This week, I decided to write a post about my Facebook launch party for the release of my novel, Murder Over Kodiak. For frequent readers of my blog who enjoy reading my wildlife posts, I apologize for this divergence. I’ve had several people, including other authors ask about my virtual, book-release party, though, and instead of answering everyone separately, I thought it would be easier to write about my experience in a blog post that anyone can access. When I first thought about having an online launch party, I found some helpful blog posts, and now I would like to return the favor. I’ve been asked how I planned the party, how I invited guests, and what it was like during the party. The question I’ve been asked the most is, “Was it successful?”
First of all, I would like to thank all of you who either came to my Facebook party last month or signed the guestbook on my website. 180 people attended my Facebook party, 99 signed my guestbook, and 63 signed up for my newsletter. Honestly, my party was successful beyond my wildest dreams. I hoped at least 25 people would show up, so I was quite surprised. I learned a great deal during the planning process for my party, especially about the technical aspects of Facebook and my website, and since I am not the most social creature, I had to drag myself out of my shell. Still, a virtual party was less painful for me than a physical party would have been; I am not comfortable being the center of attention. I’ll break down the process for you and tell you what I learned (good and bad).
Why Facebook and Why a Launch Page on My Website?
I’m sure you all know that Facebook is by far the largest social media website, and it is difficult to be a successful author today without having a presence on Facebook. I don’t love Facebook, but I realize it is necessary for me to use it. I originally planned to have my launch party on my website, but I soon remembered that I am not a technical genius, and I live in a remote area with only satellite Internet. It would have been impossible for me to do a party on my website in “real time.” I began exploring my options and soon realized a “Facebook Event” would be the easiest alternative. The biggest problem I had with a Facebook Event was that a guest could not attend my party unless she had a Facebook account or was willing to sign up for Facebook. I know several people who hate Facebook and would never sign up for it for any reason, so I decided that in addition to the Facebook party, I would also have a “Book Launch” page on my website, complete with a guestbook that visitors could sign. This page had links to the synopsis of my novel as well as to links to where the novel could be purchased. Several people thanked me for offering an alternative to attending the Facebook party, so I was glad I had the launch page on my website, plus it was a good way to get people to visit my website, and by signing my guestbook, they gave me permission to add their e-mail address to my newsletter list.
How Did I Create My Facebook Event Page?
Creating a Facebook Event page is as easy as clicking a button. I made a banner for the top of the page, and then I started to get nervous. In all my research, I noticed several businesses that, for a price, would help you with your Facebook party. I thought I probably could do the party by myself, but during a moment of panic, I hired a party planner who specialized in virtual book launches. I don’t know if the money was worth it because I did most of the work myself, but she was there to answer my questions, and that was nice.
To create a Facebook Event, look at the left side of your Facebook “Home” page. Under the heading “Create,” click on “Create Event.” You now have an Event page! Next, you will want to make a banner for the top of your Event page. The banner needs to be 784 x 295 pixels. It takes only a few minutes to design your own banner in a program such as Photoshop or Canva. I used Microsoft Paint to design my simple banner. If you don’t want to tackle designing your own banner or if you want an intricately designed banner, you can hire a graphic designer to create it. Perhaps the designer who created your book cover could design your event banner. You can visit my Event Page to see the simple banner I designed. It has a background scenery photo, a photo of my book cover, and photo of me. A graphic designer or artist would have created a more eye-catching banner than the one I designed, but I was on a budget, and I didn’t think a fancier banner would be worth the cost. Don’t forget to include the date and time of your party on the banner. Also be sure to state the time of your party for various time zones, because you will have people from across the U.S. and perhaps from around the world wanting to attend your party, and they will need to know the time of party where they live. I thought it was most important to include Eastern and Alaskan times for the party. Be sure to post a description of the event under the “About” tab.
How Did I Invite Guests to My Party?
To invite friends to your Facebook party, go to your Event page and click on the “Invite” button in the lower right-hand corner of the banner at the top of the page. Checkmark the friends you wish to invite, and an invitation will be sent to them. I also posted an announcement about my party on both my personal and author Facebook pages and asked my friends to invite their friends. They invite their friends in the same way you invited them. They simply go to your Event page, click on “Invite,” and choose the friends they wish to invite. Before you know it, you’ll have hundreds and perhaps thousands of people invited to your party. Approximately 1400 people were invited to my party.
I sent e-mails to acquaintances who were not Facebook friends, told them about my book launch, and invited them to attend my Facebook party, sign the guestbook on my website, or better yet, do both. To sweeten the incentive to sign my guestbook, I told everyone to enter my drawing for a $25 Amazon gift card on my website once they signed my guestbook.
A few days before my party, I reminded my Facebook friends about the date and time of the party and described some of the prizes I would be giving away. I also posted about my party on Goodreads in the groups I belong to that allow that type of post (be sure to read the rules for each group; some do not allow authors to promote their books). I tweeted about my party and pinned the invitation to my Pinterest board. Those are the only social-networking sites I use, but if you use others, be sure to promote your party on those as well. I did not pay for any advertising, but the party planner I used sent invitations to her list, and that was helpful.
