Your Virtual Book Launch: Make It the Party You Want!

Do you recognize the now iconic lament of Lesley Gore’s 1963 hit:

“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to!”

Those words — and more importantly, that assertive attitude — form the basis for the motto I’m using to plan the virtual book launch for my next novel, Winter Light (Oct. 6, 2020, Vine Leaves Press):

“It’s my party and I’ll do what I want to!”

All too often it’s easy for writers to forego such a celebration, not only because we tend to be introverted, so being the focus of an online event seems both personally and technologically terrifying.

Therefore it’s necessary to remind ourselves why this party matters:

  1. You’ve worked long and hard on your book! You deserve to celebrate along with all of the people — friends, family, fans — who’ve supported you along the way.

  2. A virtual party that can reach friends and readers around the world is a great way to increase your initial sales, especially now that more publishers are marketing to a worldwide audience.

  3. You can always add a physical book launch party if and when that makes sense.

Vision

What kind of party do you want? Big and splashy with loads of people and prizes and activities like author K.B. Jensen’s writes about in her article How to Throw a Virtual Book Launch Using Facebook Live on JaneFriedman.com? Or a smaller, more casual gathering of friends, family and followers? Or somewhere in between?

Personality

Rather than pick an option based on what you feel pressured to do, ask what kind of event will suit your personality and that you’ll have fun carrying out. Nobody likes a stressed-out, no-fun party host!

Some of us authors are natural celebrities who feel comfortable in front of a camera and can address strangers as though they’re old friends. Some of us are quiet souls who’d simply like to do a reading and thank those who helped in some way toward the completion of the book.

My gig will be somewhere in between. While I have a lot of stage experience — musicals, choirs and dance recitals — I have no dreams of being a rock star and am only so technically savvy.

Pick a virtual venue where you’ll be comfortable

Chatting

If the prospect of being on camera in front of people you don’t know is daunting, you can invite them to visit your Facebook author page during a certain time and date.

After typing a welcome to those who show up, you can answer questions through written dialogue. In turn, people can send you congratulations filled with emojis.

But typing exchanges takes awhile and starves your guests of what they really want, to see your happy face!

Live Streaming

Live streaming options abound:

  1. Zoom

  2. YouTube

  3. Facebook Live

  4. Instagram Live

  5. JoinMe

  6. WebEx

  7. Discord

Many of these venues are free, while others may charge a monthly subscription fee. All are fairly easy to use. But a lot can go wrong if you don’t thoroughly check out the system. Specifically:

  1. Will most of your guests have the software installed on their computers? If you send them a link to install the software, will they have the time or feel comfortable doing so?

  2. Are you comfortable with the viewpoint? For example, on Facebook Live, you stare into the camera and see a view of yourself. Those who visit text their comments, which you read off of the screen and comment about. Do you like that setup, or would you rather be able to see and hear your guests, as you would on Zoom?

  3. Check the audio well ahead of time. I was going to use Facebook Live, but when I used the platform for an event, the audio kept going in and out, a problem I couldn’t solve.

  4. If you’re using a platform such as Zoom, check out all of the bells and whistles. Do you want to allow people to wait in the virtual room until you arrive? Do you want to mute your guests, or allow them to talk? What if people having trouble getting in? Do you have someone on hand to troubleshoot so you won’t be distracted?

  5. Do you have the connectivity to support the venue? Nobody likes glitchy images!

If you want to explore other options, check out the 7 Free Living Streaming Sites by Alexander Bychock on Restream. Keep in mind new technical options are coming online every year, so doing a search for the latest and greatest is always in order.

Party Details: When and How Long?

While words of wisdom abound on the internet regarding the perfect day, time and length for an online event, there is no such thing.

Like any celebration you host, think about what will work best for the people you most want to attend.

Day of Week

Remind yourself that this is an online event and therefore lacks the promise of physical fun tied to an in-person party. People won’t want to be on their computers on a weekend, which is typically reserved for family activities and errands. So consider choosing a weekday and preferably Tuesday through Thursday, since people tend to be overwhelmed on Mondays, and Fridays are considered part of the weekend.

Time of day

Dedicated as your followers are, they won’t be able to attend during work. So consider an evening time that spans a