The Pros and Cons of book launches, a publishing blog by Palamedes PR

How to Organise a Book Launch Event – but Are They Worth it?


The Pros and Cons of Organising a Book Launch Event

It’s considered to be one of the most anticipated events in an author’s publishing journey, so it’s little wonder why a book launch event is high on the list of post-publication ‘ticks’. From inexpensive do’s in backstreet pubs to swanky, celeb-filled parties in upmarket hotels, a book launch promises to kickstart publicity and earn the author the media acclaim they deserve. But beyond the glamour and the ego-trips, is organising a book launch really worth it?

In this episode of PRscribe we examine the anatomy of a book launch (and by that, an in-person event rather than a virtual affair), how to organise one, and the pros and cons of holding your own book launch event. As ever, a short video summarising this blog post – helpful for those on the move or for those with sight and reading disabilities – can be found at the foot of this page.

David Shannon at Howul book launch

What is Book Launch Event and Why do Authors Organise Them?

For some, a book launch is much more than a mere event. It’s the culmination of months, or even years, of dedication and hard work and they want to mark the occasion with something special. Cash will be splashed and invitations extended with promises of media interest and celebrity attendance. We know because we’ve been there and we’ve got the extra-large T-shirt.

For the majority, though, a book launch is an altogether more informal affair. Close friends and family, together with editors, designers and PR people mingle in a pub room or local library with a glass of something in hand. And depending on who’s paying, that glass may contain Champagne or Pomagne (which for the posher readers is bubbly cider).

Irrespective of cost and glitz, book launches are principally organised to obtain media coverage, to thank pivotal stakeholders, and to get a book into the hands of new readers. Or, in cheap PR-speak, they’re intended to “create a buzz”.

It is normally the case that the author will take centre stage at some point, perhaps addressing the audience with anecdotes and giving a short reading. Q&A sessions are another popular staple. Attendees will invariably leave with a signed copy of a book. If an author is lucky, she may even get paid for them. At especially high-brow events, guests are also given a goodie bag containing an assortment of thoughtful presents (which are often compiled by book PR agencies like Palamedes).

So What Are the Pros and Cons of a Book Launch Event?

The Pros:

  • At its core, a book launch serves as a celebratory event that marks the culmination of an author’s hard work. They’re an excuse to have a knees-up and to thank those who have helped take the book from idea to product (and there are usually many), and can provide months of ammunition for social media posts thanks to the volume of photographs, video and anecdotes that will arise.
  • Generating that “buzz”. Some book launches – especially those for well-known authors or celebrities – do generate genuine excitement among readers. Well-executed launches for bestselling authors usually invite a handful of lucky fans along for this very purpose.
  • Networking. A book launch represents an opportunity for traditionally-published authors to meet one or more senior staff in the publishing food chain – folks who pull the strings and who are good to know. Attendees from the local business community can also prove useful for self-published authors who may need a cash injection or a patron of some kind.
  • Undoubtedly the biggest draw of a book launch is the promise of media attention. Great book launches can and do lead to extensive press coverage, which in turn can boost sales and profile. The book launch event we organised by the acclaimed novelist and PTSD campaigner, Neil Blower, is a case in point. We took things a little bit further than the average book launch event, though, by organising the world’s biggest book signing – which went on to gain official status – and a follow-up event at the Houses of Parliament, hosted by Hazel Blears MP. You can read more about that event on our Case Studies page.
The World's Biggest Book Signing at the War and Peace Festival
Book launch by Neil Blower

And now for the cons…

  • By far the biggest drawback of staging book launch is that nothing, and I mean nothing, is guaranteed. There is no guarantee, for instance, that all of your guests who RSVP’d will turn up. There is no guarantee that those journalists or celeb agents you’ve invited and who expressed and interest will show their face. There is no guarantee that audience members will ask questions, and there is no guarantee that the venue you’ve booked will be filled with nearly enough people. Worse still, there is no guarantee that media coverage of any kind will arise as a result of your investment. The simple fact is that book launch events are a risky business.
  • If you’ve bought a pint or a glass of wine in the British pub in the last year, you’ll appreciate how expensive stuff is. So unless you’re releasing your own version of Scrooge – and acting out the main character on the night – a book launch is going to cost. A lot. Consider the basic outgoings involved: venue hire; food and drink; insurance; photography; and onsite staffing (and in some cases security). If you’re planning to invite a well-known celebrity, and you don’t know that celeb personally to call in a favour, then you can expect to double your overall fees with his/her appearance fee. If you’re planning an event in London or any other major city and don’t live there, then you can add hotel accommodation into the mix. Of course, not every event needs to be incredibly expensive and savings can be made. But given the lack of guarantees I’ve mentioned above, is this still a risk worth taking?
  • The time and effort needed to make a book launch a success cannot be overemphasised. Ask any event organiser and they’ll say the same thing – event organisation can be incredibly stressful and intensely frustrating, especially if you’re receiving kickbacks from the media and celebs.

By far the biggest drawback of staging book launch is that nothing, and I mean nothing, is guaranteed.

So are book launch events really worth it?

If you’re organising a book launch event to celebrate your achievement, to thank your family and friends (and invariably your long-suffering editor), and to let your hair down after months of staring at a computer screen, then yes they are. If you have the patience and the money (or if your publisher is stumping up the cash and organising everything), and you don’t care a jot about media coverage, “buzzes”, and each of the other guarantees I’ve mentioned above, then go for it. Invite the world and his uncle and relish every sip of Champers.

But if your objectives are more outcome focused and you’re thinking of holding a book launch event to drum up some media coverage, my advice is to save your money and sink it into something that will produce tangible, assured results. By doing so you’ll be cutting out the middle man (and his fees) and getting the same result. Palamedes PR guarantees all of its work but still agrees with me on this point: book launches are lots of fun but unless your pockets are deep, keep

Steven Monaghan of Palamedes PR, the book PR and marketing agency

Steven Monahan

Steven blogs about PR and marketing, books and, occasionally, boxing. He has been known to play the harmonica with his nose.

Book Marketing Services UK

Palamedes is one of the UK’s longest-established specialist book marketing agencies. Since 2009, we’ve been engaged by some of the world’s biggest publishers and authors to promote books in the media. If you’re looking for author marketing services UK, give us a call and we can talk you through your options with a free 30-minute consultation with one of our British book publicists.

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