Despite the COVID-19 crisis, many books are still launching each week. Due to shelter-in-place orders and the need for physical distancing, launch parties at bookstores have of course been canceled. Because of this, we’re getting questions from partners about how to connect with readers en masse without these in-person opportunities.
So today, we’re sharing examples of some authors’ virtual book launch events, highlighting both the tools they’re using and how they’re promoting the events ahead of time. Since every author will have different format preferences and target audiences, we rounded up a variety of examples, including:
- Instagram Live
- YouTube Live
- Facebook Live
- Zoom Webinar
- Twitch Livestream
- Prerecorded Videos
- Twitter Chat
- Reddit AMA
We also included links to tutorials for most of these to help you start researching how to plan your own virtual event. We hope these ideas inspire you to celebrate your upcoming book launch with readers, even if you can’t host an event IRL.
1. Instagram Live
Many authors are hosting their virtual book launch via 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 of the participating authors’ followers receive a notification when the livestream begins.
Debut author Cameron Lund hosted a “virtual launch pizza party” on her Instagram Live, where she was in conversation with fellow rom-com authors Austin Siegemund-Broka and Emily Wibberley. Attendees were excited to chime in and leave reactions via the comments.
Cameron promoted the event starting a week in advance on Instagram as well as her other social media channels.
Instagram Live tutorials:
- How do I start a live video on Instagram? (official Instagram documentation)
- How to do an Instagram Live (walkthrough video of the different features)
- Instagram Live: a step-by-step guide for businesses (detailed written tutorial with screenshots)
2. YouTube Live
YouTube is another popular option for authors hosting virtual book launch events. Sometimes they use streaming software like StreamYard or Be.Live to create split-screen livestreams with features like participant name tags, custom backgrounds, and chat quote overlays.
Christina encouraged viewer participation in the chat pane to the right of the video (watch the video on YouTube to see the chat replay) and pulled in questions as graphic overlays, which you can see in this screenshot:
Christina promoted the event ahead of time on social media, and posted when she was about to go live on YouTube as a final reminder to join in.
Debut author Claribel A. Ortega also hosted her virtual launch party on YouTube. She split the screen three ways — between herself, Ryan La Sala, and Zoraida Córdova. A fourth author, Phil Stamper, moderated the chat (indicated with a blue wrench in the chat pane), and he chimed in with relevant links and commentary. Watch the video on YouTube to see the chat replay.
Claribel promoted the virtual launch party ahead of time on social media and created a Facebook event so people could RSVP. Attendees received reminders the day of the event and as the livestream began.
YouTube Live Tutorials
- Introduction to livestreaming (official YouTube documentation)
- How to broadcast with YouTube Live (detailed written tutorial with screenshots)
- StreamYard tutorial (video tutorial)
- Be.Live tutorial (video tutorial)
3. 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, including Be.Live and StreamYard, 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.
Stuart and Once Upon a Time bookstore both promoted the event ahead of time on their social media channels.
Young adult author Gae Polisner streamed her launch event via several segments in a Facebook Events page (hosted on her main Facebook page) to celebrate the launch of Jack Kerouac Is Dead to Me. You can view all of the segments and event posts here.
People were able to RSVP to the Facebook event ahead of time and received a notification whenever Gae made a new post on the Events page.
Facebook Live tutorials
- How to use Facebook Live (detailed written tutorial with screenshots)
- Facebook Live streaming tutorial (video tutorial with eight tips)
- StreamYard tutorial (video tutorial)
- Be.Live tutorial (video tutorial)
4. 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.
Greenlight Bookstore has been running many virtual book events using Zoom, including a celebration of author Megan Campisi’s launch of Sin Eater. An employee from the bookstore introduced Megan, who did a reading from her novel and joined Micaela Blei for a Q&A.
To join the webinar, readers signed up via a page on Greenlight Bookstore’s website, and they received an email reminder with a link to the webinar.
Authors have also been running Zoom launch events themselves. Middle grade author Kit Rosewater hosted a Zoom launch party for debut authors Loriel Ryon and Shannon Doleski. Kit moderated a Q&A, a short reading from each author, and a trivia giveaway, and there was lots of participation in the chat pane.
Kit collected RSVPs using a different strategy than Greenlight Bookstore; she used Eventbrite, and all three authors promoted this invitation link on social media.
About two hours before the webinar start time, Kit sent an email to everyone who had RSVP’d via Eventbrite with a link to the Zoom webinar and a password to log in. The participants didn’t share the link nor password on social media, ensuring a secure webinar. They also uploaded the webinar to YouTube afterward so anyone could watch later.
- How to host Zoom webinars (detailed written tutorial with screenshots)
- How to let participants join Zoom meetings from their browser (video tutorial and written tutorial with screenshots)
- How to prevent “ZoomBombing” aka hacking (informative article with instructions)
5. 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. You can watch a clip on Twitch here, and the full video recording has been moved to YouTube here.
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.
- Creator dashboard tutorial (official documentation)
- Twitch content sharing guidelines (official documentation)
6. Prerecorded videos
Some authors are also posting recorded videos to celebrate their book launches instead of livestreaming their launches. And they’re posting these anywhere recorded videos can be uploaded — Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and so on.
Ruth Ware published a video on her Facebook page of her talking about the paperback release of The Turn of the Key, doing a reading, and giving a sneak preview of her next book. She also offered to answer questions throughout the day in the comments section.
Nicola Pierce posted a one-minute video to Twitter to celebrate the launch of her book Chasing Ghosts.
My book launch, isolation style! pic.twitter.com/UJNcAJ9eeG
— Nicola Pierce (@NicolaPierce3) March 19, 2020
Cherry Dollface took a hybrid approach between recorded and livestream videos to celebrate the launch of her new cookbook, Dollface Kitchen. She did a virtual live book signing streamed to both Facebook Live and Instagram Live, and promoted the event by posting a five-minute recorded video on YouTube.
7. 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.
Smriti Prasadam-Halls and Ella Okstad did a Twitter chat to launch their new picture book, Elephant in My Kitchen. Each of them announced the chat ahead of time, encouraging followers to use the hashtag #ElephantInMyKitchen to ask questions and join the party.
Their publisher, Egmont UK, had some questions prepared to provide content for the chat, and they also got questions from other Twitter users. The authors answered the questions by quote-retweeting, and readers could easily follow along using the chat hashtag.
Twitter chat tutorial:
- How to host a successful Twitter chat (detailed written tutorial with screenshots and templates)
8. 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.
He also linked to this tweet as proof that his username did, in fact, belong to him, a common practice for Reddit AMAs.
Reddit AMA tutorial:
- How to host a successful Reddit AMA (tutorial and tips with screenshots)
How else have you seen authors host their virtual launch events? Let us know in the comments below.
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