Inventing the Wheel: Hosting a Successful Virtual Book Launch

March 17, 2023 § 4 Comments

By Caroline Goldberg Igra, Ph.D

January 2022: Publication date was approaching. Time to launch my book. I couldn’t stop thinking about the lovely launch of my first book, people milling around and smiling, picking up a copy and asking for my signature, attentive faces regarding me as I read aloud.  I’d felt loved and appreciated by the crowd of supporters that had gathered to hear my words on that summer evening. But this was different. We were in the middle of yet one more wave of the coronavirus pandemic and get-togethers were just not possible.

I explored the idea of doing a virtual launch but found little precedent, and even fewer tips online. I’d have to invent the wheel. I rolled up my sleeves and went to work.  

Here is my plan for a successful launch online:  

The Invitation

—There are many easy options for designing an attractive invitation. Canva is a good one. I opted for an invite that looked like an announcement and incorporated the cover image of my book. The goal: Attract attention—don’t get overlooked in the recipient’s inbox.

—Send invites to both personal and professional contacts (those in literature, art, whatever your focus of interest.) Don’t hold back. Aim for a diverse crowd.

—Clearly state the date and time and list the different time zones on the invitation to make it easier for your international attendees. I launched from Tel Aviv on a Sunday evening, which translated to noon EST, 9:00 am PST. An hour is a good timeframe for the event.

—Don’t require an RSVP but encourage an informal response, via text or email. It’s always nice to know which familiar faces will be joining you.

Toast and be toasted! Prepare champagne or a similarly celebratory beverage. Invite your attendees to do the same. Since my guests were from around the world, there was a delightful mixture of cocktails and coffee, champagne flutes and mugs.

The Program

Greetings.Acknowledge your guests as they enter the Zoom room, just as if they have arrived at your front door or a bookstore for an onsite launch. Share their location and your connection with the other attendees.

Announcements. Update the attendees on any awards, good reviews, or forthcoming book events.

Describe the book. Many attendees may not know what it’s about. Prepare a synopsis, something like what’s on the back book cover. Juice up that short text with a few interesting facets of the storyline and the characters involved.

Reading. I read a few pages from different sections to give a taste of both the story and its characters. For others, one chapter might be best. Allow about 15 minutes.

Q & A. Suggest that participants write questions in the Zoom chatbox as you go along.

Thanks. Don’t forget to thank everyone for attending and reiterate how much their support helps. Gently ask that they spread the word via reviews. I suggested Goodreads and Amazon, which get the most traffic.

Goodbyes. Endthe event by acknowledging the participants, one by one if time allows—perhaps by city, or the institution/organization you share if there are too many to thank individually.

The Day Of

Quiet your recording environment. Noise on your end makes it harder for your participants to stay engaged. 

Mute the participants. If you don’t want to globally mute the participants, then request that they mute themselves. Remember that Zoom is programed to pass the baton to whoever is making the most noise.

Ask for cameras on. While there will always be a few attendees who prefer to be faceless, being able to see the participants makes for a far more personal experience for everyone.

Record the event. You will want this valuable souvenir for posterity. This also ensures that you will have a record of the additional comments in the chat that are hard to track during the launch.

Hold your book low, beneath your chin while reading. The participants will be more engaged if they can see your face while you’re reading. 

Answer questions by first repeating the question. This will slow your pace, which can get quite rapid as the adrenaline flows! Allow at least 15 minutes for the Q&A.

Give the attendees a chance to speak and make additional comments via “raised hands” before you finish up. It’s important to step off the stage and let your audience share their thoughts.

Keep the event moving. Stay under an hour as advertised but don’t be stressed if there are still questions to be answered. Keep an eye on your attendees and tie things up when they’re still actively engaged and radiating enthusiasm.

Screen Shots: Ask a couple friends, in advance, to take a few screen shots so that you can memorialize all those smiling, attentive faces.

Despite the return to inhouse events, I will opt for a virtual launch when I publish my next book. It was an incredible success on all counts, just as exhilarating, nerve-wracking, and celebratory as any I could have arranged in-person. It allowed for a much wider, global range of attendees and offered an excellent way to engage with readers and create buzz for my book.


Caroline Goldberg Igra, Ph.D., is a freelance writer, art historian, triathlete, and mother. She lives in Tel Aviv, Israel, but maintains close ties with her hometown, Philadelphia. Her nonfiction has been featured in Collateral, Away Journal, Mothers Always Write, Pandemic Journal, and Another Chicago Magazine among others. She has published two novels, Count to a Thousand (Mandolin Publishing, Jerusalem, 2018) and From Where I Stand (Koehler Books, Virginia, 2022), and is working on her third.

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