Last month I got to play Queen For The Night when my local library held the launch party for my debut novel At Your Service. The event hosted close to 250 of my nearest and dearest (okay, many were strangers, but not by the end of the night!) and was a rousing success. Although I pass most of the credit along to others, I did learn much from the process and thought it might be helpful to share the wisdom for those of you planning your own.
First and foremost, it truly helps to have an amazing crew of supporters who are invested in making the event a Very Big Deal. In my case, that was the Children’s Room librarian and her staff, the president of the Melrose Public Library’s Friends of the Library, and the enthusiastic owner of my local indie bookstore. They each committed a ton of manpower and energy into the night and it showed! I’m forever grateful to them for making the night so very special.
The other critical component here was that the library stood to gain something here too, and I think that’s very important. Many book launch parties are primarily about celebrating the author’s achievement and offering a chance to bask in the glory with close friends and family. In my instance, I was a little shy about doing that (exceedingly good thing I didn’t know ahead of time about the red carpet, tiara, and confetti reception awaiting me!) and wanted to make it more about the readers. When I approached the library about playing host, I made sure to emphasize all the things the kids would get out of the event. We planned a full night of activities aimed squarely at them, using the book for inspiration.
In one scene in At Your Service, my main character Chloe, in her role as Kid Concierge of the fancy hotel where she lives, takes one of the young hotel guests to learn cupcake decorating at Magnolia Bakery. The librarians reached out to Whole Foods and secured a generous donation of hundreds of cupcakes and decorating supplies so we could have our very own cupcake station (pretty brave of the library to introduce icing so close to shelves of books, but I wasn’t about to argue!)
Our other stations included:
- Decorate your own Do Not Disturb door hanger (just like the ones found at hotels)
- Create a Slambook station (another plot point in the book- Chloe uses these notebooks to get to know her guests tastes and interests better)
- A New York City-themed Scavenger Hunt through the library (the book is set in NYC and it factors heavily into the plotline). Kids searched the stacks for a Yankee bobblehead, a miniature yellow taxi cab, and MTA subway maps, among other items. All those who completed the scavenger hunt got to take home a very special At Your Service prize! In the book, Chloe loses a young princess in New York City and the only clue she has to go on is that the princess is on a mission to collect all the souvenir pressed pennies the city has to offer (allowing me to take the book to all the city’s best tourist spots!) When the library discovered this, they got on board with creating and ordering these custom pressed pennies to give to all attendees. It was so fun to see how many kids already had penny collections going and how many now planned to start one!
Involving the kids and turning this into a celebration of the book versus the author (though we did play up the “local author” angle) allowed us to involve the schools and they enthusiastically sent home flyers about the event in the backpacks of kids at all six town elementary schools. Because I’ll be doing an Author-in-Residence grant program with the middle school this year, we also looped in those students.
The result was a jam-packed library and a super high energy level (I found out later that the police were called in on a noise complaint! I’m guessing that was a first for the library-and the police-and makes me smile every time I think about it!)
The one piece I’d do differently if given the opportunity would be to shorten my book talk/thanks-to-everyone-I-ever-met-on-my-writing-journey. Those kids just wanted to get at the cupcakes!!
I’m very lucky that my town is so supportive of literacy and places a high value on kids’ reading. Parents were excited to present their children with the opportunity to meet an author- even little ‘ole me, who felt every inch the celebrity that night. In fact, the only downside is that now I have to brush my hair and wear “real” clothes around town because now I have a reputation to uphold!
*photo credits to the talented Alison Cherry.