When it comes to learning how to market a book, a lot has changed recently in terms of author events and book signings. We’re all having to get used to virtual events, camera lenses, and planning around kids and spouses being home.
If you’re like most authors, you’ve probably had events get canceled or postponed. This can be troublesome for people who are attempting to market their book. Everything from author signings to writer’s conferences has been pushed off till the Fall or, in some cases, have been pulled altogether. So what’s an eager author to do?
Tips for Hosting a Virtual Author Event
If you’re stuck indoors, like most of us are right now, it’s time to consider hosting a virtual event. It’s a simple way to market your book from home! I’ve done webinars on Zoom and similar platforms for years. I’ve also done audio-only events, though that’s not my preference. I love doing virtual events and I jump at the chance to do as many as I reasonably can.
But if you are unsure about doing this, I would encourage you to add this to your repertoire of marketing tools. Even outside of a pandemic, it’s another solid way to promote a book.
Yes, we absolutely love in-person events and there’s nothing like meeting readers and attendees and shaking hands (can we still do that?). But in the absence of that, or if you don’t want to travel – virtual events can be really fantastic. So let’s dig into some of the how-to’s for these events, so you’re prepared to knock it out of the park!
Check Your Surroundings
Make sure the area behind you on camera is not cluttered! Being on camera sometimes enhances the clutter and attendees will focus on that stack of books on your desk, instead of you. Ideally get yourself a plain backdrop like a wall, or a lovely bookcase. You can even get fun screens from Amazon if you’re really eager to get a spiffy backdrop.
I will say that virtual events have gotten a lot less formal than they used to be, so while it’s important to be professional, a lot of the fancy backdrops I used to see have gone away. Speakers tend to go for simple backdrops or just a blank wall so you can focus on the talk itself.
What’s Your Light Source?
The other element is lighting. You can easily check lighting on your phone, by recording a video in the room you’ll be in. I love natural lighting and I always try to keep the lighting as natural as I can. But if your room is devoid of a lot of natural light, you can try your existing lighting or get a ring light fairly cheap (again, on Amazon).
Be Sure to Smile!
I know it goes without saying that you should smile, but I find that for virtual events it’s really a good idea to be more aware of your smile. The reason is that, much like the office clutter, emotions are enhanced on a video chat. So sometimes it may feel like you’re overdoing the smile but it really helps the audience feel like you’re enjoying this with them.
I try to stay pretty aware of my facial expressions because smiles tend to translate better to your audience. It’s important to look like you’re having as much fun as they are! Marketing your book should be fun, it’ll inevitably lead to more success!
As a side note, being nervous doesn’t show up as much in the face as it does in your voice. So be mindful of the cadence of your voice. If you’re nervous and here’s a tip: try inhaling for 4 counts and exhaling for 7. It’s a really good way to calm the breath and yourself. I do this before I hope on the webinar and then maybe halfway through, or during Q&A. Because the smoother your session, the better it will translate to the audience.
Where’s Your Camera?
It’s pretty easy to stare into your computer screen (I have done this a lot) but you really want to look at your camera, because otherwise it seems like you’re gazing off and not paying attention. I have a small red dot by my camera so I remind myself to pay attention to where the camera is.
It’s tricky at first, because if we can see everyone we’re inclined to look at them, but when you do that you really aren’t looking “at” them if that makes sense. This takes a bit of getting used to, so don’t worry if you don’t get this on the first try. But put something by your camera so you’re reminded to look there. Maybe a big arrow!
Practice, practice, practice: If the idea of doing a video event makes you nervous, practice with a buddy. Get a feel for the set-up, the camera, etc.
Dynamics of a Virtual Event
As I mentioned I love doing online events because it’s one of the best ways to market your book, but they do take some getting used to especially if you’ve already done author events, book signings, or speaking gigs. If you’re like me, you feed off of the audience and while that’s present to some degree, online events are really different. The first online event I did I was thrown off because I was expecting that “vibe” of an in-person gathering. While the event was great, that vibe isn’t there. It’s not bad, at all, it’s just different.
If you are teaching a class you may see people on video taking notes, and maybe only see the tops of their heads. People get up and grab something to drink and forget they turned on their cameras. It’s sometimes a mixed bag. So don’t let that distract you! That’s why I suggest looking at your camera so you aren’t thrown by the various goings-on of the attendees.
Also, if your event is humorous, you may not get immediate feedback – some folks might be muted, there could be slight sound delays. So don’t feel bad if the feedback isn’t there. And also don’t plan an event where lots of feedback is required. Often, I’ll keep any question and answer period to a designated time.
My events are generally 45-60 minutes long, but you might want to do one that’s just 15 minutes or so. Maybe it’s an “ask the author” where you field questions ahead of time and answer them on video. Go with a time and format you’re most comfortable with, don’t feel like every event has to be 60 minutes, because it doesn’t.
Thoughts on Facebook Live Events
Though I like these a lot, it’s hard to know how many folks will show up during them and then it’s sometimes hard to be on video, teach, read, talk, and field questions all at the same time, so keep that in mind. If you decide to do a Facebook Live event, keep it super simple. Maybe just a “meet the author” kind of a thing.
If you’re interested in how to market your book with a virtual event, and you’re ready to go, consider one of the options below.
Potential Virtual Events You Can Host
A Buddy Event: If you know a few authors in your genre who are looking to do events, why not buddy up and do an event together. Pushing this out to all of your email lists or social media followers could net you a great turnout! I’d recommend an event of 2-4 people – any more than that it gets a bit hard to manage and it might go longer than you had accounted for.
Book signing: Yes, you can do a book signing on a video call – make it a book event! Invite people to buy your book and get yourself some bookplates that you can autograph and mail to your readers! I’ve even attended virtual book signings where the author signed the bookplates all the while inviting reader questions, it was actually super fun. Even if readers buy an eBook, mail them a signed bookplate anyway, they’re so fun and everyone loves an author autograph!
When this current health crisis is over, I think virtual events will continue to be popular. Now is a good time to practice and use the tools available to you in quarantine. How you market your book is one of the most important aspects of authorial success! Virtual events are a fun way to expand your reader reach without ever leaving your couch.
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