Rosanne Dingli

Rosanne Dingli

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

How to prepare for a book launch

The first thing is to be afraid - be very afraid. If you are nervous enough, preparation for your book launch will entail a lot of lists, checking and re-checking. The likelihood of forgetting or overlooking something is then reduced.

Lists: what to take, what to wear, what to read, what to display, who to ask... goodness. I am sure it is very possible to imagine the lists. My launch this time is going to be an exhibition launch, with artworks prepared by friend and artist Robyn Varpins. She has interpreted the artworks mentioned in the book, and they look fabulous. It also means that with two hosts, there are twice the items to remember.

All the guest lists and so forth are done and used - the exhibition launch runs over this coming weekend, 26-29 May, so guests were advised a fortnight ago. RSVPs have rolled in thick and fast - the great thing about running an event over a whole weekend is that people can manage to squeeze in a visit at some point over the four days, even if they can't make it to opening night.

There is wine to buy and cheese to dice. An olive or two won't go amiss. Robyn is arranging for an urn for cups of tea, and a biscuit or two will be nice.

Then I have to select excerpts to read - interesting pieces with no spoilers. Now that will be hard. When you choose parts of the book to read, mark them with differently coloured paper, also numbered, so that you do not get confused.

There will be a running and looping Powerpoint presentation going on in one corner, with pictures and quotes. And book displays I have made mental sketches of - and will probably look vastly different to what I have dreamt up. Making a slide show of this nature needs a lot of thought, so do start a long time before the night. Show it to a few people to gauge immediate impressions. Be prepared to change - flexibility is an asset.

It is always very hard to calculate the numbers of books you will need. Your publisher will be able to help if you ask. I have heard from many authors that the average number of books sold at a launch is 35. But are you and your book average? How many people will turn up? Will you run short ... or over order? Being left with a large box of unsold books is never pleasant. Still, it is better than missing a sale. It is also important not to forget copies of all your other titles - your new book will sell most, of course, but readers invariably ask, "Do you have any other books?" Having them there might stimulate sales of your backlist.

Prepare a selection of comfortable things to wear - it is important to wear comfortable shoes since authors stand a lot at launches. Think of the venue - libraries are usually warm, but halls tend to be chilly. Shops are draughty.

Remember people will expect books signed - a good pen is vital. Take two or three of your favourite brand of pens, and be prepared to listen carefully to how a purchaser would like the book signed. Spelling of names is important, and some people (collectors, especially) prefer a simple author signature and nothing more.

Offering a free bookmark or postcard with your details - email, website, blog - is not only a nice thought but will allow purchasers the opportunity of an afterthought. We often think, "I should have bought one for Mum," when we like something. Readers might like your book that much - if they have your details, they can buy more copies if your directions on the bookmark or card are self-explanatory.

It is not a bad idea to have a few cover images blown up to poster size and hung around the venue. Marketing experts say people need to see something more than once, and in more than one size, in order to get the buying impulse.

Soft background music can get in the way of your readings, so have someone on hand to turn it down. Lighting is quite important - strong enough for you to read by, yet not glaring so guests are blinded.

There are other things to consider - but it's amazing how many things occur to you when you start thinking in list fashion. So take out a pen when the time comes - and have a nice time, despite the butterflies.


  1. I'll have to take some notes ...

  2. Hope I can hear news of your launch soon, Mark.

  3. Lots of good advice there, Rosanne, and your book launch is certainly one of the most interesting I've heard about. I'm sorry I won't be able to get there but I'm rapidly running out of time to do what has to be done in the next ten days because after that I'll be unable to do anything physical for at least a month.