Tuesday, 29 January 2013

TO LAUNCH OR NOT TO LAUNCH? by Emma Barnes

HOW TO HOLD A CHILDREN’S BOOK LAUNCH

You’re publishing a book so you are bound to have a book launch? Right? Wrong. Of the many children’s books published each year, few are “launched” – at least, not in the traditional manner with nibbles and champagne. There may be a flurry of activity on Facebook. Or it may just be that the author buys herself a celebratory cappuccino that morning, or even, sitting at her desk, suddenly thinks “wait a minute, wasn’t my new book out today?”

I’d never had a book launch. But for my 2011 book How Not To Make Bad Children Good, I did have a book signing at Waterstones in Leeds. As it turned out, lots of people came along, the store sold out of the book, and there was a real “buzz” in store. So when Wolfie came out, I decided to take the next step and have an official launch party.

Waterstones very kindly offered me a Friday evening after the store was closed, glasses for drinks, and staff to hand them out. Other than that (my publisher could only support me from a distance) I knew the organisation was mainly down to me.

Was it a wise decision? A few hours before, with my voice a mere croak from a bad cold, no idea of how many people were turning up, no posters in store, no idea where to park (without taking out a second mortgage), and my nearest and dearest stuck on trains across the country, it felt like a very bad idea indeed.

But then... my sister designed a poster and the local print shop printed it in minutes. My baking pal produced lovely eats – and she knew where to park, too. Suddenly there were crowds of little wolves running about the aisles, their parents were happily quaffing, my voice held out...just about...as I did my reading. People were queuing to buy the books and get them signed. I met some fans of my previous books. It was actually fun!

So should you have a book launch for your book? Maybe. Here are some things to consider.

PROS

1) It’s a great way to tell people about your book. You can invite not only friends and family, but also schools where you have visited, librarians, reading groups, book festival organisers, bookshop owners, journalists and so forth. Whether or not they come, you are still reminding them about you and your book. And when children turn up because they have loved your previous books, that is very special.

2) Media Coverage. A launch event is more interesting to journalists than simply “local author writes book”. I got coverage in the local newspaper, on various blogs, and local radio.

3) Social Media. Again, a launch is something to shout about on Facebook and Twitter, and is especially good for FB as you can post lots of photos. (So make sure there are photos!)

4) Book sales – I suppose this is the big question. Does it have an impact? All I can say is that Waterstones were delighted with sales on the day, and the Amazon rating was right up in the following weeks.


5) Above all, though, it’s FUN, and celebrates the fact that your book is finally, after so much hard work, in print!

CONS

1) It’s a LOT of work. Unless you are in the cushy position of having an event organiser, then you are going to be sending invites (and personal ones are best), writing press releases, organising food, liaising with the bookshop etc. It’s time that could be spent writing.

2) Don’t even think about it unless you know lots of people to invite. Remember, many you invite won’t be able to come. Few people will walk in off the street – unless you are a “name”. And if it’s a kids’ book, then you need to know people in the right age group. If you don’t, it may be better to do a school or other group-based event instead.

TOP TIPS

1) For a children’s event, you need children, and they like to have things to do. My book is about a wolf, so I had wolf-themed Word Searches, Colouring Sheets, Quizzes and Dressing-Up and a competition to Guess How Many Hamburgers A Wolf Can Eat in One Setting (its ninety, amazingly). For a kids’ event (probably any event) keep readings – and any speeches – SHORT.
2) Photos. Press tend to have quite strict requirements for photos. They like faces, looking straight at camera, and closely cropped. Tell your photographer in advance. If using your own camera, make sure the BATTERY IS CHARGED. Ask children’s parents if they are happy for their children’s images to be used.

3) Exploit your friends! You may not be able to make wonderful refreshments, design great posters, take publishable photos etc, but you probably know people who can. So ask them. And then thank them and pay them, if it is appropriate, or give them a lovely present.

