This weekend I flew to Salt Lake City to surprise my friend Nish Weiseth, founder and editor of Deeper Story, to celebrate the release of her book Speak: How Your Story Can Change the World. Nish’s husband planned the surprise party with a ruse about stopping on the way to dinner, and it was such fun to see the surprise and happiness on Nish’s face to see friends and family gathered to toast her success. My only portion of the weekend was showing up, but I have thrown a few book release parties and gotten some emails about it, so here are some thoughts on this particular type of soiree.
Any excuse to throw a party, right? That’s my philosophy anyway. Writing on the internet has lucked me into friendships with other writers, and I love to hostess, so in the last few years I’ve thrown several parties for friends debuting their first books. The first was in Oklahoma City, for Megan Tietz and her book Spirit-Led Parenting. Next in my backyard in Los Angeles, for Nora Zelavansky and her novel Semi-Charmed Life. And then again in LA, at Coffee + Food, for Sarah Bessey and Jesus Feminist.
I've found that these shindigs are sort of like baby showers. Only without the gifts. Or diaper games. Actually, maybe they're not all that alike, it's just that my friends have all started writing books instead of having babies. Regardless, these things apply to any party that might be a combination of celebration and promotional, such as the launching of a new business. It's different than just your average event.
Each party has had its own flair, but there have been several things consistent. Here are a few to think about:
Decide if the party is public or private. Mostly this depends on the author and their audience and desires. For Megan and Sarah, both prominent bloggers, it was fun to make the party a public one and readers drove far and wide to meet them and have their book signed. For Nora, who writes mostly for magazines, she wanted to celebrate with close friends and family, made all the more special because she had recently moved from Los Angeles to New York.
The first decision may dictate the second: Choose a venue. For Megan’s party we rented a small art space, and for Sarah’s I used a friend’s coffee shop. As a private event, Nora’s was at my home.
Spread the word and get some food. Normal party details emerge, like creating invitations to be mailed or shared online, and deciding on food and drink options. At each party we served celebratory champagne, but at the two public events we had snacks and finger foods, and at my home we had a food truck with BBQ sliders.
Designate a book table. As long as you request it in advance, the publisher will probably provide a box of books to be sold. Megan choose to give most of hers away that evening, and at Sarah’s I had a teenage friend man the book table armed with cash and a smile. For Nora, the publisher arranged for a representative from a local book store to set up the table. (This meant that I didn’t need to pay back the publisher for the books sold, since it went straight through the represented store’s account.)
Think about doing a reading. Megan sat on a stool and read a beautiful piece at her party, and Sarah asked friends and her husband to read passages to the crowd at hers, concluding with her own reading of the moving last chapter. A reading from a fiction book would probably be a little harder to choose, so Nora didn’t read, but she gave a really personal and heartfelt toast to those who supported her.
Plan on a bit of publicity. A release party can (and often should) be a part of the overall publicity that surrounds the book. For all of the parties I threw, we hired professional photographers to capture the event. Not only is the author (and the hostess) glad to have those photos, they can be used for promotions. (If using a professional photographer, make sure that the contract allows for this.)
In the case of the bloggers, we also used our own online platforms to inform and invite people, and social media to talk about the party, garnering buzz for the book itself.
I’m sure there are a hundred ways to throw a promotional party, no matter if you’re celebrating a book release or a new business opening or a local sports team or anything similar. If you have your own tips or recommendations, leave them in the comments. While ultimately I chose not to do anything very theme-y for these parties, I did love reading about the book release party The Nester threw for her sister several years ago with all the book decorations. It’s fun to hear how other people entertain.