Do you want to hear a secret?
A deep, dark, shocking secret of mine?
I haven’t been totally honest about whether or not I do “public” events for the release of my books. It’s true–I’m a big fibber. Well, kind of…
Today on Chase Connor Books, I have a blog post for my fellow writers–especially those with a book they are nearly ready to start marketing and then publish. Before we begin, I would like to say that I haven’t kept these things to myself in order to keep “insider information” from my fellow authors and hoard information. These aren’t trade secrets or some secret look behind the curtain pulled around the publishing world. You won’t find The Great and Powerful Oz pulling levers in the text of this post.
No one taught me what I’m about to write in this post. I didn’t have to sign a contract in blood and drink some mysterious liquid from a silver chalice in a secret meeting to learn these things. Simply put, what I’m about to share are some tips I came up with to fit my specific needs as an author. Maybe this post will help you if you’re following a path similar to mine.
It’s no secret that I am about selling my books and not myself. I can be friendly and social (especially on social media), but for the most part, I love anonymity. I love having my real life and my author life separate. I’ve made it clear in the past that I don’t want fame and fortune…just fortune. I don’t need people to love me…I just need them to love my books. I don’t seek validation as a person through my work, though this is not to shade anyone who seeks fame or validation through being an author.
Having said that, before I get into my deep, dark secret, I do have tips for debut authors, especially indies and indie-hybrids with small budgets and limited time to market and promote their work and/or themselves.
A fellow author reached out to me recently to ask me for advice on book launches, so let me tell you all what I told him.
A book launch is not a book signing. It’s a debut. Venues can rarely be too small for launches. A packed small room is much more impressive and feels more exclusive than a large room with lots of empty space. You don’t want people packed in like sardines, but you don’t want them to look around and think: “Jeez. Half the people invited didn’t even bother to show up.”
Surprisingly, libraries are not incredibly conducive to book launches. They often don’t allow sales, they are incredibly restrictive, relatively pricey (you will spend at least $55 for one hour for a single room at the main branch of my local library), and let’s be honest–people want to have fun at book launches. Libraries are great for quickly finding and picking up books, but their meeting rooms are not great for letting your hair down, hearing about a book, and mingling. In my opinion, you don’t just want to give a talk and do a reading from your book, you want people to have fun. If they have an experience, they’ll relate it to your book, and attach those good feelings to your book. The worst thing that can happen (other than the attendees just not caring about your book), is having them listen to your talk/reading, buy a book, and leave. You want them to leave feeling that they were part of something special so that they relate that feeling to your book.
Because of this, try:
1) Metaphysical bookstores and indie bookstores. Small business owners often love collaboration and inventive, low-cost ways to do more marketing. When you think about it, if you do your book launch party while they’re open in the evening and you provide everything, it costs them nothing but space. They’re also often excited to help other “little guys” and meet more people in the community, too. Make an appointment to go in and talk to the owners face to face, make them feel like they are part of the experience you are trying to create, and get them to realize that this might also help their business. Let them know you want them to attend as well (if they can), enjoy the talk/reading, have snacks, meet new people/customers, etc. The backdrop of a metaphysical bookstore and/or indie bookstore also provides conversation. Just make sure that even if they say “no,” that you thank them, compliment them on something specific about their store, wish them the best, and give them your contact information in case they “change their mind” or think of other collaborative ideas in the future that benefit you both. If you know of stores like this where you are already a patron, contact those stores first. It’s easier to come up with nice things to say about an owner and store if you already love going there.
2) Private dining rooms in restaurants. Many will let you have the room for free if they will also be selling food and drinks. Just make sure to let them know you plan to give a talk and do a reading so things can be timed with servers coming in and out. This is relatively low cost to you–as long as you make it clear to attendees that food/drinks are not provided. These types of launches also have to be relatively small. Probably no more than 20-30 people. For a first-time indie, this might be perfect, though. Make the people you invite feel as though they’ve been handpicked to be part of a party that has a limit for attendees (“an exclusive event with limited seating”). You could also talk to the restaurant about whether or not they can set up a specific menu (from their existing menu) for the attendees. A choice between two appetizers, two dinners, and two desserts, with the attendees choosing their own drinks. This will make it feel more special–even though these are things the restaurant would serve anyway. However, it makes serving your room easier on the restaurant staff, and you can get a price per person from the manager to provide to your attendees on their invitation. Bring wet wipes for people to use (if necessary) before you move on to the buying/signing at the end of the meal. Greasy fingers + books = tragedy. Make sure to bring a little gift for everyone to leave with, such as a branded bookmark or some small token of your appreciation for their attendance, even if they don’t purchase a book.
