Empty bookstores. Closed, some permanently. No bustling crowds milling outside, people eager to find their next read. Harper Collins, Hachette, Penguin Random House, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan all pull out of BookExpo. Barnes & Noble closes 400 stores while the Strand Bookstore temporarily closes. New York ComiCon, cancelled.
Once, all of this would only have been likely to occur in some weird science fiction novel – unfortunately, this is real life in 2020. Authors are currently facing a grim reality with the onslaught of COVID-19, which has impacted millions of human lives and businesses everywhere around the globe.
Because of this pandemic, authors have had to slash their sources of income by cancelling author events, such as book signings, book launches, writing workshops and book tours. Launch dates have been pushed back to account for travel restrictions, which have resulted in months of delays and loss of income. On account of this, the publishing industry has had to adapt to survive and quickly.
Virtual Book Launches and Author Events
Despite the grim nature of this pandemic and its associated economic problems, technology has proven to be a lifeline in the promotion of books and filling in the gaps that a cancelled book tour has left open. Virtual launch parties have now replaced the face-to-face book launch, with Zoom being one of the top platforms to use.
By using this platform to launch a book, authors can extend an invitation to literally anyone on the internet with a stable internet connection. This has allowed a greater group of people to engage with authors more directly, and a lot more people who previously have not had the time or the means with a busy schedule are now paying attention. Facebook, YouTube and Instagram Live are also being used successfully to promote books. This Q&A style format has allowed readers to engage with authors, interact with other authors in the chat, and learn more about the book being promoted.
These platforms have also been a great opportunity for authors to support other authors. By hosting a launch event, sharing information via their various platforms, or hosting a Q&A via Instagram or Facebook Live, gives attention to the released book but also allows them to continue to network themselves as an author. A virtual launch party and author event also works for those who work in the industry but are not authors, such as libraries and bookstores. By attending one of these events, knowledge about the book and its intended audience can be obtained and promoted in-store effectively as a result.
Libraries Are Your Ally
The concept of the library has changed a lot over time, and there has been the odd argument that libraries are no longer relevant. This could not be further from the truth in 2020. Libraries are constantly changing to stay relevant to its users, with technology now becoming a major aspect of how people interact with books and each other.
Libraries are, therefore, an ally for new and continuing authors during the pandemic, as they too have had to adapt to remain relevant to their users’ changing needs. They’ve got the right technology to promote material and the means to host a launch to an extremely large membership in big cities.
High school libraries in particular often look for authors to help promote material as well. For example, Book Week, writing workshops and literature studies all call for an author to teach students new writing skills. Libraries also have a huge social media presence and can promote books in a visually appealing style.
Here’s How You Can Help
Whether you work in the industry or just love to read, there are many ways you can help the publishing industry and authors stay on their feet.
Buy a book from your local bookstore. If you can’t get in there yet, buy one online!
Once you have purchased and read your book, leave a review online. Goodreads is a great option, but if you are on other platforms pop a review on there too.
Use your social media and tag the author – they will then be able to share your review or feedback with their wider reading audience and fanbase.
If you are an author, help promote books by sharing, retweeting or posting about new content.
What does the future look like?
At this point, no one knows when things will go back to normal, and if that “normal” will be exactly as we left it. Here’s hoping for a reopening of bookstores soon, and the resumption of book fairs and other large events that bring people together. A human connection is still necessary, and face-to-face interaction is still valued.
Despite the challenges, authors have pushed back, and the advent of Zoom and the use of other online platforms, such as Instagram and Facebook Live, have changed the book tour. Access to these events is more important than ever, and if the publishing industry wants to continue to thrive, it will need to adopt these trends into future launches and tours.