How To Go Virtual For Writers
Although we are facing the loss of in-person literary events, authors can still do a significant amount of virtual engagement to support the release of their work and maintain interest in their writing. In fact, the past decade has witnessed a mass transition to online book promotion. Book sales are actually flourishing during the pandemic, and many publishers consider the industry resilient.
Interviews, reviews, and online book events are all impactful options for authors during the pandemic. Netgalley.com is a useful site where book reviewers and other professional readers can virtually access your work before it is published. Author interviews are additionally vital. Podcasts in particular are prospering, and publishers recommend reaching out to literary podcasts for chances to be interviewed or featured. Book events can still happen on meeting platforms like Zoom, with space for readings and Q/A. The promotional value and exposure of the virtual event is greater with larger attendance than in-person events at bookstores. However, there appears to be a smaller percentage of book sales from virtual events. Virtual book events are typically promoted by independent bookstores on Eventbrite and hosted on Crowdcast or Zoom, with a link to buy your book embedded into the platform. Publishers also advise partnering with larger organizations when hosting book events, as they have access to a wider audience.
Virtual Book clubs have spiked in the past few months. Celebrities like Noname are hosting free Book discussions, often featuring work by emerging authors. Joining a book club and and/or proposing your own work to clubs could be beneficial to authors. Creating your own Book Club or workshop space is also an option, and a way to open up conversations on your work to broader audiences. Many of these clubs can be found by searching “book club” on Instagram, and your own club can be promoted within that hashtag.
Poetry and fiction tend to thrive on Instagram. There are literature specific influencers with access to large followings who are available to read and review your book. One Instagram story can generate widespread interest. Even “micro-influencers”, or people with more specific, smaller audiences can influence sales. Publishers also advocate for moving beyond the confines of the literary community. Anyone within your network, literary or otherwise, can help move the needle. If you are acquainted with someone who has amassed a large following, it is always wise to ask them about mentioning your book online. Goodreads is another platform that Publishers find useful during a new release. Publishers recommend setting up an “Author page”, getting involved in Goodreads forums, and building up reviews on your book. Positive “blurbs” on your work from reviewers, critics, or influencers should be featured on your Goodreads.
Bookshop.org is a wonderful ethical alternative to Amazon, with options to create an author page and support local booksellers.
It is wise to place your work within the context of the pandemic and widespread political disruption. Does your writing confront notions of isolation, tragedy, or dystopia? What themes are you examining that are relevant to contemporary life? How might your work emotionally inform readers experiencing global sorrow and searching for solutions? This should not be forced or exploited, but it is something to keep in mind when discussing your work online.
Publishers advise authors to continue celebrating their book’s release despite the loss of physical parties. Writers can host virtual publication parties on zoom, and independently seed intrigue and maintain the energy of publication.
Best Practices for Going Virtual
Keep in mind: whenever you plan an event, you should immediately submit it to be featured on our Arts Oasis calendar. Authors can submit their own events through our create a free listing page. You may also create events after signing up for an account on Oasis. With an account you can also create an artist profile and update it regularly with new events and links to your personal websites. Please let us know if you launch a show and we will try and review it for our blog, Artsfeed.
For outreach we recommend Instagram and Goodreads. You can create an author profile on Goodreads and consider tailoring your current Instagram account to promote your work. There are multiple Instagram hashtags frequently utilized by authors. For fiction: #bookstagram, #bookstagrammer, #booklovers, #booksofinstagram, #authorsofinstagram, #writersofinstagram, #bookrecommendations, #bookworm. For poetry: #poetsofinstagram, #poetsandwritersfeature, #poetrycommunity, #poetrylovers, #poetryisnotdead.
We recommend watching how authors you admire promote their work on Instagram, and mirroring their strategies. Ocean Vuong is a fantastic example of a highly successful poet-on-instagram.
For virtual book events we recommend using eventbrite to gauge attendance through RSVP, and hosting on Crowdcast or Zoom. Facebook Live is less personal (no option for audience engagement beyond commenting), but is a useful tool for promotion. Online comparisons point to Zoom as being the best quality service because of its many tools while also having the easiest sharing capacities. Zoom hosts every type of event from lectures to collaborative meetings to viewing parties and more. Also, now that Zoom has announced that they are going to offer end to end encryption for all users (click here for more about that) this video platform is now safe for all types of gatherings.
Here are some of the tips and tricks for using Zoom to its fullest capacity.
Decide if you want to set up a Meeting (discussion between the host and audience, free) or a Video Webinar (attendants just listen, paid).
Meetings have breakout rooms where participants can talk in smaller groups, large group discussion capacities, a chat, and more for lots of interaction. To set up a meeting, first open and sign into Zoom. Then, click the schedule icon and create your meeting from there. You can then share your meeting with a link.
Webinars have digital hand raising, a Q&A feature, and polling for some but limited interaction. To set up a webinar, you will have to have a paid subscription which includes a limited number of participants depending on the plan. Sign into Zoom and hit webinars. Then, put in the information prompted. You can then choose if you want attendants to register or not. There are lots of settings for webinars, so find out more about the specifics here.
For the best internet, hardwire your connection straight into your wifi connection, or set up a place in your house with the best wifi.
Minimize background noise by being in a quiet place and come in 5 minutes before the meeting starts so you can welcome attendees.
Use Zoom’s PayPal integration to charge attendants when they register for your webinar.
If you want to control who enters the meeting, use a waiting room and don't share your link publicly. Also, use Set up your own two-factor authentication to use a meeting id and password instead of a link.
If it is going to be a public event, make sure you as the host know your controls. You can mute people, disable video, and more. If you don't want others sharing their screen, and to find the rest of the controls, use the host controls at the bottom of your Zoom screen. Then, click the arrow next to Share Screen and then Advanced Sharing Options. Click here for more on safety.
Other good tips: make sure to take control of the meeting early by setting a clear tone and asking other participants to mute when they are not talking. Encourage others to share their video, and do a test before your big event to make sure you are familiar with the controls of Zoom.
This list is inspired by the Zoom Covid-19 support page, which you can find here.
How to make an Eventbrite event:
Go to eventbrite.com and sign up for an account (you can actually just login through your Facebook account if you want).
Now create an event and fill out all the information pertaining to your upcoming event.
Be sure to click the “Online Event” option under “Location”.
You’ll have an option to create free, paid, or donation based tickets.
Publish your event!
You have an option to edit the payout method to receive your funds from ticket sales.
Under the “Invite and Promote” tab you can link your business Facebook page to Eventbrite or just click the “View” button in the top right bar and copy the link once you're there.
Share this link in your Facebook event bio and Instagram page bio.
Then, Invite all your Friends to the Facebook Event and advertise it on your Instagram.
Non-fiction writers and journalists are also struggling with the disintegrating media industry and facing widespread pay cuts/layoffs. Journalists have turned to freelance work as a way to remedy mass unemployment. Freedom with Writing is a fantastic resource that freelancers can subscribe to. The website periodically emails freelance opportunities compiled by freelancers themselves, and they provide a diverse mix of opportunities for new and established voices. Folio Mag has also compiled a list of financial resources and opportunities for journalists affected by COVID-19. The Twitter account from the Society for Professional Journalists regularly retweets editors or publications that are currently accepting pitches. The subscription newsletter Study Hall is maintaining an exhaustive Google Doc of publications that writers say are currently taking pitches.