Your book is in your hands—congratulations! What’s next? Author readings, sometimes called publishing or book release parties, are a great way to spread the news about your book, while saying thank you to everyone who helped out along the way.

A well-planned author party might even net you a healthy bump in sales.

Here are a few tips that will help you host an author party like a professional book publicist.

Set a date and time

The first step in planning any kind of party is setting the date and time. Give yourself at least two weeks to plan, and remember you may never find a date and time that works for absolutely everyone.

We recommend planning your party for early evening—allowing just enough time for attendees to get off work and to the party. In addition, plan your event later on in the work week, but not on the weekend when people may have a lot of other conflicts on their schedule.

Pick a venue

Successful book-release parties take place in all sorts of places: the community room at a local library, a book store, a church, a school, or even the lounge at a bar or restaurant. Wherever you host your event, don’t forget to reserve the space, provide refreshments, and supply plenty of seating.

Most of all, be sure to arrange the room in such a way that there’s no doubt about the star of the show: your book. Which brings us to another important point: have plenty of copies of your book on hand! You may need to order more than two weeks in advance, so be sure to allow time for them to reach you.

Don’t forget your invitations

Social media is a useful tool to spread the word about your event, but you can also invite people with old-fashioned paper invitations and flyers. Maybe even consider a press release to local media. Sending invitations to your email list can also be effective.

Most of all, don’t be afraid to invite everyone you can think of. You never know who might show up.

Have a plan

Some author readings are seated affairs, some have more of a free-flowing structure. Which do you prefer? Don’t forget to build in time to mingle at several points during the event.

A common itinerary for a publishing party can include the following:

Read an excerpt

Pick a section that’s long enough but not too long, and that’s exciting enough to grab the attention of the audience, but won’t give too much of the story away. Practice reading it before the event, so you won’t stumble.

Remember: A good excerpt is one that will leave the attendees wanting more.

Author Q&A

After reading an excerpt from your book, allow some time for an audience Q&A. You might ask a few friends (in advance) to start the session with some pre-planned questions, just enough to get the ball rolling. You could arrange for someone to moderate the questions, or do it yourself, townhall style. Will you need a microphone?

Book sales and signing

Plan in advance the logistics of the book signing portion of your event. Arrange the room in such a way to accommodate a line, make it as easy and intuitive as possible to find and buy a copy of your book, and have an idea where you’d like to sit. Have plenty of pens!

In addition, have someone act as a cashier, and be sure to have enough change for any customers paying with cash. Be prepared to accept credit and debit cards—it’s not too hard to get a card reader to use on your phone. Decide in advance whether you are willing to take checks.

If your book set at a price point ending in .89 or .95 cents, consider selling your book for a flat dollar amount—this will help your attendees feel like they’re getting a deal, and it’ll be a lot easier to make change.

Earn repeat customers

Book-release parties are a great way to gather contact information for any future projects, appearances, or book releases you might be planning. Ask attendees to sign up for your email list, and hand out bookmarks or cards, if you have them. Think of these items like something in between party favors and marketing collateral.

Say thank you!

Whether it’s a thank you card in the mail, or an email sent to all the attendees—don’t forget a prompt and courteous thank you to everyone that attended the event.