(photo from NASA. This is a rocket launch, not a book launch. Obviously. You could still have a party for it if you wanted, though.)
Sometimes when books come out, people are so excited that they have parties!
(Okay — typically the ‘people’ I mention so elliptically in the previous sentence are us, because we’re the ones going, ‘Wooo! Books! So exciting!’ and jumping up and down a lot. Shut up, we’re all very dedicated.)
If you have a book coming out, is a launch party useful?
The three most common reasons to have a launch party are: reasons of pure celebration, generating press, and generating sales. So let’s take those one-by-one, shall we?
Celebration: clearly this is a very worthy reason. Graphic novels take forever to write and draw — and then they take forever to publish. Probably between the point a book is started to the point when it’s out in stores there will be two or three years. Graphic novels are not like books where if you have an idea all sprung fully-formed like Athena, you could write one in a weekend if you try really hard and don’t sleep much. They take a lot of effort, and then working with a publisher is all difficult and complicated and time-consuming and clearly at the end of that process, some alcohol maybe silly hats will be required. (And maybe then there will be a nap at the end.)
Press: When you have a book coming out, it’d be great if there was media coverage! That way even more people will know about the book than your friends and family and people you inform directly by jumping out at them on the street waving your just-off-the-press author copies. But if you live in a populous area (like, say, New York City — or even like Boston or Portland or San Francisco or Austin or Chicago or DC), it may be that your local media has a whole stack of books that people have sent them to consider for coverage. A good way to get to the top of your local media’s book stack is to do an event — something cool that has local interest and that the media will cover. So when Zack Giallongo had Broxo come out, he had a barbarian party where there was barbarian food and cosplaying! And Mark Siegel had a Sailor Twain party that actually took place on a ship on the Hudson River. You don’t even have to get that elaborate — most bookstores and comics stores and libraries have a good relationship with their local media, and will automatically be pitching your event to them for a listing or a story.
Sales: every author (hopefully) wants people to read their book, and to buy copies of their book. If you have a party where you invite all the people you know, and the store or library or venue you’re holding the book at promotes it to their customers, probably you will sell some books! You will sell more books than if all the people you know are like, ‘hey, that dude had a book come out, I should buy it sometime . . . maybe in the future.’ We swear it works! There is a whole guilt-thing involved in going to author events and not buying a copy of the book. It is powerful.
So should you have a launch party for your book? From all this, the answer would seem like yes. But if you’re more of a homebody, if it makes you uncomfortable to go to a place where people will tell you about how they really enjoy your work for two hours straight, maybe this isn’t the best choice for you. There are definitely online options — like twitter chats and meet-ups — that might suit your personality better.