Live author events and book signings are important components of book launches. These tend to take place in indie bookstores and libraries, among other venues, all of which are closed now due to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. The closure of brick-and-mortar bookstores and libraries compounds the issue by temporarily closing a source of sales.
What’s an author to do? It’s time to connect with readers virtually.
As anyone active on social media has discovered in recent weeks, people are uniting across time zones through social media and video conferencing. The increased comfort level the general public is building with these online channels means that we’re presented with a number of opportunities even as we deal with unprecedented challenges. What this means for authors is a more reliable method of reaching their readers that can be used even after things go back to normal.
Ideas for Authors to Connect with Readers Virtually
An online book signing: By streaming live on YouTube or Facebook, you can present before a live audience and do a reading. Audience members can communicate with you via chat. Do this for your book launch and on a regular basis thereafter to build readership. Link to where your book is available for sale. People who purchase through a special link on your website could be sent a signed and personalized book via IngramSpark’s personalization service for current customers.
A webinar with you as a guest speaker: With others in your industry, coproduce a webinar on a theme that aligns with your book. You can be on a panel or be a presenter. By coproducing, you create a compelling event and tap into their database of contacts as well. I suggest using an affordable, stable and easy-to-use video conferencing platform such as Zoom. You can use Eventbrite to set up an online event registration. Let people in attendance know where your book is available for sale online. For a premium, send them personalized books.
Online book groups: A number of online platforms are suitable for discussion groups in different time zones. Make them free, but ask people to register so that you capture their e-mail addresses.
Maintain regular connection on social media: Think about building lasting connections with your readers. Last week, Margaret Atwood tweeted that she cleaned out her food pantry and found some dried mushrooms from 2012. Why share? These tidbits make authors relatable to their audience. Now is the time for readers to get a peek into your life through text, photos and video. Don’t be shy. It’s more than okay to share seemingly innocuous daily events at a time when people want distraction and connection.
How to Publicize Your Online Events
During this time with everyone holed up in their homes, people are starved for something to do, especially something that exercises the brain. All that to say, don’t be shy about letting people know about your event. Here are some tips for publicizing your online book launches, webinars and book groups:
- In addition to sharing updates about your event on your own social media feed, share your posts with your local indie bookstores, particularly those that might be offering home delivery.
- Set up your event as a Facebook event for additional publicity.
- Share your event on your local community social media feed.
- Send a press release to local community papers.
- Post the event on your blog and your website’s Events page.
- Use an online program such as Eventbrite to manage registrations, publicize the event, and collect email addresses from potential readers.
- Advertise on Facebook.
- Tell your followers on LinkedIn and in your LinkedIn groups, where you share something in common with fellow group members.
What You Need to Connect with Readers Virtually
You need an up-to-date computer, a stable Internet connection, a good webcam, a microphone and speakers.
If you have a laptop, set it up on a table or desk, not your lap. Make sure that the light is facing you and not behind you; don’t blind viewers with the sunshine streaming through the window behind your chair. Have a professional background, not your bedroom.
Most video conferencing programs such as Skype, Google Meet (or whatever they are calling it these days) and Facebook Messenger work for group video calls and are free. Facebook Messenger would be a good platform to meet with readers who follow you on Facebook so that you can have face-to-face conversations.
As mentioned previously, you can live-stream your event through Facebook and YouTube.
We love to use Zoom for group chats. It allows up to 25 people on-screen at one time, and 100+ in the meeting at once, allowing larger meetings and lively face-to-face discussions. Zoom is easy to use, has excellent video and sound quality (making you look very professional), and you can record the video to show later. You can also live-stream your event to Facebook or YouTube.
Looking Towards the Future
Many people are predicting that after this crisis is over, online events will be a more acceptable alternative to live events.
Live events can be difficult and expensive to organize. By creating your own online events, you are in control. You create the event; you don’t incur much expense, nor do you need an invitation from a bookstore or library. You can reach an international audience without getting on an airplane. With a bit of work and some social media savvy, these events are easy to create and implement, using technology that just about everyone has in their home. By putting in the work now for online events, you’ll be ready to connect with readers online well into the future.