Rethinking the launch party

I love the idea of a good launch party. In my head, I always imagine something out of The Great Gatsby with oodles of fashionably dressed VIPs mingling over cocktails and regaling each other with how much they love my book. In reality, most launch parties become an over-budget snooze fest, with the author lording over a half-eaten cake  and an empty bottle of wine praying someone will come talk to them, and also praying everyone would just go home.

The biggest issue with launch parties is that, by their nature, they are designed with the intent that people will come and buy your book. It's like a Pampered Chef party without the fun games and overly complicated food. But not doing something to celebrate the birth of your baby, I mean book, feels almost anti-climactic. So here's my idea for a new kind of launch party.

It's not about sales
First, time to give up the idea that a launch party is when everyone you know comes out to buy your book. This is a celebration, and certainly and opportunity to gain exposure. But if you eliminate the sales aspect, it automatically puts people more at ease and less hesitant to make an appearance.

Give your party a purpose
Since you aren't focusing on selling books, instead make the focus reading books. What if you ask everyone to come with a book to swap. Attendees could bring a new or gently read book in to swap with another reader. Now you have built in conversation pieces for people to talk about what book they brought, the books they like to read, and why another guest should read an available book. 

Spice it up
If you want to make things even more interesting, ask guests to wrap the book and mark it only by genre. It's like an office Secret Santa party, but better because all the gifts are books.

Make your book visible
You can still get lots of good publicity in for your book. Don't forget to have signs or posters with your cover. Also, be sure to interrupt the merry-making a few times during the party to hand out a signed copy of your book as a door prize. 

You can still sell books
If you want to make your book available for sale at the party, go for it. But make it discreet. Ask a friend or family member to man a small table on the fringe of your crowd where guests can buy your book. At the end of the party, station yourself at the door to thank everyone for coming and offer to sign books for anyone that did make a purchase.

Don't forget the media
There isn't much of a story in just a launch party, but by turning your launch into an event to encourage reading, you've given the media a hook. Be sure to invite the paper, the radio station and the local news station. And don't forget to offer them an advance copy of your book so they can read it ahead of time. 

Other ideas
This isn't the only way to rethink your launch. What about a read-in at your local library or bookstore, sponsored by you and your book, of course. Or a book drive for local schools, shelters, or retirement community. Consider a flash writing contest. Who can write the best story in 60 minutes based off a prompt that comes, conveniently, from your book?

What about you
There are tons of possibilities out there. So tell me, what have you done for a launch party? Any other ideas to celebrate the big event and avoid the awkward "who wants to buy my book?" party?