A few days before the party, I began posting comments on the “Event” page. One of my friends told me she would be hanging out by the pool, so I posted about that and let everyone know there was a large pool at the party venue. When I reminded my friends about the party on my Facebook page, I told them there was no dress code, so they could wear whatever they had on or nothing at all, and a few guests joked about that.
Any time you want a post to stay at the top of the Event page and not get moved down the page by subsequent posts, you can “pin” the post. Write the post and then click in the upper right hand corner of the post and click “pin”. You can only pin one post at a time, so if you later write another post that you want to pin to replace your previous pinned post, you must first click in the upper right hand corner of the pinned post and “unpin” it. You can then “pin” another post.
How Did I Plan My Party?
I chose to have a two-hour party, and I spent many hours planning my two-hour party. I worked out the details of every post I planned to make, found a corresponding photo for each post, bought two cartoons to use, and even planned the posts for after the party when I would list the answers to the questions I had asked. Most of my posts were questions, and I awarded prizes either to the guest or guests who answered the question correctly, or I drew a name from the list of everyone who commented on that post.
My party was mostly a fun quiz, and I had very positive feedback on this format, but there are many other options, including simply chatting with your guests and posting funny photos and videos. No matter what you do at your party, the party should reflect the novel you are promoting. I write mystery novels that take place in the wilderness of Alaska, so I did a series of posts I titled “Test Your Wilderness IQ,” where I did such things as post a photo of two berries and ask my guests which berry was safe to eat. I also created a few wilderness scenarios and asked my party guests what they would do if they were in this situation. The answers were fun, and several of the guests interacted with each other, discussing the correct answer. For my wilderness IQ posts, the top ten guests who answered the most questions correctly won an e-book of my novel. I also posted two bear photos and asked my guests to write funny captions for them. I had folks still posting captions two days after my party ended! For the funny caption posts, I randomly drew winners.
I live in the wilderness and have satellite internet which can be slow, so my biggest concern about this party was how long it would take me to post and upload each photo. As the party progressed and got busier and busier, I spent nearly all my time preparing the next post, while my husband sat at his computer and ran interference for me, telling me who was commenting on each post. The more questions I posted, the more hectic it got, because each of my posts was receiving comments at the same time. When someone commented, my computer dinged, and the dinging was non-stop until one hour after the party ended. When it was over, I had a headache, but I also had a smile on my face. The party had been fun and a success. I’d pulled it off, and the two hours were over in a flash.
How Did I Hand Out Prizes?
This is the part of the party I would do differently next time. I promised to post the winners two hours after the party ended, and that was not enough time. I think next time I would announce the winners the following day. At the end of the party I was exhausted, and then it was a race to draw the names and post the winners. Besides choosing the winners from each post or question at the party, I also drew names from the list of people who signed my guestbook, people who signed up for my newsletter, and people who “liked” my Facebook page, and researching all of that and randomly drawing winners took awhile to do. It took me several minutes just to figure out where to find the list of people who “liked” my Facebook page.
By the end of the party, I gave away 40 e-books, two signed copies of my novel, three $10 gift cards, and two $25 gift cards (including the one I gave away on my website). I chose mainly to give gifts I could e-mail, because I live in the wilderness, and mailing items is a hassle. Also, I wanted to spend my party budget on prizes not postage. My favorite prize was when I told my guests I would use the name of the first person to answer the question correctly for a character in my next novel. I also asked if anyone knew the title of my first novel and then told my guests they were all winners, because for the next two days they could download that novel for free on Amazon.
Would I do another Facebook Party?
I absolutely would do another Facebook party, and I hope to help plan a multi-author Facebook party this fall with other Alaskan authors. It would be much easier to do an event like this with other hosts. Not only could they help with the planning and share the expense of the prizes, but each author would bring his or her own friends to the party, introducing them to the other authors, and hopefully, each author would gain new readers from the event. A multi-author event could also last for several hours, with each author in charge of a certain time period.
Were there glitches in my launch party? Of course, but what party doesn’t have glitches? My internet connection slowed down toward the end of the party, and I couldn’t post all the photos I’d planned. Worse still, the code for the e-books I gave away didn’t work, and it took a few days to straighten out that mess. All the winners were patient, though, and didn’t seem to mind the delay.
An event like this is a way to reach potential readers around the world. It’s a promotional event you can control, unlike buying an ad and hoping for the best. I’ve tried advertising on Goodreads, Facebook, and with numerous online book newsletters, and I have never had good luck. With my Facebook party, I sold books, connected with friends, signed up people for my mystery newsletter, and gained new readers who I feel as if I know. Several people e-mailed me to tell me how much fun they had at the party, and that made me smile, because having fun was my main goal!
I have a series of wildlife posts planned for the next several weeks, so be sure to check back weekly to see what’s new.
My latest Mystery Newsletter is about the true crime of the murder of two brothers at their fish site on Kodiak Island. If this sounds interesting, sign up for my Mystery Newsletter and read this story and other tales about true crime in Alaska.