Clarice James

Smart, Fun, Relatable Fiction


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Humbled by Response to Meet & Greet Christian Authors Event

A few days before the first Meet & Greet Christian Authors event was to be held on Saturday, November 1, 2014, I had my doubts. Will we have a good turnout? Will our authors sell books? Will dead air reign in the midst of strangers? Will the buttercream frosting slide off my cupcakes and leave them bare? Will we get to the venue to find it packed with mourners from a funeral? [Yup, I thought that.]

BonhoeffersBonhoeffer’s Café & Espresso in Nashua, New Hampshire was our venue. The Café, located in a two-story, converted factory, is owned and operated by Gate City Church. All profits go to help feed needy children around the world.

My husband and I attend Gate City Church. We feel blessed that they allowed us the use of their beautiful facility for this event.

The minute we walked in the door, my doubts about how the afternoon would go were blown away like pesky dust bunnies in a Nor’easter. The Cafe’s brick walls, golden maple floors, wood ceiling with steel beams, all exuded warmth and charm. The bright fire burning in the huge stone fireplace made it easy to forget the rain and wind outside.

01People—all ages, shapes, and colors—came from Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine. We had a good turnout— eighty-five in all. They represented a multitude of congregations from a dozen different denominations. As guests mingled, chatted, and even prayed for one another, the sweet scent of Jesus permeated the space. (I wasn’t the only one who noticed; others said the same.)

Our seven local authors sold 119 books. There wasn’t one moment of silence from the beginning to end. My cupcakes stayed clothed. The venue was packed with friends, old and new, celebrating the achievements of our authors, our common faith, and the faithfulness of God.

02The plan for this event started back in June 2014 when I offered to help Jeremiah Peters, author of A Message to Deliver with his book launch. Then Teresa Santoski, author of Prayers for Oppa: From K-pop to J-pop, A Devotional for Performers & their Fans, joined us. Both were in my writers’ critique group, so finding them was easy.

Then, I reached out to my fellow Hartline Literary Agency clients who live in the area: Eleanor Gustafson, author of  The Stones and Dynamo; and Susan Call, author of A Search for Purple Cows: A True Story of Hope. I googled and snooped around Facebook and found John A. Theo Jr., author of The Grotto Under the Tree.  When I contacted the manager of my local Christian bookstore, she told me about Nancy Ferrin and Darin Michael Shaw.  Nancy’s books are When a Prodigal Breaks Your Heart: … the Search for Understanding and Hope and Where Is My Baby?  Shaw’s books are Big Buts of the Bible – A Revealing Look at Jesus Christ and Chronicles of War.

03We started with eight authors and ended up with seven. Well, you know what they say about that perfect number.

In the midst of all this, my co-coordinator Cindy Saab joined me. We’re not sure exactly how we met, but we’re sure we know Who was in charge of the introduction.  Cindy is a natural-born promoter. Not the pushy kind, but the kind whose excitement is contagious. She shared her enthusiasm with the many people she knows. I like to say, while I was in charge of administration and online promotion, Cindy was in charge of building momentum in person. We made a good team. Of course, God knew we would.

We were blessed to have a number of our friends volunteer to greet guests and handle the refreshments. And Kathy Marotta of Visionare Photography of Londonderry was there to take headshots of the authors and candids during the event. (Most of the photos you see here are her work.)

There were a few things we’d change. Like the detailed author introductions I’d written out and rehearsed. We didn’t need them because the authors and guests took charge of introducing themselves. And next time we’ll remember to bring bags for customers venturing out in inclement weather with their book purchases. We’ll also put the registration table in a spot less apt to get bottlenecked.  And I’ll make brownies, so I don’t have to worry about buttercream landslides.

All in all, good problems to have.

04 CJ at FireplaceCindy and I had enormous fun planning and executing the Meet & Greet Christian Authors event. We’re glad we had each other. Who else would have listened to us go on and on about paper goods, colors schemes, door prizes, and flag placement on cupcakes?

When the event was over, we were humbled by the response of the guests and the gratitude of the authors. But we shouldn’t have been surprised. The event had been bathed in prayer for months, and it showed.

