Pub Rants

Book Party Tips From Marianne

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STATUS: Rain to start the day but it looks like it might be clearing up. Time to head to the beach!

What’s playing on the iPod right now? Nothing at the moment.

Now I have to admit that not many authors have as cool a day job as my client Marianne Mancusi. She’s a TV Producer. So, when she’s throwing a launch party [which she did last Tuesday for her debut hardcover release of GAMER GIRL with author Melissa Walker (VIOLET IN PRIVATE)] she does have access to a variety of contacts that the average author might not have.

From the press release: “Nationally syndicated lifestyle show Better TV was on hand, filming the event for an upcoming segment on Mancusi and Walker and their books. In attendance were media outlets Vogue, Teen Vogue, ELLE, InStyle, Daily Candy, AOL, Parents TV and CNN. Leading authors in both Young Adult and adult fiction also celebrated with Mancusi and Walker. At the party were Scott Westerfeld, Justine Larbalestier, Maureen Johnson, Bennett Madison, Deborah Gregory, Diana Peterfreund, Michael Northrop, Liz Maverick and Anisha Lakhani.”

Is Mari the gal to friend or what?

From Left: Scott Westerfeld, Mari, Diana Peterfreund, Melissa Walker

Great contacts can indeed go a long way to throwing a successful one, but even with that, she’s got some great tips and I asked if she was willing to share them with you blog readers so here you go!

Being a NYC based television producer I usually attend or cover several events each week. From restaurant openings, to Fashion Week after-parties, to charity balls—I’ve been studying what works and what doesn’t when it comes to throwing a party and used these ideas for throwing my own book party.

Here are some suggestions I used for my own book party, which I threw this week at Butter.

Consider co-hosting the party with another author. One, it’s more fun to plan a party with a partner and two it takes off some of the hosting pressure the night of. You can also potentially double the guest list, increase networking opportunities, and introduce a whole new audience for your books and theirs.

Consider having your party on a Tuesday. It’s a slow day for bars and restaurants and the managers are much more likely to offer up a private room free of charge if you can guarantee them a good bar tab. Offer them prime placement on your invitation (it’s like advertising – especially if you’re sending the invites to the media!) if they agree to host the event.

Invite everyone you can think of – even if you’re pretty sure they won’t be able to attend. It’s a great way to announce your book release without coming off as an obnoxious self-promoter. Also, you may be surprised at who shows up! I invited my friend and fellow author Diana Peterfreund, even though she lives down in D.C. She not only made the trip up to NY, but she brought some A-list author friends with her as well. Speaking of, always encourage people to bring friends/significant others. You’ll get a larger crowd and it will also take the pressure off you to entertain them when you’re trying to work the room.

Create an official invitation with your book cover (if you know a graphics artist, hit them up for help!) and send it to guests by email attachment. (Yes, you can send attachments nowadays. But also put the basic 411 in the body of the email.) This will make your party seem more professional and a bigger deal. You can send this invite to the media as well. Even if it’s your local town newspaper–you never know if they’ll send a reporter to cover the event. Make sure you put “cash bar” discreetly on the invite so people don’t assume free drinks. Send the invitation two weeks in advance, then send a reminder out a day before the event. Ask for an RSVP so you can get an approximate count.

Get creative and make the party fun. After all, your guests are giving up their night for you and probably spending money on drinks and your books—they need something in return. I had the restaurant put out some of their signature homemade chocolates to nibble on—lots cheaper than doing open bar, but still adding value to the event. I also, to go with my “Gamer Girl” book theme, purchased a bunch of fun kids’ games like Hungry Hippos, Connect Four and Operation and put them on the tables. Guests really got into them! You could also bring in a makeover artist or a fortune teller.

Gift Bags! Take a page from red carpet events and make up gift bags for each guest. You can solicit companies to donate products—it’s much easier than you might think! We got Clarins, for example, to donate self-tanning lotions for the bags. Another company donated free yoga class coupons. It’s good advertising for companies and brings added value to your party. Don’t forget to include bookmarks or postcards for your own books in the bags, too! This way the guest will remember you the next day, even if they didn’t buy a book at the event.

Bookselling. We used a traveling bookseller, but if you don’t have one of those in your town, find an indy bookseller and ask if they will come the night of your event and bring books. This way you don’t have to deal with monetary transactions when you’re trying to socialize with your guests. Offer to buy remaining books at cost so they don’t get stuck with extra inventory. Make an announcement once the party is in full swing to let people know they can buy books.

Work the room. The night of the event, don’t linger with your close friends. Try to talk to everyone who showed up. Think of it as being like the birthday girl. Everyone came to see you and should be given appropriate face time.

Follow up. Over the next week, email your guests and thank them for coming. Especially the new people you met at the party. If you have a photo with them in it, send it with the email. And speaking of photos – upload them right away and put them on your blog, MySpace, Facebook, whatever. People who attended want to see themselves and people who didn’t get to go want to live vicariously. But you lose your momentum if you wait a few days.

And lastly, while this isn’t an official tip, make sure you have fun! A book party should be a celebration—don’t get all stressed out with planning that you can’t enjoy yourself at the event. It’s not worth it. Not everything will go right. Not everyone will show up. But just go with the flow and enjoy the ride.

17 Responses

  1. Lehcarjt said:

    Her launch party sounds like a ton of fun. I can’t help but wonder what the price tag was though. Even with splitting the cost between two authors, I have a feeling that she is spending more than most working author’s will even make.

    Good for her if she can afford it – unrealistic for the majority.

  2. AC said:

    Love the tips. I think most of us can pick and choose what would work best for our particular situations from these.

    I hope this isn’t a dumb question: when Mari talks about getting a bookseller to sell books at the event, does she mean just her books (and her co-host’s books) or books from the seller in general? I figured just her books but wanted to make sure.

  3. DebraLSchubert said:

    Kristin, I had the same question as AC. Also, love this post! It’s so interesting to hear how people put there own flair on things. In a past life, I was a rock musician and we had CD release parties – similar thing. As with all aspiring writers, this is our dream come true.

  4. Melissa Walker said:

    Hi, everyone. This is the author who co-hosted with Marianne. We really spent VERY little on this event. That had a lot to do with our media contacts, but more to do with the way Mari approached the venue and gift bag sponsors. Much of what was donated was free, because vendors knew members of the media would be at the party.

    On this question–“When Mari talks about getting a bookseller to sell books at the event, does she mean just her books (and her co-host’s books)?”–the answer is yes. Just Mari’s and my latest books were on sale, and we used traveling bookseller Mobile Libris–they offer a great service and we didn’t have to worry about selling our own books while we wanted to mingle!

    Thanks for posting, Kristin!

  5. Marianne Mancusi said:

    As Melissa said, the cost was extremely minimal. The restaurant gave us the space for free. We spent $75 each on the chocolates/muchies at the bar. (Which is approximately a dollar a guest.) Melissa bought a bag of candy to stuff the gift bags and I bought three children’s games (which I’m thinking of donating to charity now that the event’s over.) And that was it!

    I’d say total we spent $100 each. Which, I might add, is tax deductible as well.


  6. Gloria Hildebrandt said:

    These are great ideas for any kind of business promotion party, not just a book launch. They would work well the next time we host a party celebrating some milestone for our magazine. Everyone loves goodie bags, even the companies that get to contribute something to them. With the attitude that this kind of party gives everybody promotional opportunities, it becomes easy to ask people to participate. Thanks for sharing these ideas.

  7. Lorelei Armstrong said:

    My release party: a bottle of champagne and some cake with my sister and brother-in-law. We had to be quiet, because my niece was asleep in the next room, but it was excellent.

  8. DebraLSchubert said:

    To Melissa and Mari, Thanks for the clarification on the bookseller and the cost of the party. I wish I could have been there – it sounds like a blast! And, best of luck to you both on the success of your books.

  9. Anonymous said:

    You had Scott Westerfeld there? How cool is that!!! Sorry. That fan-girl comment had to come out.

    Maybe I’ll give out sheriff’s badges and get-out-of-jail-free cards for my book party.(when/if it’s ever published)


  10. Marianne Mancusi said:

    Wanda, I have to admit, I was pretty fan girl at his being there, too! Especially when he was showing us illustrations for his upcoming steampunk novel Leviathan. Sooo cool.

  11. Madison said:

    Ms. Mancusi just agreed to a Q and A for my blog to help her promote GAMER GIRL. It was really great of her. My first author interview and it turns out her agent is my dream agent!

    Whoops! Was I supposed to say… er…type that? Oh well, my secret’s out! 🙂

  12. Sarah said:

    Sounds like a great party. My co-author and I did some of the same things right– and also we did some wrong.

    We too used Mobile Libris, but they only brought 30 books, and we were sold out almost instantly. We should have asked about this ahead of time. There were quite a few more guests who would have bought books. Also, they up-charged from the cover price! They charged 33.00 for a 30.00 book, which I found embarrassing. Surely their cost was nowhere near that price.

    Also, we got a liquor sponsor, so there was one special cocktail available to guests free. We also paid for beer and wine. But the restaurant absolutely overcharged me in the end. If I had it to do over again, I’d be more careful.

    Learn from me!

  13. Envelope Printing said:

    Excellent tips! Gift bags are a cool idea. These will really leave an impression with your guests, and they’ll have something to remember the party and your book by. Thanks!