How to Throw a Virtual Book Launch Using Facebook Live

Today’s guest post is by author and publishing consultant K.B. Jensen (@KB_Jensen).

Throwing a book launch party in the best of times is like throwing a small wedding. You can go all out with a book cover cake, food, a hundred friends and family, signing, appetizers, a reading, drawings and games, and a cash bar. But what can you do when there are Covid-19 concerns, you are on a tight budget, or you have friends and fans all over the world and want to celebrate together? You can take the party online at virtually no cost.

Books are worth celebrating, especially in times like these. You’ve worked hard on your book, spent years honing your craft and expertise, writing and revising. You can and should still celebrate your book launch right now.

As a My Word Publishing consultant, I often help clients launch their books in person in front of crowds, helping introduce authors and sell their books, among many other publishing services. I recently helped award-winning author Helen Starbuck launch Legacy of Secrets, a critically acclaimed romantic suspense novel, on Facebook Live instead.

How to Choose Your Event Date and Time

If your book launch was cancelled and your book is already out, you could move up your book launch date or online party to as soon as two to three weeks out. In an ideal world, you would plan it out four to six weeks in advance to give time to promote and plan. Consider a weekday evening like a Tuesday or Wednesday, between 5 and 7 p.m. Depending on what activities you have planned, consider one to two hours for the duration.

Spread the Word More Than You Think Required

  • Email your fans, family, and friends a save-the-date as soon as you know the information. Explain what a virtual book launch party is on Facebook Live. Many people still aren’t familiar with these events, so you’ll want to make it clear. Ask core fans and friends to help spread the word and share the event.
  • Put event information up on Eventbrite, Meetup (if you have an organizer account or are part of an organization that does), and post on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  • Use Canva or another design site to create a professional event banner and include 3D images of your books. Fiverr can also help you find someone who can create these for you.
  • Ideally, four weeks in advance, send a more detailed invite to friends, family, colleagues, neighbors and fans. (Again, if needed, explain what a Facebook Live event is.)
  • Send out invites once a week, the day before, the day of and the hour before. Announce it on social media even more.

Be strategic about your follow up and reminders. I recently RSVP’d to a launch party for a big-five author online and had every intention of attending and buying a copy of her book. Unfortunately, the event was on a Sunday, a day I rarely check my calendar and generally spend with family. I would have been happy to attend and buy a book, but completely forgot about it. Despite my RSVP, I did not receive any reminders about the event the week before or the day of.

You have to send out the link often prior to the event. Unfortunately, you can’t currently schedule a Facebook Live more than a week in advance, so we had to direct people to Helen’s Facebook author page until then.

Make It Easy for People to Buy Your Book

Be clear on how people can order your books. You can sell “tickets” for signed books, if you don’t mind hitting the Post Office and sending them through media mail. You could also direct customers to an online retailer. However, in that case, you miss out on signing the books during the event.

If selling books directly, announce the cost of the event ticket on your event pages. The “ticket” includes the cost of your book, tax and media mail shipping. The cost for a signed and shipped copy of Helen’s book was set at $20, for example. Ideally, you’d set up payment options through your author website. You could also create a payment link through Square. Some authors take PayPal or Venmo, as well. Whatever payment method you choose, ask your fans to put their address in the comments or email you their address, so you know where to send the books.

During the event, you will have a list of who bought a “ticket” by buying a copy of your book, and announce you are signing that person’s book. Give them a shout-out and thank them.

Make It Fun for Guests

When hosting an online party, you’ll want try to hit the different communication types out there. Think of the sights and sounds you can use to make it entertaining and engage with your viewers on different levels. For example, have a visual like a pile of books in the background. Whenever someone buys, take a book off that pile and ring a bell—like the bartender who rings the bell every time they get a tip.

Put posters of your book covers or awards in the background. You’ll want to have things to talk about, your list of books to sign, questions to ask to engage attendees. Have a stack of your books next to you. You can also prepare posts in advance for your social or book Facebook pages during your event. Other ideas:

  • Consider having your core friends or fans having questions at the ready for a Q&A. I shared my list of questions with Helen prior to the event as well, and sprinkled them in the comments throughout the event. It also helps to have a couple of people in person with you as your “assistants.” They can help you engage.
  • Make sure to respond to anyone who leaves comments. Answer their questions and let them know you appreciate they are watching.
  • One of the highlights of the launch party was a prize drawing near the end. Readers who bought a copy could enter the drawing for the chance to be named a character in Helen’s next novel. Alternatively, you could offer to send a gift to the winner.
  • Helen encouraged guests to BYOB and had a toast during the Live. She drank a margarita, a favorite drink of her protagonist in Legacy of Secrets. Be creative and have fun with it.
  • You could do a quiz with your readers guessing the answers or play other games like an at-home scavenger hunt related to the book.
  • You could interview guests with a third-party tool like StreamYard. For example, choose guests who can back up your messaging, who have read the book, or a person of influence in that arena, depending on your genre.
  • Have a musical friend or family member? Invite live musical guests.

Test Your Technology in Advance

Be careful which third-party sites you use for split screens. We had thought I’d interview Helen using a split screen for part of the launch. Unfortunately, the service we intended to use for a split screen interview on Facebook Live failed to work on the day of the book launch, so Helen pivoted to plan B, and I asked questions in the comments. I actually liked this better personally, since fans were there to see Helen, not me. We discussed this as a backup plan, in case the app failed, and practiced both ways. If you are having someone join you live, I recommend StreamYard. Streaming through Zoom is also an option through advanced settings.

I cannot stress this enough: Practice using Facebook Live prior to the launch and using your third party-app with a split screen, too, if you will use that. When Helen had her launch, she was able to interact beautifully with her friends and fans in an authentic and collected manner, because she’d gotten over the nerves in her practice sessions counting down to her launch. View a recording of Helen Starbuck’s Launch for Legacy of Secrets.

Best of luck and congratulations with your new book. Your friends and fans want to celebrate with you, regardless of whether it’s in person or online.

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