When we think of book parties, we tend to think of chic, Manhattan affairs. Norman Mailer—or rather his ghost—is there. At any moment Michiko Kakutani just might walk through the door. The book is published by Random House. But indies deserve a spotlight too. And the trick is getting your party right.

First, let me tell you about one of the stranger book parties I ever went to for a self-published book. I was there in my capacity as cover designer. It was at a bike-messenger bar in San Francisco. Most of the necessary ingredients were there: Copies of the book, plenty of libations (though you had to buy your own), and the author with his pen. But there was also too much noise. And too many people who had no idea what was going on. In the end, the author did end up selling an extra copy of his book to a very drunk man who underpaid him and told an endless story about an Eskimo on mind-altering drugs.

In short, the venue was wrong, and there was too little planning. No attempt was made to reach outside his circle of friends. His one extra customer, while enthusiastic, wasn’t what we’d call an influencer. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

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