I recently celebrated the launch of my third novel, Memory War. As many of you will recall, I've had a somewhat colourful history with my book launches. I've had to change venues on the launches for both Locked Within and Silent Oath, and for both I had to cover the cost of stock myself due to last-minute distributor issues, with corresponding stress over making sure I sold enough to pay my publisher.
Suffice to say, I've learned a lot, and I've learned it the hard way.
Armed with this knowledge, I wanted to make sure the launch for Memory War went off as smoothly as possible. And you know what? It did. I had a great time, and for some the launch celebrations technically lasted until the small hours of the morning.
Of course, I had to do all this on a very small budget. I knew my publisher's distributor wouldn't have the book available in time for a bookstore to get stock, and if I were to supply books to a store myself, I'd have to invest a lot of money up front, and would probably have to wait a while before I got paid. I had to start thinking of other options, other ways to sell books. And here's what I figured out about putting on a book launch on a very small budget:
1. Pre-orders - Two words: Big. Clever. I had a couple of extra copies on order, but for the most part, I stuck to asking people to order and pay for their copies in advance. Sure, you end up with less stock and a less impressive display at the launch, but you're guaranteed to cover the cost of your stock, and you can always take more orders on the day if people show up who haven't ordered their copy.
2. Venue - Bookstores won't let you just sit there handing out copies that you've already been paid for. And most places will charge some kind of fee for room rental. You know what places tend not to? Pubs and bars. I had my launch in the Trinity Bar Venue in Dublin, and they set aside space for us for free. Bars know that a lot of people congregating in one place, to celebrate something, will result in lots of food and drink being purchased, so check out the ones in your area. See who has a suitable space, and if they're willing to reserve an area for you.
3. Refreshments - Traditionally, book launches include a certain amount of wine, and possibly finger food. The advantage of a bar is everyone can buy their own drinks! Cheap? Yes, but we're talking about sticking to a small budget, here. The nature of publishing is changing, so the nature of how we celebrate new books can change, too. Most bars that cater for parties will offer platters at a fairly reasonable rate, so you can provide some finger food. If you want to splash out, they will probably also happily let you buy some bottles of wine for tables, or if you're springing for a function room, many will also let you pay up a tab in advance, and any time one of your guests orders a drink, the price is deducted from your tab.
There you have it. Simple, huh? I think authors, especially new authors, get really hung up on doing things "right." And honestly, if you'd told me two years ago that I'd have to launch my first book in a bar, rather than a bookstore, I'd have been heartbroken. But times change, and it's not about where you celebrate your achievement, but the people you have to share in your success, and the fun you have telling people about your book.
All told, I think the Memory War launch cost roughly €60, and that includes the drycleaning bill to get my suit ready and the fee at the parking lot when we went back to the car. I'd already made that back in pre-orders a week before the launch. You absolutely can run a successful, fun event on next to nothing. It just takes a bit of planning and a lot of research.