Successful Author Events: Tips from a Twin Cities Author

In May of 2012, Twin Cities author Colin Nelson held a launch party for his book, Fallout (nominated for a Minnesota Book Award), at Magers and Quinn. The number of attendees and book sales at this event made it one of the most successful events we have had at Magers and Quinn. The ongoing commitment Colin makes to the marketing and promotion of his books, and himself as an author, are part of what made this event so successful. 

After talking with him about his marketing techniques, we asked if he would be willing to share them, and he graciously obliged.  His recipe for successful book launch events follows. We feel it includes tips and an approach that also apply to events held after the launch, to selling books in stores and online, and to successful marketing, promoting and selling of books in general, for both self-published authors and those that work with publishers. 

Tips For a Successful Book Launch Party… 
Whether you’re a nationally recognized author or not, whether it’s your tenth book or first, you will have a successful book launch party by following these four rules/suggestions: 
  1.  View the launch as a party—not a reading or signing. 


It’s the best opportunity for you to introduce your book and launch your marketing efforts.  Most authors approach the launch almost as an afterthought.  They mistakenly think their new book is the draw.  Instead, you should draw people because you offer them a fun party to celebrate the publication of your new book while they buy signed copies.  The benefit of this approach means that as you continue to publish books, the turn-out at your parties will increase, translating to higher book sales. 
  1.  Just like a party at your home, offer your guests the best—and then more. 


I know authors don’t always have a lot of money, but it’s important to provide refreshments and entertainment in some form.  I offer beer/wine, good quality appetizers, and live music.  It will benefit you because people appreciate your generosity and have fun.  Thank them for their support and invite them to stay, eat, drink, and enjoy!  Maybe you don’t want to offer alcohol and perhaps you can get the publisher or bookstore to share costs.  Whatever—let your creative mind run!  What can you do to make your party fun and memorable so that people will come and return for each new book? 
  1.  Develop your guest list long before the launch. 


Don’t depend on the host to draw people or blurbs in the media—they all help but even authors who are famous don’t necessarily draw huge crowds; there’s too much competition for people’s time.  You must start assembling your guest list long before the launch by harvesting emails.  From whom?  Everyone.  As you meet people and tell them you’re an author, ask permission for their email to notify them of your upcoming launch.  Promise not to abuse their trust (and follow that!).  You should be obsessed about collecting emails everywhere.  Using this approach, I’ve never had anyone say no to me.  My second book was recently released and I’m closing in on 1,000 emails in my data base and will continue adding to this for as long as I’m writing.  This process will guarantee you a fan base for one big reason—you’ve had a personal contact with someone who is in your target market—perfect! 
  1.  How to collect and use your email data base. 


I suggest that you ask permission for the emails as follows: 
  1.  Family/friends who have expressed interest in supporting your writing. 


  2. If already published, people who have bought your books or have come to your other book events. 


  3. During your daily conversations with people, when you tell them you’re an author, hand them your business card/bookmark and ask if they like books, your genre, etc.  If they say no, forget them.  If yes, ask for their email. 


  4. Other people in the writing business—authors, publishers, bookstore people. 


Don’t overuse/abuse your list.  I only contact them for a launch party (between my first and second books was 1 ½ years) or an event like a major award that I’ve received.  I send one email blast a month before the event and one a week prior. 
If you follow this advice, you should get the same response rate that I have at about 30%.  What about all those who don’t come to the launch?  They still hear about your new book and may buy it.  In addition, if you invite your entire data base to every event, pretty soon your activities will become routine and then people stop coming.  You want each book launch to be a special, unique event that people look forward to attending because the events are so much fun. 
These rules have worked wonderfully for me.  I hope they’re helpful for you.  The most important thing to remember is to have fun at your launch party and celebrate your accomplishment.  Remember, fun and enthusiasm for your book is contagious.  Your guests will have a great time and be happy to buy every one of your books! 

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