On the Launchpad

11th May, 2018

7 min read

On the Launchpad

On the Launchpad

Written by:

Jane Rowland

We’re often asked about the benefits of hosting book launch events, and the simple answer is that they are a great way to announce the publication of your book and can give you many invaluable promotion and networking opportunities during the lead-up to, and the launch event itself. They can be good fun and an enjoyable way to celebrate all the hard work you have put into getting your book written and published. However to hold a successful book launch event some careful pre-planning is essential. Here are our top tips.

What venue will suit your book launch event?

It’s easy to assume that the only place to hold a book event is a bookshop… but this is not the only option. In fact, take some time to decide what kind of venue is best suited for your book. You already know who your target audience is… so will they be in a city centre bookshop at 6 pm on a Thursday night? Or are they more likely to be browsing in the local garden centre on Sunday morning? Or at a school? If you are writing for kids, school events often beat bookshop events hands down in terms of engagement and sales. When you know what kind of book launch event you want, or what will suit you or your book best, then you can start to plan what venues might work and how to structure it.

Holding a book launch event in a bookshop - what do you need to know?

If you are certain a bookshop is the right venue, have a look at the bookshops in your area – your local independents, as well as your chain branches, like Waterstones – and see if you can set up a launch or a signing. Hopefully, you’ve been a regular customer of that shop for some time and are already familiar with the events they host and the kind of books they stock. Depending on the outlet, the support on offer will vary – some bookshops will just let you use their space and process orders for you; others will go further and organise promotion (for example, to their newsletter subscribers or regular customers); many will consider a launch or signing event only if you can guarantee a good turnout or media coverage. Remember, the bookshop is a business and they need to make money from shop space, so the more attendees there are to browse the shelves and buy more than just your book, the happier the manager will be. Bookshop managers are very busy, however, and with an increasing number of authors taking the plunge to publish, they cannot host every event they are asked to. So make your own pitch stand out by having an idea of what numbers would be likely to attend and point out what else you’ll be doing to promote the book launch event (and therefore the shop). The more potential sales and promotional opportunities you can provide for the bookshop, the more enthusiastic they’ll be about hosting you.

How do bookshops order books for book launch events?

Have some ideas of how a shop will stock and purchase books for the event – and be book business savvy. Bookshops buy at trade discounts (not at the cover price) and take event stock on a ‘sale or return’ basis (unsold stock is returned for full credit). Some chain stores have centralised buying, which means the managers have limited scope for placing orders for book launch events unless sanctioned via head office. Most bookshops are unlikely to buy directly from you – and prefer to source via their regular book wholesalers suppliers and distributors. Troubador titles are available through all the main suppliers and we also supply books directly to bookshops for events. In fact, our trade terms are shown here so if you are published with us then make sure you are familiar with these trade terms and pass them on to a bookshop.

If you have published through another self-publishing service provider or platform, make sure you know HOW a bookshop can source stock of your book for your book launch event, before arranging one. Having an understanding of how the trade works makes you look much more like an author with whom a bookshop can work professionally. Another top tip... it is very important to check in with the bookshop once an event has been organised to make sure they’ve ordered the books via their usual supplier and that they will arrive in time to avoid unnecessary stress as the event draws closer. It can take longer for books to arrive than you might expect, so don’t let this bookshop leave this to the last moment - you don’t want to be hosting an event with no books!

Non-bookshop book launch events

Some authors opt for ‘invite only’ events at privately booked venues (a bar, hotel, village hall, restaurant etc.) to launch the book. This can simply be to celebrate the publication of the book among friends and family. For business authors, book launch events can be a business promotion opportunity and are organised as such. In both cases, consider if you are going to sell the book at an event like this. How will you manage this? (Especially as many people no longer carry cash) and who is supplying the books? If you write for children, then think about seeking to organise a book launch event in schools. While these can initially take some planning, you will need to make sure you have the right permissions to visit, they can be very rewarding and put you in front of your target audience. Children themselves won’t carry money to buy books, so how will you sell them? Mostly the school notifies parents in advance of events but sometimes the school will order the books when they have confirmed sales from parents. Also, be aware that there are rules about taking pictures of students so know the rules when it comes to promoting your event.

Advertise and promote your book launch event

If you are successful at securing an event, start promoting it straight away, round up all your friends and family to come along, advertise it at every opportunity; try to secure a radio or TV interview locally and mention the date and time of the event. Have some professional posters and point-of-sale material created (we offer a full range of marketing materials) in advance of any event. Be mindful of what your marketing materials say. Make sure you do not reference rival bookshops. A local indie does not want to have a poster in their window that mentions the book is also available from Amazon for example!

What format will the book launch event take?

Importantly, think about what format the event will take – and what suits you and your book best. If you are not a confident public speaker, then maybe ask someone who is to introduce you or to do a reading. Consider if a reading is appropriate for your book - they are not compulsory. Would you rather talk about how you came to write it? If you’ve never attended a book launch event before, how about going along and supporting other local authors in the build-up to your own, to get a sense of what other authors do?

How many books will you need for your book launch event?

Be clear about the quantities you are likely to sell. An invited event where you have guaranteed numbers coming, means you will have a clearer idea of how many you will sell than at a public event where you are reliant on passing trade. A bookshop launch for a new author, with friends and family invited, will usually sell between 15 and 50 copies. Get friends, family and acquaintances together and make sure they are primed to attend. Human nature means that an author sitting alone behind a text piled with books in a bookshop might deter browsers whereas a busy event with lots of buzz will help draw the curious over to see what is going on. If you are planning on holding an event, avoid giving out your book for free in advance – if you do this, who will buy a copy at your event!? Make sure you have books available to sell It sounds obvious, but make sure your book will be printed and ready by the time you organise a launch.

We usually advise waiting for confirmation that the books will be printed and ready before organising an event. Firstly, printing and binding is a manufacturing process necessitating machines - and machines can break down and cause delays with the despatch of books. Secondly, the books, once printed, need time to get into the book distribution system and be ready for ordering. Better – and more relaxing – to arrange the event when you know the books are printed, ready and available, especially if you are doing a lot of promotion around the event too. Book launch events can be really influential in raising awareness of your book, making sales and getting noticed by the trade, so we strongly recommend talking to local shops and seeing if they are open to hosting something with you. Have your ‘pitch’ ready to go – you are not just selling your book, you are selling yourself as an author too. Having a copy of the book and your promotional material and details of how they can order (and return) the book will make you look more professional.