I’m not going to bore you with the long story because this is a long blog post all by itself even without the detailed explanation. The short version is I’m writing a couple ‘How to’ type things for writers. One of those things is this thing about hosting a successful Facebook launch party for your book. Take a peek, give it a read and then give me a shout if you think of anything I’ve missed. This is my first draft (I know, I know…) so there’s still plenty of room for revisions and additions 🙂
Facebook Launch Parties
Facebook launch parties, like any event involving the internet and other people, have highly variable success rates but there are some things you can do to maximize your chances of having a fun and effective one.
The first thing you ought to do is define what your primary goal is. If you don’t know that how can you judge your success rate? Are you looking to just have fun and celebrate the book’s release? Want to generate ‘Likes’ for your page? Get reviews? Add subscribers to your mailing list? Sell copies of the book?
Bonus points to you if you create a measurable goal. “I want to add XX new subscribers to my mailing list” is a more meaningful goal than “I want to add new subscribers to my mailing list”. Similarly, “I want to sell five copies of my book between when the party begins and when it ends” is more helpful than “I want to sell more copies of my book” or even “I want to sell five copies of my book”.
As you plan, set up, host and contend with the aftermath of a Facebook launch party you’ll want to keep that goal at the forefront of your mind. It will directly impact all of the choices you make through the entire process.
Choosing a Date
Keep your goal in mind when you choose the date for your event. For example, if you want to increase your total reviews you could plan the event for a week or two after release but if your goal is to make some sales you’ll probably want to schedule the party to happen on release day or shortly after. Whatever your goal is you’ll want to pick a party date that is far enough in the future that you’ll have time to organize the event, maximize attendance and build some anticipation for it.
I’ve held parties that were all day long and parties that were just a few hours. I highly recommend the later. Day-long events might seem like a good idea but stretching things out too long means you rarely have multiple guest on at the same time so they can’t interact in real time and it also makes for a really long day for you as the host.
Given different time zones and people’s schedules trying to choose the perfect two or three hour window in the day can seem like an impossible task. Because it is. You’re never going to make everyone happy so my advice (barring extenuating circumstances) is to go with what works best for you. You’re probably the only person who is going to be there from start to finish so in this case it’s okay to be a little selfish.
Create the Event Page
Use a custom header for your event page. If you’re not awesome with graphics that’s okay, there are free services like https://www.canva.com/ that will help you look professional even if you don’t know how to do anything more than drag and drop.
Include all the information your guests will need on the event page(don’t forget the five Ws—who, what, where, when and why) and make sure you emphasize the ‘why’ part. Give your guest a real reason to show up. People are invited to tonnes of Facebook events every day so you need to find something to set your event apart from the rest. Are you giving away an awesome door prize? Offering exclusive content of some kind? Unusual access to the author/editor/publisher/contributors/artist/your dog/something? Games? Contests? Whatever the thing is that makes your event special make sure that is front and centre.
The Door Prize
I always offer a prize to the attendee who invites the most people to the party. The door prize is meant to be an incentive for people to spread the word and invite their friends (who will, one hopes, invite their friends. And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends…).
I try to make it something of value (this doesn’t have to be monetary value, just value to the person winning it) that is not the book I’m promoting. The exception for this might be if the goal of my party was to get more reviews, but otherwise I want people to buy the book not wait to see if they won it instead.
If you’re feeling especially ambitious you could also ask your friends who are writers (or create any sort of product somehow related to the book you are launching) if they’d like to donate prizes to the event as well. Done correctly this can benefit both parties—you get prizes and they get some promotion—but it will increase your workload significantly.
The Event Itself
Ideally the goal is to strike a balance between structured posts and unstructured conversation. You want to avoid having a stilted and dry event where you’re posting things and people are pausing in their scrolling for just long enough to click ‘like’ before continuing on. At the same time if the conversation turns into a free-for-all you are highly unlikely to accomplish your goals for the launch—you need to maintain some measure of control.
I aim for one post every ten or fifteen minutes and spend the time between those posts chatting in the comments of all the posts with my guests. I also consider it a total victory when I spot participants engaging with one another directly instead of always going through me—that’s how you know the party is actually a party and not just one big commercial for your book.
Each post I make contains three things:
- A picture
- Something to catch my guest’s eye and make them want to stop and read what I have to say. Also, posts with pictures are more likely to be shared, which would be an added bonus, amirite?
- The content of my post
- I usually aim for 100 – 150ish words. Long enough to have something to say but not so long that people can’t be bothered to read it and just keep scrolling. When a post does have to be longer than 100 words I break it up into several smaller paragraphs rather than presenting my guests with a big ole wall of text.
- Something intended to stimulate conversation.
- More often than not this is going to be a question (“What do you think?” “What’s your favourite thing?”) but sometimes, like in the case of a post that’s a contest entry, it will be a ‘Post such and such’ in order to enter to win!
- If you ask your guests a question pay attention to their answers. Not only because it’s the right and respectful thing to do (which it is–the same as in a three dimensional conversation), but also because they might provide you with fodder for a new post/conversation as well.
- Regarding contest entries. Sometimes it’s fun to send people on scavenger hunts (‘post a picture of the actor you’d cast to play so and so’ for example) but you do need to be careful because if you send your guests away from the party, even just to a different browser tab, they might become distracted and not make it back.
Don’t be afraid to use all the tools Facebook gives you to make your party memorable. Facebook Live, photos, videos, polls, sharing—all these things can be combined in creative ways to make your party stand out from the crowd. Experiment. See what happens.
After the Party
You’re not done just because the party is. Close, but not quite.
The first thing you need to do is make sure that all your prizes have been won and the winners notified. You also need to send out those prizes and follow-up with the people who have donated prizes to make sure they’ve sent theirs out as well. There’s no quicker way to anger a guest at your party than to promise them a prize and then not deliver. And I very much doubt ‘Make people mad at me’ was on that list of goals you made before the party began, was it?
That’s the next thing you need to do—honestly evaluate the success of the party. Did you meet your primary goal? This is where you’ll be super thankful to Past You for setting specific, measurable goals. If Past You didn’t do that you may not be able to clearly determine how successful you were, but you’ll probably have at least a vague idea.
How did things go? What went better than expected? Worse than expected? Make a note of these things—really. Write them down somewhere—they will provide incredibly useful information for you when it comes time to plan your next Facebook launch party. That is, assuming you’re going to have another Facebook launch party.
Give that some thought too. These events are not for everyone. Some people love them, some hate them. Some do very well with them and some don’t. If you love Facebook parties there may be some reward for you just in having them, regardless of how effective they are. However, if you aren’t having a good time your guests will probably sense that which is likely to impact your results. But even more than that, if you’re not having fun maybe your promotional energies would be better funneled in a different direction.
In the end, like so many things in this industry, it’s all very individualized. The best way to discover if a Facebook launch party is the right thing for you, though, is to throw one.
Good luck, and have fun!