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!”
“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:
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.
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.
You can always add a physical book launch party if and when that makes sense.
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?
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
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 options abound:
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:
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?
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?
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.
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?
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 decent range of time zones.
I’m on the West Coast of the U.S. I want to be sure my relatives on the East Coast can come, despite the 3-hour time difference, so I’ll choose 5 p.m. my time. Friends in my area will most likely be able to get off of work a little early, or come to the event a little later, while 8 p.m. for my West Coast peeps won’t be too late.
Length of time
Make your party long enough so people can drop in when they can, but not so long you’re worried about how to fill the time. I’m aiming for an hour.
In between moments where you encourage people to purchase your book — be sure to let them know how — plan to entertain them, because what’s a party without activities? That and those actions keep you busy.
When choosing what to do, again consider what sounds fun and manageable for you and that will help you connect with readers and sell books.
Before you decide, check out the dozens of suggestions online, like those described in the article in 7 Steps to a Virtual Book Launch Even If You Don’t Have an Audience (Yet) on Author Unlimited.
Here are a few:
read from your book
answer questions about the book
read segments of positive reviews that illuminate topics in your story that you can then elaborate on
create a trivia contest where the winner gets a book
If you’re a good singer or musician, sing your audience a song. Or read them poetry. If your at-home partners or pets are willing, introduce them.
For ideas that include a little more technical savvy, return to K.B Jensen’s article.
When you invite people, don’t forget to tell them about what you’ve got planned.
Arrange a guaranteed fan club
You’ll of course invite those on your mailing list as well as all of your social media friends.
But you don’t want to worry about waiting online until someone shows up. So send a special invite to your close friends and family to ask who’s willing to arrive at the start of the party to get the ball rolling.
If they volunteer, take care of them:
If they’re not used to attending online events, or find technology daunting, give them easy instructions for how to reach the event and participate. If they sound unsure, arrange a dress rehearsal.
Ask them to bring 5 questions or comments to get the dialogue started.
I wanted to try a Facebook Live event, so I arranged a 40-min. Q&A for my first novel, The Wind Thief.
I practiced the night before by setting my phone to Facebook Live, but I didn’t hit start. That allowed me to see myself on camera. Then I rehearsed everything about the event, which showed what I needed to consider:
Location: I chose to broadcast from my writing desk in my office. I had to move a variety of things behind me — a hula hoop and a pair of skis — so people wouldn’t be distracted. I also had to close the window to block lawnmower and other outside sounds.
Camera angle: I chose a camera position where I wouldn’t be looking down on people, nor would they be able to see up my nose. Then I needed a prop that could reliably hold my phone in the right position without falling.
Appearance: While I love the natural light by a window, I looked washed out and so decided to wear makeup, which I rarely do. And while I love my favorite hoodie, it made me look like a bum, so I tried on a variety of things until I found what looked good on camera. Then I did the same for my hair.
Actions: I practiced addressing people while looking at my gestures and listening to my tone.
Facebook Live, and most likely other livestream choices, allow you to choose an “only me” privacy setting where you can record the practice session and play it back without anyone seeing.
Unless you’re an experienced broadcaster, your first video will be alarming. That’s the reason to practice! You’ll gradually become more comfortable and see what works. The end goal is to look and sound like yourself and be sincere when you talk to people.
The last step is to decorate! Find out how to include graphics that state the name of the event, welcome people and feature your book. Facebook, for example, offers an Online Facebook Banner Maker you can affix to the top of your page.
Too often hosts spend so much time planning and carrying out their parties that they forget to have fun. So relax and remind yourself that you invested so much effort in this book, you deserve to celebrate with those who’ve supported you thus far.
If you’d like updates about Winter Light, The Wind Thief or Growing Great Characters From the Ground Up, please visit my website and up for my newsletter!