Can you still launch a book during a pandemic?
We’ve got two accomplished indie authors who show it can be done.
After spending all the time, effort, and money required to publish a book, no author wants to release it to the public when it’s likely to land with a silent thud. Promoting a book during a pandemic might seem like a non-starter in terms of drawing an audience. But that doesn’t have to be true if you’re smart about your timing and use your contacts and technology to your advantage.
Two authors associated with Amelia Indie Authors launched their books successfully in 2020. Co-op member Esther Jantzen released her children’s book, and Donna Overly, a client, released the first book in her ‘Knot’ series. Both found their efforts worthwhile and generously shared their experiences with us.
Contacts from Around the World
Esther’s book, WALK: Jamie Bacon’s Secret Mission on the Camino de Santiago, is a travel adventure mystery written for grades 5 – 9. It’s a tale about the missteps, adventures, and heroism of an 11-year-old American boy who, with his home-schooling family, walks the 500-mile Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain.
Her book launch relied largely on Zoom — the platform many of us have come to know well over the past several months. She wisely had two people helping her with content and technology and invited her contacts from all over the world, resulting in 54 participants.
“I had a very good Mistress of Ceremonies—Linda Heiderer—a long-time friend who loves to be on stage, teach and communicate. We have Camino connections; her enthusiasm and respect for the book really carried the day,” Esther said. “Linda insisted on a script for the launch—which at first I resisted, but in the end, I found it really helped the flow and allowed me to say what I wanted to say. We went through three or four drafts to get it to the place where it was presentable.”
Tech Support to the Rescue
She also hired a technical helper so that she and Linda could focus on content. “It’s wonderful to have someone admit people to the Zoom space, conduct the poll, spotlight other speakers, call on participants with raised hands, put up visuals, and make sure there’s a recording. That was invaluable!”
Esther thought about how to keep the event engaging and involve participants. This included having her grandkids do the readings—appropriate since it is a children’s book—and a ‘Two Truths and a Lie’ Q&A game, which people responded to via Zoom’s polling feature. This broke up the speaker parts while transferring information about her book, and it gave participants something to do.
“I actually hired a very, very expensive coach because I really had no idea how to do a launch. She’s the one who came up with the idea of having my grandchildren read, and helped me figure out the things I needed to communicate up front. The game was my idea, and if there’d been more time, it would have been fun to play more.”
Esther provided all participants with a graphic poster to share, and asked them to support her efforts by promoting the book to their own contacts.
Donna’s book, The Shackle, continues the King family saga from her first trilogy, and is also a stand-alone novel mixing the elements of drama, suspense, and romance against a backdrop of human trafficking.
She struggled with the timing of her book launch, thinking that if she delayed her launch until the pandemic was under control via a vaccine, she’d be able to benefit from direct sales during a book tour.
“Without knowing how long the pandemic would last and knowing that I have a goal to release one book a year, I honored my timeline. Studies show that people are reading more with the pandemic and the stay-at-home, isolation, quarantine, and social distancing.”
By proceeding with her launch plans, she could make her book available online to those readers much sooner than if she had decided to wait.
Donna also used technology to her advantage during a limited launch event at a local bookstore. Only 20 people could attend, wearing masks and social distancing, but the event was live-streamed on Facebook for virtual participants and was recorded for later use in promotions.
Meanwhile, she continued her list of traditional marketing activities, which included her website, blog posts, e-mail newsletters, and Facebook posts. “I launched a give-away through GoodReads, promoting it 10 days ahead. I chose the dates and the number of copies I would be giving away. There were three winners. I got 800 people to sign up, so that is marketing to 800 folks,” Donna said.
She also attempted a book signing at a local bookstore on a main thoroughfare. “I feel that the mask limits interaction with people on the street, making it harder to initiate a conversation. I did this one day and sold no books, but I will be doing it again.”
“More people have bought my book online since they realized that I could not get to them on a tour. I still hope to be able to tour in Pennsylvania and Texas with my book in 2021. Maybe waiting until the fall when I will have another book to market as well.”
Lessons from Our Pandemic Launchers
And so, what are the lessons we learned from these wise authors?
1. Life goes on, and readers continue to read. Stick to your plans, but be flexible and adjust them according to current situations.
2. Be prepared. Both Esther and Donna did extensive planning and preparation before launching their book.
3. Don’t give up. Even if your book sales aren’t what you hoped for, keep reaching out to your audience, and get to work on the next book.