November Third Thursday Wrap-Up: 5 Keys to a Successful Book Launch

By Lexie Smith

We wrapped up the Build Your Book series with the final Third Thursday of 2011. The topic “The Book Launch and Beyond” focused on presenting your book to the public through a book launch event.  Our panelists were author John Pipkin,the Book People children’s’ events coordinator and marketing director Mandy Brooks and literary publicist Stephanie Barko.

The evening’s conversation has been distilled into five keys to a successful book launch.


What can you do now, even if you have a book that is nowhere near finished?  Start working on the infrastructure of your social network, especially online.  Due to the publishing industry’slong lead times (up to two years for a book), you have the opportunity, before your book comes out, to build potential readership through a variety of online resources.  Facebook, Twitter, your blog, Goodreads, LinkedIn, Library Thing andAmazon.com are some options.

You don’t have to do them all. Pick a few and work on them. Start growing your presence on these sites before you publish your book, the idea being similar to compound interest on your savings account – the longer your assets are in there, the more interest is earned.

Once you are close to a publication date for your project, start planning for your book launch at least three to six months before your launch date, especially if you are a local or new author.


You are responsible for publicizing your book. At some pointyou may hire someone to help you.  In the meantime, start planning how you will get the word out about your book.Utilize your social network, online and off. Contact different groups that are related to your book.  Look for magazines, newspapers, or blogs to publish articles about your topic. The author’s efforts to advertise the book event is the most effective way to make the event successful.


Mandy compared the book launch to a race. Training and preparation are important before you compete, but you keep doing what you do after the big day, whether it’s running or marketing.  The book event is the seed from which other interests grow. She also mentioned being persistent when trying to schedule an event.  Don’t keep doing the same thing, though. Vary your pitch when you approach an event coordinator or group leader.


Book launches take different forms.  Some are soft launches,where the book’s Amazon button simply goes from pre-order toorder. Others are more party-like, either in a book store or another location. Think about different options, tailored to your book and readers, for your book launch.

You also need to be flexible when it comes to what you do before the event.  Do more than tend your contact list. For example, eight months before his book was released, John published a related feature article in the Boston Globe. Use your creativity when thinking of ways to promote your book and its launch.


Standing next to a plate of cookies, waiting for someone – anyone – to show up at your book launch is not fun. Stephanie stated and restated the importance of creating and maintaining your contact list with email addresses and snail mail addresses (if possible), sortable by zip code.  Local matters when it comes to event attendance.

The people on your list are actual people, not just names. Leverage social media to interact with them. Make your publicity personal.

Since the act of writing is individual but the business of writing is a team sport, be aware of others who can help you with your book launch: readers, event coordinators, literary agents andpublicists may have something to do with your book launch in one way or another.

Put It All Together

As you may have noticed, these five aspects of book marketing are quite enmeshed with each other.  Be patient with yourself as you learn to work with them at different times, considering the ebb and flow of your professional and personal life. And don’t forget to let us know about your book launch!

Lexie is a WLT member who enjoys connecting people with information through LexicalLight.com, BloggingForWriters.com and 64mascots.com. A University of Texas graduate, she taught middle school English and, until recently, homeschooled her children. She lives in Round Rock with her husband, five kids and two rescued Boxers.

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