There’s little in publishing quite as exciting as a book release. A book’s publication day marks the end of a long, difficult journey that often involves the effort and dedication of dozens of people. And although the author and publisher’s work isn’t finished as soon as a book is launched, this achievement still usually signifies an incredible relief for everyone who helped produce it.
Of course, the publishing industry is slow, so book launches don’t happen every day. Ooligan Press typically launches one book per term (excluding summer), and each book is in production for anywhere between one and two years, making its way from our acquisitions department to publication day. Because Ooligan is a teaching press in Portland State University’s graduate program in Book Publishing, it’s even quite common for a student to start on a new book project’s team and graduate before that book’s release. However, because Ooligan students do a little bit of everything at the press, each of our books is an achievement for all of us. More importantly, each book is an achievement for its author, and one of the best parts of a book’s launch is throwing it a birthday party.
At Ooligan, each of our launch parties is tailored to fit the book it’s celebrating. For the release of The Ocean in My Ears, which is about growing up in small-town Alaska in the nineties, we held a nineties-themed trivia night. For At the Waterline, we did a scavenger hunt around Portland along the Willamette River, where the houseboat community of the book is located. Last fall, our launch party for Connie King Leonard’s Sleeping in My Jeans was held at the Oregon Public House, a nonprofit pub, where we raised donations for Food for Families, which serves families like Mattie Rollins’s in Sleeping in My Jeans. While part of the goal of a launch party is, of course, to commemorate all of the hard work of the author and the publishing team, these parties are also a marketing opportunity, and customizing the party to match the content of the book is a key element of that. After all, while the author and the publishers will know the book inside and out by that point, many of the people attending the launch party haven’t had a chance to read it yet, and the launch party is a chance to give them a taste of what to expect.
Launch parties are also an opportunity to connect books with communities. At the Sleeping in My Jeans launch party, we sold raffle tickets for prizes donated by a number of Portland-area businesses, and we also gave away raffle tickets along with book purchases. Because the Oregon Public House serves as a popular venue in its neighborhood, many people at the pub that night were just there to meet up with friends and have drinks, and they were pleasantly surprised to find a book launch party taking place. A number of people who had never heard of Sleeping in My Jeans or Ooligan Press were happy to stop by our table, ask us about the book, and purchase copies and raffle tickets. Their purchases went toward supporting Connie’s book as well as Food for Families; Ooligan Press had a chance to introduce ourselves to neighbors within our community; and, best of all, everyone had a fun night all around.
So the next time you see a poster or social media post advertising an upcoming book launch, consider stopping by to enjoy the festivities. It’s a chance to connect with the book-loving community around you and participate in one of the most exciting nights of a book’s life.