Friday, February 15, 2008

Are You a Party Animal?

Just about all authors recognize the importance of arranging book signings and speaking engagements at conferences, workshops, and other functions. Some authors go beyond the "ordinary" and throw a launch party for their book.

If you're a big-name author or even a no-name author with the backing of a big, enthusiastic publisher, your house may throw you a debut party. The publisher/publicist arranges the gig, complete with food and guest list that includes the press.

If you're an ordinary author like the rest of us, you have to throw your own party. Question is, do you want to?

Answer: Depends.

First off, what are your expectations for this event? Is it to share your excitement with family and friends, maybe thank those who helped you with your research or writing? Or is it to generate press interest and market the book? Those are two very different party animals. With the first, your task is fairly easy -- invite family and friends over to your house or a restaurant, laugh a lot, accept praise and toasts to your success. With the second, be prepared for a lot of stress, unless you can get someone to help you.

You might could team up with a local independent bookstore. They supply the place and help with publicity. You underwrite the cost, supply or cater the food, and help with guest list. Or you could go out on your own, maybe with the help of a publicist or party planner. We're talking finding a place that fits your book (like, a country club for your literary novel, or a spooky house for your mystery, or a drive-in theater for your nonfiction look at the last of the great outdoor picture shows), catering food and drinks, and, especially, getting the "right" people to show up.

Which brings up a second thing to consider: what is this worth to you? In other words, how much are you willing to spend? The cost of appetizers, drinks, background music, press releases, time, place rental, and more can add up quickly. Even having just family and friends over to the house can take a wad of bills from your pocket. So, how much can you afford to spend -- and, maybe more to the point, will the pay-off be worth it? Will you get enough publicity and marketing points to offset the cost and generate sales?

If you're considering a launch party as a way of generating publicity, then here's another consideration: can you actually get press coverage? Do you have media contacts who will either come to your party or write about it? Is your book, subject matter, or friends a big enough draw to pull in press and reviewers?

Here's another point to consider: What kind of a mingler are you? Do you enjoy crowds and social situations? Are you witty or adept at small talk? Can you mingle with the best of them? Or do these situations send you in search of a curtain to hide behind or a bathroom to throw up in?

Now, I'm not saying don't hold a book party. Some authors have had great success with them. Just know what you're getting into and what you hope to achieve.

If anyone out there has had a launch party, good or bad, send in your comments or stories. We'd all like to hear what you did and your feelings about your experiences.

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