I have done three launch parties to date and would like to share my thoughts and experiences.
Before continuing I should define a launch party in my terms, as there are many concepts abroad.
I see three purposes: to celebrate, to introduce, and to sell. So it should indeed be a party, which means refreshments and probably adult beverages.
One celebrates with one’s friends. They should be invited.
One introduces to strangers. They, too, should be invited.
One sells to all.
The venue for this party is not limited. Mine took place at wineries, because they are in abundance around me, but any comfortable local venue will do, if the proprietor is flexible and supportive. Of course, it can be done in the home, but strangers are more likely to attend if the venue is neutral. I have done in-home celebrations, but in those cases my purpose has been more celebration and less introduction and sales.
Wineries as venues are wonderful. They thrive on party atmospheres and continually look for ways to draw new customers. Often their grounds or shops are most attractive. And, of course, the adult beverage is right there.
Wherever the party is held, it should be a convenient location, centralized in the community where it is offered, comfortable, easy egress and exit.
My personal experiences suggest that one community will support only one launch party. I found that my first launch for my first novel did best in all three categories, probably because then it was a novelty, an unusual occurrence and a new opportunity for friends and strangers in the community. But the succeeding launches drew fewer friends as well as strangers. By the third, it was old hat and prioritized as such.
It is important to find connections with which to draw guests. That there is an author among the people of a community is a draw (but only one time). Perhaps the book is set in that particular community. Perhaps characters were built upon actual people of the community. Perhaps it is a history of that community (you get the idea). Be sure to include these connections in your invitations or advertising.
Good connections allow you to move to communities outside your personal circles to hold a party. Or you might host a launch with another author who has strong connections with that community.
Finally, continual entertainment is a must. Do multiple readings, tell personal stories from writing or researching, describe how characters were developed or plots devised. And have music, so that even those who don’t particularly care to read can sip their adult beverage and just listen , if they wish.
It is, after all, a party.