Hacks for Hacks - sense of humor requiredWarning: Hacks for Hacks tips may have harmful side effects on your writing career, and should not be used by minors, adults, writers, poets, scribes, scriveners, journalists, or anybody.

Well, well, WELL, look who’s got a book coming out? What started out as some chickenscratch on a napkin has culminated in a published book with a cover and paragraphs and everything. This calls for a celebration. A book launch is your chance to inflate your ego, generate some buzz, and to show your doubting parents that those rent-free months in their basement weren’t for nothing. If you’re going to throw a shindig, though, don’t just set out some Cool Ranch Doritos and two-liter bottles of pop. You owe it to your career to make this the social event of the season. I’m going to show you how.

Planning

Set a Budget: Precisely calculate costs for food, alcohol, decorations, pens for signing books, and giveaway bookmarks. Once you’ve got that total, tack on 40% or so since you know you’ll go over budget anyway.

Theme: Choose a theme that relates to your book. Is it historical fiction? Period-inspired clothing is all the rage. Literary fiction? Set up tables where attendees can smoke cigarettes and contemplate the constant daily dehumanization inflicted by modern life. Military science fiction? Have some guys with guns burst into the room without warning. Ha ha, what fun!

Invitations: Like any good party, you can’t have just ANYBODY showing up. Limit invitations to whoever happens to be on your Facebook friends list. Don’t bother with real-life invitations–you’ve burned out all your real-life friendships by asking them to beta-read your novel.

Reserve a Space: Bookstores are great because they sell books. You also sell books. This is not rocket science. Still, you’ll want to be sure you get your preferred date and time, so book the venue, at minimum, an hour or two before the party.

Precisely calculate costs for food, alcohol, decorations, pens for signing books, and giveaway bookmarks. Once you’ve got that total, tack on 40% or so since you know you’ll go over budget anyway.

Refreshments:

  • Drinks: Make your life easy and get a keg. Kegs are great because they’re economical and have no labels, so nobody will question you if you say the Natty Light is Stella Artois. If you want something classier than beer foam in red Solo cups (my MY, aren’t we FANCY?), you can magically improve the taste of any beer merely by adding umlauts to the label with a Sharpie. Those bottles of Coörs or Büd Lïght Lïme sound kinda swanky all of a sudden, don’t they?
  • Food: Taco bar.
book signing

photo by Swansea Photographer

At the Event

It’s time to set up and meet your adoring public.

Have a Drink: This is your big day, you need to take the edge off.

Make an Entrance: My favorite part of a football game is when the team takes the field while the school fight song plays. Achieve a similar effect by hiring a marching band to play as you triumphantly enter the party. Bonus: Those hundred-odd extra people really fill out an empty room.

Remember to ask how to spell each person’s name. Or just write in cursive so they can’t read it anyway.

Meet the Help: This isn’t an important day only for you. Don’t forget you’re helping the bookstore, too, being a real, live author whose books are stocked on their shelves. I’m not saying to walk around like you own the place…even though it IS authors like yourself whose works keep their lights on and pay their debt-ridden English-major employees. Goodness knows some extra buzz from a big-shot like you might mean the difference between them eking out another month in the dying print industry, or seeing their business swallowed up in the jungles of the Amazon. Oh, what’s that, Mr. Staff? Can you get me anything? Uh, maybe that water I asked for five minutes ago? I mean, as long as doing your job isn’t a big hassle or anything.

Have a Drink: The guests are about to arrive, and you’re more charismatic when you’ve had a couple.

Mingle: Meet them! Greet them! These people are here to see you, so don’t be afraid to talk about your book. They say you’re never more than three feet from a spider. So, too, should you keep every conversation within eight words of discussing your magnificent book, wrapping your new friend in an inescapable literary cocoon where they await their fate (by which I mean, your book).

Have a Drink: You’re giving your reading next, and you need a nip of courage to beat back your crippling stage fright.

Give a Reading: Remember to project. Speak from your diaphragm. I’m not a doctor, so I don’t know where that is, exactly, so Google that before you speak from it. Also, work on your character voices. I have a stable of five that work for any reading: normal voice, old guy, female, dog, and carnival barker.

Sign Some Books: This is the part where you really feel like you’ve hit the big time. Remember to ask how to spell each person’s name. Or just write in cursive so they can’t read it anyway. Did you know that if Stephen King misspells your name, it legally becomes the correct spelling? Something to shoot for at your next book launch.

Have a Drink: You did it! Your book is now in the wild, and people are talking about it and buying it. Drink a toast to this great accomplishment! A drink will also stop you from grinding your teeth over how you blew half your advance on a party that sold fourteen books.

Want to share some party tips of your own? Help out your fellow authors by leaving a comment.

About Bill Ferris

After college, Bill Ferris left Nebraska for Florida to become a rich and famous rock star. Failing that, he picked up the pen to become a rich and famous novelist. He now lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife, Jen, and his sons, Elliott and Wyatt, and he looks forward to a life of poverty and ridicule.