November 15th, 2013

It’s Party Time, Facebook Style! Tips and Tricks for Hosting a Virtual Launch Party

By Melissa Cutler

Melissa Cutler

Melissa Cutler

I’m so excited to be on Writers in the Storm today talking about Facebook book launch parties. I’ve thrown three virtual launch parties and participated in many more, and I’m eager to share what I’ve learned from these great experiences.

There are a lot of different kinds of Facebook parties, ranging from week-long events to one hour Q&A sessions. All I can share is my own experience and hope that it helps you stay ahead of the curve.

First of all, why throw a virtual launch party?

My #1 reason for throwing a virtual party, complete with lots of party favors and giveaways for attendees is as a thank you, first (for my debut release) to my loyal supporters during my publication quest, and then to my loyal readers. It’s great fun to laugh and joke with them, answer any questions they might have about the books or myself, and shower them with giveaways and thank yous for their readership.

The #2 reason for hosting a virtual launch party is to spread the word about your book release. It is perfectly acceptable during a launch party to post buy links for your book and ask attendees to share the links on their Facebook profiles. Remember: everyone’s there because they love your books and you, and they don’t mind being asked to post links. To this end, I have found virtual parties very effective in spreading the word of my book releases to people who wouldn’t normally know about it.

A 3rd reason I love to host these parties is because, otherwise, release day can be anti-climactic. You’re alone in your house and it’s quiet and, uh, yeah. Throwing yourself a party with other book lovers as guests is a great way to stay festive and celebrate the launch of your creation into the world, which is a huge deal that you should be very proud of.

Here’s a caveat

I love social media. I love chatting with my readers on Facebook and Twitter every day. I look forward to it. I understand that not all authors dive into social media as merrily as I did because it can be scary and awkward and sometimes you don’t know what to say. If that’s the case, then maybe virtual parties aren’t for you, or maybe you need the help of a company like Author Elf, which will host a virtual party for you and all you have to do is show up and reply to comments.

The Nuts and Bolts about Hosting a Virtual Party

1.  Attend one and observe what you like and don’t like about it. It seems that virtual book launch parties are happening weekly and finding one to attend isn’t difficult.

2.  Create a banner for the Facebook event page, much like the banner type and dimension for your Facebook author page. Rarely does uploading the book cover work. It doesn’t have all the great details and only a fraction of the cover will show. Here’s a link to the most recent Facebook party I hosted. https://www.facebook.com/events/416526788452374/  I created the banner in about ten minutes using silly old Microsoft Paint. I not only uploaded it to the event page, but I used it to publicize the party by posting it to my Facebook author page, Twitter, and Pinterest.

3.  Create the party description in a Word document before you even create the event page, then when you create the page, copy and paste it into the field on the Facebook event page. How much or little description you add depends on you. I like to include at least one link where people can find out more information about the book and/or read a sample chapter. Sometimes I put the pre-order links right in the description. Remember, this is a safe place to shamelessly promote your book!

Here is what I wrote for the Cowboy Justice launch party:

COWBOY JUSTICE is coming to stores and e-retailers in North America in October (and other points around the globe in November). Join Melissa on Wednesday, October 2nd for a rockin’ good time celebrating the book’s release.

Handy Reminder: receive a ONE TIME ONLY email reminder about the party on the afternoon of the event so you don’t have worry about remembering the time and date. Click here to opt in: http://eepurl.com/E3GJr

RSVP for the fun by clicking the “join” button in the upper right corner of this event page. And don’t forget to invite your friends!

Learn more about COWBOY JUSTICE at my website: http://www.melissacutler.net/

4.  Party Favors: Giveaways are not, technically, allowed on Facebook unless they’re Facebook sanctioned giveaways. That being said, I’ve never once heard an anecdote of an author who ran into a problem with this. I will say that I never use the word “giveaway.” I hand out party favors. I hand them out at least every half hour and use random.org to select the winners—er, “recipients.” How you do this easiest is by exporting the guest list to excel. This is very easy to do from the event page. Then I copy and paste the guest list into random.org’s list randomizer. When it’s time to hand out a party favor, I re-randomize the list.

I like to hand out virtual gifts, such as e-books, MP3 songs that remind me of the book’s themes or characters (Amazon lets you gift individual songs), and e-gift cards to Amazon, Sephora, Cold Stone Creamery, and Starbucks. Other authors I know do mail physical gifts, but I like to get my gift distribution done and over with on the night of the party.

