Keys to a successful Facebook book launch (part one)
Editor’s note: Throughout this book marketing series, I will have a few guest posts from authors and editors who have shown true promise in the topics they write about. My hope is that by bringing in guests with experience and knowledge, you’ll get an in-depth walkthrough of what to do and why, and the details will allow you to be effective in your journey as you market and sell your book.
In this post, Michelle King will talk about preparing for a book launch and how to avoid panicking, and in part two of this topic, she’ll go over how to promote your book launch event and what to do if something doesn’t go as planned during the event itself.
So, you’ve got your book edited and formatted, and the illustrations (if you have any) are all completed—sounds like you’re ready to publish! The next thing you need to think about is how you’ll celebrate your book’s launch day. If you’re here reading this, I’m going to assume that you’re considering a Facebook event launch. In this article, I’ll be detailing the process I used to launch my children’s book so you can prepare for and host your own. This article will be in two parts, so first we’re going to talk about preparing for the launch.
If you haven’t already, the first thing you should do is create a fan page, either for you as an author or for your book. You’ll create and host the event with this fan page, and it will help keep the book’s followers up to date even after the launch has come and gone. Another good thing to do is to either make a standalone website for the book (or if you already have an author website, you can just dedicate a section to the book.) Here, you can really get into the updates with blog posts and pictures and purchase links.
You’ll want to start preparing for the event at least six months in advance. That will give you time to have any promotional materials printed and any custom giveaway items made while also giving time for shipping. Some promotional materials include bookmarks, postcards, business cards, and flyers. There are many sites that provide this type of service, one of the more popular ones being VistaPrint. Do your own research and price match your order between at least three different sites, and look up customer reviews for quality, price, and customer service. To order custom items for your giveaway, I recommend personalizationmall.com.
Unless you decide to go with a service that also provides material design, you’re going to need to figure out how to do the graphic design on your own. I used PicMonkey.com and Canva.com to create the images I used for my postcards and bookmarks. Both sites are free (with paid options, of course.) If you’re publishing a children’s book, the best option is either to use a standalone image of the main character or to choose one of your favorite interior images and edit that to fit a portion of it on your promotional material. If you’re not comfortable with doing your own graphic design, it might benefit you to spend a little more money and hire someone to edit the images for you. Make sure you have a design that is eye-catching and also includes enough information to bring potential readers to your book’s website or fan page.
If you plan on doing any giveaways that start before the launch (such as a Goodreads giveaway or a Rafflecopter giveaway), you should set that up as soon as possible. It will get some buzz going on for your launch and get more exposure if you get friends and family to share.
Next thing you’ll want to do is recruit helpers and guest authors. Hosting a Facebook launch event can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. Finding a few reliable friends who can either actively help or just be on standby in case of any hiccups will make it a little easier. Guest authors should be selected and given a fixed schedule at least one month in advance. This will give them enough time to get their information and any promotional materials ready. It also gives them time to brush up on what is expected of them in case they’re new to being a guest in a launch.
Prepare posts, images, and videos
Another way to make the event go as seamlessly as possible is to pre-create all images and posts that you’ll be using for the event. Some posts you can expect to have:
- A welcome post that will provide the highlights of some of the giveaways and the basic itinerary of the event
- An introduction, introducing yourself and your book. You can include a little biography about yourself and what inspired the book.
- Any giveaway posts (Giveaways are absolutely optional, but keep in mind that having them will definitely garner more interest)
- Introduction and thank you posts for each guest. I used the free picture-editing sites I mentioned earlier to create images with the text on them. These images can be themed toward your book (as mine were) or you can just use a simple stock background and appropriate font.
Here is an example of my welcome posts, featuring the background from many of the illustrations in my book and two stuffed animals that are in the book.
- If you plan to have videos, you have the option of pre-recorded or live videos. Pre-recorded should be done as early as possible so you can worry about other things. For a live video, it would be a good idea to write out a bulleted list of what you plan on mentioning during the recording so you don’t forget.
- A thank you/end of event post with winners from any giveaways slated to be finished at this time
The last thing you’ll want to make sure you have on hand before the event is a batch of your books. You can order these ahead of time from the printing service. There are times that people, either local or not, will want to buy a book directly from you. If anyone requests to buy a book from you directly, make sure you offer to sign it and personalize it.
To go a little more in-depth about giveaways, there are a bunch of different ideas for the items as well as the methods. You can either have giveaway items that are themed toward your book, with images from your book on them, such a pillow, mug, notebook, or t-shirt. While I prefer this method, since the more the winner uses the item, the more exposure you get, there is also the option of having non-themed giveaways. Non-themed could include anything you think the attendees would want, such as gift cards, jewelry, mugs, or even a basket of items. The giveaways can go for a short period of time, an hour or less, or they can span until the end of (or even days after) the event. If you do have giveaways, I suggest making sure at least one of them is a paperback copy of your book.
