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How to Plan a Successful Debut Book Party

This past Saturday was my big debut book party for The Preacher’s Bride. A launch party is usually a once-in-a-life-time event for an author. It’s typically something we do with our first book as a way to celebrate with our community the monumental occasion of getting a book published.

There really is no right or wrong way to have a debut party. I’ve heard of authors having simple signings with cookies and punch all the way to themed parties with full-fledged dinners, at anywhere from a library to a restaurant to a rodeo. I’m realizing that it doesn’t matter so much WHAT an author does, as much as HOW she does it.

I certainly don’t claim to be the expert on planning parties (I’m actually horrible at it!). But I can still share a few things I learned through my experience about how to make the event more successful.

Thanks to my friend Kim Anderson
for taking all of the pictures!
 1. Set the date early enough.

I set the date for my party a week before the official release. But first I made sure that my publisher could guarantee that my books would be available. In fact, my publicist was the one who initially suggested the earlier date for the party—if not a week early, then on the date of release or very close to it. We want the party to be the start of all the excitement, a place for people to come get our books early before they’ve had the chance to purchase it elsewhere.

2. Find a supportive location, preferably one that will help with promotion.

I decided to have my party at a bookstore simply to save myself the logistics of having to sell the books myself (which involves a whole other set of complicated details). Since my small town only has two bookstores, I approached the family-owned Christian bookstore that I’ve shopped at for years. They printed up posters, had bag-stuffer announcements, sent out Facebook and email invitations to everyone on their mailing list, and had a special display for my book on the front counter. They went the extra mile to help me!

3. Send out personal invitations and announcements.

I gave my publicist at Bethany House the information regarding the party, and she designed and printed up invitation cards for me. Then my daughters helped me address them, stuff them in envelopes, and send them out to friends. In hindsight, I’m able to see that those I personally invited made up the bulk of who came to the party--the friends most excited for me and wanting to help me celebrate. If an author can only do ONE thing to announce their party, I’d say the personal invitations are the most important.

4. If possible, get community support.

My local newspaper interviewed me and published it the week before my party. They actually gave me a full page in the Sunday paper and announced the book party. The article sparked community interest and some of the people I met at the party came as a direct result. We also put up posters about the book signing around town. Blogging friend Janel Gradowski saw the poster at a coffee shop and recognized me from blogging. She came to the party and we had the chance to meet.

Thanks to my friend Molly Black
for bring the Petit Fours!
 5. Make it more than just a book signing.

I wanted my book launch to be more than just a book signing. I provided refreshments and a couple of my friends brought food and stayed to help. I also put together two gift baskets each filled with other Bethany House books, notepads, pens, etc. My daughters stood by the doors and handed out slips of paper to everyone who entered the store, encouraging them to sign up for the drawing to win a basket. People hung out, chatted, ate, and enjoyed being together.

Overall, my book party was a wonderful time of celebrating with friends and the community. I didn’t keep count of how many people came or exactly how many books sold. I realized as the morning progressed that the sales and the numbers didn’t matter a whole lot to me. What made the party a success to me personally was feeling the love and support from so many local friends and community members.

And isn’t that what writing is all about anyway? Connecting with others? Whether through blogging or through our stories or in real life, we find fulfillment when we genuinely interact and encourage each other.

How important do you think a launch party is for an author? Have you had one or will you? What other things do you think are important in making launch parties successful?

P.S. This week is the final countdown to the release of The Preacher's Bride! Make sure you don't miss out on the final giveaway. Answer Trivia Question #4 to enter the drawing!

59 comments:

  1. What a great time!! Congrats on the launch party, Jody. I hope big things happen with this book. It truly is amazing.

    I have a question for ya:

    I don't really understand release dates. It seems like a lot of books are available before the official release. Like how Keli found yours in her book store a couple weeks ago. So my question, if you know the answer: Why does this happen?

    Love ya!

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  2. Yay! Looks great. I think you focused on the right thing. Celebrating with family and friends. If it's about sales, I'm imagine that would have made it stressful!

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  3. Sounds like an amazing time, Jody! Congrats on a successful party.

    I have a question. Would there be any benefit to having a sign in book to gather email addresses or mailing addresses for future announcements to anyone who attended. Did you do this? Or would that me more trouble than it's worth?

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  4. Katie asked: It seems like a lot of books are available before the official release... Why does this happen?

    My Answer: Great question! The publisher must pick a date when they can guarantee that the book will be in stores. It will start to trickle out before that, but is a definite by the release date.

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  5. Heather asked: Would there be any benefit to having a sign in book to gather email addresses or mailing addresses for future announcements to anyone who attended. Did you do this? Or would that me more trouble than it's worth?

    My Answer: I actually DID do this, and I think it's a great idea. On the slip for the drawing for the gift basket, I had a place for people to put their email address and a box they could check if they wanted to sign up for my quarterly newsletter. But I've also heard of authors having a clip board for people to leave their name and email too.

