When I was finalizing the last steps of my book, I started to research different marketing options to help spread the word about my literary feat, one of them being a book launch/release party. The idea was simple: host a party at a local bookstore, contact local media, and get people to show up and buy my book. I did the research and learned that I needed to have a host of people to support me, those who can handle the food, sell the book, greet the guests, and perhaps even serve as master of ceremonies. Thank the attendees, thank the supporters of the book, read a few passages or tell some stories from the book, sign a few copies, sell a few more, and hopefully some members of the media show up to interview me and spread the word about the book. Done and done.
I reached out to four local book stores in Washington, DC, including Kramerbooks, perhaps the most famous local DC bookstore; Busboys and Poets, an up and coming café that serves good food and has a focus on books, movies, and more; The Potter’s House, a small café and bookstore that promotes progressive and far-left agendas (not that my book does); and Politics and Prose, an independent bookstore that identifies as a DC’s cultural hub for author events, classes, and trips.
Each bookstore’s website offered parties either for free or for various fees, depending on size of the crowd and time of day. At first, I emailed Kramerbooks and Busboys and Poets inquiring about their event spaces and then waited. And I waited, and I received no response from either.
Discouraged, a few weeks later, I was walking by The Potter’s House, and decided to stop in.
“Hi there, I’ve written a book and am looking for a place to host a book launch party and this place was recommended,” I said to the girl behind the counter.
“Is your book radical in nature?” she responded.
“Well, chapter five of my book talks about my music and how it’s a political statement against the current administration.”
“Good enough,” she said. “Here’s the name of the guy you want to contact.” She handed me a card with an email address on it.
Later that night, I emailed the guy and gave my pitch. No response, yet again.
I then reached out to Politics and Prose via its events email address posted on the store’s website. Later that day, I had a response! Jonathan, the events coordinator at Politics and Prose was very cordial, congratulating me on my book release, but said that publishing through Amazon was in direct competition of what Politics and Prose stood for as a local, independent bookstore and that they’d be unable to host my release party.
At least it was a response, right?
I emailed Jonathan and thanked him for response, telling him that the first three places I emailed didn’t even bother to respond, so the fact that I got a message from him meant a lot. I also asked him to explain his email to me. If my book was listed on Amazon, did that mean that books that they sold in their store were not listed on Amazon? Wasn’t everything listed on Amazon? I explained that I hadn’t read anything in my publishing process that would limit my outreach to local bookstores if I listed my book on Amazon.
While waiting for the response from Jonathan, I tried my last-ditch effort: The Army and Navy Club in downtown. I was a resident member, having been an officer in the US Navy. The events coordinator was very responsive to my inquiry and immediately sent me some information on room rentals and rates.
At first, it seemed great. I could rent a room for up to 70 people for about $250 on a Saturday afternoon before 5 p.m. It seemed reasonable and something I’d be willing to do. It seemed great, until it wasn’t.
“Please be aware that there is a $25 per person food minimum for each room reservation,” the event coordinator wrote to me in response.
The minimum was calculated on the maximum capacity for the room, which meant that I’d have to pay $25 per person for 70 people…. $1,750, in addition to the $250 for the room rental, and other fees for a podium, microphone, table set up, and more. This event would have cost me about $2,300 for an event at which I might have sold 50 books, and even that was a very high-end estimate. Considering my books were selling on Amazon for $12 each and I had paid close to $5 per copy, I’d only be making $7 per book. To break even on the event, that meant I would have to sell 329 books, a far cry from the 50 I could potentially sell. Clearly, the Army and Navy Club was not a reasonable option.
A few days later, I received a response from Jonathan at Politics and Prose. He told me that, upon receipt of my original email, he looked up my book and found only a Kindle version available, and that having a purely Amazon-focused market was not in the interest of his bookstore. Furthermore, he said that he would need a bio, a description, and several other pieces of data regarding the book and also made it seem that his bookstore was very busy and planned events months in advance, not weeks as I was suggesting.
Upon receiving his email, I responded immediately and told him that I had all of the information he needed and that my book was available on Barnes and Noble, Google, Amazon, and was available in paperback, as well. I had all of the bio and book description information, too. So I asked one final time: Is it my timeline that is an issue? In the end, it probably didn’t matter. He already said “no” and there probably wasn’t a lot of room for convincing him otherwise. I truly appreciate his response back. It’s just unfortunate that we couldn’t come to an agreement.
So that’s where I stand. It’s been far more frustrating than I could have imagined, especially for places that would have charged for an event, and a fee which I would have happily paid. For those out there trying to find your own launch parties, I suggest contacting these bookstores or other venues several months in advance to ensure there is the support available. Publishing a book is a huge accomplishment for you and something that you should celebrate along with your loved ones and your supporters.
Best of luck to those bookstores out there, maybe we can work together in the future!
As of now, I’ll keep searching for something, so stay tuned. As I wrote in the book, I won’t stop, won’t quit, and won’t give up until I find something! Let’s get after it!