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Book-Signing Party Suggestions

Rita Emmett

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What kind of get-together have you had to celebrate the publication of your book? (My friends are asking if I'm going to have a book signing party. I can't visualize how that would work -- sounds like I'd be tooting my own horn, doesn't it? Also, if I have a party for myself at my house, wouldn't it be tacky to sell my books?)

-- Roger Willard

When my first book came out, I had a party in my back yard. My book was dedicated to a friend so he and his family came and we celebrated him and the book. It makes a great gesture. If you don't want to do that, contact your local bookstores (Borders, Barnes & Noble or independent). Let them know you want to have a book signing at their store.

Most will be very willing to do this. The more hype you can put with it the better. We did book signings in East Coast for months doing this. We also got a fair amount of press too. Once you get the book signing set up, let the bookstore do what they do for publicity and then send out your press releases to all the media in the area. Radio, TV and print. Even the local "shopper" papers.

If you are self-published, you know you have to do all of your publicity. If you have a traditional publisher, you still have to do all of your publicity.

-- Dana Bristol-Smith

Here are two different scenarios regarding your question about book release parties - A friend of mine was published by a big publishing company had a local bookstore host her event. She gave a brief reading from the book and the store sold the books -- it was a great way for her to partner with the store and bring a lot of potential customers there.

I self-published my book and had a party at my house. I too thought it would be tacky to sell my book to my friends, so I gave one to everyone I invited. I enjoyed giving them and my friends enjoyed receiving them!

-- Jim Donovan

A friend of mine did a great country club event for her book launch and donated a portion of the sales to Habitat for Humanity. Was a win for everyone.

I went to a book party for Letitia Baldrige, the famous etiquette queen at Tiffany's. Now there's someone who knows how to throw a party :-) The quail eggs were very cool.

I've done some launches in my local bookstore and gotten media attention. Again, I like to tie in a charity.

People like parties and, hopefully, you'll sell enough books to pay for the wine. :-) Just don't put it off. :-)

-- Judy Cullins

Gather a small team to help you with your book signing party. Have one host it at their home or business, get others to supply a sumptuous feast including wine, cheese and other goodies. Prepare a short talk to inspire your audience. Invite all who know you, and get help with that one too. It's not really tooting your horn; it's a great way to celebrate your new book.

-- Julie Christiansen

I published my book in September 2003 and hosted a "book launch" in November of the same year. I rented a meeting hall, advertised to as many friends, family, and business associates as I could, as well as using some low-cost advertising methods through the small business club, etc.

I went to the wedding shop and purchased a cake (about $50) with an edible image of my book cover painted with icing on the cake surface, served coffee and juice. The draw was that I gave a 15-minute talk about the evolution of my business and how the book came to be. I read a couple of excerpts from the book that fit with my speech, then invited people to have some cake, coffee, peruse the book and make a purchase if they wanted to. The upside is that I got my name out there and had a nice party -- the downside is that out of about 250-300 invitations, only 20 or so people showed up -- all friends and family. These things are hard to plan and to carry off because ultimately people will forget until the date is passed then regretfully say, "we really wanted to come..."

My suggestion is send out as many invitations as you can and hope for the best.

-- Sondra Thiederman

My last book came out last October. I threw a party at my home and, to avoid the impression of taking myself too seriously, really went over-the-top with it (so folks would know I realized this was a little self-serving and could laugh at what I was doing). Put book covers on the invitations, made huge posters of the book and hung them out front and all over the yard. Named a drink after the book, had a ritual "book christening," decorated a cake with a book cover. VERY fun!

Also, I'm with you -- I think it is tacky to sell the book at a party to which we invited people. What I did was, as each RSVP came in, I personally autographed a book to each and put them on a book shelf in alphabetical order (sticky notes with name on outside.) That way, when each person arrived, they were immediately presented with their own book -- almost like a party favor. (Did, of course, have extras around in case anyone had the urge to buy.)

-- Susan RoAne

Give yourself a party. Do what you do when you give a party: plan a guest list, the menu, the invites, color scheme, entertainment, the decor, etc. It's no different. What you have to decide is if it's a "sell my book" party or "celebrate with my friends" party.

I gave myself a party in NYC for this new book because my network is there that supports my career as an author. We did not sell books. I turned the book signing at my local indie store into a party by buying food, bringing my serving pieces and making sure there was coffee/tea for guests. Did the same at the book signing in Chicago. I paid cause I felt that food was part of a party ambiance and created the environment I like.

For my first book, I had a lovely party at a restaurant in Ghiradelli in 1989 but we didn't sell books. One speaker colleague suggested we sell books; it didn't ring right for me. A LONG time real friend mentioned that she appreciated that we didn't sell books and that would have belied my intent and the theme of the invitation. She is still my friend and the speaker is gone from my life.

