Indie authors lead the way

The coronavirus impact on authors isn’t lost on the media.

I’ve read several articles detailing how authors are dealing with COVID-19. The word “authors” in these articles nearly always refers to traditionally published writers who are suddenly left high and dry.

No book tours. No speaking honorariums. No presentations at book industry events.

Sounds like the normal indie author experience, doesn’t it?

Reports in the press

Here’s just a sampling of what’s been appearing in the press since March:

Erik Larson canceled the remainder of a planned 33-city tour for his best-selling book about the London Blitz, “The Splendid and the Vile”; his publisher is now looking at ways to livestream a conversation with him, and plans to post a series of short videos online in which he discusses his research and writing process. 

“15 Books and Authors Hurt by the Coronavirus,” Publishers Weekly

The mass cancellation of tours and events has forced Chavez to switch her focus to “connecting with readers on social media instead.” She is finding it difficult. “As a debut [author], it’s challenging.”

” ‘From Author to Bookshop’: The IPA Takes Stock of the Coronavirus’ Impact,” Publishing Perspectives

“Authors who had books ready for launch in the spring have had those launches put off or cancelled altogether. So they’re having to scramble to try to do an online launch, and [is that] as effective in terms of sales as an in-person launch?”

“Inside the Book Industry’s Battle to Stay Afloat During the COVID-19 Crisis,” Esquire

“They weren’t cancelled all at once,” writer Paul Lisicky said of the twenty-two stops on his cross country book tour. “No one gave me a phone call and said, ‘Your book tour is cancelled.’ It all went down one by one. It felt like a kick to the heart.”

The problem is universal

This has to be incredibly disappointing for authors who had high hopes for their book launches.

Accustomed to the kind of publisher marketing support that includes book tours and other gratifying live events, they’re now trying tactics that successful self-published authors have been using all along.

Like their indie peers, traditionally published authors are taking their book launches online. New-to-them, but standard operating procedures for others, include:

  • Participating in virtual readings, interviews, and presentations
  • Beefing up their social networks
  • Learning how to use certain social platforms, including Instagram, effectively
  • Getting creative about how to let readers know about their books

Sound familiar?

Coronavirus, the equalizer

Many of the traditionally published authors with upended book marketing plans get publisher support with these unfamiliar tactics. That takes some of the sting out of the situation.

Self-published authors don’t have this advantage, but many will say they don’t want or need it.

Those who are succeeding know their readers. And they know how and where to reach them. They know what resonates with them and they know what doesn’t. This has certainly been an advantage in an uncertain environment.

COVID-19, it seems, is the great equalizer, even in the publishing community.

What book marketing tactic is working for you right now, as people tend to stay home and read more? 

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  1. Not intentionally a tactic but could be lock-down related, has been the response to my first book of poetry (‘Silence of Islands’). Unfamiliar with the ‘poetry audience,’ I published with slight trepidation. But it turns out poetry touches everyone—perhaps more so in uncertain times. I had my best launch yet. Maybe ‘feeling’ genres are appealing right now, maybe people appreciate short and sweet reading they can step in and out of, and poetry’s definitely in fashion….but I sense the gung-ho reaction ties into the introspection and edginess people are experiencing—the need for solace, the willingness to explore and go deeper, and any and all affirmations of universal emotion. We’re in a feeling place right now—maybe a beautiful side-effect of this bizarre epoch.

  2. First, let me say that I am rather shy in front of a lot of people, so I’m happy not to do book tours, or TV interviews, for that matter. Indie authors struggle for readership, anyway, so we must approach that battle in our own creative ways, and we share our latest ideas with like souls. I never thought I would ever feel sorry for traditionally-published writers. But then, I’m quite old, and it was bound to happen eventually.

    Sandra, just wanted to add that I so enjoy your contributions. My ‘favorites’ list is getting very long.

    1. It’s a year of firsts, Fran! I feel bad for them because they had such high expectations and then POOF! All plans were gone. It’s so disappointing.

      And I’m so, so glad you enjoy and appreciate what I share here. That means a lot to me, so thanks for saying so!


  3. This was going to be the year I would travel to promote my book. I was going to visit a daughter in California and a sister in Florida and set up events in both areas. I’d also do in-person events at libraries and bookstores all over Iowa. By the time my book was released in August, many bookstores and libraries were closed and everything I’d set up as an in-person, was either cancelled or pivoted online. I was actually inside a bookstore to launch my book, “Called to Be Creative: A Guide to Reigniting Your Creativity,” but my attendees were on the screen. It was my most successful launch yet. The drawback to library appearances on the screen is no hand-selling. I’d typically sell books after presentations. To help the independent booksellers who are featuring my events online, I put together packets of notepads and vintage “magic pencils” together, with rack cards that included text from my book that explained the magic pencils. That way they could advertise that the first 10-20 (depending on the size of the bookstore) who purchased the book through them would also get the notepad. I’ve had to be creative to promote my creativity book!

    1. If anyone’s in a position to be creative in this situation, it’s you! This is a great example of practicing what you preach, right?


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