Book Marketing In Quarantine

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book marketing

Authors faced with book signings being canceled and face-to-face events waylaid have had to rethink their book marketing efforts. Some have embraced it, others are frustrated. Here are some of your stories.

Adversity can bring out the best in people — especially authors. When I asked the writers in our BookBaby community to share their COVID-19 stories, it was inspiring to see so many authors making good use of their downtime to work on and finish their books. I shared a few of their stories last month.

But what about authors who have already published their books? Book marketing is a tough enough task without a worldwide pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy. Once again, I was heartened to read how many of our authors were up for the challenge.

BookBaby author Janna Lopez said she was “flooded with hope” as she self published her book, Me, My Selfie & Eye in late January. “I had some PR opportunities set up and author appearances scheduled,” she reports. “I even managed to wrangle one author conference in New York and several book clubs.”

And then came the quarantine. “I’d worked four long years to complete this book. Everything I wanted to share and talk about and discuss about my book, about what I cared about — midlife identity loss and subsequent grief — was being washed away.”

But it didn’t take long for Lopez to shake off the blues and buckle down. “The first several weeks of this pandemic were awful and depressing, but once I realized I had to create something new, something different, or watch my hard work disappear, I went into creative action.”

“I’ve taken a class on how to use and apply live video and how to make it effective. I started teaching a free online writing class once a week, which has been extremely rewarding and insightful and continues to grow. And I’ve started writing articles for various platforms, such as Medium.”

Lopez also launched her podcast, “Eyedentity Talk with Janna Lopez,” where she interviews other authors and interesting people.

“I’m discovering amazing new things about myself and what’s possible. As an author, the past 10 weeks have been some of the most creative, productive, and exciting for me. My book will have its time. I believe this. It just won’t look or go the way I thought I would, and now, I can say I’m OK with that.”

BookBaby author Casey Bell also utilized technology to find his new readers during the lockdown. “During the pandemic, I decided that now is the time to find new ways to market my books.” Bell started a YouTube channel last spring and created a unique kind of program. “I call it the Writer-to-Writer Interviews. Two writers ask each other five questions about their journey into writing, as well as questions pertaining to a work they are featuring.”

Bell says one of the most rewarding aspects of this new marketing endeavor was learning about the different experiences writers have on their journey. “No two writers have been the same. They have all answered some of the same questions completely different from one another,” Bell says.

Here’s what BookBaby authors shared with me about their book marketing efforts during these challenging times:

My first Children’s Picture book, Hope and Freckles: Fleeing to a Better Forest was to be officially released on April 7th. I had book signings scheduled at Barnes & Noble stores, school author visits, and other signing opportunities scheduled. Due to the success of pre-release orders of the book, a first reprint had just been placed, then…STOP EVERYTHING! For a brand new author, at age 71, what do I do? Well, I began work-arounds. I rescheduled my book release to a later date. I began to focus on getting local media attention for the book. As teachers were learning to use Zoom and other platforms for ongoing education, I began to reach out to offer free author visits online. I worked on building my email list via subscribers to my website. I added a resources page to my website for parents and teachers to use in exploring the plight of refugees and asylum seekers. And I worked on getting reviews on NetGalley and Goodreads. With the help of a friend’s daughter, whose senior year in college was suddenly cut short, I’ve begun to utilize social media to promote the book. — B. Kiley

It’s not a great time to publicize my self-published books, as a lot of readers are being hit hard by the damaged economy, some much worse than I am. I have noticed a slight uptick in my eBook sales, maybe because most people have more time to fill with reading. I keep in contact with readers through my email list of events (some of which I now offer through Zoom through paying organizations). I also post on social media about the stories I’m publishing and the classes/events I’m offering through Zoom. — R. Unterberger

Although the marketing side of my debut, The Fury’s Light, is not doing so well, according to my publisher, I have managed to sell a few copies through a book club my friend started. I look forward to the feedback I receive from it as I finalize revisions for its sequel. COVID-19 came at a time when people desperately needed to take a step back and breathe. I am grateful for the time it’s given back to me, not only so I can devote more attention to my craft, but because it has also allowed me to focus on my family and raising my two-year-old. — H. Staker

I belong to the Paulding County Writers’ Guild of Georgia. The members and I are dependent on local events such as flea markets, book club talks, open-air markets, and fairs for most of our contacts and sales. With everything closed down, sales have been bleak at best. I have had only two events all year. As self-published authors, we depend on meeting with the public, showing off our books, and trying to expand our fan bases. Our only local book store closed down and will not be reopening. I have a new book coming out very soon and I don’t know what to do about my book launch. I can hold an online event, maybe, but I always do better if I can engage with a person face-to-face about the book and get it in their hands or at least give them one of my cards. That’s half the battle. I can’t wait to get out again. — W. Gilmore

Quarantine has given me time to research, retool, and strategize. I am finally going to give some serious attention to creating a mailing list. I have plans to leave Kindle Unlimited and go wide. The great change COVID-19 has brought to my world is making me decide that writing should be more of a business for me; it has made me decide to prioritize things that I was intentionally ignoring because I was content just to create my niche content and share it with the few people who found it. Now I want to build more of a community and interest in my alternative fantasy niche and if that means I make money, great. If it doesn’t, I am okay with that too, as long as it extends and perpetuates the genre. — M.J. Lauck

