Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Promotion in the Age of Covid

These past two weeks since my last post have been full of drama. First both my dogs got skunked (at 11 pm, pitch dark outside, and I had no makings for skunk shampoo), then one of them ate lawn fertilizer and needed her stomach pumped, and the next night she had a seizure. I pressed "send" on my latest manuscript and sent it on its way to the publisher, exactly on deadline. This year's non-Halloween left me with 80 baby chocolate bars and three pie pumpkins that had to be eaten. I have made four pumpkin breads, two dozen pumpkin muffins, and some soup. I am afraid to climb on the bathroom scale.
Then came the emotional roller coaster of the American election, which we all watched for five days while chewing our nails to the quick and incessantly checking updates online, to the detriment of any intelligent work. And it's not even my country!

In the midst of all this, my publicist informed me it's time to start the promotional gears grinding for my upcoming novel. THE ANCIENT DEAD, the fourth in my Amanda Doucette mystery-thriller series, was originally scheduled for release in October 2020. But factors beyond our control delayed it, namely printers that weren't printing, bookstores that weren't operating, supplies that were backlogged, etc. So the publisher pushed the date back to January 2021. The dead zone. 

And this is the real reason for this post. Promotion in the Age of Covid. Ugh. My book is already available for reviewers on Net Galley, so that reviews can be ready when the book hits the shelves. If you are a blogger or reviewer, feel free to check it out!  It is also available for pre-order, which provides a huge boost in sales ahead of the publication date and increases the number of books ordered. THE ANCIENT DEAD can be pre-ordered on all the usual online platforms, but please consider pre-ordering from your favourite local bookstore. They need our support if bookstores are to survive these difficult times.

But for me, the focal point of a book's release is always my book launch. But this year? It's bad enough my book is coming out in January when bookstores and warehouses are processing returns and trying to pare down their overstock of unsold holiday books, and readers can barely see over their sky-high to-be-read piles and credit card statements. But somehow I have to reach those readers with the news of my exciting new book with nothing but Zoom.

Normally I love launching a new book. I plan a launch party at a local pub, arrange for a bookseller, and invite all my friends and readers to come celebrate with me. It's a festive time. I spend a few minutes talking about the book and doing a brief reading, but otherwise it's a time to connect with old friends and greet new ones. In the weeks and months afterwards, I usually have a number of signings, readings, and book clubs lined up, and perhaps a festival or conference or two. These in-person connections with readers are inspirational for most authors; they nourish our hope and give us a reason to keep at it in our solitary, at times gloomy, doubt-filled world.

Now I will be faced with nothing but thumbnail photos arrayed across the top of my screen as I talk into the void of my living room. I am filled with trepidation and dozens of questions. What if I hold a virtual launch and no one comes? How should people sign up for the event? How will they buy the books? How can I sign the books? How long should the presentation last? An hour of talk and readings is much longer than normal launch talks. Should I get a host/ interviewer, as my publicist advises, and if so, who? I am not a tech wizard, and managing a Zoom call with multiple attendees and Q&A capability terrifies me.

I know there are advantages to the virtual format (besides no food and bar bill). People don't have to be in my own city to attend; friends and readers from all across the continent can tune in. It would be wonderful to see dear friends from as far away as British Columba and California, and to connect with readers from other continents.  

I know writers' festivals and other authors have managed to host virtual events, and I will be watching those in order to get some pointers. I will also talk to my local bookstores to see what their experience has been. If anyone has had experience either as an author or an attendee at a virtual book launch, I'd love to hear from you. Do's and Don'ts, and how to avoid falling on your face. All help gratefully accepted.

1 comment:

Donis Casey said...

Barbara I am facing exactly the same problem you are with promotion. My next book was scheduled for November release, now it's coming out in February, and what oh what shall I do since I'm not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. Good luck on your launch. I'm looking forward to hear how it goes. Hope you make a million bucks.