How to Plan a Great Book Launch

how to plan a good launch party: picture of crowd

Guest post by C. M. Surrisi, author of A Side of Sabotage

Let’s talk about how to plan a great book launch. I’ve had three in a little more than two years, and I’ve found some elements of a book launch party to be consistent while others changed or evolved.

how to plan a good launch party: pictures of C. M. Surrisi's books

Here are the books I have launched over the past two years, all parts of my three-volume Quinnie Boyd Mysteries series, edited by the fabulous Greg Hunter.

how to plan a good launch party: picture of C. M. SurrisiThe purpose of a book launch is to introduce the book to the public and promote it. It is also an opportunity to celebrate the book. Together these things make for an exhilarating experience, provided people show up. And that is always the nervous author’s concern, isn’t it? Will anyone show up?

It helps to start by holding a launch party at a bookstore that loves you. I have been lucky to be loved by Malaprop’s Bookstore in Asheville, North Carolina, where I lived when my first two books came out and where I returned to while launching my third.

My First Launch

It also helps to have your friends show up. For the launch of my first book, The Maypop Kidnapping, my Vermont College of Fine Arts masters-program buddies showed up from near and far. I also had props: a lobster and a nun doll. We had cake and I did a reading. I cried and almost threw up from the emotional excitement of it.

how to plan a good launch party: picture of crowd

The Second Time Around

For the second launch (Vampires on the Run), I was feeling a little more in control. An opera-singer friend composed a spooky aria to go with the book and sang it. I did a reading. I flew in whoopie pies from Maine as favors and I had many school friends again, plus a growing local following.


Everyone wanted to take a picture with the opera-singing vampire. I didn’t have stomach distress. It was more relaxed.

Flying Into My Third Launch!

For my third launch—last weekend, for A Side of Sabotage—I was cool as a cucumber until I got there. This time, I decided to read from the book but also to talk about what goes into writing a mystery. I was prepared and had few nervous moments.

But, when I got up in front a the room of people who had come to see me, many of whom were friends, old and new, I just melted. It was wonderful. I read, I gave my presentation, we had cupcakes and Swedish fish. I signed books like a maniac and talked to people in line and took pictures with them. It was the most fun. So many children at the presentation told me that they now wanted to try and write a mystery. How great is that? Best part was that my daughter Magda came with me and made it a mother-daughter sharing event.

What This All Means

Surrisi5After having three book-launch parties in a short time frame, I can say they are the most fun if you can do them where you can be reasonably assured you’ll have at least ten people you know show up, you have a prepared reading, you bring swag (bookmarks, candy, whoopie pies, etc.), you have a prop or two, and you take some kind of stomach-calming agent beforehand. It also helps to have an opera-singing vampire.

I have been to bookstore signings that were busy and signings that were slow. These are part of the life of a writer. But a launch is a celebration, so throw yourself into making it one and let your friends and family help when they say, “What can I do?” Tell them, “Bring some cupcakes and a friend! The more the merrier.”

C. M. Surrisi is a full time writer of children’s books. She lives in Mendota Heights, Minnesota, with her husband and two rascal Cavalier King Charles spaniels, Sunny and Milo. She writes middle grade and picture books. She’s a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, SCBWI, and the Author’s Guild. She also has a BFA, JD, and MFA.

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