How to Hold an Online Book Launch

A guide to organising your dream virtual book launch.The alternative to arranging your dream book launch event is to hold a virtual book launch, inviting your guests to join you online. By using Zoom or a live streaming platform, you can still celebrate your book’s publication day: the major difference is, it’s harder to organise free drinks! Some of your planning will remain the same, and we’ve listed our top recommendations below...

Decide on a budget


Decide how much you’d like to spend on your book launch. With a live event, you would usually be paying for a venue and refreshments for your guests. So with your online book launch, you might want to divert those funds to pay a professional facilitator or speaker to join you and play the role of 'master of ceremonies’. Or you might want to email a free chapter of the book or post a small gift to your VIP attendees - a company like Baker Days can even arrange novelty letterbox cakes.

Share the invitation widely


Invite a wide range of friends, contacts and connections because free events typically have a high rate of no-shows, even as much as 45-50%. So, if you have 50 people registered, you can expect around 25-30 to actually join the session. Given that only a small proportion of people who see your event will sign up to attend, you need very large numbers to see the invitation. Do include the details in your press release, if you’re sending one out before your publication day.

Plan your event content


Plan your agenda and the content you’ll share during the event, remembering there’s no natural way to 'mingle’ on a video call. While people are joining, you could play music and a slideshow of photos relevant to your book. You can still hold a reading of your book during your online book launch. However, it might be fun to pick a passage where you and another host 'step into character’ and act out the scene between you. You could even pre-record this and share it as a video. As an alternative or additional part of the event, your MC could interview you about the writing process, the topic and/or the character development.

Practise your talk


If you’re a confident speaker, holding your event virtually shouldn’t be an awkward occasion for you. However, for most of us, being in the spotlight causes nerves so you’re likely to experience extra excitement on the event of your book launch. To ensure you don’t stumble over your words, it’s a good idea to practise what you want to say, as well as your reading, if you are planning one.

Create a special offer


Will you pre-order copies of your book to create a special offer price for the attendees of your book launch? Or will you send them a free chapter by email with the link to order it for themselves? At a physical book launch, you would usually have copies available on the night, making it really easy for people to buy them. In the same way, you will sell more copies from your virtual launch, if it is simple for them to purchase it.

Choose your tech


The technology for holding an online book launch is fairly simple. You can hold your event using a reasonably good smartphone, or your laptop, if it has a web camera. You won’t need a separate camera and microphone. Do test how good the sound is, because it’s important your guests can hear you. There are several live streaming video or webinar tools to choose from, and you could even run it as a Facebook Live event.

Zoom is an easy-to-use free platform, enabling you to invite up to 100 guests simultaneously. However, it does have a time limit on the basic option, so if you want to run the event for more than 40 minutes, you’ll need a paid subscription. Eventbrite enables you to allocate tickets to the event, so you know who is attending. As long as the ticket price is free, so is Eventbrite. You can link your Zoom account to Eventbrite, which automates the invitations; once someone registers for the event, they’ll receive the link by email.

You can also record the event, provided you ask the participants for their permission to record them, and make the video available on YouTube later. This gives your readers another opportunity to check out the event if they’re not available on the day.

Prepare for the Q&A


Decide whether you want people to ask questions live at your virtual book launch or prepare a typical Q&A about the book in advance. On Zoom, you can make use of the 'chat’ feature, inviting your guests to write their questions in the chat thread. This gives you and the MC a chance to read them and decide which ones to answer live on the video call. Going 'round the room’ for introductions and questions can take up a lot of time, because people tend to talk for more than a minute or two. So you might want to think about how best to enable them to participate, while keeping the talking one-way, from you to them.

Closing your event


The challenge for video calls is they fizzle out or end very abruptly. So, plan ahead how you’re going to end the event, giving your guests a 'next step’ or call to action: where and how to buy the book. Once people start to say goodbye, it feels odd to stay on the call - people even find themselves waving in the awkward silence. Be very clear when you’re finishing and plan how you can leave your guests feeling upbeat. You want them to know you’ve enjoyed having them join in with your special launch!

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