Interlude: So your book launch has been cancelled. Now what?
Keep making art, steps to salvage your book release, money to see you through, share your new book
Dear fellow writers,
We are living in wild, unpredictable times. State-of-emergency. Schools and businesses are closed or operating remotely. All social activities are being curtailed. Including bookstore events, conferences (including the Muse), and of course, book launches.
What can you do if your book is releasing this month or next and everyone’s attention is, understandably, focused on the health and safety of their community, businesses, family, selves? When it feels like every new day brings an ever-shifting level of comfort or terror? When it feels like art and perhaps, your new baby book, are useless in the face of a global pandemic?
Don’t let anyone, including yourself, undermine the grief you feel at a book launch/event being cancelled or floundering in the face of current events. You have spent years of your life on this project, all culminating in this month or this week, and now other things have superseded it. That doesn’t make your accomplishment and your beautiful book any less huge or beautiful. And it doesn’t make the pain (both emotional and financial) of losing out on publicity and sales to uplift that beautiful book any less to know you’ve been overshadowed for a good reason. So give yourself space to grieve and be mad and frustrated.
Ok. So now what?
Remember how important (and durable) art is. In her essay, “The World’s On Fire. Can We Still Talk About Books?” author Rebecca Makkai says: “Even in the best times, many of us read and write to confront the world and its failings, not to escape the same” (though there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism right now either.) Now, more than ever, people need our words, whether for comfort or inspiration or rallying cry.
Don’t forget to keep making your art. Don’t stop writing and reading. Don’t stop checking in with your writing community (feel free to reach out to me if you need an ear!). If you can manage it, start the next thing, no matter how small. As Makkai says, “Art is joy. Art is a radical act.” If you need guidance, Erin Dionne has a relatable video about writer self-care.
So how do we salvage a lost book launch?
Re-align expectations and take the long view: Your book may not make the kind of splash you were hoping. That doesn’t mean it won’t sell. Your book has a future. Here are some ways to keep your book in the minds of your prospective readers this spring, summer and fall:
NOW: Go Virtual
Can’t hold an in-person event? See if your venue is open to a live stream event, to stream on Facebook, YouTube, etc. where folks can call in or place online orders.
Facebook Launch Party: Create a group on Facebook to promote the launch of your book and drum up excitement with giveaways, excerpts, readings, live videos, promotional material, contests, etc. Author Mandy Lynn encourages writers to collaborate with fellow authors to reach a broader audience.
Virtual Blog Tour: If you haven’t already, look into setting up a series of scheduled, guest blog posts on prominent book blogs in your genre around (or even after!) the release of your book.
Re-imagine a re-launch for the fall, whether live or virtually. Connect with other writers who are launching at the same time and find ways to collaborate on unique event ideas.
Team up for future events with authors who have fresh pub dates and a fresh injection of marketing dollars from their publishers to expand your audience.
Alternately pool your resources with fellow authors to do an attention grabbing event when customers’ attention can be turned back to social events.
Encourage readers to pre-/order online from their favorite retailer (especially indies)! Then get to work on…
Your website: Make sure everything is up-to-date, especially links to where people can buy/pre-order your book.
Giveaways/contests: This can be fancy prizes or exclusive content. If you can go in on this with a writer buddy, try doing giveaways that include promos for one another’s books.
Instagram: Assemble highly visual Instagram stories or challenges about your book. Share images that inspired you, aesthetic collages, etc.
Spotify: Share your book’s playlist! Also listen to music that inspires you so you can make more art.
Twitter: Promote and connect! Lots of writers are pooling their knowledge and resources on Twitter right now. Check out @EverywhereFest, for example, which is putting together a virtual KidLit festival. I also love this thread from author Laura E. Weymouth for the newly working-from-home writer-parent with kids underfoot.
Goodreads: Make sure your author page is up-to-date. Encourage fans/readers to post reviews of your book and/or add to their TBR. Take some time to review books by new/debut authors you’ve read recently
Pitch op-eds/columns to media outlets relevant to your book
Update your newsletter/blog regularly to stay in touch with fans.
Write guest newsletter entries/blog posts! Work with other writers/promoters to do promotional swaps.
Planned to speak on a topic at a conference? Air it live on Facebook or YouTube instead.
Boston has established the Artist Relief Fund to help individual artists impacted by COVID-19, whether through lost income from cancelled events, travel, or teaching. Author Ijeoma Oluo has set up a Seattle Artists Relief Fund as well. Check your local area for options.
Cerf+ offers small grants to those infected by COVID-19 as well as a ton of relief resources for artists.
For Fellow Writers:
Check in with your writer buddies. Buy/pre-order/promote their work. Pool resources. Review their books, nominate them for awards, make sure they’re hydrating. We might be socially distant, but we’re all in this together.
Indies are struggling with the loss of events and customers and they’re the lifeblood of book sales and literary communities. Ask them how you can —local book deliveries? Designing book care packages? Providing content for their newsletter/website? Buy from and promote your indies where ever possible – gift cards are great too!
As author Sarah Gailey says, we are all afraid. But in this time of fear and uncertainty, we can still find moments to reach out to each other, support our communities, and keep making art.
If you’re an author launching recently/now/soon, share your book in the comments. I’ll compile a master list and send it out so we can support one another.
Keep writing, keep connecting,
Allison has happily made books her life’s work. She spent four years marketing and publicizing academic titles at The MIT Press before she went to work for Wellesley Books as a children’s bookseller and event coordinator. She is now living her dream: putting her B.A. in Creative Writing to good use as a novelist and as a writing/marketing coach for authors. She enjoys science fiction, cupcakes, and a hot cup of tea.