Laura is blue. Fiona is green.
When we first started this blog, our book launches seemed so far in the future. But as of a few days ago, they've come and gone. Stampede! and Bubble Homes and Fish Farts are well and truly launched into the world.
Yay! It's pretty hard to believe!
I thought it might be helpful to talk about how things went and what we learned from our launch experiences. Since the buzz of your online launch is still ringing in the halls, Laura, let's start with yours.
OK, let's--I'm still doing the party cleanup, so it's definitely on my mind.
I popped into your online ning launch on Monday and the place was hopping. People were leaving notes in your guest book and comments about everything from animal crackers to your funny elephant-beagle stampede video. Several folks were chatting with you in the online chat area while I was there.
The event looked to be a terrific success. Were you happy with it? Did it turn out the way you wanted it to?
I was happy with it! Thrilled, actually. It was still a little nerve-wracking, wondering if people would show. But when I woke up Monday morning, several people had already come and commented, saying lovely things! Gave me confidence for the day.
Any idea how many people attended?
Lots of people came--311 unique visitors Monday, almost 50 more on Tuesday, and they're still trickling in. More than half stayed 5 minutes or longer, and of that half, about 1/3 stayed 5-20 minutes, 1/3 stayed 20 minutes to an hour, and 1/3 stayed more than an hour. So people were hanging out and visiting the different activities, etc. 72 people signed the guestbook, which was lovely. I never would have had that many people at an in-person launch.
That's a terrific turnout. A success, indeed!
So, what lessons did you take away from this experience? What would you have done differently?
An online launch is a lot of work! I spent many hours getting the various documents and activities ready over the past month or so.
Clicking around, you could certainly see that. You had a lot of content. You basically created an entire website!
But it felt less stressful for me than the thought of preparing for an in person launch. How much punch do I buy? Will there be enough cake? Will it snow that day and everyone will stay home? I didn't have to worry about those questions.
[giggle] All the things *I* was worried about!
You had many more technical aspects to your launch, though. Did that cause any hiccups?
You know, AFTER I committed to and started publicizing the ning address, I had a day on a different ning of mine (I was using for an online class) go down for a day. Server problems. Just unavailable. So the day before the launch, I worried about that. What if the whole thing just disappears? Ack! Looking back, I should have had a backup plan. I'm not sure what it would have been, but just some idea of how I would have handled it. Reschedule? Try to put the material elsewhere? I don't know... Luckily, from a tech point of view, the only bad thing about the ning was that you can't insert your reply right after a comment on a blog post (the comments just appear in chronological order). I knew that going in. I kind of wish I had commented more throughout the day (though I was chatting online a lot) so people could have seen replies while they were there. I'll think about that more next time.
Hmm...I hadn't noticed that as a problem. But then, I'm used to dealing with blogger and comments are chronological there.
Also, the live chat function shut down a few times on me, mid-conversation. That was an annoyance, but not catastrophic.
I learned that a big plus of the online launch is you create lots of materials that you might repurpose and use on a long-term basis! I'm leaving everything up for now because people are still dropping in, which is wonderful! And the launch is being mentioned in some of my upcoming interviews. So I'll leave it up for a while. Eventually, though, many of the activities, videos, readings, etc., will migrate to a more permanent home on my website. So that's very cool. Everything feels new and exciting for the launch, but then there will be a long-term payoff, too, I hope.
Repurposing is very smart. And debuting new materials on the online launch site draws visitors in. If you'd simply moved content over from your established website, I don't think you'd have had as many visitors. "New and exciting" is an important component.
Exactly. And I learned that people are awfully friendly and supportive! I tell you, on my to-do list is to print out all the comments people left. Next time I get a rejection or bad review, that puppy's coming out to cheer me up! I was really basking in everyone's excitement and support. It was amazing! I could enjoy it in a way that would have been hard for me to do in person.
Yes, being able to go back and reread the comments is a nice benefit. In-person comments are relegated to memory, and that fades over time.
I thought your "Do me a favor?" section, where you suggested several cost-free ways folks could help Stampede! find its way in the world, was very well done. Several people noted they would.
Subliminal message starts here.
Go...go...go request that your library purchase copies of Laura's "Stampede! Poems to Celebrate the Wild" Side and Fiona's "Bubble Homes and Fish Farts"...go...get thee to your library...
Subliminal message ends here.
lol. Maybe I should have put background music on my launch site (except I hate background music on sites) with this subliminal message playing very quietly in the background!