Special Note: We’re planning our next Meet & Greet Christian Authors New England event for April 2015. A dozen authors have already signed up. If you’re a published author with print copies and are interested in being featured at one of our upcoming events, you can submit an application here.  After our Editorial Review Board approves your book(s), we’ll send you additional information. Keep writing!

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Book Launch Celebration Tips

typewirter and flowersPurpose & Goal of Book Launch: From all reports, most book launches don’t sell tons of books (unless you’re a celebrity author). Readers sell tons of books if they enjoy reading them. Don’t worry if your book launch guests don’t buy that night, but do make sure they meet you personally and enjoy the event. Word of mouth is a powerful tool and can grow sales exponentially.

Your purpose and goals for a book launch event might be multifold and look more like these:

  • Glorify God.
  • Celebrate the book, your family, your friends, your accomplishment.
  • Have fun!
  • Get your name out there.
  • Engage the public and create a positive association.
  • Help your cause (if it’s an integral theme in your book).
  • Sell books.
  • Thank readers and supporters.

First Things First – The Invitation List:

  • Put an invitation list together so you’ll know what kind of venue you need. Separate the list into these groups: 1) Definite; 2) Good Chance; 3) Maybe; and 4) Unlikely.
  • Ask all family members to attend and to bring a few friends with them.
  • Same with all your friends. (You might offer them an incentive for bringing a guest.)
  • Invite all the people from local writing-related groups.
  • Think about 1) local business owners you’ve supported; 2) local business owners who may want to support by donating goods toward a raffle in exchange for the free PR.
  • Leadership from the non-profits you support, especially if their cause is a theme in your book. (Pro-life, anti-sex-trafficking, mental illness, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, etc.)

Date:

  • Pick a date that gives you enough time to plan—maybe a few months away.
  • Is there a date that would coincide with a theme in your book? (For example, if you have a pro-life theme, you might choose The Walk for Life Day or the National Sanctity of Human Life Day.

Theme:

  • Establish your theme. It will help you in planning decorations, refreshments, and printed materials.

Determine Your Budget: You don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a fun book launch. But, here a few items that may cost you a little:

  • Refreshments — However, you probably know many who’d be willing to bake and/or buy and donate.
  • Drinks — Even if you get people to bake or bring snacks, you may have to provide water, coffee and tea, along with cream and sugar.
  • Paper goods.
  • Decorations – Might want, but not necessary.
  • Advance copies of your book.
  • Cost of Square Credit Card Processor. (You will need an iPhone or be able to use someone’s.)
  • Raffle prize for those who buy book or door prizes. I bet these could be donated by sponsors.
  • Venue – Many suitable places can be found for free.
  • Swag – Although not necessary, freebies like magnets or bookmarks or whatever are nice.

Choose Your Venue:

  • Based on your estimated attendance, choose a venue that is convenient, easy to find, and a place where most people would be comfortable going.
  • Church halls might work, but they may not qualify as the most neutral place.
  • If you’re book is in your local and national chain bookstores, start there.
  • Outdoor venues might be nice, but it’s hard to count on the weather.
  • Coffee or sandwich shops or ice cream parlor.
  • Christian College Campus.
  • Local public library.
  • Retail stores (Christian-owned, like craft store, garden shop, restaurant).
  • Place of business, if it makes sense based on your book.
  • Location that might match a main scene in your book.

Consider Partners for Your Book Launch

  • Other local Christian authors. (“Meet Your Local Christian Authors!) Each author would have their own list of invitees, which would increase size of event.
  • Staff from ministries you support through book sales.
  • Your publisher (Financial support is unlikely, but they may send books or blog about it).
  • Partner with a ministry or business mentioned in your book, and encourage them to promote their services.

Your Launch Support Team:

  • Event coordinator.
  • Artistic person to do posters, flyers, etc.
  • MC for the evening.
  • Cook/baker to provide refreshments.
  • Set-up, servers, and clean-up teams.
  • Cashier to handle sales.
  • Photographer — Know anyone who will do it for free?
  • Music – Live performer or someone who will handle recorded background music.

Refreshments:

  • If possible make the refreshments to go with the theme.
  • If it makes sense, name some of the food items after characters, settings, or chapters in the book.
  • Have family and friends bake and/or bring items. Doesn’t have to be expensive.
  • Make sure you offer coffee, tea or cold drinks.
  • Remember serving utensils and paper goods.