Promoting my new graphic novel feels irrelevant at the moment. I am a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement; nearly all of my posts as of late have been related to the matter at hand, as have a lot of my conscious decisions as to how I spend my time. I believe in love and hope and this feels like the moment for change. Usually, I would have had a release party. The pandemic prevented that. I would personally have put physical books in local stores. Due to the pandemic, most local stores have been closed; even as they reopen, most are struggling, and the thought of bringing up the inclusion of my book to their stock feels insensitive on my part. Despite all that, using my online presence, I’ve been able to sell enough of my small first printing to order a second. — D. Vogen

I had two book signings lined up that canceled. Usually, in April, I do a writing workshop for a large annual women’s workshop. When I am out and about, I hand out my cards and talk about my books, but am not going out that much right now. On the other hand, being home, I’ve done lots of writing, rewriting my first book, entering writing contests, and sending my articles out to magazines. I’m also reading lots of good books, which I consider necessary to being an author. — R. Scarborough

I was so sad to find out that my book didn’t get released to Barnes & Noble because of this virus. I was supposed to do a book signing at Barnes & Noble in April for all my students and friends. However, instead of being upset, I decided to use social media as a resource to sell my book. It worked! I purchased 100 books and I sold every single one of them within a few days. I signed them and delivered them in person to my local friends and shipped to people outside of my town. This has allowed me to make my money back and to start my second book. These have truly been some crazy times, but they’ve allowed so many people to be creative. — T. Brewington

All my book signings were cancelled. Folks are more interested in staying alive then in ordering and reading books — unless they’re about cutting your own hair. — S. Gottlieb

I’m the Vice President of Communication for the Women’s Fiction Writers Association (WFWA). Quarantine hit our membership like nothing else I’ve ever seen. Book launches were canceled and moved virtual, book deals were pushed back, and the crumbling of the edges of the already-stressed publishing industry — and the financial stressors of our beloved indie bookstores, festivals, and retreats — have added layers of worry for our future. As an organization, we felt the collective squeeze and created online weekly Zoom check-in groups for writers to talk and connect. It’s been a huge success. We also created a members-only social forum where we offer non-writing creative activities — origami, cooking, painting. I have advised many, many writers that the characters will speak to them again, when they’re ready. They always do. — Sharon Wishnow-Ritchey

The biggest disappointment since the shutdown began is the closure of book festivals here at the local level. I was counting on reaching out to the extended local audience in the Montgomery County, Maryland area via the Maryland Book Festival and the Day of the Book in Kensington, Maryland. Both were canceled. My strategy was to build outward from those kinds of events, but I have been forced to re-group and it has been difficult. My book has gotten good reviews from those who have read it, but it is a select group for the most part. Hopefully, the festivals will be back at some point in the near future and my book will remain fresh, so ever onward! — T. Leavengood

Book Marketing in the Age of COVID19

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Steven Spatz
Steven Spatz is a writer, marketer, and the President of BookBaby, the nation’s leading self publishing services company. Spatz’s professional writing career began at age 13, paid by the word to bang out little league baseball game stories on an ancient manual typewriter for southern Oregon weekly newspapers. His journalism career continued after graduation from the University of Oregon at several daily newspapers in Oregon. When his family took over a direct marketing food business, Spatz redirected his writing and design skills into producing catalogs. The Pinnacle Orchards catalog was named "Best Food Catalog," received dozens of other national awards, and the business grew into one of the nation’s largest gourmet fruit gift businesses. After the company was sold, Spatz continued his direct marketing career with Fortune 500 companies including Mattel and Hasbro. He joined AVL Digital in 2004 to lead the direct-to-consumer marketing teams for music industry-leading brands Disc Makers, Oasis, and CD Baby. After serving as Chief Marketing Officer, Spatz was tapped to lead the company’s new publishing division in late 2014. In 2019, the AVL Digital Management team purchased the New Jersey brands, including BookBaby. The company is headquartered in Pennsauken, NJ (just outside Philadelphia, PA) and meets the printed book and eBook needs of thousands of self-publishing authors around the globe. Spatz lives in Glenside, PA with his two children, a demented cat, and some well-used bicycles. Steven loves to hear from authors, editors, and publishers in the BookBaby community with tales of publishing trials and triumphs. To tell him your story, write to steven@bookbaby.com.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I would love to tell you what I’ve been doing as educator and author of the Belden Boy Series over the past few months. Yes…this year has been challenging, no doubt. Signings and events have been cancelled. But it has also given me the time to write, plot and plan. With the release of two new books and a few more on the way (BookBaby?) needing to go to print, we’ve been turning our attention to other avenues of marketing, but also for support. We are giving a healthy portion of proceeds back to animal farm sanctuaries, driving our ’53 Chevy truck around as it is our Beldenboybook mobile and much more. Please check us out at http://www.Beldnboy.com
    Warm regards,
    Pat HarteNaus

  2. One of the ideas I’m trying out is using my “Story-Teller” skills. It’s actually a holistic approach, with marketing spin-offs as a by-product of what I enjoy doing.
    This is done online as a Zoom meeting to encourage (and control) any interaction with my audience. At present, I’m practising on my Grandkids with short stories for the younger ones and progressively working through the Narnia Chronicles for the 8-10yo’s. They seem to enjoy it so far.
    As I gain more confidence, I’m hoping to graduate to a wider audience. If that is also successful, I’d move to an adult audience, and have reading sessions of my published works and tasters of my soon-to-be-published works as well. This would include background music, some of the multimedia I’ve created for my Book Trailer for the “Wings in the Wind” series (https://youtu.be/m43W7hXyydc) and also a link to my Blog (arthurdbardswell.blogspot.com) and website
    Interested to hear what you marketing gurus think.

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