3) Ask your friends and family to host a series of book launch parties at their homes and serve snacks and drinks. Like Tupperware parties. Or you can do a “progressive dinner” and have all of the parties in one night. Drinks and appetizers at one house where you welcome everyone and talk about your book. At the next house, have dinner and you give a reading. At the final house, everyone can have dessert and coffee where everyone mingles more and can buy a book and get an autograph. You can even have your book table set up there and waiting. The chance anyone will get dirty fingers on the books is lower if you go this route, which is a bonus. You could even have someone throw a backyard barbecue when weather permits. We all have that one friend or family member who loves to throw a party. This may be limiting on the number of attendees as well (unless you know Bill Gates and other people who own huge houses), but it’s a great way to build a “secret society” and a memorable experience. Bring wet wipes!
4) Lastly, even before COVID, virtual book launches were becoming more popular. This allows any number of people to attend. You can do a Zoom or Discord launch. Talk about your book, do a reading, and direct attendees to where they can purchase your book online or order an autographed copy to be shipped out to them. You can also suggest certain snacks and/or drinks (a theme) for attendees to prepare for the meeting and people can share what they made and why and maybe share recipes at the end. It’s a fun way to get people involved in the meeting so they have a memorable experience.
Now that I’ve provided those tips–not that they’re industry changing or anything–let me tell you about my “Secret Society.”
I live a pretty low-key and anonymous author life, hence the pen name (though, I’m not sure if that is obvious to everyone). I have thrown parties at my home before when I’ve released books. Attendees were close friends who like keeping secrets and will help promote my work outside of my usual writer/reader channels. It has always been nice because you know almost everyone will buy a book at the party (friend-guilt is awesome) and you know what types of behaviors to expect. Knowing you won’t get too many difficult questions about the book is another bonus. Also, it’s a more relaxed environment where I can be myself more than I am “Chase Connor.” It’s something I definitely recommend to indie authors if they are able. Get your friends involved, make them feel like they are part of a “secret society,” and have them talk your book up to others when they’re out and about (at work, libraries, bookstores, over dinners with friends, etc.). However, it’s incredibly important to make it clear that there is no pressure to bother other people about your book. Just make it clear that if someone mentions a book, work yours into the conversation if they’re able. Since the “meetings” still revolve around the book, I’d always serve non-messy foods that were crowd-pleasers and easy to eat. If a particular food is mentioned a lot in the book the party is for, serve that food in some form. There may have been a party at my house where donuts and coffee were served for dessert. I’ll let you all decide which book that involved. Of course, people have dietary restrictions (weight loss, sugar-free, halal, kosher, vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.) so that’s something to keep in mind–become familiar with the eating habits/needs of the people you are serving. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with chips and dips or cheese and crackers, as long as you keep plenty of napkins ready. No Kraft Singles, please. Save that for depression grilled cheese. COVID has kept us from having any parties for a while, but hopefully, next year I can resume the “secret society” meetings.
Now that you know my deep, dark secret…do with that what you will. Have you heard of Street Teams or Beta-Readers or the like? Why not start a “Secret Society?” An author can easily throw a party that fits their budget and needs. Have a book that takes place in Italy? Homemade bruschetta, bowls of salad, and huge platters of spaghetti or fettuccine can be made for a crowd on a shoestring budget. Think Olive Garden, but not so salty. Remember, the food has to be good, but it doesn’t have to be gourmet. What matters most is the experience. Engage your attendees, mingle, tell great stories and jokes, be the best version of yourself you can be, and have everyone leave feeling as though they were a special VIP invited to an exclusive, secretive event. It doesn’t hurt to have free bookmarks or other merch for attendees to take home. The party can be as big or as small as you like–but it can really get your book and your name out there. Give it some thought.
Mystery Novel – throw a murder mystery party! Ghost-y Paranormal novel? Bust out those Halloween decorations! Romance Novel? Chocolates, champagne, roses, and asks the guests to dress appropriately (take that as you will–you might get to see some of your hot friends shirtless)! The only limit is your imagination!
Oh, and if you’re having family around this holiday season, it doesn’t hurt to leave one of your books on the coffee table, dining room table, the guest room dresser, and in the guest crapper. Ya’ know, just in case reading material is needed.
Tremendous Love & Thanks,