You have worked your heart out to write your book, sweated, been anxious, revised, revised, revised, researched, then sweated some more, revised again, copy edited, argued with designers over the book cover and at long, long last…you have a finished book. Congratulations!
Now, how to give it a coming out party, to help it debut in the world? Whether your book is seeing the light of day through a major publisher, a small press or being independently published by you, it needs as much thinking about its first showing as the entire process that produced its birth. As they say with job interviews, there is no second chance to make a first impression.
I have experience launching only two books, but I have learned a lot from these experiences and am happy to share with my fellow authors. On the long road to producing a book I have found nothing more instructive than advice from writers who preceded me. I know kids don’t want to learn from their parents’ experiences; they want to discover things on their own skin, at their peril. But we are adults and sharing what works and accepting it with appreciation are some of the finer qualities of authors I’ve had the privilege to meet.
Here are some pointers from my perspective, roughly in order of importance. I will add here that I’ve read many articles and websites on the subject, but the very first item on my list rarely, if ever, came up.
1. Launch Event Date: Don’t grab any random date for your launch, or be guided exclusively by the availability of the launch venue. Think carefully about your book’s content (that should be easy, after all, you can probably recite it by heart) and hone in on some event on the annual calendar to which your launch can be connected, even if the connection is a bit tenuous or obscure. Connecting your book to something people (potential readers!) already celebrate will make it more memorable for future buyers. They will associate the celebration with your book. For my just released book, “Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator” I chose Earth Day.
2. Launch Event Venue: Don’t hold the launch event in a random space, however nice. Try to select a venue related to the content, or theme of your book.
For example, my most recent book, “Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator” is a memoir about by 34-year career working at one of the world’s premier zoos to promote wildlife conservation. Since for various complicated reasons, the zoo venue was not available to host my launch I felt compelled to find an organization dealing with the environment. I could have chosen a nature center, a park, a wildlife reserve, perhaps even a large veterinary practice, but I chose a Horticultural Society.
3. Audience: Don’t send invitations to a random list of everyone on your contact list, unless you have a good hunch they’d be interested in your book. I know, I know, we have a tendency to want a large crowd to get the buzz going, but if you invite people who aren’t excited about what you wrote, they may steer the conversation away from your theme during the social period of the event. It’s like throwing a wet blanket on the celebration.
If you choose your venue carefully, it may be willing to mail the invitation to their membership, or to sell you their list. Priceless to be addressing the “right” audience. Remember: quality beats quantity any time. It can also make a difference in your refreshments budget, if that is a concern. Why waste precious funds that can go to marketing on wine for people who don’t care about your book’s subject?
4. Program: Now that you know when, where and for whom the event is you must embark on the most important feature of your launch—the program. I’ve been to and read about three kinds of launches: a party, a reading from the book or a combination of the two. Yet, it is my view that by tying your launch to an event, or an observance of some sort on the calendar you will have ample opportunity to give your audience more than a sales pitch for your book.
In my case, I chose Earth Day because I wanted to explain the roots of this worldwide celebration, which not incidentally includes a focus on endangered species. After giving a short (and hopefully very interesting) presentation on Earth Day and screening a short outstanding film on wildlife I was finally ready to read two brief excepts from my book. Then it was time to party and sign books.
I do realize that it won’t always be easy to find the tie-in to your book, but with a little imagination I’m sure it is possible. Be creative! Go out on a limb! After all, isn’t that what you did to write your book?
5. Aftermath: Once the event is over and you are able to relax and catch your breath, send thank you e-mails to all guests and to anyone involved in hosting or preparing the event. They have chosen to give you their time and even if they didn’t buy the book, they may purchase it later, or spread the word.
6. Odds & Ends: two useful things you can do to enhance the value of the book launch to you and your guests. One, in advance of the event print bookmarks to give as souvenirs and two, collect e-mail addresses of all the guests before they leave. Your list of e-mails is an important marketing tool.
Good luck and happy planning!
Annette Libeskind Berkovits is an author, poet and conservationist. Her first memoir, “In the Unlikeliest of Places: How Nachman Libeskind Survived the Nazis, Gulags and Soviet Communism” was published in 2014 and reissued in 2016. Her memoir “Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator” was released on Earth Day, 2017. She is currently working on a novel and a poetry chapbook. Please visit her website: annetteberkovits.com for more information.
About Confessions of an Accidental Zoo Curator
From cougars, orangutans, supersize snakes, fugitive pigs, and a shocked New York City cabbie, Confessions is fascinating, and often hilarious. Berkovits masterfully regales readers with stories that give the inside scoop on what went on behind the scenes at one of the world’s most famous zoos with facts that read like fiction! Her tales will surprise and enlighten. A must read for all animal lovers and those interested in the future of wildlife.
“…a remarkable story, fascinating and unique…with a deft blend of personal insight and eloquent story-telling, Berkovits takes us from a remote village in Kyrgyzstan to the Bronx Zoo… from neophyte to international leader in her field.”
—William Conway, former President of the Wildlife Conservation Society and Director of the Bronx Zoo
“…a story that goes far beyond its title. Berkovits goes from a difficult childhood devoid of any real animal connections, to become one of the world’s foremost leaders in wildlife conservation education… fascinating and inspiring.”
— Alan Rabinowitz PhD, Zoologist, Author, CEO Panthera