There are a few different ways to actually do the giveaways. You can have people like your page and comment on a post, and the winner will be chosen at random, or you can play a game. A few methods:
- Name generator game. There are many variations to this game. It basically starts with you posting an image (either found online or of your own creation) that gives the attendees a “new name” or something similar based on letters in their name or the month they were born. The game I used, since my story is about a monster who is scared of people, was giving the attendees a fear. Here is mine to give you inspiration:
- Thread Story. You start a post with the instructions for everyone to comment and continue the story from the previous comment with only a certain amount of words. You can start it off by adding a character or by simply writing “Once upon a time” as the first comment. You can either tally the results for the person with the most comments to win, or each comment can equal one entry to the giveaway.
- Sharing contest. Each person who shares a post or the event will be entered into a giveaway. You should keep track of these as you get notifications of it by writing it down in a notebook.
- Third party giveaway. This can be done with a multitude of sites. One that I mentioned earlier was Goodreads, but you can also use Amazon. I’m sure there are also many more sites intended for this purpose.
- Jar Guessing Game. You fill a jar with items, and each person has to guess how many items are in the jar. You simply post a picture of it. The person with the closest guess wins.
The key with these giveaway methods is to create fun and interaction in your event. Each time a person comments on or likes a post in your event, some of their friends see that activity. It broadens your event’s reach, which in turn could boost a few extra sales. The most important part of a giveaway is for everyone to have fun, including you. Mix and match methods or create your own game!
You can also offer a special discount for people attending your event, or give them an early announcement for preorders. Making the people attending your event feel special will inspire them to want to participate.
Time slots. As mentioned before, you’re going to want to recruit a few people to take the “floor” during your event. You can schedule them in a variety of ways, depending on how much work you think you’d want to put in. I’ve seen some events where the guests are scheduled in as little as fifteen-minute slots, and some even up to hour-long slots. The shorter the time slot, the more work you’ll be doing by introducing each one as their time comes up, but you’ll also have a lot more guests and all the followers they might bring along. Longer slots allow for fewer guests, but give each of them more of a chance to post more and interact with the attendees.
Reason for guest authors. The biggest purpose of having guest authors is to cross-market, which is a benefit for both you and the guest author. One of the guest author’s responsibilities should be sharing the event on their social media platforms to inform their followers that they’ll be making an appearance at your event. This should bring at least a few new sets of eyes to your book who might not have otherwise seen it. That also goes for the guest author. They get the benefit of being exposed to your (and the other guest authors’) followers.
Selecting guest authors. Take care in how you select your guest authors. The guests don’t necessarily have to be the same genre as your book, but consider the pros and cons of both options before deciding. For example, allowing various genres will increase the number of potential guests, but there may be less interest in certain genres depending on what each attendee is expecting from the event. A person who is attending because they heard about the event from a fantasy author may not be interested in sticking around for any non-fiction segments of your event.
The best way to start a pool of potential candidates would be to first ask any writers you are already friends with. Then, you can drop a post in a few writer groups on Facebook or any other social media platform you are on (just make sure you specify that it’s a Facebook event.)
It might behoove you to have a small questionnaire set up that you could send to anyone who expresses interest in being a guest at your event. Questions would include (but are not limited to):
- How many Facebook events have you participated in as a guest host?
- What is the title and genre of your book?
- Would you be willing to share the event with your followers?
- Would you be interested in doing a giveaway for this event?
There are no wrong answers to these questions, but if you have an abundance of interested applicants, it will help you decide who the best candidates are. A guest who has never participated in an event before (or has minimal experience) will likely be asking you a lot of questions and looking for validation on most of what they’re planning to do. Knowing the title and genre of the book helps to keep your records straight for the introductions, as well as to decide if their work is appropriate to be featured alongside the book you’re launching. You should also ask the guest authors upfront if they’d be willing to give away a paperback or e-book copy of their own book, or provide any other item to be featured as a giveaway. While the answer shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, the more giveaways going on in your event, the more people will be interested in attending.
Questions to ask yourself. To make sure each guest author is a good fit, make sure you consider every aspect of them—not just their answers to the aforementioned questions. Do they take a long time to answer your messages or send back their application? If so, that could be an indication that they might be unreliable with communication or late to their guest spot. Take notice of their general interaction with you; the way they talk to you will most likely be the way they talk to anyone interacting with their posts.
Confirmation of schedule and authors
Once you’ve chosen your guest authors and made a schedule that everyone has approved, make sure you and they understand and agree to uphold the responsibilities both parties hold. The most basic responsibility is that you, as the main host, agree to include them in the itinerary and answer any questions they may have. Their basic responsibility to you will be to make sure they show up on time for their spot and post accordingly to keep the attendees engaged. Additional responsibilities, such as extra instruction, sharing, or fulfilling giveaways, should also be addressed and agreed upon as soon as possible.
Advise your guest hosts to pre-write or record any posts so they have less to worry about when their time has come to be a guest host. For any guest hosts who may want some more support, I put together a small group for the people that participated in my event, and anyone is welcome to join and ask for more advice at the Guest Host Idea Exchange.
This is everything you’ll need to prepare your book launch event. In the next post, I’ll cover promoting and advertising the event, as well as what to expect and what to do when things go wrong on your special day.
It happens, so it’s good to have a backup plan. You can read the next post here.