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  6. I did not have a launch party, but my church threw a book signing party and it was so much fun! I enjoyed allowing them to do the planning and the execution - from food to decorating - and I just had fun meeting people, signing books, and talking about the project!

    Your pictures look great! Congrats! I can't wait to get/read my own copy!

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  7. I'm so excited for you I can't stand it. It looks like you had so much fun.

    I think a book signing party is very important in getting the author out there.

    Teresa

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  8. Jody,

    What a hit! I'm flagging this page for future reference. ;) I love your ideas and I'm glad it went so well for you.
    ~ Wendy

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  9. So excited for you - Can't wait to get your book!

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  10. Congrats Jody! I think a launch party is essential.

    Love the pics, it looks like such a great event, you must be happy. Well done!!!

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  11. Jody, Glad your launch party was such an obvious success. I agonized and sweated over my launch party for my debut novel, Code Blue. Held it at a huge indie bookstore in the area, made all kinds of preparations. The turnout was good but not fantastic, and it reminded me of the old saying, "The mountain labored, and brought forth a mouse."
    I didn't do a launch for my second novel, Medical Error, although I was toying with the idea of doing an online launch party like some other authors I know. I guess if there were only one right answer to the launch party question, we'd all be doing the same thing.
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

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  12. Congrats on the launch party and they are some great ideas. Perhaps I can use some myself one day :))

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  13. Jodi,
    Congratulations on what looks like a wonderful party! You must be thrilled about how your debut has come together; this really has been a labour of love for you.

    And thank you for posting details about how you organized your event. I'm filing this post away in case I am ever so lucky.

    Heartfelt congratulations to you. You deserve it!!

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  14. Looks like it was an amazing success! Congrats! :O)

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  15. Jody, I think you did a great job planning the party! I think being greeted by your daughters at the door made everybody smile and the snacks were fabulous too. I'm already half-way through your book and I love it!

    Good luck!! :)

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  16. It sounds like it was a great release party. I’m a wee be it of a chicken and a launch party sounds scary. :)

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  17. Jody, I am so glad your book is finally out and it sounds like you had a lovely launch. At my launch party, the defining moment was when I saw my book on the shelf in the bookstore. Congratulations. Can't wait to read it.
    Karen

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  18. I heard you met my aunt at your party. In fact, I think she's in one of your pictures here. :-) So glad it was a success!

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  19. Congratulations on surviving the launch! And it sounds as if you were even wise enough to enjoy the experience instead of fretting(as was my biggest struggle). Fabulous! I'm so proud of you! Congrats on another milestone reached and surpassed.

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  20. Jody-
    Congratulations on your successful Debut Book Party. Thank you so much for sharing your incredible journey with us.

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  21. Hey Jody!
    I love this post. I've been thinking about what I need to do before and during the release of my book next May.

    Launch party at a Barnes and Noble where a friend works?

    Church book signing like Bekah mentioned, but I don't know all the ins and outs of getting the books there so maybe I better ask those questions next spring. And like you mentioned it sounds as though it could be complicated.

    Both!? :) What's enough and what's too much? I want to have fun and I want those who come out to have fun. You're lucky in some ways to live in a small town. I'm in Cincinnati, OH.

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  22. Sounds like you had an amazing party! I love the idea of the gift baskets filled with your publisher's other books. That is such a good way to support your fellow authors. I bookmarked your page. I really liked your ideas!

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  23. Thanks for the info, Jody! It looks like you had a good day.
    Blessings,
    Karen

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  24. I worked at my local library for 5 years, and I've always thought that when I have the chance to do a launch party, I would have it there and invite all my friends who have tolerated my 'being a writer' too long. :)

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  25. Let me congratulate you on the success of your launch party, Jody. It looks like everyone had a great time. Though I am not there physically, I am definitely there with you in spirit.
    Just close your eyes and you will see me, cheering you all the way. I am waiting to read the book. Will go to few book shops in Bangalore and ask when they will be getting it for the Indian readers.
    Thanks for the tweet.

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  26. You are definitely a classy lady. :)

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  27. I'm so happy for you, Jody. It looks like your party was as lovely and elegant as its author. Those petit fours are beautiful! :-)

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  28. Congratulations! Sounds like a fabulous party.

    Thanks so much for posting all these details along the way. My debut hits shelves next August, and I'm filing all this info away so I know what to do when the time comes. I appreciate your insights!

    Tawna

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  29. Jody,

    Congrats on a successful book launch party. A very exciting and well-deserved time. Best of luck to you~

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  30. Hi Jody, once again you've taught me a ton about something I know so little about.

    My question: Did you do a reading at your party?

