Last year, when Modern Persuasion came out, I considered having a release party. There was one reason I decided against it, the fear that nobody would come. It’s weird anxiety based on my experience promoting library events that nobody comes to, my sense of how small my group of people seemed in comparison to people who had grown up in the area (or lived here for decades), and general anxiety about the book. Even though my circle of people continues to expand and I learn more about how to promote myself and my books, the same anxiety came up when the chance to have a launch party this year was offered. It took my fellow authors to remind me about the community I’ve made in the past ten years.
I had a lot of fun preparing for the party, probably more than I should have. I made a bingo game, I created some of my photo booth props (I bought some unicorn/mermaid ones too), and I made little cupcake toppers. I went through all my giveaway supplies to put together two tote bags of items related to both Modern Persuasion and Phi Alpha Pi. I ordered the snacks I wanted including macarons, which are specifically mentioned in Phi Alpha Pi. I ordered books, pulled out serving platters, found all the supplies I bought for just such an occasion and packed it all up in a personalized carrier.
I think the piece of resistance was the wood paddle I found at Michaels. See, in sororities and fraternities, the paddle is often used as a gift. The wood is stained; the companies will supply wooden Greek letters, symbols, and other things you can glue on to your paddle. Since I was in a co-ed fraternity (Alpha Pi Omega) when I was at Florida State, I have two. One from my big brother and another from one of my little brothers. We exchanged them when a pledge was about to become a full brother (yep, we were all brothers). When I found this unfinished one at Michaels, I knew it was going to be the event’s guestbook. My other, last minute find, were these inexpensive chalkboards with easels that I could use to explain the bingo game, tell people to sign in, and other things that needed signage.
I had a lot of fun getting ready, but I was still anxious about the event. So, I printed invites and flyers. Then I boosted the Facebook event (which was a good idea because people saw the event reminder come up on their profiles and remembered to come). Even as I drove around town on Friday, hours before the events, there was still this little voice in my head worrying that nobody would come. It’s OK because there was a louder voice cackling about how that would mean all the macarons for me.
The anxiety shed as soon as I put on the outfit I had picked out; mostly because it’s how I function in the world as an introvert. These types of events are easy for me but exhausting. I have to “push my extrovert button” as my friend Veronica calls it. I can do anything once the I push that button, but it means I need to recharge for a huge chunk of time (in this case, the rest of the weekend and needed restoration yoga). Pushing the button is a metaphor in the case of the launch party, I put on my outfit. Which was, so you all know, Wi’s sriracha shirt… just saying.
The event was 2 hours of fun (for me). I spent some time signing books, trying to be as clever as possible with it. I spoke for about 30 minutes about the struggle I’ve had with romance books and what I try to do to combat the things I think are sins in romance writing. Then we had cupcakes and people left. Lots of people came (I think about thirty) and people left with books and some swag. In the end, I felt both exhausted and energized. I drove home, well after I expected because a friend made it just before the party ended, thinking I would leave everything in the car and crash. Instead, I stayed up late going through everything, repacking things in their places, and slowly turned off.
The evening wouldn’t have been so successful and enjoyable without my amazing friends, especially the SIPA writers. A bunch came early and helped set up. Laura managed the book sales so I could socialize (a bit) and sign books.
In a more business related reflective, there were some good decisions I made
- I bundled the three books together for $20. For people who hadn’t purchased all three, it was an easy way to get them, and it didn’t require making change. It was still cheaper than getting them online.
- I let people help when they offered (and some I put to work because they were around). Not trying to do it all myself, at the event, allowed me to be the author instead of a hostess. Next time I’m going to have someone help me with all of it. I’ve had the experience; now I know what I want in the future.
- The bingo game was a great way to keep people doing something while they waited for my time to speak. It also got people to put photos online.
- I let people know when I was planning on speaking. Many people were coming home from work before the party and I didn’t want them to rush to get over only to have to wait for more than food and chatting.
- I let someone else handle the selling part. I did this in Miami too (my mom learned to use a Square!) and it allows me to focus on the person I’m talking to.
- I did things I enjoyed. I loved designing the photo booth props, the flyers, the invites, the cupcake toppers. I loved going to Staples and printing them and I loved putting it all together. I like crafty things!
- I didn’t buy new items for giveaways. I typically put things aside as giveaways over time. When I travel, I often buy something from that city for a giveaway or put in something I didn’t give as a gift. I have a small container for them all. All I did for this event was to pull it out and put aside the items related to the books and Jane Austen. No extra money spent.
- I kept the decor simple. I got lucky to have a great space and a host used to doing events. I didn’t buy things that would be clutter. I just used the room’s decor and some items of my own. For example, I brought my paddles from college to decorate the guestbook table.
- I got rid of some swag from both books. I had tea bags from Modern Persuasion and stickers from Phi Alpha Pi. I got rid of a ton of them!
- I had a drink and a bite to eat! I knew I wouldn’t get to enjoy most of it, but I made sure I got to taste everything special to me. I took home some cheese and crackers, the veggie platter, the fruit platter, and I scored three macarons.
- I didn’t read from the book. I know, this was a launch party for the book, BUT I want people to read the book. I’m a pretty good reader (out loud) but I find readings boring, even with amazing readers. I think people want to connect with an author and then read the book (or not) on their own.
- I boosted the Facebook invitation. I spent $20, and over 1,000 people saw the ad over four days.
What would I have done differently?
- More bundled books! People liked the ribbon around the books and just bought them to give as gifts.
- More help next time. I’ve met so many people who have skills and connections I don’t have. One of them is an event planner and has done other book launches. I will use her next time, so I can just do the parts I love (talking and crafts).
- Do printed flyers and invitations earlier. It was helpful to share the event with people not connected to me or simply frequent Facebook users.
- Be more strategic with the Facebook ads. I’m still learning how these work and I suspect I’ll be able to do it better by the next time I do a launch party.
- Coordinate better with my family. They all live about an hour away, and this happened a week before a big family wedding. None of them were able to attend. It might be worth involving them in the decision making process. This is especially true for my parents, who want to attend.