Saturday, December 14, 2013

Shifting Your Paradigm -- The Facebook Launch Party

Ever since the success I've experienced during my recent Facebook launch parties, I've been inundated with questions from my fellow authors about how to design and host a successful event. This blog post is in response to those questions about what I did, how I designed my campaign and my suggestions on how you can *hopefully* achieve the same results. I do not guarantee that if you follow these steps, you're suddenly gonna become famous. I'm just all about paying it forward, so I thought to share what I've learned and how I plan to continue my campaign during the launch for books three and four in my series...and maybe five, depending on how this all goes. LOL 
Before I get started, though, I want to state right here and now that -- to me -- any Facebook party or promotional event you are considering hosting should be about one thing and one thing only. EXPOSURE. This event is not about garnering sales. It's about getting your name out there, gathering friends and making connections.
Personally, I think it's just sorta...I don't know...icky to request people go out and buy my book during a party. To put it into perspective, I look at it as people coming to my home. When they walk in the door as one of my guests, the first thing I say to them is:

What can I do for you? Are you happy to be here? Do you need anything? How can I make you comfortable?

I do not say, Oh, did you bring $5 for admission? Can you imagine? I'd be horrified.
Hosting a Facebook party should be handled the same way. These folks are your guests, not potential buyers of your work. You want to ensure they have a great time. You want them to tell all their friends about how awesome the party was and how they can't wait for the next event. There is a difference here that is important to understand and for you to emulate during the party. If you can't do this, then a Facebook party may not be for you. 
Some important things you should know as it relates to Facebook and their rules during an event:
1. When you originally set up your page or event, Facebook asks that you post a disclaimer in the event description. They do not want to be held responsible for any comings and goings, giveaways, pictures, comments, etc. Mine reads:  Posting any comments or accepting the invitation to participate in this promotion is your acknowledgment that Facebook in no way sponsors, endorses or is administered by or associated with this promotion or AmyJo "AJ" Nuest, HarperImpulse UK or its subsidiaries.
2. I set my events up about a week to five days in advance and send out those invites right away. Each invite needs to be done individually, by clicking those names in your contacts/friends list. This does take some time but, for now, I believe it's the only way to get the job done. No blanket invites are allowed. You don't want to wait until the last minute to get this set up. You need time to build buzz and get everyone excited about the event.
3. Facebook frowns on anyone asking their guests to "do something" in exchange for being entered into a giveaway/contest. For example, you really shouldn't say, "If you do this, you will have a chance to win this." Facebook warns against such favoritism and may ban future parties if you do not comply with this rule. However, it is acceptable to "encourage" your guests to do something in exchange for being entered into a drawings. For example, I might say, It would be so awesome if you guys shared this post to your Facebook timelines. Comment in this thread and you could win a $5 Amazon gift card.

Please note I did not say, You must share this post to your timeline to be eligible to win the prize.

