Thursday, October 29, 2015

Anatomy of an Indie Book Launch Party

By Dario Ciriello

Part of the Indie Author Series

As regular readers of my posts here will know, I believe that real world, face-to-face networking and promotion is both more effective and more time-efficient for a writer than using social media. So with the upcoming release of my new novel, I’m putting a good deal of effort into a big, real world launch party.

Here are my thoughts on the benefits, and some advice on how to go about having a successful book release event.

The Benefits 

  • Enthusiasm is contagious 
  • Face time with your potential readers
  • Sharing food and drink promotes goodwill and warmth with your potential audience 
  • Opportunity for live reading and some backstory on your novel, collection etc. 
  • Opportunity to sell and sign/dedicate print copies 
  • Enthused guests will evangelize for you to their friends and colleagues (it’s a known fact that the #1 reason people buy a book is via personal recommendation)

Venue and Staffing

If you plan to serve alcohol, you may run into several rules about licenses, insurances, staffing, etc. if you hire or a hall or library room. Your choices will then come down to holding your launch in a place which already serves alcohol (a local pub or restaurant) or in your home. I’m opting for home.

You’ll need at least one person, preferably three to four (friends or family members) available before the event for prep, and during the event to help keep things tidy, staff the book table, run to the liquor store if you run low on something, and of course to help you clean up after.


If you’re holding this at home, you’ll probably be having more guests than can comfortably fit at once. Consider making your launch an extended, open-house event so that numbers spread out over time (this also makes it easier for people to fit it into their day). In the case of my upcoming party, I’m holding it on a Saturday from 2pm to 6pm, with 10-15 minute readings at 3:30 and 5:30.

What to Serve

At a minimum, provide food, and make it good. Try to not just serve chips and dips and cookies. You can find affordable party platters at supermarkets, etc., but far better (and cheaper!) is to make your own, or draft in friends who are good in the kitchen. The more memorable the eats, the more goodwill you’ll generate.

Alcohol is a personal choice, but I wouldn’t even consider a book event without it. A bottle of wine pours six glasses, so plan on a bottle for every four guests (some won’t drink, others will have 2-3 glasses); you can get perfectly good event wine for between $7 and $10 a bottle. Have water and soft drinks as well, and a few cases of mixed beers.


Make a guest list to include all your friends and family (and those of your partner), as well as any work colleagues, acquaintances, etc. Don’t be indiscriminate, focus on people who at least read occasionally.

Assuming you pick a sensible date (not midweek or too close to major holidays, etc.), probably between 40% and 60% of those you invite will show up—rarely less or more. So if you want to have fifty people (I would make that a minimum), you should invite a hundred. Encourage people to bring friends who read, but make sure everyone invited RSVPs well in advance. You can use a free service like Evite for invitations and tracking. Send out invitations between 4 and 6 weeks ahead, with reminders 7-10 days before the event).

If you’re prepping your own food, serving alcohol, and using plastic cups, plates, etc., budget on around $7 a person. If you’re going really fancy, you might hit $9-$10.

Your Reading

Do at least one (in the case of a longer, open house event, two) reading. I would keep it short, around ten minutes, Choose a riveting excerpt, and if necessary preface it with a very short intro on how you came to write the book, and give your audience context. Be concise and upbeat in your delivery—remember this is a party.

Immediately after your reading, tell your audience your book is available online as an ebook and that also you have signed print books available (see below), and that you’ll be happy to write a personal dedication. You might also briefly mention the importance of reviews to an indie author, and suggest they might leave a brief review somewhere if they enjoy the book.

Books and Prizes

Contests and giveaways are always a fun draw, so have door prizes in the form of a raffle or draw. These could be previous books of yours, an Amazon or B&N gift card, an inexpensive ereader, or something else book-related. You should definitely have signed print copies of your books available and on display, perhaps at a small discount (no more than 20% or you start looking desperate). Be sure to mention them immediately after your reading, and with luck somewhere between a third and two-thirds of guests will buy one.

Have a mailing list signup form on your book table as well as a stack of printed bookmarks, book postcards, or other freebies. Add the cost of contest prizes, printing books and giveaways, etc., to your initial budget, though the books will very likely more than pay for themselves.


Have someone taking pictures so that you can post them on your blog or social media, or your newsletter if you have one. Following up by emailing pictures (but only good ones!) of individual attendees to them will remind them of the fun they had and generate further goodwill.

Consider webcasting your party or least your reading(s). It’s not hard to do with a laptop or strategically-positioned webcam, and that way your friends on social media and those who can’t make it will also have the option of virtually attending. Though they won’t be able to share in the food and drink, they’ll feel part of your event and, thus, your book.

