I imagine all my friends at a restaurant I've reserved, toasting drinks to my accomplishment. There would be a special menu made involving foods drizzled in honey--since my book was about bees--a menu catered by theme. I'd invite a beekeeper I had spoken to before and bring literature on how we could save the bees, take donations for a foundation to help them. At the party, there would be copies of my book, door prizes, and swag for people to take with them. I'd sign books for adoring fans and friends. It would be an amazing charity event, book launch, book signing...birthday party.
When I realized the book was coming out on a couple weeks prior to my birthday, I figured I had to make this happen ... until I started doing the math. Even though I know a few venues who might let me do this for free, I couldn't afford all the rest. It's pricey enough buying bulk of your book to sell, even if you will make it back. Add in the swag--book marks, mugs, door prizes--the food, and open bar, the budget swelled beyond affordability. The idea fizzled out inversely to the budget's inflation.
I moved on to thinking about going to a book store to do a signing instead. But I only have one book and a novella, and it wouldn't be something my friends would be dying to go to nor something I'd want to do on my birthday. I feared a book signing so early in my career would embarrassingly flop.
So the question remained, how could I launch a book affordably while celebrating my success? I had published a novella prior so understood what a virtual book launch party was. That was my affordable solution.
I'm still determined to celebrate in style one day. However, not having a hefty budget, I opted for the online book launch. The only thing it cost me was time and a little cash for prizes. It was a great
compromise and successful. Below are some of the things that worked for me.
- I used Facebook. Probably still the best place for an interactive launch.
- Slot a couple hours at at time where most people are free. I did a Friday, 6-8 pm.
- Advertise it, a lot. Start with inviting friends, some family, and people from the writing community. If you have a following, invite them obviously.
- I didn't get a huge response of "going" right away but a lot of "interested." People rarely like to commit to something unless they know they'll be there for sure. I sent a personal message the day prior to every interested person to remind them. I think the personal touch swayed a lot of them to come.
- Play a couple games to win prizes. Here, you have to be careful. I read it is against Facebook policy to have contests, so I clearly stated "random winners will be drawn." You should also say that the contest has nothing to do with Facebook. The games I played were fact finding where some of their posts led to details about the book I could give hints about. The other was the common meme/gif prompt of their current situation which is always entertaining.
- I posted frequently to keep people interested (averaging every 6 minutes). That is a lot of posts, but I wanted a fast-paced atmosphere. I've been to book launches that were slow and I'd lose interest and walk away from my computer/phone. Then I would lose track of time and not be as involved as I wanted to be.
- How can you manage so many posts and respond to readers? Two things, vary the posts so that some ask them provocative questions (where you'll need to respond), some are a game (where you can simply like posts), and some should just be pictures, descriptions, links, and excerpts (no follow up needed). Second, Facebook Event has a fairly new feature where you can schedule posts. It took me about a half hour to set up all my posts, but then it automatically did everything for me leaving me free to comment the entire time. It was less stressful.
- Of course you need prizes. I had a color changing mug with the book cover on it (Etsy $12 with shipping) and a $15 gift card to my publishing company. I was contemplating more prizes if more people were attending, but then the writing community helped me out.
- A couple fellow authors jumped in to offer prize books, a win-win collaboration: they get some publicity and my launch gets more prizes. So I gave them the last 20 minutes of my two hours, and my partygoers got 3 more books.
- I planned ahead. Instead of "going live" I recorded videos the night before. Screencast-O-Matic is free, simple, and compatible software. I created my posts, schedule, and content a week prior. I got on the computer an hour before go-time only to realize it couldn't upload videos without crashing. I moved onto my work computer and everything was fine. If I had waited until the last minute, I would've started late or not been able to upload and schedule my posts ahead of time.
- Definitely do a video. It is more personable. I opened and closed with videos, one to welcome people and tell them about the inspiration for the novel, the second to conclude and to read an excerpt from the book.
In all, a virtual book launch is a must. I'm contemplating doing one in tandem with an in person one for the next book, but it all depends on the budget.