Honestly, most folks are happy to hit the share button and they know exactly what I'm asking for. However, if they don't share the post, but go ahead and comment in the thread anyway, their name is still entered into the drawing.
Just like any real life event, there is prep time involved and it's important.
1. Before you even get started, my advice is to find someone who can help you with the event -- a trusted friend or writing partner who can dedicate the time to attending the party with you. At my last party, I actually had two co-hosts because I knew it was going to be insane and I would never be able to field all the comments. My writing partner, Arial Burnz, helped me keep track of the prizes and giveaways, and Wendy Jones, a dear friend and fellow author at HarperImpulse, was given the job of posting pictures of man candy. I know that might sound strange, but nothing attracts drop in visitors more than pictures of half-naked men. I'm not good at posting these. I blush profusely and can never come up with a clever quip to go along with the photo so I delegated this responsibility. And I have to tell you... When I started the party, I had about 100 people who agreed to attend. At the end, my invites list read 150 people had attended. I'm not sure if this was because of the pictures, the fun we had, the sharing of the links or what, but you can bet most women stuck around commenting on those men! (Note:  I made double-dog sure to send friend requests to those 50 folks I didn't know. Based on their comments, they'll remember me--or rather, the party--and hopefully attend the next time as well.) Just food for thought.
2. You need a theme. And it should be something fun, something that will connect readers to the book and get lots of buzz going. Again, THIS IS A PARTY! You want lots of comments. You want everyone to laugh and have a good time, right? You want to gear your theme toward the book without overtly doing so or giving away any spoilers. For my last party, I thought about my book and what element I could use that would reflect the plot. There is a pivotal fight scene between the hero and heroine, so I thought it might be fun to host a game of Versus. I showcased famous kick ass heroes from movies (James Bond, Indiana Jones, Neo from Matrix, Snake Plissken) and paired them with famous kick ass heroines (Uma Thurman from Kill Bill, Sigourney Weaver from Alien, Linda Hamilton from Terminator), and then asked guests to vote on which they thought would win in a fight.
It was hilarious. It was downright laugh out loud hilarious. What fun!!! Some threads had in excess of 35 comments! Each time I posted one of these ROUNDS I suggested the guest either share the post to their Facebook timeline or Click to Tweet. Remember, this event is about EXPOSURE, not sales. In exchange all commenters were entered into the drawing for a prize.
Okay...another important thing to keep in mind. Utilizing your guests enthusiasm is a great way to help spread the word about your party in a positive way. However, you also want to make it as simple as possible for them. And you don't want them to "leave" the party by asking them to go do something else -- like reading a review or going in search of an answer to a question from your book. (Note: If this is a launch party, chances are good 99% of the folks attending will not have read your story...yet.) Once people are there, you want to KEEP them there. LOL
So I asked myself this question... How could I utilize my guests participation to help me spread the word, without asking them to leave the party or making them work too hard?
I came up with two ideas. I asked them to either A.) share my Versus post on Facebook (could be to their timeline or any other Facebook loop they belonged to that allowed promo) OR B.) I gave them a link to "click to tweet." I love this application. It's super easy to use. You can set up all the tweets ahead of time, copy and paste the link to your post and all folks have to do is click the link and they're done. You can find Click to Tweet here:
Now, again, I can't enforce this enough! THIS IS A PARTY! LOL I did not gear my posts and tweets to Buy my book! Buy my book! (Remember, exposure NOT sales.) Everything I asked my guests to share was about the party. I concentrated my efforts on getting people there to have fun, not selling my book. Here's a sample tweet I composed: 
Jason Stratham/Transporter vs. Sigourney Weaver/Alien Who wins? Maybe U! 'sFreedom FB Party NOW! @
That being said, I ALSO designed a Twitter Campaign to run the same day as my release and those were the tweets I geared toward the release. I purposely kept the two separate. One for promoting the book, one for promoting the party. AHA!   
3. The budget. My advice is to set one up. The presents don't have to be expensive but, in my opinion, they are an important part of your event. I spent around $100 on my latest party -- which is my top end. This included swag (postcards I ordered from VistaPrint to send out with the gifts), the actual gift items, Amazon gift cards, books I'm giving away, etc. To me, the cost was completely worth it. My release was three days ago and I'm still getting tweeted. I'm also still getting comments at the party, believe it or not. It's sorta insane. I was followed by 100+ people on Twitter during the party and my Facebook friends list increased by 39. 
