The world needs books right now! As we are facing days or possibly weeks of social distancing, lockdowns, and quarantines people need a way to keep themselves occupied indoors. Yes, a lot of people are turning to streaming TV shows, but just as many are turning to books.
And that’s where we, as authors, come in.
We are offering something that’s desperately needed right now — hope, inspiration, entertainment, a way to pass a few stress-free hours — that’s right, books!
Some of our authors are already set up to market and sell their books online. They have worked to create a social media presence, sent out e-newsletters, or used e-book marketing promotions. But other authors have always done best-selling their books through in-person presentations, in brick-and-mortar stores, or at festivals. These ways just won’t work in the next few months. Stores are closed, festivals and other events are canceled. Even if you do have an event scheduled that has not been canceled you have to wonder: Will anyone show up?
So how do we market our books in the age of Covid-19? The first thing is to recognize that while it may be harder to find an audience, you also will have people who really need your book right now.
Amazon — Again: Yes, we all hate Amazon. But right now, Amazon is the best way to deliver your books to your readers, whether it’s a paper book or an e-book. Some authors have an order form on their websites so that readers can bypass Amazon and buy the book directly from the author. If you are already set up like this, fine, but if not, make sure your website links to your book on Amazon. That way you don’t have to worry about packaging books and trekking to the post office to mail them.
There are stories out right now that Amazon may start having trouble making deliveries or only deliver “essentials.” But I also know that some people will use any excuse not to take the time or do the work to market their book. Don’t be one of them. If nothing else, people will still be able to download your e-book.
Develop a Plan — Today: Get out your old marketing plans and look them over. What marketing, social media networking, or advertising did you use to do effectively but stopped? To quote one of my authors, Lorette Pruden, “It worked so well I quit doing it.” Now is the time to get back to it.
Do you have an email list of readers and friends? If not, start one. If you already have one, continue to add to it. If you’ve always meant to start an email newsletter, now is a great time, particularly if you are home from work.
If you don’t have a website yet, you might want to try creating your own. You can get a DIY website started with a free plan on WordPress.com to create awareness about your book. WordPress.com also offers paid plans, which include some important features that can be added in the future.
Start Your Next Book — Now: I’ve been preaching it for years — the best way to market book one is to publish book two. If you’re stuck at home, what better way to spend your time than to start writing book two? Plan to spend just a few hours a day writing. Then relax and read another author’s book.
Hold a Virtual Book Launch — or Relaunch: So you can’t have an in-person book launch at a bookstore. Your “Wine, Cheese and Books” presentation has been canceled. No one has signed up for your local seminar. You can still get out there and talk to people about your book. In the past week, I’ve gone to a virtual yoga class, FaceTimed with a client rather than meet at a coffee shop, attended church over the internet, and watched a friend’s Facebook Live ballet class. (No, I don’t do ballet, but I had fun watching her and her four-year-old do a ballet exercise routine using her kitchen island as a barre.)
Many artists are offering concerts, etc., free online as a way to help people pass the time. Consider just reading your book live as a way to not only introduce yourself to new readers but to offer a service at a trying time. You could also create a YouTube video to post on your website, maybe you reading an excerpt from your book.
If you are working from home, use the time you would usually spend commuting to get online and promote your book. There are lots of ways to connect with people without being up close and personal. Get creative, like my ballet teacher friend, and find new ways to do just that.
Below is a list of some resources for you to check out. If you would like a more targeted online marketing plan for your book, just contact us.
• whereby.com is a good tool for meetings. It could be used for book clubs or other small groups.
• zoom.us is excellent for interactive webinars or other meetings.
• crowdcast.io is another tool for large online events.
• poststatus.com/live is a good video to watch about planning your online event.
• blog.hubspot.com/marketing/facebook-live-guide provides a guide for using Facebook Live, which is one of the easiest ways to do an online group event.
• mailchimp.com is one of the best apps for building that email newsletter.
You can get a DIY website started with a free plan on WordPress, which also offers paid plans which include some important features that can be added in the future.
Karen Hodges Miller is the owner of Open Door Publications.