5 Things I've Learned About . . . A Successful Book Launch

2:48 PM

This has been a HUGE week as my friend and mentor Meredith Jaffe unleashed her gorgeous debut novel The Fence on the Australian public.

I've been lucky enough to ride shotgun on Meredith's path to publication and what an eye-opening, insightful journey it has been.

From the first champagne pop on the day literary agency Curtis Brown agreed to represent her, right through to the giddy announcement of her book deal with PanMacmillan and now, this week, with the thud of her novel landing on the shelves of booksellers all over the country, it has been quite a ride!

One day I'll convince her to write a blog post about the whole process, but she's very busy signing books and doing podcasts and lunching with her editor and all the other things an official, newly minted author must do.

So while the excitement levels are still high and she's busy navigating her launch week, I thought I'd share a few of the lessons learnt. Come be a fly on the wall with me . . .

1. Be Proactive

If there's one thing you take into your own book launch, it's this golden rule. You want to sell books? It is absolutely essential that you pull your socks up, plant your bookseller hat firmly on your head, put a big smile on your dial and get to work.

It's not enough just to write the novel (Pah! You think THAT was the work?!), your job is now to help sell it.

Of course, your publisher's marketing team will throw their impressive weight behind a campaign to get you as many opportunities as possible. I've been so impressed with the team at PanMacmillan. They know their stuff, but are also just lovely to work with.

However, your publisher is running a business. They have many authors and finite resources so it's up to you to take the benefit of their wisdom, as well as the opportunities they've served up to you, and build on them.

Meredith took the very smart approach of working collaboratively with her publisher on the marketing of her book from the word go. She's suggested promotional ideas, got her website and social media platforms running seamlessly and forged relationships in the bookselling industry by being interested and generous with her time.

2. Book Launch

Do you want a book launch at a charming venue with novel-themed cocktails and devils on horseback? You will need to organise it yourself because it turns out, book launches have been plucked out of the real world and plonked firmly in the digital one (sadly, without the plonk!)

Don't get me wrong, there were several 'real world' moments on Meredith's official book launch day. It began at my place with cups of tea at dawn and some fairly fabulous singing of 'Don't Fence Me In' while shirts were ironed, and ended with pulled pork sliders and champagne. There was also a divine lunch with her agent and publisher in town. But none of that sold books.

The real meat in the tea/lunch/champagne club sandwich were podcast sessions with Dymocks and Booktopia, signing dozens of books for various online competitions, updating her author website, Goodreads and social media channels, online sharing of promotions and, basically, just lots of happy shouting from the virtual rooftops about the launch of The Fence.

That is what a 21st century book launch looks like.

If you still fancy a bit of a celebratory shin-dig, why not approach a local bookseller and ask them to collaborate with you on an event. They will have their own database of customers who will come along and the bookseller gets the benefit of new customers from your database. You might even find a local caterer who's willing to partner with you on the event in return for some promotion. People love an hors d'oevre and a glass of bubbles!

If you don't like the idea of speaking or reading to a room full of people, find someone who is fun and engaging to interview you instead.

Don't forget to promote the event on your social media platforms and send out a media release to the local rags too.

3. Say Yes to Everything

Well, not everything. Personally I would draw the line at any promotional activity involving dressing up like a chicken. But everything else would be fine. Author readings, book signings, podcast interviews, writer's festivals. If you can physically and financially do all of those things, it will help.

I read recently that the successful Australian author Matthew Reilly makes a habit of getting in front of his readers, as did Jackie Collins. Liane Moriarty, despite her enormous Hollywood success and NYT bestseller status, is off to do an author talk at a local suburban library next week.

Meredith has several library and bookseller events coming up where she will get to meet her readers who will, in turn, become her advocates.

Every opportunity to engage with your readers (and potential readers) should be taken if possible. You won't just sell a few extra books, you'll establish yourself as someone who's professional and easy to work with.

In other words, be an absolute darling!

4. Carpe Diem!

Your dear little book is launched into the big bookselling world on one single solitary day. As exciting as that is for you and your besties, it is a drop in the bookseller's ocean. There's nothing to curb an author's ego more thoroughly than taking a look at the big 'new release' display in a book store and realising that you are competing with other books, other authors, other genres! (rocks in corner softly crying)

So everything you do in the days immediately before and after that date needs to be maximised. There is to be no resting on laurels. No utterances of 'she'll be right mate'. Work with your publisher to brainstorm opportunities and then follow through on them.

- Podcasts

- Bookseller catalogues & newsletters

- Social media competitions

- Guest posts

- Readings & interviews

Don't sleep. Just do it all. You only get one bite of the new novel cherry!

5. Have fun

Come on, you've done the hard, lonely yards on the keyboard. Let the people wine and dine you. Soak up the compliments. Sign those books with a flourish. Sing something by Bing Crosby!

Congratulations! You've earned it.


Book Marketing 101 - Jane Friedman

10 Tips For A Sucessful Launch - Write To Done

Do book launches make a difference? - So You Want to be a Writer podcast

How Book Launches Have Changed in the Digital Age - Anne R Allen

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