4. The schedule. In both of the parties I've hosted thus far, I set up my posts/giveaways so that they were twenty minutes apart. I did this for two reasons. First, so that there was always something streaming. Folks have a short attention span and want to be entertained at these things. Keep those posts coming. Twenty minutes seems to be the optimum space between posts, but maybe that's just me. Second, this allowed me just enough time to scroll through the comments quick and interact with a few folks before getting ready for the next post. I set most of the posts up ahead of time, searched out pictures and saved those to my desktop, etc. so I wouldn't have to spend a lot of time doing this during the party. All I had to do was copy and paste.
In between the posts about the party, I also interspersed other posts to thank some folks who had been instrumental in helping me with the event. For example, a reviewer at Love Reading Romance graciously read both of my stories and immediately posted her reviews. As a thank you to her, I asked folks at the party to like her Facebook page. Same with the folks who supplied my gifts. I asked the guests to like their Facebook pages and then offered up a small prize to the commenters. This is a great way to thank folks for their help. It gets exposure for their pages, lets them know you appreciate their efforts on your behalf, and boy howdy, you have earned a friend for life. Remember, EXPOSURE not sales. This event is about building relationships.
5. However long you decide to host your party (I suggest a minimum of four hours, though my last one went almost twelve by the time we got everything done), you need to reserve at least an hour at the end for posting the winners. Again, it is my opinion that you should do this the day of the party. Some folks were there all day and I think it's nice to let them know at the end what and if they won anything. I sorta see it as the least I can do for all their help and support, you know? You don't need to award everything that day, but announcing the winners is always fun and everyone gets all excited. It's a wonderful way to close out the event.
1. Remember to be gracious and thank everyone. This sorta goes without saying, but if people are tweeting you during the event, go over to Twitter and either retweet, thank them with a return tweet, or hit "favorite" on the tweet. This let's them know you saw what they did and appreciate their efforts. Same with Facebook. If they share your post, go over and hit that like button on the post. Even though you are crazy busy, this let's them know you saw what they did and appreciate the help. Common courtesy.
2. Consider sending out ARCs of your book prior to the event and asking reviewers if they could post their review during the launch. Copy and paste the review into the party. Don't ask folks to leave and go read it. You worked your hiney off to get them there, keep them there.
3. Have a back up plan. It's always a good idea to have a Plan B. If, for some odd reason, your original theme doesn't take off or get the kind of participation you were hoping for, make sure you have something else you can post or talk about that is book related. My Plan B for this last party was the fighting style my heroine uses (Parkour). Thankfully, I didn't have to use it, but you'd better bet I had that subject ready to go in case the need arose. You don't want dead air.
4. It's my opinion that you should not leave your party. Call me crazy, but if you're going to take a break and leave for an hour to eat lunch or call your husband (no offense, Scott) why would your guests stay? Again, THIS IS A PARTY! Would you leave your house when it's full of guests? I wouldn't. For you to do so during a party, in my opinion, is bad form. And the momentum is completely lost. I've seen it time and again and it always makes me shake my head but, again, that's just my opinion.
5. Bring your A Game.You need to give all those in your surrounding vicinity fair warning that this is a day you are working and will not be available to make sandwiches, do laundry, answer the phone, cart them to basketball practice, pick out a splinter or clean up the cat puke. Your concentration belongs at the party, not anywhere else. Thank the nine goddesses, I have a husband who thoroughly supports and appreciates all the work that goes into these parties. You may want to consider arranging something if you have small ones that will need your attention. Just my advice.
I think that's it. If you have any questions, please feel free to leave me a comment. I'm sure there's something I missed...


Dixie Lee Brown said...

Finally got a minute to read this, AJ. It's wonderful. Great info. My heart is racing just thinking about everything that has to be done all at once! OMG! I don't know if I can do this!! I should be planning now for my January release. Ahghhh!

AJ Nuest said...

I had that exact thought this morning, Dixie. I'm all Christmas right now and I really need to get organized for the party January 9th! ARGH! You can do it! I know you can!!! And you can always ask me anything, so don't worry! x

AJ Nuest said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Monica said...

Thanks for sharing all the info, AJ. I had no idea it took so much preparation to pull off one of these things. I'm with Dixie. It's overwhelming.

And I agree with your philosophy: it's all about exposure. That's what I've been working on the past couple of months.

Unknown said...

I know you wrote this a long time ago, but the advice is invaluable. Thank you so much. I've added it to my favorites so I can consult it as needed.

Thanks so much for sharing.

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