Archive for May, 2013



copyright 2013 by Sherry Garland

Voices of Pearl Harbor

Voices of Pearl Harbor

I recently planned the book launch for my latest picture book, VOICES OF PEARL HARBOR. Even though this is my thirtieth published book, it was the first time I went all out to have a launch party. Afterwards, I analyzed the results and made a list of things I did right and things I did wrong. Hopefully you will find some of these things useful for your own book launch.

Here are things to consider:

1) Location:  I live in a mid-sized college town. There are a lot of people milling around, but let’s face it, college students will not buy children’s books. There is only one bookstore in town and it is not known for its exciting book parties. So, I decided to have the book launch in Houston where I lived for 23 years and where I still have a larger base to draw from, especially the Houston Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). I chose a bookstore where several published members of SCBWI have launched their books so it was a location already familiar to most people. Also, the illustrator of this book lives in Houston. It is rare that both the author and illustrator can sign the same book, so that was a plus. The negative was that the round trip travel distance was 200 miles, so that used up about $35 in gas right there.

2) Theme: Most parties have a theme, whether it be a birthday or Halloween. book launch -- DebraA book launch is like a mini-party so it will be more appealing if you have a theme, usually the topic of the book you are launching. Since my book was about Pearl Harbor, our theme was a Hawaiian luau. People were encouraged to wear tropical shirts and festive clothing. I wore a Hawaiian shirt and the illustrator dressed like a WWII sailor.

3) Decorations:  The dollar store is your friend. I found a Hawaiianyellow plastic table cover, plates, saucers and colorful plastic utensils for $1.00 each. At the Card and Party Store I found plastic leis on sale for .19 cents. I bought a few fancier ones for $1.00 each for the author, illustrator and store personnel to wear. I also bought a pack of multi-colored balloons for $1.00. The illustrator brought two grass skirts that he bought at a Goodwill store. All these items added up to about fifteen dollars. In hindsight, I would not have bought quite so much stuff, but I now have enough decorations left over to have another book party here in this smaller town, later in the year.

4) Food:  Again, the food should tie in with the theme, if possible. The food should be finger foods or a cake that isn’t IMG_1360too messy, out of consideration for the clients and the bookstore carpets. Since we had a Hawaiian theme, I made yellow Hawaiian hibiscus flowers to put on top of chocolate cupcakes. I also baked a pineapple cake and served fresh pineapple chunks. And of course, Hawaiian punch. In hindsight, I would not have served so much food and I would have bought the cupcakes at the local grocery store instead of baking them myself. I love cake decorating and enjoyed making the hibiscus flowers, but it was very time consuming. We had a lot of left-over dessert that my husband and I have been eating — thus the recent gain of two pounds.

5) Promotion:  Start the promotion about a month before the event (a save-the-date kind of notice), then two weeks later, then a week before, then a couple of days before. Send the notice to your Facebook friends, writer organizations, your listservs, and e-mail your family and friends who may not be on the lists. I found Facebook to be the most beneficial and the one that attracted the most attention because I included photos, not just of the book cover, but of the decorations and the food. I think it helped to get people into a festive mood.

6) The unexpected: Sometimes things happen that are out of your control. The day before the launch, torrential rains hit this area. We had 6″ of rain at my house the day before the event and Houston had flooded streets. Luckily by the time of the launch, it had cleared out, but a couple of people told me ahead of time they would not come because of the weather. Conflicting events often occur. My launch turned out to be the same day as graduation at several area colleges and some folks had to decline my book launch because of that. Try to check the local calendar of events before booking your book launch. For example, if yours is a children’s book, make sure the launch is not the same day as the local SCBWI annual conference!!

7) Results: Since this was my first book lauch, I’m not sure what is considered good results. Non-fiction typically does IMG_1363not sell as well as fiction and a topic like the attack on Pearl Harbor has limited appeal. I know that all the people who attended, did so to show their support for the author and illustrator, not to buy the book for a child. Seventeen people participated with fourteen books sold. The publisher tells me that is considered a good event. Would I do it again? Probably. Since I only made about $7.00 in royalties, it was a loss financially. But not every event can be judged solely on a net profit basis. Like any party, I enjoyed seeing family and friends. And just knowing that people came out to show their support made it worthwhile. 


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