I waited until my first book was published to learn the genre, and when Oprah announced “It’s literary fiction!” just seconds after my pub date, I was overcome with joy. When we found out that I’d written a second book, however, we decided to find out ourselves what it was. A genre reveal party, in which we’d learn the genre of the book at the same time as one hundred of our closest friends and family seemed like a fun way to go!
We hosted the party after I turned in the second-pass proofs. As I prepared to cut into a cake that was filled with blue or red filling, I felt the same giddy anticipation I’d had the first time around. It’s a moment I treasure and I want others to have the same experience. Read on for tips about how to plan your own genre reveal party.
1. Establish your colors
Like most writers, you probably have a sense of what your book might be. You may even have a very good guess! Still, until a critic looks inside, you don’t know for sure. Here is a popular and convenient color chart of the literary possibilities:
- Literary fiction (blue)
- Upmarket women’s fiction (red)
- Chick lit (pink)
- Lad lit (dark blue)
- Historical fiction (gold)
- Thriller/mystery (black)
- Sci-fi/fantasy (orange)
- Erotica (magenta)
- YA (purple)
- Short stories (green)
- Novel-in-stories (light green)
Match cocktails, candles, plates, napkins, cups—whatever you want!—to the pairing you choose.
Set the date and invite guests
Send your invitations out at least three months before the party so there’s plenty of time to get your genre-determining pre-pub review and plan your big reveal. Some guests may not have heard of a genre reveal party—they might not even read books!—so be sure to include a brief explanation.
Schedule your pre-pub review
It’s usually clear to a skilled reviewer what you’ve written. Ask the reviewer to write the genre color code on a piece of paper and place it in a sealed envelope. If your book is written in a way that makes it impossible for the reviewer to accurately determine the genre—women’s fiction versus literary fiction can be particularly challenging; ditto short stories versus a novel-in-stories—ask about scheduling a follow-up review with a trusted book blogger.
Plan the big reveal
A lot of writers choose to announce the genre of their book at the party with a sweet treat such as a cake. To go this route, give the sealed envelope that you received from your pre-pub reviewer to a bakery and order a cake filled with the color written inside. Sheet cakes and square cakes work well because you only have to cut off a corner to reveal the big surprise. However, if your work might be “women’s fiction,” you should consider something smaller. A single cupcake will do.
For an approach that doesn’t include dessert, ask a trusted friend to put helium balloons in a box. At the party, open the box and see what color balloons float out. Alternatively, depending on budget and resources, have a friend jump out of a cake or a box wearing the mask of an author who is iconic in your book’s genre. Is it a literary novel? Try a Jennifer Egan or Jonathan Franzen mask. A thriller? Stephen King. Historical fiction? Hilary Mantel. For extra fun, have the friend wear two masks: the real one hiding beneath a mask of Jonah Lehrer. Your guests will be shocked and confused, but only for a moment!
Document the event
Have your camera ready to go. Ask a friend or family member to take pictures and videos because you’ll be busy mingling with your guests, practicing your elevator pitch. If your budget allows, hire a professional photographer or videographer who can upload images from the party to Facebook and Twitter in real time.
Thank your guests
As partygoers arrive, ask them to write their name on a slip of paper and place it in one of two jars labeled with the possible genres. Then at the end of the party, pick out a name from the “correct guess” jar and give the winning guest a small gift, a galley or two hundred bookmarks with the address of your website. Give everyone else instructions on how to write an Amazon or Goodreads review when the book is out. These can be printed ahead of time and folded into the shape of a crane.
Like any trendy celebration, however, there are those who have taken it over the top. Elaborate themed events such as “author cravings” provide stations where your friends can write glowing reviews of the book in the national newspaper font of your choice, drink “blurby” champagne, or take a turn at a Kakutani dunking booth.
It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement of impending authorhood and natural to want to share it with those closest to you. But when it comes to planning your own genre reveal party, the most important thing to remember is that the majority of authors don’t earn out their advance. Don’t worry: just start saving for your little book’s remainder party now.