First make the decision as to whether it's a celebrate or sell party.

-- Stacy DeBroff

I hook up with a local bookstore -- it can even be a chain store such as Borders -- and I invite all my friends to come celebrate the birth of my book. I'll send out postcard invitations with the cover of the book on one side, and this message:


Born on August 1, 2004 (after a 2-year gestation!)
Weight: 600 pages
12 inches long
Border's is throwing the Proud Mom, Stacy DeBroff, a book launch party with cake and ice cream! You're invited!"
[And then the details for the 7:00pm party.]

It grabs people's attention, and they thrilled to cheer you on -- I have about 50 people turn out, plus it grabs the attention of everyone else in the store. And lots of books are purchased, without you doing a thing!

-- Susan Harrow

A friend of Lisa Earle Mcleod's said "I'm going to give a party for you." The friend invited 20 of her friends to her home, none of whom Lisa knew. Lisa showed up to give a 15-20 minute talk. There was wine and cheese, a cozy atmosphere, a group of people chatting comfortably, a pen and a pile of books. In one night Lisa sold 70 books to 20 people.

Having your friends set up book signings doesn't feel like a Tupperware party, in the sense that you feel obligated to buy a plastic tub you don't want. All the people who were invited to the party thanked Lisa's friend profusely. They thought they got a special treat because Lisa was "an author." They felt like they "knew someone who knew a celebrity" and they got invited to this special thing. "People are weird about asking their friends," says Lisa. "But your friends will be happy to do it."

-- Larry Hehn

When I launched my book, I held a small party at a local recreation center for family and friends. At that point, the book was not quite done, so I handed out manuscripts containing the first seven chapters, promising the last two chapters to all who read the first seven and gave me back a critique. Naturally, I wouldn't charge anyone for an incomplete manuscript, but here's what I would do next time around:

Personally, I don't see the party as "tooting your own horn". I see it as sharing a celebration of a milestone in your life, no different than a birthday, retirement, anniversary, graduation or opening a new business. With that in mind, I would have no hesitation in inviting people strictly to help me celebrate the book's launch, with a note that copies will be available at a discounted price if they wish to buy one. That way I am leaving the door open to those who strictly want to share the joy of my accomplishment, but also creating an opportunity for people to have a tangible way to support my writing.

Maybe I'm just a little too much like Scrooge, but I get annoyed by how many people expect "freebies" from me simply because I am the author and happen to carry several copies of my book with me. Do they honestly think that I didn't have to pay for them? Hey, even my parents paid me for their copy -- they insisted! I'm sure that friends who are supportive enough to talk you into a book signing party would be more than happy to invest a few dollars in an autographed copy from their friend.

-- Tom Justin

One of the best ways to do this is to enlist a local bookstore. They are usually happy to host it as you'll bring in people they might not otherwise get (your friends and contact list) and it helps fill up their event calendar and makes the person in charge of that look good. Also the aspect of a local author (depending on the size of your city) is always a plus in their promotion.

If you do this, work with them on press releases, etc. If your local paper has the usual listings of book-related events, the store will most likely include you, but don't assume it, you must make sure to follow up with them. You may want to send out your own unique media release as well that would get more space in your local publications. Also, local publications may be interested in doing an article on you, and send a reporter or crew to cover it. If you can find a hook that connects your subject with current events or something controversial, even a better chance.

If you are self-published, they make take your books on consignment for that event only. Stores have their own unique method of doing these things, but don't forget that you can always ask for something extra or negotiate terms.

-- Mary Cantando

I had two major events to launch my current book.

1. Because my book profiles women who own and run multimillion dollar companies, I timed my launch with a national conference for women business owners. The event brought 3,000 women together in NYC. I identified a sponsor who was willing to donate (at wholesale cost) one book for each table at the luncheon (300 books). I also had a complimentary booth at the event where I signed the books that had been "won" at the luncheon. And other books were available for purchase. I also did a TV interview and several print media interviews in conjunction with this event.

2. I teamed up with a regional group that helps at-risk teenage girls. This group was seeking women as mentors for these girls, so my book that inspires both women and girls to start their own businesses was a good fit. I built a presentation around the difficulties that my profiled women had overcome as teenagers and it was very well received. I gave half the proceeds from book sales to the organization. We had local TV coverage and print media in attendance.

-- Tess Marshall

Of course you throw yourself a book party! Toot your own horn! Your friends, family, and others will be honored to come. Yes, they will be expecting to get a signed book and they want to pay for it. Make sure you have help to serve the food and drinks and also someone to handle the money for you. You want to be set up to meet, greet and sign books.

Be sure to have fun!

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