Thanks! You know, I've been working harder to support books I like but can't buy. I do the One Book I Love on my blog (in addition to my Favorite Book of the Week in my sidebar), I try to more purposely mention recent books I love to librarians and booksellers, and I'm starting to mention them on Facebook once in a while, too. I think every little bit helps. But it's hard to stay on top of! So I thought, what would I most like people to do? Well, if they can't afford buy the book themselves, the next best things are to ask their library to buy it or to leave a customer review at on online bookseller.
Me, too. These are simple things, but powerful ones, yet not something I thought much about until my book was published. I've found the response to book suggestions has been good. People seem to like hearing about books their friends have found and loved.
I think if you're asking people to do a favor, it makes sense to do as much of the grunt work for them as you can! So I made a flyer they could drop off at their library or text they could email in if their library has that option. And I provided links for leaving reviews. I told people I'd be very grateful if they had time to choose just one thing to do. And I got a fair number of comments and emails afterward with people telling me they did just that. So that was lovely.
You handled it beautifully. Very easy for folks to follow through...very low-key...no pressure. Well done!
Thank you. I was worried about being too pushy. And on that note, enough about me. How was your local launch?
It turned out really well. The atmosphere was festive and celebratory, exactly as I'd hoped. About 150 people attended.
Wow! That's huge! That's an absolute boatload of people. This was the one at the nature center, not the aquarium, right?
(this picture captures about a quarter of the room), so 150 is about the maximum capacity. Any more people and it would have been too crowded and possibly a problem. As it was, it was just right.
It looks like a beautful setting.
It is. It's located right next to the wetlands. The building is rustic with many windows...a very nature-y feel to it. A great match for the book.
And while that sounds just aesthetic, I think the setting creates a mood for your party, and if people felt very nature-y, of course that's conducive to buying a nature-y book. A modern, hi-tech party room might be just as cool, but not the right match for your particular book!
Hmm...I hadn't thought of it that way, but it makes sense.
As for the rest of the launch...
The kids' crafts tables hummed with kids making about 70 animal hats and bubble blowers,
...we went through 300 square inches of cake (all that was left at the end was the book cover and 4 cut pieces),
and I signed books in between a couple of readings and a quick buzz through the room.
That sounds excellent! Beautiful cake and crafts--can't go wrong. It looks like everyone is really into the activities. Excellent.
The kids seemed to really like the hats and bubble blowers. My only regret is that the weather wasn't good enough for the kids to go outside to try out their new blowers.
That is kind of too bad about the weather, but the good thing is, they'll use them at home on a nice day, and their friends will say, "Where'd ya get that?" and they'll talk about a cool party for a book, YOUR book, etc.!
I hope so! It also meant I had four gallons of bubble solution that didn't get used. But, not to worry, I donated it to a local elementary school, so a few classroom's worth of kids will have some bubble-blowing fun because of it.
Great solution (hehe). I hope some promo materials for Bubble Homes were delivered along with the bubble liquid.
The librarian bought a copy of the book. Does that count? Other than that, no, I wanted the bubble juice to be a gift, not seen as a way to elbow in a sales pitch, so I just left it at the book and bubble solution.
[Shaking head.] Oh, Fiona, I have a low tolerance for pitching, but even I wouldn't see leaving some postcards or bookmarks with the bubble liquid as "elbowing in a pitch."
It just didn't seem right to me. I guess it comes down to those comfort limits we keep talking about
But you were a lot braver in your promotion (via radio, etc.) than I could have been, so I guess I can't say too much. :>)
We both tried some things that pushed our comfort zone out a little wider than it was when we started. It's been an interesting journey.
So, what do you think was key your successful in-person launch?
One important thing I did, that I would make sure to do again next time, is have lots of help. I thought I would be able to take an active role in organizing and supervising the event, but I was too busy signing books, chatting with well-wishers and kids. I had one relative sell books, another man the refreshment table to keep supplies up and act as a welcomer, three teens supervise and assist at the kids' tables, and my son run rover and be the official photographer. Thanks to these guys, everything went smoothly.
That is so smart. And with that many people attending, definitely necessary!
Many of the launch post mortems I'd read online emphatically advised, "Get lots of help!!!" I'm really glad I listened.
One thing that surprised me was how effective the media was in getting people out. About half the people who attended were people I didn't know. Many of them mentioned they'd read about the launch in the paper or heard about it on the radio. I figure for every person who came to the launch because of media reports, there are quite a few others who heard about the book, so it was a good way to get the word out.
