May: Accessibility, Giveway, Festivals, + Financial Resources
Becoming accessible to new readers, free online book fests, financial support, industry news, & a tea party
|Allison Pottern Hoch||May 5|
Greetings writers & readers,
Last May, we planted a small peach tree in our front yard, something I’d always wanted. We meticulously watered it and even so, I worried every day about its wilting yellow leaves, leaking sap, the way the tiny fruits were rotting off the tree. Turns out, it likely needed even more water and fertilizer; the stress of being transplanted into a new place meant it needed more care than ever. Even so, it bore us two, divine peaches.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how my marketing work — which often has an emphasis on in-person events — can help nurture the present needs of writers who have been transplanted into this new reality. It feels disingenuous to talk about events, working with bookstores, and building marketing partnerships in the same context as before the COVID-19 shut down. We still need marketing to get our work and our voices out there. But priorities are different. Accessibility is different. So we need to think differently.
I want to focus on that idea of accessibility. This offers an interesting double approach: finding ways to make our work more inclusive for those members of the community who consume media in ways other than written text, as well as finding ways to connect new potential audience members with our work in fresh ways.
Here are some tips to make you and your work easier to find, consume, and connect with during this time of shelter-in-place.
Brush up on Search Engine Optimization and how it can help you and your online presence move higher up in search requests so people can find you online.
Make sure there is alt-text available for images on your site that can be used with voice-to-text software.
Ensure your website is up-to-date, along with any and all bios, social media accounts, links, and book ordering information.
Post any collateral material for your book on your website (such as interviews, reading guides, activities, etc.) Also consider how to share that work with your virtual community: Facebook and social media groups, local libraries and schools, museums, etc. that are looking for relevant content to push to their membership.
Brainstorm how you can make your online content more accessible. Action Together has a very detailed set of resources for making digital content inclusive and accessible in different formats and social media platforms.
Assess your social media: are you on the right platforms to attract the audience you want? How are your readers currently consuming information and how can you be part of that stream?
Consider alternative formats or publishing mediums. Joe Pullizi did a soft launch of his self-published thriller as a free podcast. The Boston Globe is currently serializing a novella by Ben Mezrich.
Pivot to virtual events/collaborations. Concerned about leaving your content online? Use live-streaming services and don’t archive the content. Concerned about the extent of your virtual reach? Collaborate with institutions that already have a large social media reach: bookstores, libraries, museums, parent groups, writing institutions, fellow authors, etc. Which communities can your each out to that may not normally have access to your work?
Consider inclusive accessibility in your events too. Author Josh Funk has brought on sign language interpreter Anna Trupiano to make his virtual story times accessible to the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The Festival of Literary Diversity in Canada went virtual, expanding the reach of their diverse faculty and offerings, while also ensuring that every session had closed-captioning.
Marketing is about connection — that’s how we share our story, have our voices heard, and get readers to return to our words again and again. I know the world feels utterly bananas right now. But I challenge you to look at the above list or some of the inspiring book festival sessions below and consider one way you can connect your work to readers right now. Please share your thoughts in the comments so we can cheer you on and provide support.
Every day I check on my peach tree. It’s survived the winter and already it’s blooming and leafing out.
Little inspires me more than a beautiful, blank journal. Hop on over to Twitter and follow, retweet, and comment for a chance to get this collection of lovely notebooks and book swag in your mailbox!
From my last giveaway winner, educator @erindaydreams: An act of kindness. Thank you @apottern for the generous gift card to Indy bookstore @WellesleyBooks. I placed an order today and added to it. Excited for books by @nielsenwriter @yuvalzommer and @melissasavage, to read and share with students! TY.
Writing/Marketing Resources: FREE Festivals Edition
Book festivals and writers’ conferences have gone virtual! Here are some amazing FREE festivals that have archived their video sessions online:
Everywhere Book Fest: a mix of live and pre-recorded sessions with debut and world-renowned children’s book authors. Links to sessions will go live on their schedule page and be archived on their YouTube channel.
Bay Area BookFest UNBOUND: a month-long series of “stimulating literary conversations” for adults, teens, and young children alike. Sessions will go live on their YouTube channel throughout the month.
More Financial Resources for these Uncertain Times
The Author’s Guild offers guidance on applying for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance as a freelancer/contractor.
We Need Diverse Books Emergency Fund for Diverse Creatives in Children’s Publishing provides grants for diverse authors, illustrators, and publishing professionals in children’s literature.
The “Help a Library Worker Out” (HALO) fund, from the political action committee Every Library, is taking both donations and applications to assist library workers who have lost wages/jobs due to the COVID-19 shut-down.
Book Industry Charitable Foundation provides assistance to bookstores and booksellers struggling with loss of business/jobs.
INSIDER ART: Female & Non-Binary Comic Book Retailer Fund is creating a digital comic anthology and taking donations to raise money for comic book shops.
You can find additional resources from Publisher’s Weekly (fundraising/benefits), the American Booksellers Association (loans/financial relief for bookstores), and in this great round-up from writer Erika Dreifus (grants/financial relief for writers).
The 2020 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced and were done so remotely, for the first time. Among the winners were Colson Whitehead, who won his second Pulitzer for Best Novel with The Nickel Boys, and Jericho Brown who won for Poetry with his collection The Tradition.
Stephanie Meyer has just announced that she will finally be publishing Midnight Sun, a companion novel to her blockbuster Twilight saga, told from vampire Edward Cullen’s point of view. An early draft of the novel was leaked back in 2008, which caused Meyer to shelve it ‘indefinitely.’ Now it’s scheduled to release in August 2020, with a first printing of 750,000.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the book industry landscape, pushing much of it online (Library Journal), as well as changing how people buy books (Wired). While there have been drops in sales since the beginning of the shut down, Publisher’s Weekly reported a 10+% rise in print sales by the end of April and ebooks prove to be the current saving grace of publishing. While Bookshop.org, novel sales strategies, and direct-to-consumer sales are helping lots of indie bookstores (The Washington Post), Amazon continues to be a significant draw for reading customers.
Want to support an indie but don’t have one in your community? Consider donating to #SaveIndieBookstores and checking out Buzzfeed’s list of bookstores across the country in need of support or any of the stores these authors are dancing their hearts out for!
On National Picnic Day, my family wanted not only a picnic, but a tea party. We struggled to find a tea that could satisfy everyone’s tastes in a single pot and settled on Virtuous Tea’s Chocolate Orange Rooibos. A mild, nutty tea with a hint of cocoa and citrus, it paired perfectly with biscotti, cucumber sandwiches, and sunshine.
Stay strong and safe and keep reaching out. Let me know about any marketing campaigns or new books so I can signal boost!
All the best,
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.