Have you thought about throwing a launch party to celebrate your book’s release? I’ve done it. I’ve done it three times and I think I’m getting a handle on how to do it.

First, decide what kind of event you want. Is the party to celebrate your book’s release with your family and friends? To sell a lot of books? To find new readers? How many attendees will you invite? Can you obtain sufficient space for that size group?

A book launch doesn’t have to be held in a bookstore. A living room or a rented space might suit your purposes better.

Next, enlist at least one friend. Trust me, you really want to have a friend on hand even if you do all the preliminary work yourself. The reason is that you, as the author, will not have a moment free once the party starts. Everyone will be there to see you; even people you’ve known for years, even your family, can’t be ignored. You’ll be busy schmoozing and signing books. Your friend (or friends) are needed to keep the food and drink flowing, and perhaps to take some photographs.

Now that you have help, don’t put things off. Send out “save the date” invitations as soon as possible, and figure out when you’re going to remind people–a week ahead of time, and then the day before, are good options for sending reminders. If you’ve set the date early, it’s easier for your potential guests to keep that time free to attend your event.

How you send out your invitations will vary. For instance, my parties were held in an independent bookstore. The store isn’t very large, and I mainly intended personal friends to attend (though the event was publicized in the newspaper and online). Because of that, I sent my invitations out manually, from my personal address book; I didn’t do a mass mailing.

However I discovered, with my most recent launch, that a lot more of my friends had started using Facebook for event invitations than I’d anticipated. I only used Facebook at the last minute. I might have done better to use it weeks in advance. Your group of friends might pay more attention to email, or to paper notes received in the mail, or a service like Evite.

As for the event itself, there are a few things I would recommend: arrive early to make sure setup goes all right and you have everything you need. Stay late to help clean up, if needed, though more likely you’ll still be talking to someone while your friends clean up. If the party’s held at a bookstore that’s ordered copies of your novels, be prepared to autograph any remaining books once the party’s over, if the bookstore asks.

And don’t forget to have fun.

See also Stephanie Dray on 5 Things All Writers Should Know About Setting Up Book Signings.