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Can You Zoom Your Way up the Bestseller Charts?

No matter where you live, the past few months have no doubt wreaked some form of havoc on your personal and professional life. We’re all getting used to new ways of managing our careers, helping our kids to learn, buying the things we need, and taking care of those we love.

As fond as we are of the good old days (circa December 2019), and as much as we might look forward to the future when vaccines are widely available and routinely used as a preventative measure, we also have to live in the present.

And right now, in August of 2020, a smart author wanting to market his or her book is going to have to swap out the dream of in-person cocktail parties and book signings for a more realistic approach.

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, pulled altogether. 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 love doing virtual events and I jump at the chance to do as many as I reasonably can.

Even if you are unsure about virtual events, I encourage you to add this strategy to your repertoire of marketing tools because it’s a 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 in-person gatherings – 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!

1. Check Your Surroundings

Make sure the area behind you on camera is not cluttered! You don’t want attendees to focus on that stack of books on your desk instead of you. Ideally, get yourself a plain backdrop such as a wall or a lovely bookcase. You can even order fun screens from Amazon if you’re really eager to appear in front of a spiffy backdrop.

2. What’s Your Light Source?

The other extremely important element is lighting. You can easily check lighting on your phone by recording a video in the room where you’ll hold your virtual event. I love natural lighting, and I always try to keep the lighting as natural as possible. But if your room is devoid of a lot of natural light, you can try your existing lighting or get a ring light fairly inexpensively (again, on Amazon).

3. 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 facial expressions. Much like office clutter, emotions are enhanced on video. 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, and the more you look like that’s the case, the more inevitably your efforts will lead to 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 your cadence. If you’re nervous, here’s a tip: try inhaling for four counts and exhaling for seven. It’s a really good way to calm the breath and yourself. I do this before I hop on a webinar and then again maybe halfway through or during Q&A.

4. 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 to remind myself to pay attention to where the camera actually 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 it 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 they are 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 the audience and while that’s present to some degree in a virtual environment, online events are really different. I was thrown off during my first online event because I was expecting that “vibe” I was familiar with in in-person gatherings. Once you get used to the differences, it all starts to feel more natural.

If you are teaching a class, get ready to see people on video taking notes, and by people, I really mean the tops of their heads! Sometimes people get up to grab a drink and forget they’ve turned on their cameras. Suddenly, you’re on a virtual tour of their living and dining rooms. A virtual event can be a mixed bag. All the more reason to look at your camera so you aren’t thrown by the various goings-on of the attendees.

If your event is humorous, you may not get immediate feedback – some folks might be muted or there could be slight sound delays. So don’t feel bad if the feedback isn’t there. And also make sure not to plan an event where lots of feedback is required. Often, I’ll keep any Q&A period to a designated time.

Timeframe

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” session 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, 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, 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 two to four people – any more than that it gets a bit hard to manage and it might go longer than you account 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, and 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. They’re economical and easy and can pay off big. 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.

Good luck!

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Penny Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc. (AME) and Adjunct Professor at NYU, is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. To learn more about Penny and AME, visit www.amarketingexpert.com.