This is an age old problem. I don't think your flake rate is too high. Quite obviously some hosts are more bothered than others by it, but it is frustrating when you have no shows. Our tournaments are the 3rd Friday of the month. If I have to change it, I give players as much notice as possible. I have a sign up list that let's people sign up for future games months in advance. They sometimes forget to let me know when something comes up.
Annually I clean the list. I actually have two lists. Our members get invites through a Google Group list. It's easy -- I send stuff out for members only. Then I have a supplemental list that I send BCC emails too. If they aren't members, they they will get a series of 3 emails sent a few days apart. I've sometimes done the "let me know if you want off the list" and sometimes I've done the "let me know you want to remain on the list." I'm not sure which is better.
If I have a member no-show for 3 months, even if they give me a reason in advance, I drop them from the automatic sign ups and no longer count on them. They will have to re-sign up to be on the list.
I've tried to get people to respond if they can't make it, but it seems every month there are at least 1-3 of no shows. I handle those on a case by case basis. I had 1 no show in Dec, but I also know he and his wife have a new baby and the baby has had some issues. Poker is not necessarily the highest thing on his list right now. Normally he's good at letting me know. I have one table that is some trouble to set up. I only set it up if I'm expecting more than 20. Friday, we had 21 signed up. Right after we got the table itself set up, I got an email that one couldn't make it. It's last minute, but at least they let me know. So, I kept the table up, but didn't finish it by putting on the pad and hoody. They were just sitting on top in case we needed to set it up. We only had 19, so we took that table down during the break. If I have a high number in December, that third table goes in the same room as the Christmas tree, and it's cramped. So Dec. is the one month of the year I hope 30 don't show up.
I keep waiting for the day that I don't have the 3rd table set up, and we have extras show up. We will accommodate them (I want their money in the prize pool and all players benefit in our club standings by having additional players). But it may mean we have to stop the game, set up the 3rd table, and shift players. It means I'll have to select 2 more dealers. It will be a paid, but it will also demonstrate the effect of NOT letting me know! Sometimes that's the best teacher. Some people will never learn no matter what.
For us hosts, we want to know how many are coming. It's much easier to plan for when we know. But I decided a long time ago not to get stressed (and that IS a decision you make) when things go wrong whether it's extras coming or no shows. I always have Plan B and Plan C, and can adjust.
Really, in some cases, life just happens. Unless you are hosting people who make their living at it, poker is a hobby. Some people are more committed to it than others. Here's what I look at. I have 20 players that show up 80% of the time. I have 16 players that show up about 25% of the time. I have another 6 that fall in between those percentages. In the last year, I've had 1 player die, the deceased players wife go from every time to a little over half the time,1 leave because of the death of a spouse, 1 who has dropped out of poker, 1 who moved, and 1 who found another game on the same night much closer than my game. We still had 250 in 12 games -- 20.83/game. As much as I'd like to have 30 a game, honestly, 20 makes a great game. Three times we only had 17 and still had a lot of fun.
I've said for a long time -- your game is either growing or dying. You need to be thinking about and working on replacing players who will eventually have a life event occur that keeps them away from your game.
There are other things you can try that might help. Here's our 2015 monthly promotions:
January -- Mike Davis Memorial Tournament -- only 9 make the final table, reserve a place for Mike, and those at the final table get 10,000 extra chips for making the final table
February -- regular
March -- Texas Independence/St. Paddy's day, bounty, and we make green punch; 100,000 that night instead of 25,000 (but ratios stay the same -- just bigger chip values)
April -- regular
May -- Honor the military (and probably 1st responders too) by wearing shirt or hat, might give out 5,000 extra to those who do something
June -- Bounty month
July -- planning to do 100,000 that night
August -- regular
September -- college night -- wear your favorite college (or other team) gear, probably give 5,000 extra to those who participate
October -- pirate night, bounty, and we make "crocodile blood" punch -- This year the we'll vote on the best pirate outfits. Top 3 will be captains and have at least part of their entry refunded (might have the best 6 split 3 buy-ins -- money will come from our annual membership dues). If I don't have the funds to do that, best pirate outfits will get extra chips.
November -- regular
December -- Christmas bonus (available to all players who survive the first 6 rounds), bounty, and we make Christmas punch. It's the last night for players to improve their standings. That's 4 different things to promote attendance that month. We know this is tough -- it's the Friday before Christmas and attendance is just harder with all the other stuff in December. Still, we've averaged 20 players the last 3 years, which is close to the monthly average. This year, we had up to 10 players who might have taken our Top Gun Award (our best overall player) if things had gone right for them in that tournament. 9 of those players attended with high hopes. Our final table was dominated by the best players, which is unusual given that even the best players at getting to the final table make it only 75% of the time.
With the exception of extra chips, none of those promotions affect the game itself. They all add a little spice to the games though.
Another thing I did 2 years ago was started a league-like system. We have a 12-game season, with now 4 awards for performance through the 12 games. Then we have a Main Event where the buy-in is 3x the regular. Everyone starts the same -- no benefit from the regular season. It's a fun, high reward tournament to top off the year.
These are my ideas, and I've borrowed from others on some of them. They are easy to do, fun, and help increase interest in some months. They require very little in the way of extra preparation from players.