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'Tis the Season for Book Parties

The holidays are rolling around, and that means celebrations, parties, and fetes. (Oh, don’t even step on a scale; why ruin a good thing?) So what better time than to check out what hostesses with the mostest are doing to make their festivities memorable? Then you can apply what you learn to your own book release party (and bookstore/school visits) this year.

I saw a few bloggers talking about Dia Calhoun’s party in October for her new YA fantasy, AVIELLE OF RHIA. Well, believe it or not, great launch parties don’t have to be budget-breakers to get people’s attention. For the last 6 years, I’ve done pro bono consulting for non-profit groups, ranging from one of the world’s leading cancer research centers to itty bitty start-ups like one helping families with terminally ill babies. So with my 9 other partners, we’ve done a lot of consulting on fundraising auctions.

Here’s what I learned about creating functions that will celebrate the people who supported you while you toiled at your computer, announce your book to the world, and won’t break your budget:

Tip 1:  Use electronic invites. Everybody probably already knows about this website, but I highly recommend www.evite.com. The electronic invitations are beautiful and easy to customize with your book cover. Even better, the website makes it super easy to track RSVPs—especially when you’re managing a huge guest list. Also, there’s an option for guests to forward the evite on to others, if you wanted your event to be as big as possible.

Tip 2:  Pick a theme based on your book and stick with it. Once you’ve arrived at a theme, you’ll build everything around that (food, music, decorations, etc.). For instance, for my launch party, I picked an east-west motif since my book features a mixed race teen. Dia played up the medieval aspect of her novel.

Tip 3:  Have plenty of food and drinks. The nibbles don’t have to be elaborate, just plentiful and bite-sized. Those ubiquitous crudite and cheese platters are always good. And always offer something sweet. I tried to tie my food into my east-west theme and had skewers and spring rolls. And then I served mochi ice cream for dessert.

Tip 4. If music be the food of love, play on. Definitely have tunes in the background.  A girlfriend of mine created a playlist for me, music inspired by my book. We cut the music when I was speaking, and then amped it back up afterwards for the signing portion.

Tip 5.  Podcast away. I invited a podcaster, Art Spencer of www.bookvoyages.com to podcast my book launch. He was super easy to work with. That way, the book launch was available on the web for anyone who wants to hear you read from the book. And I had him interview a few teens who had read the ARC beforehand. If you don't know of a local podcaster, check with a high school's journalism class. Potentially someone from there will cover your event.

Tip 6.  Plan a handful of activities to give everyone something fun to do. Dia held a scavenger hunt in the store where she planted a book around the store. The winner won an autographed collection of all her books. I held a mini Math Olympiad at my party with math problems that one of my friends, Al Lippert (hubby of the wonderful author and storyteller Meg Lippert), created and managed. I found a website that sold gigantic, one-pounder fortune cookies dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with sugar the same color as my book cover. That became the prize AND centerpiece decoration. As well, since a fortune-teller opens my book, one of my friends, Jilly Eddy, a lipsologist, offered to do two hours of lip print reading for me. So think fun and different.

Tip 7:  Decorate a la your book. Whatever your book is about, you can find some creative way to decorate the party venue. For instance, I hung vividly colored Chinese lanterns around the bookstore. For someone who wrote a book about a basketball player, they might bring in one of those mobile basketball hoops (and create a book display around it).

Also, for those who feel like channeling their inner Martha, I printed tiny versions of my book cover and glued them onto votive candle holders. Then I sprinkled black azuki beans around the candles for a hip eastern look.

Tip 8:  Remember the party favors. I think it’s nice for guests to leave with something, and I’m not just talking about our books. One of my designing friends created bookmarks for me as a gift. So to jazz them up so they looked like a party favor, I went to www.buttonarcade.com and ordered 3 button designs, one with my book title, one with Hi-YAH!, and one with Kung Fu Kick Ass Club. All I had to do was clip the buttons onto the bookmark. Voila! A present.

Tip 9:  Make sure you have someone take lots of pictures. Be sure to get a photo of yourself with the bookstore owner and some guests. For sure send it in to Publishers Weekly.

Tip 10:  Enjoy yourself and thank all your friends! The book party was like a wedding. So just make sure to eat beforehand, toast your friends and family whose support you’ve leaned upon as your book emerged sentence-by-sentence, and enjoy yourself. 


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 29th, 2006 08:00 am (UTC)
Sounds like a great time. Thanks for the tips.
Nov. 29th, 2006 08:56 pm (UTC)
Let me know how your next book party goes! I'd love to hear.
Nov. 30th, 2006 12:37 am (UTC)
I'm sorry...I didn't realize that my post was so misleading until I read it again. It was definitely unintentional.

I'm getting ready to query on my first novel. I hope I can have a book party someday. :>) It has a Caribbean setting, so that would be a fun theme.

I do enjoy reading your journal, and I just wanted to let you know!
Nov. 30th, 2006 06:09 am (UTC)
Hey Christine. I'm sure that a book party is right around the corner for you. YES...the Caribbean would be a great, great theme. I can hear the steel drums already. (Thanks for letting me know you enjoy my journal. That means so much to me since I don't know if my rambling helps anyone.)
Nov. 30th, 2006 07:34 am (UTC)
I'm sure it does. You have a lot of professional information. I'm learning a lot from LJ.

Thanks for the encouraging words!
Nov. 30th, 2006 06:11 am (UTC)
Hey Justina, I just found your blog. I met you at the summer SCBWI in L.A. and enjoyed attending one of your sessions. I read some of your back posts. Great Blog. Thanks! I gave the autographed book I got from you to my daughter on her birthday in October. She loved it.
Dec. 2nd, 2006 01:48 am (UTC)
Hey David, I remember you! Thanks so much (again) for getting my book. Yay, I'm so glad we reconnected in cyberland.
Dec. 1st, 2006 03:21 pm (UTC)
These are all good pieces of advice. But have you used MyPunchbowl for electronic invitations? Much better than evite. You can create an account for free at http://www.mypunchbowl.com
Dec. 2nd, 2006 01:48 am (UTC)
Re: MyPunchbowl.com
Ooooh...I've never used Punchbowl. I'll check them out and report back. Thanks for the tip.
Dec. 31st, 2006 11:49 am (UTC)
book party
I just started my own blog, bitty book bites, and I am inspired to host a children's book swap.

As a Kindergarten teacher, many of the ideas you shared on your site for hosting a book party have already entered my head and made it to my planning list. Can't wait to have my party! I liked the party favor idea for buttons...I will check that one out.

Happy reading and partying!
Jan. 1st, 2007 01:10 am (UTC)
Re: book party
I'm so glad that some of the ideas resonate with you! Definitely check out the button idea: they're cost-effective AND fun. PLUS I trust www.buttonarcade.com. They come through with compulsively wearable designs!
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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