5.  What else do you do during the party? I love inviting the attendees to ask me questions, about my books, my life, or my writing process. It usually keeps us really busy. I also try to shake it up by posting links to Youtube videos of fun, party songs and posting funny memes like “what’s your cowboy name?” where attendees use a chart to determine what their silly cowboy name is. This is where an obsession with Pinterest comes in handy. Other authors I know like to post trivia and fun facts about the place/setting/topic of the book and/or post discussion questions like “If you were stranded on a deserted island like the characters, which celebrity would you like to be stranded with?”

Georgie Lee, author of the Harlequin Historical romance Engagement of Convenience, had this to say about her most recent launch party: “One thing I recommend doing before the Facebook party begins is to prepare a number of questions, fun facts, and pictures. When the party is in full swing, it’s easy to forget what you’re planning to say. I kept my questions and fun facts in a Word list and checked them off as I used them. I kept the pictures in an easy to find folder on the desktop. It made running the party much easier.”

Quick fire tips:

  • Think wisely about the time frame. All day parties can be exhausting, but I know authors who love long, multi-day parties in which guests just check in once or twice per day. I prefer 3 hour parties that begin at 4:30pm PST (which is 7:30 on the east coast), because it allows for maximum people to attend after work, but when it’s not encroaching into their bedtime.
  • I learned the hard way that it’s very important to clarify what time zone your invitation is in, and also that the event is taking place ON THE EVENT PAGE, not somewhere else, such as your author page. Trust me on this.
  • You can create the event from your Author page, but all posts must be done from your profile, so be sure to list your profile as one of the party hosts (this is done in the “edit details” field). Also, you can only send Facebook invites to friends of your profile, not people who have “liked” your author page, so you must be diligent in spreading the word in the weeks leading up to the party.
  • Post a variety of links for attendees to share, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iTunes, but also be sure to ask them if they’ve added the book to their Goodreads shelf (and provide a link), and if they’ve subscribed to your newsletter and “liked” your Facebook author page. Space the links out to maybe one every half hour.
  • Above all, have fun and stay enthusiastic. NEVER comment that it’s quiet or that it’s boring. Fake it ‘till you make it!

Scroll through the posts of my COWBOY JUSTICE party to get a feel for how the party shaped up. It was so much fun and I had a great time, as I believe my guests did. Here’s that link again: https://www.facebook.com/events/416526788452374/

Have you hosted or attended a Facebook launch party? What worked? What didn’t?

My thanks to Writers in the Storm for hosting me today. I’m really easy to find at www.melissacutler.net, on Facebook (www.facebook.com/MelissaCutlerBooks ), and Twitter (@m_cutler).

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In Stores Now!

Melissa Cutler is the author of COWBOY JUSTICE and many other romance novels. She knows she has the best job in the world, dividing her time between her dual passions for writing sexy contemporary romances and edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense for Harlequin, Penguin, and Kensington Books. She was struck at an early age by an unrelenting travel bug and is probably planning her next vacation as you read this. When she’s not globetrotting, she’s enjoying Southern California’s flip-flop wearing weather and wrangling two rambunctious kids.

COWBOY JUSTICE is in Stores Now:

Amazon: http://amzn.to/ZN8Bqb
B&N: http://bit.ly/Zn2yvl
iTunes: http://bit.ly/12jejAv
Kobo: http://bit.ly/17xaXMX
Walmart: http://bit.ly/151XfBS

 

29 comments to It’s Party Time, Facebook Style! Tips and Tricks for Hosting a Virtual Launch Party

  • Hi Melissa! Good to see your face this morning! I am an extrovert, so you’d think I’d jump on the launch bandwagon, but I probably won’t. That old junior high fear that I’ll invite people, and be dressed up, stuffing in all the chips and cupcakes – alone.

    • One of these days, Laura, we’ll hold hands and host a double WF book launch party. 😉

    • Hi, Laura. It can be scary to imagine party guests not showing up, but I think you’d be surprised. It’s all in how you advertise it and remind people that it’s happening. This last party I threw, I created a Mailchimp sign up link for a one time only email reminder on the afternoon of the party, then posted that link all over the place in the weeks leading up to the party. That aspect turned out great and I’ll definitely do it again.

  • A great post and some great advice. I had not heard of virtual book release parties before, such an excellent idea.