Have an Agenda and Follow It: Personally hand every guest an agenda so they know exactly what to expect and when. Make them want to hang around by saving the drawings or entertainment for later. Also, by handing guests an agenda personally, you’ll be able to see at a glance who you’ve spoken to. Your agenda might include all or some of the following:

  • Welcome by MC with brief idea of what to expect.
  • MC introduces author and/or mention special guests and/or partners.
  • Author’s greeting – Thank guests for coming, give brief book blurb, and tell people to enjoy refreshments and stick around for reading and drawings.
  • Refreshments served.
  • Q&A – Come up with some questions in case no one asks anything or plant some in the audience.
  • A reading by Author
  • Book signing and sales – Figure out three different messages you’ll sign inside the books. Perhaps a scripture reference, too.
  • Be thankful the whole night long. Try to remember names.
  • Anyone you know who could provide live music?

Sales:

  • Have plenty of books on hand to sell.
  • Don’t handle the sales yourself.
  • Need a cashier, someone who can make change. Need a cash box with plenty of change.
  • Round the price up/down so you’re not dealing with coins.
  • Offer discount prices for volume purchases.
  • Make it easy to buy. Cash or charge. (Square Credit Card Processor for your smart phone.)
  • May want to have order forms on hand with place for credit card info if you run out of books. (Note: Some authors suggest NOT having order forms because it gives people an excuse not to buy that night.)
  • Suggest gift-giving opportunities.

Social Media:

  • Facebook — Post thank you’s and photos of book launch party.
  • Blog about book launch party (before and after).
  • Twitter – Tweet about party, link to blog.
  • Guest blogging — Invite other local Christian authors to post to your blog.
  • Record readings and post audio files online.

PR & Marketing Prior to the Party:

  • Have a cohesive image to all your printed and online promotional material. It’s called branding.
  • When marketing this event, make sure you include what it is, who the host is, where it will be held, date and time, how to get there, who to respond to.
  • Be professional, but be yourself. Let your personality show through all you marketing materials.
  • Order free business or postcards from www.vistaprint.com.
  • Use EventBrite www.eventbrite.com to promote free to friends.
  • Use Facebook invitation and sign-up or an online invitation program.
  • Blog about it.
  • You might be able to get others to promote it on their Facebook sites, too.
  • Send flyers and invitations.
  • Post signs and posters wherever you can.
  • Newspaper articles.
  • Post notice on online calendars.
  • Press releases.
  • Local radio station interviews.
  • Invite other artists to participate (musicians, photographers, poets, non-profits).
  • Brain storm possible sponsors.

PR & Marketing During the Party:

  • Show interest in your guests.
  • Keep your sales pitches light.
  • Use a copy of your book as a guest book.
  • Have guests complete a Contact Info Card. Contact Info Cards of those who purchased book will also qualify for the big raffle and/or door prizes. (Raffle gifts can be those donated by business owners. Or, you can look around your house to see if you have anything new (Bibles, copies of your book, etc.) NO SECOND-HAND JUNK, unless you advertise it as a booby prize.
  • Rally the guests to post reviews, tell a friend, and email a friend, post on Facebook. Let them know you’ll be reminding them.
  • Do you know someone who is a good people person (besides you) that could record conversation tidbits and comments that you could refer to in thank you emails? (You know, like a spy, but not creepy.)
  • Swag or Party Favors – – This isn’t necessary, but if you decide to have others join you, you could each put a little something in a small bag as a guest favor. You might consider a magnet, bookmark, and envelope with a coupon, something with the name of your book on it that they won’t throw out right away.

PR & Marketing After the Party:

  • After event, contact guests and thank them for coming. If at all possible, remark on something personal about them that your people-person (spy) recorded.
  • Via email, remind guests to post reviews and give them the links. Remind them to tell a friend, post on Facebook, Tweet, etc. Consider giving them a funny or outrageous list of comments to choose from. If you make them laugh, they’ll be more likely to want to help you.

Do you have any ideas you’d like to share? I’ll add them to the list. Thanks.