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  31. Oh Jody, I just lived vicariously through your post! What unimaginable fun! I wish I knew it was Saturday, I would have thought good thought for you all day. My virtual way of being there! And petite fours? You must have the best friends ever. I'm so impressed that the paper took out an entire page on Sunday for you! In L.A. I think it cost over 70K to run a full page add in the times. Of course I would drop dead if the LA times did that for me, no party needed. ;) You've really got my wheels turning. I'll be imagining my future launch party for the next several hours. Congratulations to you my friend! XOXO

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  32. What fun! Congratulations. I'm glad your debut party went well!

    Thanks for the link to the newspaper article about you. Now I know what the subject of your next novel is!

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  33. The petit fours are my favorite little detail. A bit of elegance is good for all of us.

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  34. Paul Greci asked: Did you do a reading at your party?

    My Answer: No, I didn't do a reading, but that's a great idea! The set up of my party was more like an open-house. I think if an author wanted to do a reading, they'd probably want to schedule that in, don't you think? Say something like open house from 11-2pm with a reading scheduled at 12.

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  35. Wow!!! How amazing! Wish I could have lived closer I would have been there in full support, however I now plan on buying my copy and taking a picture, I will visit a bookstore and make sure it's at the top as well ;)

    What fun you had!!! I'm impressed with all the work and when my day comes around I'll be sure to have a proper signing! I even know the bookstore! *dreaming*

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  36. Congrats on the book launch! And how great to have so many to celebrate with you.

    Thanks for the tips, too! I'm definitely taking notes for my turn next year!

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  37. That looks like such a fun party!

    Hopefully, in the not-terribly-distant future, that'll be me!

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  38. Sounds like you did everything just right to me, so maybe you are more of an "expert" than you know. Thanks for continuing to share adventures like this with us, Jody. It's awesome to read about all the fun you're having.

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  39. Congrats, Jody! I'm thrilled for you and thanks for sharing your lessons with the rest of us.

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  40. Yay Jody! I can't find words to describe how happy I am for you:) God has truly smiled on you~ look at all the amazing doors that have opened are still waiting to be revealed!

    Thank you for allowing us to be a part of the journey.

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  41. Fantastic information! :) Thank you so much.
    ~Nona

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  42. Jody, I'm glad your party was such a huge success and that you were able to enjoy the experience.

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  43. Squeeee~!!!! How very exciting, Jody! It looks like all the little special details really made the day perfect!

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  44. I didn't have a launch party when my first book came out. But, I am thinking about planning something for my second. Sounds like you had a great party and I may just borrow some of your ideas ;) Can't wait to read your book.

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  45. congrats on the book party. It sounds so well organised. How far ahead did you send out invitations?

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  46. Thanks for the words of wisdom, Jody! Mine will be coming up in six months, so I have to start planning. It's going to be unusual because of the real-life historical connection, so I will try to be creative.

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  47. You go, girl! I hope one day soon i get to use these great tips!

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  48. I've been wondering about this.. and now I know what to do. Can I just say that I'm so grateful that you a) have done this all before me and b) are willing to share all of your ideas, thoughts and insights along the way. Thank you!

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  49. Happy to see the debut party was such a success!

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  50. Your party looks like it was a blast! And I love how you gave specifics on when to throw one. I SO wish I could have been there!

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  51. Lynda asked: How far ahead did you send out invitations?

    My Answer: Hi Lynda! I tried to get most of the invitations out about 1 1/2 to 2 weeks ahead of the party. Then with the newspaper article the week before, as well as the bookstore's email/facebook promotion the week of the party, everyone got extra reminders!

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  52. Congratulations, Jody! Pathway was my favorite bookstore when I used to live in Midland. It was so cool to read the newspaper article about your family and your dream coming true! I wish all the best for you as you continue to pursue your dreams! God bless! (Looking forward to reading your book!)

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  53. Hi Jody -

    Congrats on the book launch!

    When I get the call, I'll just come to your blog and get all the info I need. :)

    Blessings,
    Susan

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  54. Congratulations on such a successful event! I love your tip to make it about more than just the book signing.

    I, too, am thrilled for you. I just finished The Preacher's Bride, and - as you know - I loved it. What a beautiful story!

    Thank you for continuing to share your writing, publishing, and (now) book signing experiences.

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  55. I've heard of other authors who have stressed out big time over their launch parties but I think what you did is the best approach -- focus on the personal celebration with friends and community. I attended YA author Denise Jaden's launch last weekend and she made it a giving back party for her supporters. In my mind that's the way to go and I'll be following her, and your, examples when my time comes.

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  56. Congratulations!!! I'm so thrilled for you.

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  57. Congrats on the launch party and the success of the book. I have had a few launch parties and all were different. The latest was of my childrens book, The Adventures of Princess Zaria. We released the book in July. July is National Ice Cream month so we launched with an Ice Cream Social. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

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