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Five Tips for Planning a Successful Book Launch

If you want to be a best-selling author, there's a way to do it without the long, agonizing process of submitting your work to large publishing companies. Just ask James Redfield, a bestselling American author who got his start selling 100,000 copies of his self-published book, The Celestine Prophecy, out of the trunk of his car. It wasn't long until Warner Books took notice of his self-selling success, and agreed to publish the book. Since then, it has sold over 20 million copies worldwide, with translations into 34 languages. Three sequels, also published by Warner Books, followed.

So how does this apply to launching your own self-published book? To begin with, notice how the happy ending to that story only happened because Redfield marketed himself aggressively. Without that self-promotion, the book wouldn't have become a world-wide bestseller, and neither will yours.

Tip 1 — Create a stunning digital press kit

The larger publishing houses market their authors' new books with digital press kits, and you should follow their lead when marketing yourself. These types of press kits are standard and you'll reveal your newbie status if you don't have one, especially if you're hoping to attract the attention of local journalists and reviewers.

The goal of your digital press kit is to get media's attention. If you spend time creating a catchy, comprehensive digital press kit, they tend to take notice. Now, what goes in to the digital press kit might vary, depending on which media company you ask. These are all relatively standard, however:

  • A summary of your book
  • A high-res image of the cover and back cover
  • A quick bio about you, the author (limit this to four sentences)
  • Your photo
  • Ways to contact you
  • Any anticipated Q&A's that the media might have
  • Positive reviews (if any) that your book as received so far
  • Awards (if any) your book has received

After getting your digital press kit together, it's time to start finding a venue.

Tip 2 — Search out multiple potential venues

The venue you choose is important to a launch event's success, and will ultimately affect it in many ways—such as the work you'll need to put into the event, and how big of a turnout you can expect. The best way to find the perfect venue is to look into multiple possibilities, creating a plan A, plan B, and maybe even a plan C.


Book launch parties are traditionally held in bookstores, which provides a certain level of literary authenticity to your work. Authors published by big publishers tend to launch their books in bookstores, as well, and you'll have an immediate boost in marketing impact due to access to the store's clientele through in-store promotional posters and email lists. As an added bonus, the media will pay more attention if your venue is a bookstore, and you'll likely be advertised within the book store's own marketing efforts (newsletters, emails campaigns, print advertising, etc.).

The bad news is if you're a first-time author, and the only bookstores in your area are chain stores, this venue might be unattainable. Your best bet is to establish rapport with the bookstore owner and have a knock-out digital press kit, and even that might not work. This doesn't mean you should avoid approaching bookstores entirely—it just means that you'll need to think of creative alternatives, as well.

A bookstore can be a great venue for a book launch event and can also help your marketing efforts.


Public libraries might be a great alternative if you are a first-time author, especially if your work includes regional settings or events. Many public libraries offer conference rooms that can be reserved for your book launch event, although you might be limited in your choices of how the event will unfold.

A library is a good alternative venue.


Hosting a book launch party in your own home, or in a friend's home, is always an option, particularly if that home is situated in an area that is considered to be an epicenter for the Arts scene. There are several potential down-sides to doing this, though. Local media and publishing agents will be less likely to provide coverage or attend the event, and your guests will likely be limited to acquaintances, friends and family.

Use your home or a friend's home if the location is part of the Arts scene.

Specialty store

Is your book about gardening tips? A local nursery or garden club might be open to hosting your party on their premises. And a local motorcycle store would be a great place to launch an adventure book on motorcycling. Such venues not only lend legitimacy to your expertise on the topic—they also open up a new demographic of attendees through their members or customers, and can help open up your marketing reach through their own newsletters, in-store signage, email list, etc.

specialty store
A specialty store allows you to target a certain demographic.

Tip 3 — Be prepared to put on your marketing hat

If you have a book to launch, you've likely worn many hats in the process—researcher, writer, editor, graphic designer, business manager… the list goes on and on. Just as those roles were important in the process of getting your book from an idea in your head to a published creative work, so is the role you must now take on—that of a marketer.

