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Book Marketing: Case Study Of A Successful Book Launch

Book Marketing: Case Study of a Successful Book Launch

Sandy are her book launchBritish 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

Sandy outside Waterstones

Sandy Osborne with her impressive Waterstones window display

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!

Girl Cop in Trouble, Launch

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


Please feel free to share your book launch tips via the comments box!

Author: Sandy Osborne

Sandy is a serving police officer with 20 years' experience in the British police force. She has written articles for regional and national magazines. "Girl Cop" was her first novel, "Girl Cop in Trouble" is the sequel, and a third book is now under way. Sandy also offers author talks relating the story behind the books and her journey to publication, which she intersperses with excerpts of her writing and anecdotes from her police career. Find out more about Sandy via her website, www.sandyosborne.com.


This Post Has 22 Comments
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  6. I really felt I picked up a lot of tips with this post, so thank you very much for sharing them with us, Sandy.

    I’ve just had a book launch for my debut novel, Annie’s Story, in Waterstones, Tunbridge Wells. It was self-pub but I have also had a non-fiction book traditionally published, so they know me well, although they were reluctant at first. I had to do a big persuasion job and guarantee to have 30 bums on seats (thankfully, I had 40) and sold over 30, so not a bad return, but nowhere near the 180 you had. *must do better next time* methinks.

    Still, I’ve got the Mayfair launch coming up at end of this month so hopefully I can put a few of your tips into practice and they will give me inspiration to come up with more of my own!

    1. Hi Denise, yes, you have to be persistent but I try to keep in with them (gave the organisers a thank you gift afterwards). Try some PR with your local writing groups inviting them to come along and ‘see how you do it’ to get more bums on seats! Good luck! Sandy

  7. How did you go launching an Indie book in a bookstore. Did you have to pay them? Or did they take the sales on the night and you took a cut? You obviously used their register and facility. Or did they order the books from you?

    I look forward to having these questions answered.

    Kind regards

    1. Hi JoAnn – see my reply to Clare’s Q’s above re the payment (no I didn’t!)
      I supplied the books myself for both launches and they take their % from the sales – and they went through their tills as any normal sale once they had logged the books on to their system. I then invoiced them afterwards for the books sold. Thereafter they ordered through the wholesalers – but as I said to Clare – I have to chase them to keep stocked!
      You just have be polite and professional….and persistent!

  8. Interesting … Did Waterstones charge you for holding your launch there?

    I am also wondering if they were friendly towards you because the books are about crime and policing, which are popular subjects and they can be sure there’s a readership: and whether they asked to read the books first?

    Useful to know for hose of us who write genres which are less universally popular, or fiction which is not clearly genre.

    1. Hi Clare, No Waterstones didn’t charge me for holding the events – they support ‘community events’ and this came within that remit! I have had to work hard to build and maintain the relationship with them (I physically have to go and check the shelves for stock and if empty have to prompt them to replenish…) They didn’t ask to read the book (it’s more woman’s fiction/romantic comedy than crime/policing) but it is set in Bath which is obviously a good hook. It’s not stocked nationally tho….Hope this helps.

  9. Many congrats, sounds like it went great. I didn’t have a launch for my first book (as I’d ran a crowdfunding campaign plus it was so close to Christmas) but am planning one for my second. I’ve found my bookshop already.
    I love the idea of the cut out of you to gain attention – must think of something eyecatching for the window if they will let me.

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