Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Virtual Launch Party by Carolyn Poling Schriber

Carolyn has been kind enough to let me re-post her article and her mini-introduction about the virtual book launch party she put together for Beyond All Price, a novel based on the life of Civil War Nurse, Nellie M. Chase. Thanks, Carolyn!

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Eight Reasons to Love an Online Book Launch
by Carolyn Poling Schriber

It's an introduction to a new book that:

(1) doesn't' require you to get dressed and travel anywhere -- just log on to the website;
(2) doesn't require you to be on-time; it lasts for three days;
(3) tells you a joke or two, but doesn't expect you to laugh;
(4) lets you meet famous writers, but doesn't force you to listen politely if you don't like them;
(5) offers you interesting food -- with no calories, just the recipes;
(6) lets you register for door prizes, but you don't have to be present to win;
(7) provides interesting new information -- painlessly;
(8) lets you investigate the new book without forcing you to buy it (although I hope you will!)

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A Virtual Launch Party by Carolyn Poling Schriber

Previously posted at Katzenhaus Books on Thursday, February 03, 2011

I've been asked by several people to reflect a bit on the virtual launch party I held for the release of my new Civil War novel, Beyond All Price. For those of you I am meeting for the first time, I am a retired history professor, now fulfilling a lifelong dream to become a novelist. Because I wanted to have my book available by the beginning of the Sesquicentennial Anniversary of the Civil War, I decided to self-publish the book.

Like most self-published and print-on-demand authors, I have complete responsibility for promoting and marketing the book. If I didn't call attention to it, no one else was going to. I also happen to be a firm believer in the future of the e-book, so it seemed particularly appropriate to have an e-party. It was also cheaper, of course, and a bit less congratulatory, to use the internet for the book's introduction, rather than just holding a small party for the folks I knew. Here's how I went about it.

My publishing imprint is Katzenhaus Books, and the company website was already up and running at Vistaprint. I wanted the launch to be connected to that site somehow, but at the same time separate and special. The answer was a second site, opened for just a four-month period, that could be linked to the company materials when needed. I started planning the party in July 2010, just as soon as I had finished approving the final proofs for both the paperback and the Kindle editions. The party itself was set for September 15-17.

The party website had many pages, starting with a welcome page that set a festive tone with balloons and confetti. The book itself had its own page, with pictures of the cover, the cover blurb, an excerpt, and links to the company website, including the ordering information. Next came a fun page--what's a party without a few games? There were some bad jokes, a mystery puzzle, and a cartoon cat video, among other oddities. Refreshments were easy. Visitors found a revolving buffet table with pictures of the food on offer and the recipes if they were really hungry. All the items on the buffet were dishes from the novel. Door prizes and give-aways had their own page, which also included an opt-in box, so that I could begin to create a dedicated e-mail list.

The real key to the success of the party, however, came from my invited guests -- seven authors and seven internet experts who wrote about writing. I interviewed the authors about their books and their similarities to my own work; the bloggers wrote articles about their own specialties -- everything from creating a website to the value of visiting their settings, proofreading, punctuation, and the future of the publishing industry. Each one had a page that was featured for an 8-hour period during the launch. There the guests could post their own picture, pictures of their books, list their internet addresses, and invite followers. All these materials were accessible for the entire launch period and for a month afterward through list of guest links.

I cannot begin to praise my guests enough. They not only took the time to write their articles; they also publicized the launch for me on their own blogs, websites, and social networks. When a well-known author twittered a note saying "I'll be appearing at this book launch at this time at this URL," their fans and readers came to visit, and learned about my book along the way. Their help was invaluable!

Questions remain, however. Was it successful? Would I do it again? What would I change? Well, for starters, I found out the party lasted too long. I thought I was cutting back from the only other online launch party I had seen -- one that ran for an entire 7-day period. Mine started on Wednesday with a respectable number of visitors. The visits peaked around noon on Thursday, and limped through Friday, falling off to near nothing by Friday evening. I should have stopped Thursday night. The fun and games page was not particularly popular. People who took the time to visit the site wanted to know about my book or what my guests had to say. They didn't come to be entertained by other means. The opt-in box was badly placed. It should have been at the front of the site, not buried in the back. On the plus sign, people loved the recipes from the book and reacted well to most of my guests.Who doesn't love food?

Sales were slow but steady through the first two days. I didn't sell as many copies as I would have liked, but those who ordered the book were new customers, most of whom I would not have met if it had not been for the launch party. And sales continued at the same pace for several weeks after the actual launch. I also gained new Twitter followers and Facebook friends. I'm glad I did it, and when my next book comes out, I'll probably do it again. Honestly? I had a blast!

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You can find out more about Carolyn and her book, as well as her thoughts on getting published, at her blog Roundheads and Ramblings.

10 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Pat - Thanks for posting Carolyn's thoughts. Virtual launch parties can, indeed, be lots of fun and it's an effective way to get the word out about one's book without traveling. It lets the writer meet fans from all over the world, and lets the reader meet authors s/he otherwise couldn't. What's not to like?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

A party site is a fun idea.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Hey, I'm willing to try anything for my next book! Wonder if I could work out anything with my publisher?

Mason Canyon said...

Carolyn, sounds as though you put a great deal in to your launch party and did a terrific job of it. Your book sounds intriguing too. Wishing you much success.

Patricia, thanks for the introduction to Carolyn.

Mason
Thoughts in Progress
Freelance Editing By Mason

Kerrie said...

This is a great idea and I appreciated Carolyn sharing what she thought worked and what didn't.

Ann Best said...

Thanks for bring her back, Pat. I especially like the Eight Reasons. I'm going to link to this post the next time I post, which will be Friday.
Ann Best, Author of In the Mirror, A Memoir of Shattered Secrets

djskrimiblog said...

Thank you, Carolyn and Patricia, for this post about the experiences of self-publishing and launching.

Jemi Fraser said...

There's a lot of terrific advice here! Thanks so much for sharing it. I hope I need to use it one day! :)

Carolyn Schriber said...

Thanks for all the kind comments. I'm always willing to chat with anyone who wants to consider doing this sort of launch. Email me at schribercat4@yahooo.com

Patricia Stoltey said...

Thanks again, Carolyn, for letting me re-post your excellent article.