I think that's an amazing statistic, Fiona. To have 50% of a book launch crowd be non-friends and non-relatives? Absolutely fantastic.
I was surprised and pleased. I knew many of my family and friends would be there, but I had no idea so many others would come.
I had a few non-acquaintances drop in at my launch, and it was exciting to have teachers or librarians introduce themselves in the chat area and talk about getting my book for their school. But the vast majority (probably more than 90%) of names in my guestbook are ones I recognize. Hopefully others I didn't know came and enjoyed the launch too, but the major participants were definitely folks I know online with a few family members sprinkled in.
Congratulations. Really, the whole point of a launch party is to SPREAD the word, so getting word out to people you DON'T know is key.
In fact, now that we're talking about it, I think I would try to increase that aspect of my own launch next time. I don't know how, exactly, but maybe even just encouraging people to send the invitation to the media specialist at their local elementary schoools, etc. That's a good thing for me to keep in mind for next time--thanks!
The launch, as an "event", served as an anchor for the news media in a way that a "book release" alone wouldn't do. I bet the media bites you're getting are mostly anchored by your zoo appearances, too, Laura.
Ya know, the only local print coverage I've gotten, that I know of, is inclusion in a roundup of kids' books in the Minneapolis Star Tribune --yay! No mention of the zoo, though, because I wasn't featured--it's just one paragraph per book. But I think the zoo events made it into the calendar sections of both local papers, though.
Media will probably become more interested as the zoo dates approach. I didn't see any interest until a week or two before.
Well, the first zoo appearance has now come and gone, and it was a disaster of poor planning (on the zoo's part).
There was no signage, no promotion, no space for us to do our storytime--we were just stuck in a craft room (and that's all the sign on the door said--"Kids' Crafts" that was super-crowded with tons of kids loudly doing crafts and parents shouting across the room--or talking on their cell phones. When the lone zoo volunteer announced storytime and told kids they could continue crafting, she didn't even ask them to do the crafts quietly. Hardly anyone even heard the announcement because the volunteer was soft-spoken and microphoneless. And the few kids who ventured over to the rug for storytime could hardly hear Dara and me. We had to practically shout into their faces to be heard over the crafting din.
What a nightmare. Oh, Laura, I'm so sorry to hear that.
I am SO glad no media promoted it or were there. What an embarrassment that would have been. Shudder.
Lack of media coverage is probably part of the zoo's lack of planning...in this case, a good thing!
But even so... an event---a well-planned one, that is---is a good way to get media attention. I'm going to keep that in mind for the future. And [grin] not necessarily waiting until the next book launch, either. It may come in handy for repromoting this book, say, closer to Christmas. I wouldn't do such a huge event as I did for the launch, but I'd try to create some kind of event to leverage that media attention.
Good point. Especially since my next trade book doesn't even have an illustrator yet, so I'll want to re-create excitement about Stampede over the next couple of years! I've already got a couple of September storytimes lined up, but now I'm wondering if I should be thinking about some kind of actual event to focus on the back-to-school aspect. Hmm...I'm too overwhelmed right now to think too hard about a back-to-school party, but I'll let the idea simmer at the back of my brain for a few weeks.
Mwahahaha...we've got her! It doesn't have to be a big event...just enough to have a media hook and get folks thinking it's something different they'd like to go to. You can do it!
If I survive April/May, I'll be brainstorming!
Well, Laura, that's our two launches.
Wow, Bayrock...we rocked! Two very different launch approaches, but both very successful in their own ways.
[Fiona and Laura do a high five]
Yup, we sure did. And I must say... for me, talking about it all here with you contributed greatly. So, thanks for the chats!
I agree. This blog as a sounding board has been invaluable! Thank you!
Whew! I'm still doing mop-up, packing up door prizes, etc., but it's nice to have hosted and survived our launches, and to feel like they went well. I wish we lived near each other so we could go out to celebrate! Somehow virtual snacks (though they were a big hit at the launch) really don't do a ton for me:>)
At least virtual snacks don't make it onto the hips. ;^) But, I agree, a celebratory drink and a "cheers" would have been nice to share in person. Ah...one day we'll find ourselves in the same city again.
Well, folks, the subtitle of Bubblestampede is "2 authors, 2 books...and a 9-month conversation about...aack!...PROMOTION!" We started talking together last August and went live September 1, so our nine months has run its course. It's hard to believe so much time has gone by so quickly. We'll be taking a week off and will be back again with a wrap-up post to finish things off.