Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard from partners that they aren’t sure how to approach promoting their books in the midst of the global COVID-19 crisis. It can be uncomfortable to market and promote while people are facing job losses and illness. At the same time, many people are home and looking for books right now, and of course authors and publishers are also thinking about how to support themselves and their families during a time of economic uncertainty.
So today we want to share some examples of how authors are continuing to promote their books during this unprecedented time. While there’s no right answer for how to promote right now — we’re all learning together — we hope these ideas inspire you to continue reaching readers and help you craft your own messaging in this new landscape.
1. They’re acknowledging the crisis when making announcements
Authors are still making announcements pertaining to book launches, deals, cover reveals, and so forth, but many are opting to acknowledge the situation before sharing their updates. When V. E. Schwab announced her upcoming cover reveal on Twitter, she acknowledged these scary times and said she wanted to offer “a bit of sunshine” for her audience.
When Melissa Foster alerted her newsletter subscribers that her newest book was available for sale, she also acknowledged the situation in an introductory paragraph, and wished her readers well. (You can read the whole newsletter here.)
2. They’re being flexible about launch dates
As of now, we’re still seeing many books launching as planned, whether traditionally or self-published. But we’ve also seen some indie authors being transparent about the fact that their launch dates may shift. When R.S. Grey announced the title of her upcoming May release, Love the One You Hate, she mentioned that she’s trying to stick to the current launch date, but acknowledged that it may change in order to prioritize her family’s health and happiness. And the comments she received were very supportive.
Author Marie Force actually shifted her release date up by a month to get her readers a book they’d been looking forward to even sooner. Her readers appreciated this happy news.
We’ve also seen some traditionally published books have their publication dates moved up. When Jennifer Weiner announced her book Big Summer with Simon & Schuster was being published two weeks earlier than expected, she also posted a Twitter thread explaining the rationale behind the decision (see the full thread here).
And other traditionally published books are getting delayed. Kevin Roose announced on Twitter that the publication date of his book Futureproof from Penguin Random House had been delayed. He also took a moment to rally support for those whose book launches are being impacted by the current crisis.
3. They’re offering their books for free
Many authors are temporarily making their books free as a gesture of goodwill during this time. Several self-published authors joined forces to create #booksforsolidarity, a campaign offering a collection of romance novels to readers for free for four days. They used BookFunnel to deliver these free books to readers.
In their social media posts promoting this offering, the authors encouraged readers to practice physical distancing, and offered their books for free as something to do while quarantining.
Some traditionally published authors with ebook backlists have provided similar offerings. Debbie Macomber collaborated with her publisher Random House to offer four of her ebooks for free.
4. They’re collaborating on free box sets
Similarly, some authors are teaming up to create free box sets for readers. Julia Kent sent the newsletter below, first acknowledging this time of self-isolation, and then offering the free box set Girl Meets Billionaire, which she created in collaboration with seven other romance authors.
5. They’re hosting virtual book launches
Book launch parties scheduled for the next couple of months have been canceled, and the cancellations may extend even further into the future. So authors have been hosting virtual launch parties instead. Debut middle grade author Claribel Ortega will be hosting her launch party virtually on YouTube, and started promoting the event weeks in advance on Twitter. She’s even partnered with the independent bookstore Books of Wonder in New York City — where she was set to host her IRL launch party — to sell copies of her book at this event.
Author Ashley Woodfolk was supposed to have a book launch party to celebrate the release of Where You Were Everything. Instead, she and her in-conversation host, Kristina Forest, hosted an Instagram Live Q&A.
6. They’re going on virtual book tours
Similarly, authors have found creative ways to have their entire book tour online. Graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang created a cartoon of himself going on tour on Instagram to promote his new novel, Dragon Hoops. In his virtual tour announcement post, he explained why he canceled his in-person book tour through a series of images.
His release day post addressed the fact that it’s a weird time to launch a book, but still uses a celebratory tone while expressing gratitude to readers.
7. They’re doing virtual readings
Some authors are taking to Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook Live to do readings of their books, a fun and distracting treat for their fans. Over a dozen picture book authors, including Matt de la Peña, collaborated to create an agenda of readings on Instagram Live, with the hope of giving parents a much-needed break since many schools have closed.
Many authors are starting to do solo virtual readings as well. Young adult author Jeff Zentner announced his Instagram Live reading a couple of days ahead of time.
8. They’re encouraging physical distancing (while reading)
Some authors are asking their audience to stay home and read, promoting physical distancing and their own books at the same time. Sylvia Day used the hashtag #StayHomeAndRead above a promotional graphic for one of her novels.
Debut author Allison Ashley also used the hashtag #StayHomeAndRead when announcing the launch of her book Perfect Distraction, encouraging people to stay home if they can.
9. They’re creating fun activities for readers
Some authors have created activities to keep readers occupied at home, either directly or tangentially related to their books. Children’s author and illustrator Mo Willems has been uploading daily doodle videos for kids on The Kennedy Center’s YouTube channel using the easily searchable hashtag #MoLunchDoodles.
10. They’re being more accessible to readers
Some authors are making themselves available for more Q&As or impromptu chats to keep readers entertained during self-isolation. Bestselling authors Angie Thomas and Nic Stone hosted an impromptu Instagram Live chat where they answered fans’ questions.
R.L. Stine hosted an impromptu “ask me anything”–style chat on Twitter.
11. They’re supporting independent bookstores
While COVID-19 is presenting challenges to authors and publishers, independent bookstores are suffering as well, with many needing to close their doors except for curbside pickup and delivery and others needing to shut down entirely during city-wide shelter-in-place orders. So some authors have been running promotions to help independent bookstores while also promoting their own books. Author Kat Cho offered to send a signed bookplate to anyone who bought her book from an independent bookstore.
Sci-fi author Mike Chen offered a signed copy of one of his books for the first 10 people to send him a receipt for any book from an indie bookstore (with a plug for his own local bookstore).
12. They’re running giveaways
Some authors are also running giveaways to give readers even more to read (and look forward to). Here’s an ARC giveaway upcoming debut author Janella Angeles ran acknowledging safe physical distancing.
And author Jennifer Joyce is running a weekly giveaway of one of her ebooks for readers in the UK.
14. They’re addressing the situation with humor
Some authors are using humor to brighten readers’ spirits. Memoir and humor author Bess Kalb made light of needing to cancel her book signing with a video of her signing for her cat (who clearly couldn’t care less).
Thank you guys for coming out for my book signing today!! pic.twitter.com/h228AZdtoY
— Bess Kalb (@bessbell) March 23, 2020
15. Some are signing offline for a while
These are extremely challenging times, so some authors have understandably decided to go offline for a bit. Sometimes they post reassuring messages to readers, like author J. Daniels did on Instagram, to let everyone know they’re okay — they’re just taking some time off from social media.
We hope these examples help you think through how you would like to continue connecting with readers during this time. How else are you seeing authors promoting their books? Share what you’re seeing with us and fellow readers in the comments below.
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