How to Launch Your Book During a Pandemic
I launched my picture book QUARANTINE KIDS in Houston this past weekend! Like all events this pandemic year, my book launch had to be modified from the usual template of an up-close-and-personal, hand-shaking, book-reading-and-signing version. But since my book is about inspiring creative and positive responses to these COVID times, creating a socially-distanced book launch fit with my overall theme.
Here are some of my planning considerations:
Set Your Goals
What do you want to achieve by hosting your book launch? Do you want to sell more copies? Connect with readers? Generate buzz that will spike book sales at the launch and online? Do you want a chance to read from your book? Answer reader questions?
Your goal-setting will help clarify what aspects you need to include at your launch. Some writers have gone virtual with their launches this year. I knew that I wanted to see people and share the excitement of putting this book out into the world, even if it meant doing it all at a distance.
Choose a Setting
I chose a location that had a covered area for my table setup, a parking lot that would suit my drive-through plan, and ample parking, should many readers show up at once and need to wait for their meet and greet moment.
I happened to choose a location where the building was not in use during the time of my event, which then guaranteed that my launch team had isolated access to building facilities and my supporters did not have to compete for space. There is a distinct advantage to choosing a location where the launch might get foot traffic from other neighboring businesses, so while in this pandemic period, do be thoughtful about how much exposure and risk you are willing to accept for yourself and your supporters.
Create Clear Expectations
I called the event a drive-through intentionally, to get people thinking visualizing themselves driving up, staying in their cars, and receiving their signed copies. This wasn't quite how people responded to the event as it was happening, but my pre-planning made it possible for me to serve people at their car windows, like a fast food drive-through. All of my event communications explained the drive-through concept, and clarified the forms on online payment that would be available, which enabled everyone to handle fewer items, like cash.
What ended up happening was that it was a nice enough day that my supporters chose to get out of their cars and approach my book table, but since they came at a rate that lended some space, I didn't have a crowd around the table. Many of my customers also knew each other, and after having not met in person for extended periods of time, it was natural that they wanted to catch up. So people greeted me, grabbed books, and spread out to chat throughout the parking lot.
My plan had been that one of my launch team members would distribute books to waiting cars to give them a chance to look at the book in advance of buying. Then, by the time I got to a car, they might be tempted to buy more copies because they had a chance to read while they waited. I didn't get a chance to test this theory, since people naturally flowed toward the table, but we had thought things through!
Your supplies will vary, depending on location and theme, but generally speaking, you might consider packing the following:
Your books! Make sure you have more than enough copies.
A set of pens for signing
Notecards or sticky notes for people to write any names that they want inscribed
Table and chairs
Your payment methods. Make sure if you are using a mobile device that you are fully set up to access the apps with or without wifi.
Another mobile device for photos, and a person from the launch team tasked to document the event
A form of bookkeeping, so you know how many copies went out, and how much people paid for them
Snacks for your launch team
Signage to direct traffic, both towards and through your event
Masks, for your launch team, potentially extras for customers, should you so choose
Consider Thematic Gifts
A way to make your launch party feel more like a party is to hand out favors! This is your chance to package any follow-up messaging you have about your book, like requests for reviews, in a fun way.
What your book launch favor is will certainly depend on your main audience for your book, and could depend on your book's topic. In the picture book realm, this is your opportunity to provide extension activities related to your book. Stickers of the main characters, coloring or craft pages, anything that adds wonder and excitement will make your launch and your book more memorable.
Follow-Through and Follow-Up
Once you have it all set up and planned out, all that's left is to launch! Enjoy the day, especially meeting your eager readers. Encourage connection, and follow up afterward so that your supporters aren't left feeling like it was a start-to-finish event. For example, I plan to set up a coloring contest or two that encourages readers to post their use of the activity pages from the book.