4) Cake. You can now order cakes with your book’s cover from supermarkets or online companies. Easy, inexpensive and delicious!

5) Invite a Group. Library-based book groups, brownies cubs, scouts may all be interested. Schools, though, can be less receptive than you’d think – most teachers are busy, and not looking for extra outings, and head teachers may be reluctant to publicise events that only certain pupils can attend. On the other hand, I invited the Friends group from my local park, where some of my story is set, and although the age-group seemed wrong several came along to buy signed copies for their grandchildren.

6) Think About Stock. If your launch is at a bookshop, bear in mind that they will not want to be left with lots of unsold copies, and will order cautiously. On the other hand, you don’t want people who are keen to buy being unable to do so. So it’s a good idea for you or your publisher to bring along extra stock, which the bookshop can sell (and then replace later) if its own stock runs out.

7) For press coverage you need to get your timing right, and you need to write a snappy press release. Don’t assume that journalists will have time to interview you or write insightful pieces about your work – instead write good copy yourself and provide strong images. Send out press releases in the week before and tweet local media. I found one good tactic was to put the press release on my web-site and tweet the link. Send out photos as soon after the event as possible. And finally:

8) RELAX. You can’t completely control your book launch. So long as you are not collapsing drunkenly in the aisles (this is not the publicity you are looking for) you might as well enjoy it!

Check out Emma Barnes's web-site
Wolfie is available from Amazon and other booksellers


13 comments:

Joan Lennon said...

That is a really useful post - I'm bookmarking it for later reference! Thanks, Emma.

Joan Lennon said...

And I meant to say, your launch sounds and looks wonderful!

Penny Dolan said...

Emma, didn't you also have a child dressed up as a wolf? I was lucky enoug to go along, and agree with all Emma says. It was a great launch with lots of happy people.

Some useful points here, especially knowing children of the right age to invite.

Savita Kalhan said...

I've always been in two minds about a book launch in a bookshop, but you've made it sound so easy. I'll know what to do for my next book! Thanks, Emma

Louise said...

I've written a novel for adults but this post is really useful, thank you. Publication is a year away, but I think I should try to organise something ... it's a bit daunting if you're a shrinking violet though! Thanks for the ideas and tips.

Emma Barnes said...

Savita - if I made it sound easy, I've definitely misrepresented the amount of work and stress involved!

Louise - know what you mean about being a shrinking violet - although I've done plenty of events, talks etc, somehow doing a "launch" does feel more show-offy.

Sue Purkiss said...

Love the cake and the poster!

Linda Strachan said...

Great post, Emma and a clear blueprint for a great launch. It looks like it was worth all the stress and hard work and you did all the important things like getting word out about the book and the launch, and making it fun for everyone.

I think having a book launch is a great opportunity to have some fun after finishing a book and getting it published - both well worth celebrating.

Inviting children along is also a great idea. I had several teenage book groups at the launch of my last book. They loved that they had been invited and I was delighted to see them there, so it was positive on all sides.

Then there is cake - there should always be cake!

Candy Gourlay said...

Truly brilliant and great advice! And congrats!

Kerry Saadien-Raad said...

Thank you Emma. I've self-published a picture book linked to one of South Africa's most successful rock band. Because this is sort-of(!) unique, and because SA isn't big on book launches for children, I found your description of your experience very useful. Thanks again.

Ruth Symes said...

Had a lovely book launch for 'The Puppy that Came to Christmas' at Happy Dogs training centre. Volunteers from Canine Partners arranged the human catering. I provided dog treats and had a really special party that I'll never forget. :)

Emma Barnes said...

Kerry - if the rock band comes to your launch, I'm sure you won't have trouble pulling the crowds!

Ruth - I'd have liked to have my dog at my launch, or a real wolf (dream on!) but I don't think Waterstones would have been happy.

Maxine Linnell said...

Yes, I'm bookmarking this for future events - my launches have been mostly adult affairs, great fun and with lots of adult sales, and I wouldn't have known how to go about it another way.