I wanted my launch party for KISSING SHAKESPEARE to be perfect. So, I put someone else in charge! My husband insisted he wanted to make the arrangements, and after joint planning, he did. Lucky for me, a dear friend of many years, Mary Ellen Kelly, stepped in to offer her help with set-up and clean-up. As it turned out, she also welcomed people at the door and made sure the food trays stayed stocked. Her husband Mike sold copies of the book throughout the party. I asked another good friend, Peter Fordyce, to take photographs. He did a beautiful job, and relieved us of that burden.
The first step was finding a venue. I decided not to hold the event at a bookstore, because I wanted to invite LOTS of people, and wanted them to feel free to mix and mingle, eat, socialize, and enjoy themselves. After all, a debut novel only happens once. While I support and depend on my local bookstores, like the Tattered Cover and Barnes & Noble, I didn’t think the type of event I had in mind would work at their stores. We checked out a local art gallery, the Lakewood Cultural Center, vacant retail space in our neighborhood, but finally settled on the Lakewood Heritage Center, specifically, the Country Schoolhouse. It was the right size, affordable, and had a nice ambiance, with its wood floors and tall casement windows. Also, it was only five minutes from home.
Next step: decide on a program and a schedule. A few months earlier, I’d attended Denise Vega’s launch party for ROCK ON, which came out in March of 2012. On her invitations, she listed exactly what was going to occur and at what time. I really appreciated that. I knew I wanted to get there in time to chat with friends, and I didn’t want to miss the reading or the performance of the teen band. So I timed things accordingly.
Before I made my schedule, however, I had to decide what I wanted on the program. A friend had suggested including a performance of a scene from The Taming of the Shrew, since that play is a big part of KISSING SHAKESPEARE. Another friend, Janet Smith, happens to be the mother of a son and daughter who are both experienced actors. Her son Noah had actually played Petruchio before. Nailing that down eased my mind, and the rest of it fell into place.
The schedule ended up looking something like this: 4:00, meet and greet; 4:30, welcome, thanks, and introduction of the players and the scene they’d be performing; 4:50, reading from KISSING SHAKESPEARE; 5:00, book signing. Many people arrived with books they’d already purchased, but several bought books at the party.
After the reading, guests continued to socialize, eat, and have their books signed. We’d put an ending time on the invitations, which was 5:45, and by then, most people had left. It was a Saturday, and people had places to go.
With eighty-five or so people attending, I knew there was no way I’d be able to spend time with everyone; in fact, there were a few people I didn’t get to speak to at all, and also a few who I thought weren’t there at all…but were. Between my husband and me, we managed to greet all the guests, even if it was just a quick hello. People were very understanding, and I think the program made up for any lack of personal attention.
One word of caution: don’t make your reading too long. I kept mine down to about five minutes, and that seemed just right. I chose a scene from the book that had some humor, and was pleased when the audience laughed at the right places. I cut some of it where possible to stay within the time limit I’d set for myself.
Those are my words of wisdom about launch parties. Have you had one you felt really good about? What made it unique or exciting? Please share!