June 22, 2020
There is one guarantee in life – nothing stays the same – and we must be constantly willing to readjust and adapt to our surroundings. This truth has never been more obvious than right now, during this global pandemic.
Regarding the book printing industry, the pandemic has created chaos in the retail environment and led to canceled tours, book fairs, literary festivals, and media appearances. In the past few months, authors and publishers have struggled with the decision to either postpone a book’s publication or adapt to the changes that have been occurring daily, if not hourly.
Despite the COVID-19 crisis, many books are still launching each week, but doing so as a virtual event instead of in-person or at a bookstore. For authors with a big international audience, changing or postponing a release date becomes complicated, if not impossible. Therefore, many are finding new and unique ways to promote their books, which means printing, promotion and distribution can go ahead as scheduled albeit with a little more creativity and ingenuity.
Virtual book launch events have become the new norm, as many authors will attest; and because they each have their own format preference and target audience, there are a variety of ways to have a virtual book launch celebration. Here are a few examples:
- Instagram Live – This format allows simple split-screen live broadcasting and lends itself to casual conversations and audience engagement. Authors usually announce the event ahead of time on their main Instagram feed, and all the participating authors’ followers receive a notification when the livestream begins.
- YouTube Live – Another popular option for authors hosting virtual book launch events. Sometimes they use streaming software to create split-screen livestreams with features like participant name tags, custom backgrounds, and chat quote overlays.
- Facebook Live – Some authors run Facebook Live streams from their Facebook page, while others run the livestream from an Events page (having collected RSVPs ahead of time), and still others run the livestream from their Facebook group. Many of the livestreaming software options for YouTube, are available for Facebook Live as well.
Children’s book author Stuart Gibbs and the bookstore Once Upon a Time collaborated on a Facebook Live book launch event for his 20th book, Tyrannosaurus Wrecks. The bookstore hosted the event on their Facebook page. Stuart actually went to the bookstore to film the video, and while nobody was in the live audience save for a bookstore employee, there was a lot of lively engagement on Facebook via the comments section.
- Zoom Webinar – Zoom has become a household brand this year, and is a popular way for colleagues, friends, and families to meet virtually. And some authors and independent bookstores have been using Zoom to replace the in-person events that have been canceled. Attendees can view the webinar in their browser if they’d rather not download Zoom’s software.
- Twitch Livestream – Twitch is another popular streaming platform commonly used by gamers to livestream their video games and commentary. But some authors are using the platform to host book launch events and interviews as well.
To celebrate the launch of her new release, Chosen Ones, Veronica Roth ran a virtual book tour mostly using Twitch. Her launch day livestream on Twitch was in conversation with Leigh Bardugo. She partnered with several independent bookstores and gave them a shout-out early in the video. She promoted the event ahead of time on her social media channels, and for each “stop” on her tour, she chatted with a different author or industry pro on a different topic, including book-to-film adaptations, the journey to publication, crafting and planning a series, and more. That way readers could tune in to multiple events and hear different conversations each time.
- Pre-recorded videos – Some authors are also posting recorded videos to celebrate their book launches instead of livestreaming their launches. And these are being posted anywhere recorded videos can be uploaded — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so on.
- Twitter Chat – Other authors are finding different ways to host virtual launch celebrations without needing to be on camera. For example, some are hosting Twitter chats, where participants can ask questions using a dedicated hashtag. The author then quote-retweets the question to answer, using the same hashtag so participants can easily follow the conversation.
- Reddit AMA – Some authors have hosted a Reddit AMA or “Ask Me Anything” to connect with readers upon launching their newest book. The format is very simple – each author writes an introductory post pitching their newest book, and then answers questions on their thread as they come in throughout the day. There are quite a few genre-specific book subreddits that might be a good fit. Note that some popular subreddits like r/books are moderated and high-demand and may require pitching ahead of time. Some traditionally published authors have coordinated these opportunities with their publicists.
On a personal level, while tuning in to a few of these virtual book launches whether on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter I was impressed with the fact that each of them addressed the common denominator that is affecting all of us: the pandemic and how they were managing to circumvent the difficulties it has presented. Other factors that I found inspiring and unique was that each author remained down-to-earth, approachable to their target audiences and brought their own personality to the screen. Many were natural entertainers and brought a touch of comic relief in speaking about their books and what led them to their writing career. Each one was fascinating in their own way and was a reminder that this could be a new way of marketing in an unprecedented time.
While this crisis continues to affect all of us in various ways, it can be hard to talk about book sales and bestsellers amid people’s concerns and fears about health and safety. But despite these challenges, each individual author has a story to tell, and that story is not only important to them, but important to their readers, fellow authors, and the public. At Friesens, we are proud of the book publishing industry as they continue to show such resiliency and creativity during these trying times; and we are here to support them in their effort to create unique and wonderful stories to share with the world in whatever capacity that may be.
“It’s your reaction to adversity, not adversity itself that determines how your life’s story will develop.” ― Dieter F. Uchtdorf