  • Melissa, this is great information! I’ve wondered about how this is done and now I can see how to do this, should the need arise. Which I hope it does before too much longer, but we’ll see! Thanks for sharing!

  • Thank you Melissa! This is wonderful step-by-step info. I am a debut author looking for an agent and this will be so helpful when I find one. I totally would have said I knew how to do a virtual launch party, cause I’m all for the “fake it till you make it” philosophy! But now I won’t have to 🙂

    • I’m with you, Jeannie, I do the “fake it till ya make it” and then desperately look around to see how others are doing it so I don’t “fall on it before ya make it” as well. Good luck with the agent hunt!!!

  • Great post, Melissa. You make it sound almost fun, even for an introverted troll like me. 🙂

    • Thanks, Orly. That’s why I included that caveat. I know the party idea isn’t for everyone, but I love these parties and think they’re really beneficial. Thank you for having me on the blog. You make the posts look so great, every time!

  • Thanks, Melissa…great stuff and Thanks Betty Bolte for posting this link. Scary stuff, this marketing. 😉 Is there a tutorial for exporting the guest list to Excel?

    • Hi P.T.,

      Glad you asked. Here’s how to export the guest list:
      1. On the left hand margin of the Facebook event page, click on the word “Going”. A pop-up window should appear listing all the people who joined the event.
      2. Click on the words “export guest list” in the bottom left of that pop-up window
      3. The list should automatically download as an excel spreadsheet.

      Hope that helps!

  • Melissa got me started on fb parties too, and she’s great at it. 🙂 She and I also did two fb parties together as writeathons (not for a release) and that is another idea. Cohosting a fb party is a blast and brings double the readers in and benefits both authors. Also takes the pressure off one person if you are a little nervous. By the way Melissa…we need to do that again!

    • Hi Sharla. Thanks for stopping by! You’re right that a Facebook party isn’t restricted to book launches. I love the writing sprint parties we’ve done. Yes, we need to do another one of those very soon!

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  • Hi Melissa. I’ve attended some FB parties, but it seems like the messages are hard to find and keep track of . Tweeted.

    • Hi, Ella. You’re right that sometimes the party moves at such a fast pace that it’s sometimes tricky to keep track of the posts and replies, but I don’t think it’s that hard and the fun outweighs it, at least for me. I find that holding the party on the event page instead of your author page helps because everyone can see everyone else’s posts. On author pages, party guests can’t see anyone else’s posts except the author’s.

      • On my blog everyone can see all the posts.

        • Then it sounds like a blog post might be the ideal venue for you to host a virtual party. As I mentioned to Marsha below, there are so many possible ways to reach out to readers that each author should make use of whatever social media format works best for them. I adore Facebook and that’s where my readers know to find me, so I host my parties there, but the possibilities are endless! Best of luck to you. 🙂

  • Okay, my stomach so tied in knots reading this. Do I take it you did nothing else at all during the 3 hours? I can see why having stuff set up before hand would help. I will at least make the effort to stop by the next one I learn of to get a feel for how it works in real time. Thanks for this post.

    • I’m sorry my post tied your stomach in knots. That’s no good! Don’t feel like you have to do something like this if it makes you anxious. There are so many different ways to reach readers! Whatever social media mode is your favorite–blog, twitter, Facebook, Goodreads–then that’s what you should make use of to celebrate your book launch. I can see having a virtual party on a blog post like this one, with all the “partying” happening in the comment section. The sky’s the limit.

      You’re correct that I didn’t do anything else during that 3 hours, but it’s fun for me. I put music on, pour a glass of wine or have a beer and some snacks handy, and just hang out with my readers. I’m always exhausted by the end, but it’s a very satisfied exhaustion.

      Thank you for stopping by the blog!

      • Thanks, Melissa. The explanations are helpful. I kind of like the idea of doing it on the blog. Everyone can see all of those posts, too. Might attract new folks to the blog. Lots to think of here, but my stomach doesn’t hurt any more. 🙂

  • I just began researching Facebook Release Parties and your post has been the most helpful yet. I’m still not sure if I’ll be doing one for my upcoming debut release, but I feel like I understand the concept now, and I’ll be attending one before I make up my mind.
    Thank you Melissa!

    • Hi Emerald,

      I’m so glad you found the post helpful. Congratulations on your upcoming debut. That’s fantastic! If you decide to host a FB party and come up with any more questions or issues, feel free to contact me through email or facebook. I’m happy to help.

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