Feeling the love – Making the most of local book launch events

As I prepared for the launch of my historical novel Go Away Home, I wondered how much the world had changed. Since publishing my memoir as a paperback in 2008, ebooks have proliferated, social media connects the world. Would local launches even be relevant?

Now that the local events are over, I can say the basic strategies of “events, placement and promotion” I blogged about a couple of years ago for doing local launch events are still sound. I’ve refined a few things, and I’m basking in the glow of a successful launch.

I scheduled four events – three in eastern Iowa where I grew up, an area that serves as the setting for much of the novel, and one in Des Moines where I live now.

Libraries, Bookstores & the Historical Society

Preston book Launch 1

Sharing the history of memoir and fiction at the Preston Public Library.

The library in my hometown hosted a large event where I reconnected with friends who enjoyed my memoir and remembered our family fondly. This was my first change to try out my “Writing History” talk. The book talk and Q&A lasted an hour and a half. Another library event in the next county allowed me to connect with more people and maximize my time in the area.

The Jackson County Historical Society – one of my research resources – invited me to speak at their annual meeting. I refined the talk, read a couple of short sections from the book, and shared tidbits of Iowa history I’d learned in doing research for the novel.

Connecting with friends at a launch party for "Go Away Home"

Connecting with friends at a launch party for “Go Away Home”

In Des Moines, my event was at Beaverdale Books, an independent bookstore that was the first to carry my memoir. This event drew a wonderful cross section of people from my life: neighborhood, church, public relations, reading and writing, plus people I didn’t know who’d come to the event because they’d heard about it in the media. For this event, I pared the book talk to 15-20 minutes. Talking with friends old and new, signing books, enjoying a glass of wine. Wonderful!

Where to buy books?

In addition to having books at the events, I made sure books were available in advance of the events and the media promotion.

My home counties are largely rural, so I placed books with the local pharmacies and the historical society, in addition to the one small bookstore. Many people came to the events having already read the book. In Des Moines, I made sure both independent bookstores had copies on their shelves.

Unlike when my memoir was published, with the launch of Go Away Home, I was already live on Amazon, and Barnes & Noble was able to order.

Getting the word out

My marketing background kicks into overdrive for things like this. I created a media kit and made it available on my website. I started contacting media more than a month in advance of the events. This was important for two reasons. In the rural counties, some of the newspapers are weeklies so the deadlines are further out. In a large city like Des Moines, the competition for space is great and the media book time weeks in advance.

The overall news hook of a woman following her dream is a theme from the novel that is playing out in my life as I write and publish my books. I also added other hooks I hoped would appeal to the media: local author, historical fiction set in Iowa, centenary of WWI, successful memoir.  The scheduled events gave the news urgency – a reason to run the story NOW.

I also increased the sophistication of my email marketing. I segmented my email list, sending out “save the date” and reminder emails to people in each market.

The results?

  • The combined events drew in close to 200 people
  • The major newspapers in Jackson and Clinton Counties carried features in print and online editions. I was interviewed live on radio.
  • In Des Moines, the Des Moines Register included my event in the Sunday Arts & Entertainment section “Pick 6″ column; I was interviewed on KCCI-TV at noon, and the Business Record focused on me in their e-newsletter and online editions.
  • Momentum. The buzz around these events has led to scheduling other events. People are reading the book and talking about it on social media. Reviews are getting posted.
  • Best of all? I connected with so many people. After working so hard for so long to bring Go Away Home to fruition, the reward is putting it into peoples’ hands.

Soon I’ll blog about the virtual book launch that’s been going on in cyberspace this month. For now, I’m happy feeling the local love. 

Comments

  1. Hi Carol,

    Thanks for sharing your local book launch with us. Successful authors must implement a marketing plan, and you’ve given us some good tips any author can use in their areas.

    I look forward to learning about your virtual book launch.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      To those of us who think marketing, this all may seem basic. That it all worked in an age of social media reinforced to me that no matter what the tools, basic strategy has to be the foundation. Thanks for dropping by, Flora.

  2. Wish I could have been there, Carol. While I accept that we live in a cyber/virtual world, I go to LOTS of live author events. There’s still nothing like actually meeting the person behind the pages. My own book launch was—at risk of sounding corny—a dream come true for me. Yeah, I sold some books. Yeah, it had some commercial value. But mostly, it was just a celebration of an accomplishment and sharing it with my community. There are plenty of icky marketing things we have to do, but the book launch should be fun!

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      You hit it exactly, Betsy – “a celebration of an accomplishment and sharing it with my community.” That is the way I felt. And it felt great to have so many people come to celebrate with me.

  3. It’s a power combination; to write a compelling poignant book and launch a successful marketing campaign. Not for the weak of heart, either of these. More and wonderful success is sure to follow along the path your beautiful book is taking. So glad to have read it. A wonderful read. Love, Paulette

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      It does take both. After having my head in the writing game for so long, getting back into marketing is an adjustment challenge. Like riding a bicycle, though …

      Thanks for your ongoing support of my writing, Paulette. I so appreciate it.

  4. I missed the launches in eastern Iowa, but I can attest to the “love” that Carol’s audience showed at the Des Moines / Beaverdale event. It was a great place to be that Friday night!

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      I’m so glad you were there on Friday, Mary. You walked with me the entire writing/publishing journey. It’s been a great trip!

  5. Congratulations Carol. Great to see you achieving the success you deserve.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Thanks, David. And thanks for your help along the way as I’ve made this journey. You and your books “Tan” and “Golden Grave” have inspired me.

  6. What a helpful blog post for all who will follow you into this combo of memoir/novel launch. It was a stroke of genius to launch just as the centennial year of WWI brought that era to mind in the traditional media. Your background in pr and marketing has proven so useful to your new career in publishing and speaking. The quality of your writing will now carry the book out into the world when each reader tells another. Congratulations!

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      I count myself lucky to have my PR and marketing background. You make a really important point, about each reader telling another. Wish I knew how to make that happen! It does start with having a book someone WANTS to read. Thanks for your encouragement, Shirley.

  7. Did the TV show lead to other interviews? I know that being interviewed by the OC Register gave me a huge boost, and people still talk about the article two years later. I’m sure it’s been the same for you. Well done.

    • Carol Bodensteiner says:

      Not yet this time, Sonia. When The Des Moines Register did a story on my memoir some years ago, that led to bookstores ordering my book and libraries inviting me to speak. That article really made my memoir take off. I’d hoped for such a feature in the Register for my novel. I didn’t land that but did get a mention in the Register and good coverage in the Business Record. I got great feature coverage in eastern Iowa. I haven’t given up. I look at it as a process, not a one-time effort.

  8. Thanks much for all the tips and information about successful book launch. Much appreciated!

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