How to Create a Virtual Group Author Reading (like this one!)

Visit my website for more Winter Light launch events.

I wanted to do an online author reading for my new book, Winter Light (Oct. 6, 2020), but I didn’t want to go it alone for all of the reasons that come to mind:

  • People will only want to listen for a short while, so what do I do the rest of the time?
  • What if no one comes?
  • Who’s going to think of this as a legitimate event if I, the author, am hosting the reading, rather than a bookstore or organization?
  • My social media network is small. How do I get more people to come?

So instead of going solo, I tapped into the support of the independent publisher of my book, Vine Leaves Press, and specifically the wonderful camaraderie among VLP authors, and put out a call for those who could like to do a group reading.

And voila! Four other talented women embraced the idea.

That’s resulted in Vine Leaves Press: Strong Storytelling by Strong Female Authors, an author reading, Q&A and giveaway at 5 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. EST on Thurs., Sept. 17, 2020.

Wonderful!

Now how did we get to this point?

The Advantages

The advantages of a group reading are numerous:

By banding together, we give one another courage.
In the process, we authors get to know one another better and broaden our author network. In the future we’ll help each other promote, provide advice, and just generally aid one another in the tough business of publishing.


A group means we can offer our audience a fun mix of stories.
When promoting as a group, we greatly extend our reach to well beyond that of our own networks.


We have fun and learn something new!

Logistics

As with most events, 98% of the effort revolves around the details of hosting what amounts to an online party.

Author Information

The first task is to collect the contact info, bios and short book descriptions of those taking part.

Once collected into one document that can be shared, the organizing can begin.

Team Members

A moderator

One of our members recruited a very accomplished author to be our moderator. Her job will be to greet the audience, introduce the authors and announce the winner of the giveaway.

A giveaway helper

My sister very generously volunteered to collect participants’ names, put them in a bowl and pick one to be the winner of our 4-book bundle + 2 notebook giveaway.

Event Details

Time

We decided on a 45-min. event, which seems like a reasonable amount of time for an evening’s entertainment.

In terms of choosing a specific time, we had to accommodate authors on both coasts, and so chose a start time of 5 Pacific/8 p.m. EST. Interested viewers on the West Coast won’t mind ending work a little early, while those on the East Coast won’t feel too tired.

Day

We chose a Thursday night, though anywhere between Tuesday and Thursday is suitable. People tend to feel overwhelmed on Mondays and ready to relax by Friday, and weekends are usually reserved for family.

Date

We chose a date that wouldn’t conflict with any holidays.

Virtual Venue

We chose Zoom, a venue most people are now familiar with.

Whatever venue you choose, be sure the platform has the features that will allow you create the show you want. We didn’t want any time constraints and we wanted a webinar format that will allow all of us to be onscreen to answer questions. Therefore we chipped in to purchase a premium membership for a month. We now have unlimited time and have planned a webinar that allows panelists. Participants will be able to use the chat function to say where they’re from, as well as ask questions and make comments.

Whatever venue you use, do multiple practices until you fully understand the various features and which will be most appropriate for your event.

Because I purchased the upgraded Zoom membership, I’m the host, and so spent several hours and recruited a number of friends to help me determine:

  • how to admit panelists and participants
  • who will have video and audio capabilities
  • how to show slides
  • how to eject disruptive guests

My rule of thumb is to practice until I don’t have any more questions about how things word.

Extra Materials

A program

We developed a program to fit the time limit we set. The program includes:

  • an introduction from the moderator
  • a 3-5 min. reading by each author, which is the recommended limit
  • the Q&A session
  • the giveaway
  • the farewell

Script

We also developed a script. That’s a more detailed document that tells each person what to do and when. Make sure the script is very easy to read. Consider sending each person an individual script that outlines their cues about when to speak and/or take action, such as when to turn their video/audio on.

We also wrote a verbatim script for our moderator so she’d be sure to cover the points we want to make.

Slides

To incorporate visuals as well as helpful information, we made Keynote slides that show viewers the titles of our books and where and how to buy them.

Copies of our stories

We sent the moderator copies of our excerpts. That way, if someone’s connection goes down — as it did for one of our members during practice — the moderator can read the excerpt.

Promotional materials

We created graphics like the one above to promote the event everywhere we could think of:

  • blogs
  • announcement pages of social media groups we belong to
  • our personal newsletter lists
  • all social media outlets

We also asked our fellow VLP authors to spread the word through their social media networks.

Giveaway

Our publisher, Jessica Bell, graciously offered ebook copies of our books, two gorgeous notebooks and an impressive discount of VLP books as a giveaway. You can also get authors to donate a copy of their book or chip in to buy a nice gift, such as a bedtime reading gift basket with a throw, tea and other goodies.

Similar to any event, we had two practices. The first consisted of:

We positioned the giveaway at the end of the program to encourage people to stay.

Practice

We held two practices. We used the first one to:

  • get to know one another
  • learn to use the technology, such as turning on and off the video
  • run through the program
  • and offer suggestions for improvement

Besides ironing out mistakes, we discussed suggestions such as placing our books behind us so viewers can see them. We also provided one another with feedback regarding the lighting and positioning of the camera in our locales.

We used the second practice as a dress rehearsal where we ran through our scripts from start to finish.

Recordings

As the host, Zoom will automatically make a recording of the event. We’ll edit that, and maybe include bloopers from our practices for fun, then post the video on the VLP YouTube channel.

In the End

As authors, we can’t lose when creating a fun evening of entertainment for friends, family and readers, wherever they might be located!

If you’d like to see what you can do with your writing friends, please join us! And as always, feel free to reach out for more help in organizing your event.


Enter the Winter Light Goodreads Giveaway! Put your name in today and GR will randomly select 100 winners between now and Sept. 22.

Preorder Winter Light, due out Oct. 6, 2020!

For a full list of my book launch events, visit my website.

TRAVEL TO STORYLAND: VLP AUTHOR READING SEPT. 17

One of the most primordial things humans do — and love to do — is tell stories and listen to them. Campfires, bedtimes, pajama parties, long hikes, weddings: none of them would be the same without someone verbally engaging our minds with a story to elicit an emotional response, whether fear, love or humor.

Four fellow Vine Leaves Press authors and I would like to do the same for you by offering Strong Storytelling By Strong Female Authors, a 45-min. Zoom author reading, Q&/A and giveaway at 5 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. EST on Thurs., Sept. 17. I’ve posted the information on my website under “upcoming events.”

All of us have had our books published by VLP, a publisher that fosters a great sense of community among its authors. In this case, when I mentioned the idea of a reading, the four other authors listed in the flier above piped up immediately and threw themselves into taking care of the details necessary to make this night a wonderful evening of storytelling for listeners.

Our publisher, Jessica Bell, has not only been fully supportive, but has also arranged the giveaway: a 4-book bundle of the above books along with two beautiful notebooks (of the winner’s choice) and a 40% discount on 10 or more VLP books. That last is a great offer, considering the breadth of the VLP offerings: memoir, poetry, writing resources, short story collections and novels of all kinds; literary, young adult, science fiction.

Our group recently had a practice in which we read excerpts of our work. Just listening to the other authors’ stories worked on my brain like chocolate. I was immediately pulled in by the descriptions, predicament of the characters and places and times where I’ve never been.

Come let us be chocolate for your brains! And please, please, please reblog or share this post or pass on the URL (https://wp.me/p5pzxL-6a) so we can make the most of joining together for a night of storytelling!

____

Preorder my forthcoming novel, Winter Light, due out Oct. 6, 2020! For updates, please sign up for my newsletter.