To conclude, do everything you can to make the event fun. If people have a good time and get enthused, they’ll buy your book (and maybe a copy for a friend), they’ll talk you up, they’ll evangelize. The goodwill and enthusiasm of your readers is worth more than any amount of advertising or promotion or social media. Have fun and make it a day to remember!

Dario’s supernatural thriller, Black Easter will be released on December 5, 2015. Read an excerpt here.

About Black Easter

It’s Resurrection Time.

San Francisco antique dealer Paul Hatzis sells his business and rents an old house on the small Greek island of Vóunos. What he doesn’t know is that the house, which has a sinister reputation with the locals, was previously owned by black magician Dafyd Jones who—along with his seer companion Magda O’Whelan, and Klaus Maule, a seriously disturbed colonel in the Waffen SS—made a deal with the demonic, culminating in their planned bodily deaths during the final ritual in 1944.

In return for a lifetime of service on the frontier of Outer Hell, where all the demons of Hell fight a desperate, eternal battle against inconceivable powers that would consume both the human and demonic spheres, Jones and his companions will be reborn on Earth as powerful immortals…if they don’t go mad first.

As Easter approaches, Paul is preparing to celebrate the biggest holiday of the Greek calendar with his girlfriend, Elleni, and Alex, his adored 18-year old niece. But with the biblical threescore years and ten now up, the magician and his two colleagues are being called back from Hell by the ritual artifact they buried deep in the cellar of Paul’s house.

And all they need are three living human bodies…

Dario Ciriello is a professional author and freelance editor, and the founder of Panverse Publishing. His nonfiction book, Aegean Dream, the bittersweet memoir of a year spent on the small Greek island of Skópelos (the real "Mamma Mia!" island), was a UK travel bestseller in 2012 and has recently been published in Poland. His first novel, Sutherland's Rules, a crime caper/thriller, was published in 2013. Free Verse and Other Stories, a collection of Dario's short Science Fiction work, was released in June 2014. He is currently working on his second novel, another thriller. Dario has also edited and copyedited over a dozen novels, as well as three critically-acclaimed novella anthologies. He lives with his wife in the Los Angeles Area.


  1. Thanks! Perfect timing - I was toying with the idea of a book launch for my next novel and you just sold me!! My house, with wine, and a tie-in with my birthday - I'll send you an invite!! ;)

    1. Hi Holly ~

      So glad the timing worked for you! And a birthday, too? OMG, Pity you're so far from L.A.! But do send the invite and I'll be there in spirit :) Wishing you every possible success with both party and novel,


  2. Hi! I love launch parties - who wouldn't? But I'm interested in your overall view that face to face networking is better than social media - there must be times when that doesn't apply. For example, I'm a UK-based author writing for two US-based publisher with mainly US audiences. So... still true, or am I the exception that proves the rule?!

    1. Hi Stephanie ~

      And absolutely, you have to extend your reach somehow. And I'm not saying social media is bad, only that I think in terms of ROI (time investment) it's much less effective than other means, like realworld networking and opt-in mailing lists. moreover, I think that many authors misuse social media and rely too much on it, with the result they sink way too much of their time into it and sometimes even alienate people through constantly posting about their books.

      That said, I do know a few authors--and curiously they're all Romance authors--who excel with social media and really engage their readers and fans while ever mentioning their books. But these are also authors who turn out a book every three months or so, so the pot stays on the boil as it were.

      I should also point out that I'm in the big minority in my opinions about social media (if you scroll back through the indie author series archive here you'll find other posts of mine on the topic). If social works for you as a promotional tool, that's great. And when your readership is an ocean away, it's a great way to keep them engaged. In the end, what I'm really saying is that I think too many writers, especially those who haven't built a big audience yet, rely on it far too much, and often to the exclusion of more traditional networking and promotional techniques.


    2. *Errata: that should read, "...while *never* mentioning their books." (in para #2)

  3. Thanks for your thoughtful and balanced response. I see your point, and also why you didn't explain it at such length in the original article!!! And don't worry about the typo - I should have written 'publishers' in my original response - we do have plurals in the UK too ;-) I was just typing a bit too fast!

    1. Haha yes! All blog comments are really first draft, but the editor in us won't give up ;-)

      And you're so welcome, glad I was able to clarify :)


  4. Great advice. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks so much, Lily :) I took a look at your website and followed some of your links; you write cogently and well. I'm a big fan of poetry myself and enjoyed some of your reflections on poetry and magical realism.


  5. Thanks so much, Lily :) I took a look at your website and followed some of your links; you write cogently and well. I'm a big fan of poetry myself and enjoyed some of your reflections on poetry and magical realism.