comments box!