Two weeks ago, we had our first online book launch here at Peeking Cat Poetry. I thought of having a book launch because I wanted the release of our new anthology to be extra special – a real event. During the event, an attendee said it was her first online book launch and that she was interested to see how it worked. Well, so was I! And that brings me onto the first of five things I learned from organising and hosting our first online book launch:
1. There’s no set formula
I started off by doing my research. I knew I wanted to host a book launch, and I knew it had to be online because my audience is from all over the world. I thought the Facebook page would be a good place to do it because that’s an easy place for people to interact with each other. But beyond that, I had no idea what was actually involved. What happens at these things? My initial research wasn’t very helpful because the sources I found were a little light on details in terms of what content I might need. But eventually I settled on some videos, competitions, interviews and poetry readings. You can read all about exactly what happened in my post-event roundup. The fact is, an online book launch can be anything you want it to be. Livestreams, podcasts, Facebook, Twitter – there are lots of possibilities, and the methods you choose will depend on the kind of content and interactions you want to share, and where your audience is.
2. The more planning and preparation, the better
I planned a lot of content for our two hour book launch, and almost all of it was scheduled in advance. That might take a bit of the magic away for those who attended, but if I hadn’t prepared so much in advance I wouldn’t have been able to keep up! I recorded videos in advance and scheduled them using Facebook’s scheduling tool. You can also use other scheduling tools such as Hootsuite, but apparently Facebook’s algorithm might not show them as much as content you post directly onto Facebook. How much of this you can do depends on where you’re hosting your event and the type of content you have, but I found it worked well for me. The more you can schedule in advance, the better you can keep up with the rest of your event and respond to your attendees’ questions, comments and other interactions.
3. It’s about more than one evening
The fast-paced nature of the book launch meant that I was posting new content every five minutes for two hours – that’s a lot of content! And it wasn’t short content – it was videos that were anything from 30 seconds to five minutes or even twenty minutes long, interviews that took a few minutes to read, and competitions to enter that people had to put some real thought into. This meant that people were always going to miss a few pieces of content while reading, watching or replying to something else. So after the event was scheduled to end I stuck around online to finish up replying to people, and I would think that other people didn’t clear out straight away either as they caught up on what they missed. All of the content from the launch is still on the Facebook page so people can see it whether they joined halfway through the event, or didn’t make it at all on the day. Keeping the material available online means nobody has to miss out.
4. Length is important
Our event was two hours long, and despite there being a lot of content jammed into it, I think that was a good length. Too short and people might miss the whole thing, too long and people might feel overwhelmed or bored before the end. I think two to three hours means people can dip in and out whenever it’s convenient for them. Plus, people live in different time zones and have different schedules – especially during the week when people are more likely to be working. If an event isn’t very long you’re probably going to be accommodating fewer people.
5. You don’t need loads of attendees to be successful
Peeking Cat has over 500 Facebook followers, and we had around a dozen people saying hello on our “checking in” thread, with maybe up to twenty people interacting over the evening and an unknown number watching quietly. So not huge numbers, but it didn’t matter – it felt like there were a lot of people there, with so much going on! The Peeking Cat family isn’t huge, but it is loyal and the evening felt very lively. It doesn’t matter whether ten people or a thousand people turn up at your book launch. The number of participants isn’t always the best indicator of success – a book launch can strengthen the community you already have, and it’s the Peeking Cat community that made the anthology launch a lot of fun, very rewarding, and a great success.