I’ve planned book launches for NYT bestsellers and for small books that were destined to only make a splash with a very narrow audience. Regardless of how big the book is likely to be, one thing is for sure: the publication of a book represents a massive milestone for its author. It’s the culmination of 1000s of hours, and thousands of dollars invested by the publisher.

Here’s how to make sure that your book launch event gets the most mileage for the author and does justice to this major achievement.

Set clear goals for the launch:

Danny Wallace Book Launch of Yes Man
Is the launch a public launch designed to attract thought leaders for endorsements and press coverage? Or is the launch a private celebration for the author’s family, friends, and colleagues? Most events are a hybrid of both these goals, which makes the execution tricky. Sit down with the author to capture their vision, as this will impact everything from the ambience at the event, to the guest list, to central pre-event outreach. Once you’ve clarified the goals, consider a scope of work that outlines the goals and proposes deliverables or activities under each section. For purposes of the rest of this article, I’m going to assume that the event is at least in part a “launch” in the sense of trying to stir up some interest in the book.

Make your guest list and get invites out early:

Book launches are strange things – some people will see them as a huge event, and others will attend only if they can “fit it in.” For that purpose, I recommend nailing down your date as early as possible, and sending save the dates. These can be followed up with formal invites, and reminders one week and one day before the actual event. Your guest list should take into account the family types of people:

– Author’s special guests, including immediate family, colleagues, and friends;

– Publishers, editors, and publicists involved in the event;

– The author’s broader network;

– Influencers in the author’s space that could have an impact on the book’s success – from heads of organizations that could distribute it through their platform to recognized authors in the space;

– The local press, including regional and local papers and magazines; book reviewers and book bloggers; and any niche press that might be interested;

Engage the media:

Stephen Fry Book Launch
Ensuring the media is on your guest list can help you garner helpful press placements and reviews. Prepare a kit for all members of the media before the event, and either send out or have on hand. If possible, dedicate someone to shepherding the media – ensuring they get the kits, access to the author, and anything else they need. Kits should include a gratis copy of the book, a press release with strong author quotes, a photograph and bio of the author, and any other helpful info the publisher may have prepared. Follow up a day or two after the event to make sure reporters have everything that they need. Thank any attendees via social media if possible after the event for coming.

Connect your design theme to the book:

Zombie themed book launch
When choosing your venue, try for somewhere memorable. A great hotel, an art museum, or a patron’s upscale house can be a beautiful choice. Sometimes you get stuck in a drab, inexpensive hotel. Make the best of it. Tie the theme of the room to the books cover in color. Spend less than $100 to get large hardbacked posters made of the book and position those in the room or ask guests to dress up.

Create a centerpiece with flowers that integrate the colors. Consider adding a table that displays multiple copies of the book in an interesting arrangement, which can double as a space for signing. This can work whether you’re giving away the books or asking guests to pay.

Arrange a reading:

The worst book launches are just cocktail parties. While they’re celebratory, they miss the opportunity to turn guests into fans. Here are three easy ideas for how to get even the shyest authors to engage with their guests, and create an experience that will leave attendees buzzing.

– Host a structured Q&A:

JK Rowling Book Launch
Get someone knowledgeable – such as a key colleague or a reporter – to ask the author a handful of smart questions. Give the author the questions ahead of time, and be sure to include a couple of easy warm-up questions. Focus on key themes in the book, what the inspiration was behind the story, and the author’s tips for would-be writers. At the end, open it up to take questions for the guests at large.

– Ask the author to make a speech:

J Kerry Speech at Book Launch
If your author is more comfortable talking from a script, get him or her to give a speech that uses the same points above as a guideline. Depending on the audience, the talk may be more technical or practical. If they’re comfortable, close out with a few carefully selected questions from the audience.

– Do a reading:

Book reading
Some authors turned to writing because public speaking gives them nightmares. If that’s the case, have them read a selection of the book and then sign copies when it’s over.

Defining your guest list and goals, strategically pulling in media and industry contacts, tying the venue to your theme, and creating plenty of chances for the audience to engage with your author will provide the foundation of a world-class book launch event!


Liz Alton's experience in event planning runs from renting out entire South
American towns to planning intimate gatherings for heads of state.She's
particularly interested in the intersection of new technology and event
planning to make events successful, efficient, and fun. Liz is now a blogger, copywriter, and social media strategist based in Boston.
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