H aving a book published during a pandemic presents a multitude of challenges, not least of which is hosting a virtual book launch.
If you’re a celebrity, a best selling author, or Carrie Bradshaw, your book launch is a glittering affair featuring copious bottle of champagne and a guest list that reads like an Oscars nomination. If however, like me, you’re just someone who has written a book and had it published, you buy some booze and cakes, invite your friends over and hope that the stack of your freshly-printed books spread over the coffee table diminishes in direct proportion to the amount of alcohol consumed. Of course, with social distancing rules in place, that can’t happen so you find yourself hosting a virtual book launch instead.
Throw into the mix the fact that, for the first time since July 2020 you actually have some work but it requires you walking great swathes of northern Spain for ten consecutive days before and after your virtual book launch day, and you’ve got an even greater challenge…
it’s a bit like adding a blindfold to your high wire walk across the Grand Canyon just for that extra frisson.
I managed to negotiate one day off the trail in the middle of the contract in order to spend it on social media, and hoped for the best.
What is a virtual book launch
T hat’s the question I asked myself when I first started to think about how I was going to meet the marketing challenges of launching a book during a pandemic. I got some good ideas from authormagazine.org , including sending out invitations to the event, posting excerpts and images of the book’s location, and generally chatting about the book and the experiences it chronicles.
Before we left home, Jack prepared a whole portfolio of images of our former home in Tenerife (the setting for The Banana Road) which gave me lots of scope to post images on Facebook and Instagram, and my publishers provided several excerpts in snazzy marketing formats.
As I wasn’t sure how good my internet signal would be or whether I would encounter any issues on the day, I didn’t send out formal invitations. Instead I posted a Facebook alert before we left home, just to let my page followers know that I would (hopefully) be around all day on social media.
How did it go
B efore I set up my laptop on the morning of May 4, I had no idea if I would be talking to an empty virtual room, twiddling my thumbs and finding other things to get on with. The fact that I was in Spain and therefore an hour ahead of the UK and the Canary Islands where most of my followers are located, gave me time to get myself on line, set up some posts on Facebook and Instagram and then kick things off by changing my Facebook profile header to the one provided by the publisher.
Now that it was launch day, I could happily talk about all sorts of things about the book and its location that had hitherto remained cloaked under a veil of scheduled reveals.
Once I was up and running, I found myself crazy busy – holding conversations, replying to comments, posting new content on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, and keeping a schedule of what I was going to post on each media channel so as not to overlap. I managed to pop out for lunch at one point although I still had to reply to comments on my phone while I was eating, and then later on I popped out again to eat a slice of pizza in the main plaza and just give my head and eyes a rest. Other than that, I was fully occupied from early morning to around 11pm when I signed off for the day.
It had been a hugely enjoyable but exhausting day, much harder than walking 20km or more.
How successful is a virtual book launch
O n the day I managed to engage with more than 2000 people over my social media channels. It seemed like a good proportion of them bought the book but I have no way of knowing how many sales were achieved that day until my commission comes through mid-year. I had set myself a target of getting into Amazon‘s top 100 best sellers in Travel & Tourism (books) on the day and I didn’t make that. The best position I think I got to was number 140 but I only checked it twice during the course of the day as I was just too busy to do it more often.
Regardless, I think hosting a virtual book launch was hugely successful. It allowed me to engage with a whole host of people and to talk about my book in a way that I simply won’t have the chance to do again. I reconnected with old friends, gained lots of new followers and made important new connections.
And I had fun.
I never tried to overtly sell The Banana Road during the event, in fact it wasn’t until a fellow author and friend remarked that I hadn’t actually given a link to a sales page, that I even thought about that. In the long run, I felt happier just chatting and I really don’t think I would have sold any more copies even if I had linked to sales pages at some point. I’m pretty sure that all the books on my virtual coffee table were gone by the end of the day.
So, here it is, fully launched and eager to be read: