As COVID-19 vaccination numbers rise in some parts of the world, in-person events are slowly becoming a reality again. Depending on where you live, you might even be planning an in-person book launch party this fall. However, there are still several reasons to learn how to host a virtual book launch party:
- People from all over the world can attend your event
- Your event is more accessible to many disabled people
- Less preparation is required; you don’t have to secure a space or organize snacks
- You can run the event from the comfort of your own home
- These events are generally free to host
All in all, a virtual launch party is a great way to celebrate a book release, and can even serve as a companion event to an in-person release party.
In this article, I’m going to discuss two of the most popular options for virtual launch parties: live streaming on social media and Zoom parties. We’ll look at the pros and cons of each choice so you can determine the best option for your launch party. I’ll also share some best practices for hosting a successful virtual book launch party.
How to host a virtual book launch party: choosing a platform
Live streaming on social media
There are several social media networks that offer the ability to stream content live. The most popular are Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitch, and TikTok. If you have a notable audience on one of these platforms, a live-streamed release party is a great way to get them engaged with your new book.
The great thing about hosting your party on social media is that people are already on the platform. You don’t have to direct them to a third-party site. There is also no limit to the amount of time you can stream or the number of people who can view your stream.
The drawback of streaming on social media is that it’s not quite as interactive. You can read people’s comments, but you won’t be able to see their faces or hear their voices. This can be a good thing if you’re feeling shy, but it doesn’t provide the same level of personal connection.
Zoom is a great way to hold a small, intimate release party where you deepen relationships with fans. You’ll be able to see their faces and hear their voices, almost like you would at a physical release party. Zoom is also a great place to interact with people who are trying to spend less time on social media.
There are, however, some notable drawbacks to Zoom. First off, you’ll have to direct people to the party from another platform. This may result in a smaller group than you would get if you streamed on, say, Instagram, where your audience is already hanging out.
The other drawback is the limitations placed on free accounts. You will have to pay to hold a party longer than 40 minutes or with more than 50 people.
What type of launch party should you hold?
The best type of launch party for you depends on your audience and your goals:
- If you have an existing audience on a social media platform that allows for live streaming, take advantage of it. You want to minimize the number of steps a person needs to take to learn about and eventually purchase your book.
- If most of your audience is connected to you through email, consider a Zoom party to draw in people who might not enjoy traditional forms of social media.
- If your main goal is to reach new people, host your party on social media, where people are more likely to see that the event is happening and join in.
- If your main goal is to strengthen relationships with existing fans, choose a Zoom party for something closer to face-to-face interactions.
Finally, if you have the time and energy, consider doing both. This gives fans a choice in how they interact with you and increases your chance of reaching new readers.
Planning your event
Once you’ve chosen a platform for your launch party, it’s time to figure out how you’re going to structure the event. Specifically, you’ll want to decide on the activities you’ll participate in during the launch party, and how your readers can interact with you.
There are several things you can do to keep things interesting during a virtual launch party:
- Share your book trailer or other promotional materials
- Read an excerpt from your novel
- Prepare a short talk about your inspirations and/or the novel itself
- Run an audience Q & A
- Invite a friend to “host” and interview you
- Create and share a drink recipe based on something from your book
And as always, these are only the ideas I’ve come up with. You can do anything that makes sense for your book and works in a virtual format.
How to host a virtual book launch party: best practices
You can do a variety of things before and during your virtual launch party to maximize its effectiveness:
- Set a goal number of attendees. This will help you measure whether or not your promotions for the event are working.
- Schedule launch party promotions on social media. This ensures that you don’t forget to promote the launch party between all of the other things you’re doing to prepare for your book launch. You can also use this planning to make sure that your promotions fit within your overall social media calendar.
- Promote the event to your email list. Your email subscribers are your most engaged audience. They’ll show up with the questions and excitement you’ll need to make the event work.
- Get some questions in advance if you’re doing a Q & A. This gives the people attending your party time to think of their own questions without leaving long silences between questions. You can get people from your newsletter list or your social media following to contribute questions.
- Practice any sections you plan to read. You don’t need to have it memorized, but you do need to familiarize yourself with how the piece flows when read out loud.
- Rehearse your intro. If you have someone helping as a host and/or interviewer, have them rehearse with you.
- Test your tech. If you haven’t used your microphone or camera in a while, make sure to test it a few days before your launch party. This gives you time to troubleshoot and, if necessary, replace equipment.
- Define the rules up front. Make sure the audience knows how they’re supposed to interact with you throughout the event. For example, if you’re using Zoom, you’ll likely want to set it so that people are muted when they enter the room, then ask them to stay muted while you read an excerpt from your book.
- Keep water handy during the event. Writers tend to not do a lot of speaking out loud. If this holds true for you, you likely don’t realize how much liquid you’ll need to keep yourself talking. If you’re worried about spills, use a water bottle with an air-tight seal.
- Ask someone to help with moderation. Being interesting on screen and present for people communicating with you in text isn’t always easy. Ask a friend to help you moderate the chat associated with your event so that you don’t miss any questions.
- Remind people about where to purchase your book at strategic intervals. Everyone knows your book is for sale; that’s what the event is about. You don’t need to bring it up every couple of minutes. You do need to make sure you mention it at the beginning and end of the event, and possibly in between sections if you’re doing both a reading and an intervew/Q & A.
Most of all, remember that this is your moment to celebrate a huge accomplishment: you published a book. Whether it’s the first time or the fiftieth, it’s an awesome achievement, and you deserve to enjoy celebrating it with your readers.
Final advice on how to host a virtual book launch party
A virtual book launch party is a great way to promote your book release and celebrate the accomplishment of publishing a book with readers and friends. You can meet your audience where they are by streaming your party on social media or host a Zoom party to encourage deeper interaction, but the keys to a successful launch party are the same across platforms:
- Plan enough activities to keep things interesting for the time you’ve allotted to the launch party
- Ask a friend for help moderating the event chat
- Promote your event on social media and in your newsletter; schedule the promotions in advance where possible
- Define the rules at the beginning of the event
- Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
- Remind people where they can buy your book at key intervals, such as between a reading and an interview segment
And of course, do your best to have fun!
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