8 Steps to a Successful Online Launch Party

What is an ‘online book release party’ and why would I want to run one?

It’s great to launch your book in person at a book store, library, or local cafe. But online release parties are another tool to connect with readers, particularly those who are geographically removed from yourself. I sell most of my books in the US and Canada, but I live in Australia, so a book launch at my local book store is only going to engage a very small portion of my readers!

Online release parties are also a great way to collaborate with other authors and boost each other’s sales, mailing list subscribers and social media followers.

I couldn’t find a simple step-by-step guide to setting up an online release party, so I thought I’d write one myself. If you are less interested in the logistics of setting up a party, and more interested in crafting engaging posts, check out this entry instead.

So here we go… 8 simple steps to a successful online release party.

1. Choose a date and time frame

Generally, your online launch party would coincide with the release date of your ebook on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks etc. However, just to make sure that everything is running smoothly, you may like to run your launch party a day or two after your book has gone live.

In terms of time frames, I’ve seen events that run for a single hour, with the only host being the author of the book.

I’ve also seen events run over a month, with different authors invited to host the event for an entire day. It’s really up to you how you want set it up.

Personally, I’ve found it most effective to schedule one-hour slots for each author involved. So if you are releasing an anthology with eight authors, that’s an eight hour event, or if you are a lone wolf you could invite authors to host the event who write in the same genre as yourself.

Pay attention to time zones when you set it up – if the majority of your readers are in Canada or the USA like myself, then you wouldn’t want to run an event at 2am Canadian time.

2. Set up the event

So far, I’ve only been a part of facebook launch parties, where the event is set up either as a public ‘group’ or as an ‘event’ linking to a page.

However, the launch could also direct people towards other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram, or there could be games or posts on individual author’s websites as well.

When setting it up, include a captivating description that really appeals to your audience. Put yourself in your reader’s mind – as a reader, why would you want to join a post-apocalyptic or romance launch party? What would you, as a reader, get out of it?

Some potential ideas:

  • Chat with the authors
  • Have the chance to win giveaways
  • Fun & games
  • Stock your e-reader

You also want to have an attractive header image. I use Canva to look like a pro when I’m really not. It’s free, and I highly recommend it.

3. Invite your hosts

It’s a bit lonely to run an event all by yourself. If you have enough fans to make it worth it, go for it! However, collaborating with other authors in the same genre seems to be a good way to spread the word and support each other.

If you’re a part of an anthology, check if the authors have specific author pages to host from, rather than posting from their personal profile. A google spreadsheet is a good way for authors to sign up to their preferred time slot.

Adding authors as hosts also allows them to schedule their posts ahead of time.

4. Create engaging posts

Online launch events are about engagement, hands down. Posts that don’t invite likes, shares, or comments, aren’t going to work as well as posts that do. I have written a separate entry with examples of engaging posts, but as an overview:

  • Include images with each post
  • Don’t write too much – less is more
  • A simple ‘what’s your favourite sci fi novel?’ is generally far more effective than a really obscure question about a minor character in Star Trek
  • As much as possible, put links in the comments, not in the first post. We seem to get less visibility when links are in the main post.
  • Let your readers know a bit about you and what you write, but also ask about them. If you just spam the party with buy links, you probably won’t get far.
  • Just before your slot finishes, thank the people who engaged with your posts and invite them to follow you on social media / join your mailing list for a free short story / follow you on Amazon etc.

5. Schedule your posts

Enough said?

Don’t try to write them as you are going. Use the ‘schedule post’ feature (but double check the timezone to make sure it will appear at the correct time). A post every 10 minutes seems to work. This way, you can engage with the people commenting on your posts rather than trying to write an eloquently worded post while the clock is ticking.

6. Invite your readers to attend

Ask all the hosts to invite their readers, share the event on social media and with their mailing list. Lure readers in with giveaways or freebies – I’ve seen great success with a simple $10 Amazon gift-card pinned as the first post with an image of the book being released.

Keep the instructions simple – like / share / comment on the post to go in the draw to win. The more eyes you get on your book cover, the better. You can’t require people to purchase your book to enter the giveaway, but you can still include the link along with a catchy elevator pitch.

7. Interact with attendees (and the other hosts)

Since you’ve already scheduled your posts (see step 5), and these posts are engaging and ask for interaction (see step 4) all you need to do is reply to all the comments.

Reply to all of them.

Yes, every single one. Tag the person who commented in your reply.

Be a nice host and collaborate with the other authors. If your slot is at 7pm, pop online at 6pm and interact with the previous host, and try to stay a little longer to chat with the next host – this is all about supporting each other. After all, we are a community of authors – we need to lift each other up, not see each other as competition.

8. Send out the gifts

Okay, the event is over. You got great interaction, you have new mailing list subscribers and a few more followers on instagram. Maybe a few people bought your book (woohoo!) but even if they didn’t, they were intrigued enough to follow you which is a great start. Remember, we generally engage with a product seven times before actually handing over our $$.

You did promise some giveaways, so use a random number generator to decide the winner of the free ebooks, Amazon giftcard etc. Watch out with paperbacks – postage is a killer! However, signed paperbacks are definitely a draw card for readers.

And that’s it. Is there anything I missed? Comment below, and let me know how your launch parties are going. Make sure you invite me to any sci fi, dystopian or post-apocalyptic parties – they are a lot of fun 😀

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