How to Organize and Launch a Kick-ass Virtual Book Launch Event at Little Cost

Today’s post was written for us by Linda Jämsén as one of the stops in her blog tour for her new memoir, Odyssey of Love. Check out her bio below and then read on to see what she has to say about creating a virtual launch.

Linda Jämsén is an American expat writer-musician living in Finland. She grew up in New York, holding a book in one hand while exploring the piano keyboard with the other. Mesmerized by her mother’s playing of the Romantic repertoire, she soon studied piano with her and later graduated with a B.A. in Music from Bard College. Linda is also an avid choral singer and has performed in Hungary, Finland, the UK, and Israel.

During her years in Boston, Linda raised funds for a variety of philanthropic causes and completed the graduate management course at Radcliffe Seminars/Harvard. However, longing to return to her musical roots, in 2001 she moved to Budapest, land of her musical idol, Franz Liszt. There, she volunteered for the Music Academy in his name and received a CELTA certificate from International House, where she then taught English as a foreign language. Her musical, romantic, and travel adventures abroad inspired her to write Odyssey of Love: A Memoir of Seeking and Finding, her literary debut.

Linda lives on an island in Helsinki with her husband, the “tall man with glasses” from the memoir, and their treasured Russian icon. A sequel, Triptych, is in the works.

To follow the author, visit her website at www.lindajamsen.com.

———-Guest post below by Linda Jämsén———-

When I decided to self-publish my first book, Odyssey of Love: A Memoir of Seeking and Finding, last fall,I thought without a doubt that the easing of pandemic restrictions would allow me to host a live launch event the following June 1, my birthday. I imagined a celebration with live music, fanciful decorations, and a buffet of Hungarian food and wine featured in my memoir. I’d read a few scenes from Odyssey, sign some books, and maybe even play a Liszt piano piece or two.

But early in 2021, as Covid-19 variants swept through Finland, where I live, it became clear I needed a new Plan A. At first, I was disappointed at having to reorganize plans, but in hindsight, the virtual launch I organized was the best birthday present I could have given myself. Here’s why:

János on tour
  • More inclusive

Friends and family from around the U.S. and Europe were able to attend the event with a zoom link in the comfort of their homes without the added cost of purchasing roundtrip tickets to Helsinki. Over sixty people attended: childhood and college chums, former colleagues, fellow authors, and Hungarian friends I’d met during my time in Budapest. It was heartwarming to see so many dear ones coming together to support my publishing efforts. Unlike a live event, where guests would be moving around and mingling, I also had their undivided attention for one hour.

  •  “Touring” book locations

Since much of my memoir is based in Budapest, I offered viewers a taste of Hungary’s capital city. A local friend there, János, offered to visit and videotape locations from the book, such as the Opera House, the Liszt Music Academy, and the Danube. Then, he talked about events that had transpired (like an unexpected marriage proposal!) at those very spots. For many of us who’d been isolated for a year and a half and missed traveling, János’s tour was a real treat. (See: János on tour above.)

Daphne sings in Greece
  •  Music

In lieu of a live band, I asked a dozen of my talented musician friends and family members to contribute video clips. The result was nine varied and lively performances featuring singers from Palestine and Greece, a British guitarist, and an Estonian violinist. Even Alfred Hitchcock’s “grandson” made an appearance and played his accordion.

  •  Involving characters from the book

Several of my friends who appear as characters in Odyssey offered to introduce themselves to the other launch guests. One, Ágnes, shared our experiences as members of the Budapest Academic Choral Society and then sang a Hungarian folksong. Another, Gretchen, read an excerpt with me that included dialogue from an encounter years earlier at the Turkish eatery we often visited.

  •  Slide show

In addition to Budapest, we also “visited” Ephesus, Turkey and a Greek island (photo 4), both settings in the book. At the end of the event, the love song “I Will Be Here” was performed, and a slide show of my wedding day photos was presented. This was the perfect note to end on, as Odyssey is a happily-ever-after love story.

  •  Expense

The entire cost of the event was 200 dollars: 140 for the zoom link and 60 for the special launch day banner I hired a designer to create (see banner at top of page). Of course, there may be cheaper online connection options, and you can forgo the banner or make one yourself. I was also fortunate to have two friends help with the technical aspects of the event, including making the final edits. Overall, the virtual launch was much less expensive than hosting a live one, leaving more money for post-launch costs, such as marketing and promotion.

Although I didn’t get to organize my live dream launch event, I’m still savoring the rush I got from the virtual one. To those authors who find themselves in a similar situation, don’t lose heart! You can turn the situation around like I did and organize an even more memorable “kick-ass” celebration, which is how mine was described by attendees afterward.

Tips: Draw your launch guests into your story with photos or videos of your book’s locations. Ask others to join you in reading excerpts from your book, especially if it’s a memoir and your characters are willing to go public. Download music from your book’s playlist to share, or if you have musician friends, ask them to perform pre-recorded songs that relate to your book’s theme. Buy yourself a bottle of your favorite wine or champagne and enjoy your moment. You’ve certainly earned it!

Sue here – Thank you to Linda Jämsén for sharing the story of her launch. Please come back in two days (9/23) to read my review of her amazing memoir!

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