How do you do this? Well, the first step is to organize like a marketer. When juggling multiple clients with multiple channels of marketing, a marketer's best friend is a spreadsheet. On it, you can keep track of who you contacted, when you contacted them, what they asked for, and the deadline they presented. When the big publishers launch a book, they put their marketers to work contacting booksellers, journalists, critics, reviewers, and a lot of small, regional publications who would be willing to help spread the word about the book launch. And that's exactly what you should do, as well.

Online marketing

One of best parts of advertising your book launch online is the cost, which is usually nothing more than time! If you already have a social media account on Facebook, connect an "Author" page to your primary account and use that to start getting the word out about your book. With the simple addition of an "Author" page associated with your main account, all your friends will be notified and invited to "like" your page at the touch of a button. If your writer or author profile isn't on Twitter, make one, and connect with friends there, as well. Or Instagram—wherever your most likely audience will be. You can also design and launch a website to promote your book. Some authors have even put up YouTube videos to communicate information, or give followers a small taste of what's to come.

Local publications

Many self-published authors make the mistake of limiting their marketing channels to the most obvious ones. If you send a press kit to your local newspapers and magazines, an editor or reporter might find it interesting enough to provide "free press" by doing a write-up on your book launch, or on your book in general. And social media is a highly effective way to get the word out, but don't forget that there are many other publishing channels out there to approach—channels that might bring in a wider audience than you would expect.

For example, if you are in a college town, contact professors who might spread the word to their students. Send a link to your digital press kit to student publications, college radio stations, or student bloggers who might be willing to advertise your book launch event.

Offer giveaways for free copies

Another great way to get people interested in your event is to offer a giveaway or a free copy. Everyone enjoys a freebie, especially if it's a book copy signed by you, the author, as a memento. Other ways of doing this offering free wine tastings to lighten the mood, or free coffee for those who need a little pick-me-up to their day.

Upload your manuscript to Inkitt

With a self-proclaimed mission of discovering talented writers and turning them into globally successful authors, Inkitt offers a platform where authors can upload their manuscripts to an eagerly awaiting audience. The website allows readers looking for that next great author to read and provide feedback on the book for free. Once authors reach a certain level of reader engagement, Inkitt publishes the manuscript in E-book, Print and Audiobook format.

Tip 4 — Don't make the book launch event all about you

A fun book launch party is a successful one. If your guests enjoy themselves, they will be far more likely to recommend the title to their friends or followers on social media. So how do you make sure your guests enjoy themselves?

To being with, don't make it all about you. Sure, it's your book launch party and you're the one who put in the work to write and publish the book in the first place. But before you plan to read excerpts from your writing for an hour—or worse, take your guests through a detailed narrative about how you write and why—focus on keeping it fun and engaging. Your guests are much more likely to appreciate a 10 to 15-minute reading with a Q&A session following it than they are in listening to a lecture or monologue. Even family and close acquaintances who know you well will enjoy the opportunity to ask you questions.

Enlist help because you'll need it

Depending on the size and situation of your event, you will likely need help with the details involved. This is particularly true if you are hosting it in your home or in a rented space, as bookstores often have events coordinators and PR staff who take care of these details.

For example, if parking for the venue is limited, you might need to ask someone to coordinate parking. Nothing would be worse for a nervous author than to be forced to direct traffic before it all begins. If there will be food catering, service or preparation at the event, you will need someone else to handle this for you. Someone has to make sure the caterer gets paid and the introductions are made, and it doesn't need to be you.

These are all roles that your closest friends, spouse, or family member would likely be willing to take on, but it will require some coordinating on the front end to make sure everyone knows what to do and when to do it. Otherwise, the haphazardness and disorientation that results will scream "Amateur"!

Tip 5 — Provide an honest glimpse into your writing process

Avid readers love glimpses into an author's creation process, especially if they connect with the writing on a personal level. Whether it's your family members and close acquaintances, or a full audience of intrigued strangers who read—everyone in attendance will be curious about how you wrote it and why. Here are a few questions to ask yourself while preparing to do this.

  • Why did I write this book?
  • What's the story behind the book's initial inspiration?
  • How (as in what setting, situation, or routine) did I write it?
  • What did I learn in the process?

Going forward

With a little creativity and a lot of work on the front-end, you can find ways to use your book launch to make a first impression that counts. And hopefully—that first impression will turn into bestseller lists and success as a self-published writer.

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