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.

Goodreads Giveaway of WINTER LIGHT: Sept. 6 – 22, 2020

Preorder now!

100 free Kindle copies of my novel, Winter Light, will be randomly doled out during a Goodreads Giveaway that starts today and ends Sept. 22. Woohoo!

Since signing a contract for this book last December, I’ve kept you all apprised of the various marketing strategies I’ve been trying. Most have given me a heart attack, because they’re often emotionally, intellectually and technically exhausting. But usually once I’ve figured them out, I’m really gratified. By practicing the life philosophy of comfortable being uncomfortable, I learn something new.

This week’s NEW is that my publisher, Vine Leaves Press, worked out the details that allowed me to sign up for the Goodreads Giveaway.

Goodreads used to offer giveaways for free and allowed authors to send books anywhere around the world. Then the company was bought by Amazon, which restricted winners to those who live in the US or Canada. A seeming deterrent for authors outside of those countries, I’ve told my writer friends they should consider trying the giveaway based on two realities: 1) those are huge book-reading markets, and 2) the publishing world has become so global, readers crave stories based in foreign locales, eras and cultures.

Amazon also instituted a basic package charge of $119, with the option of choosing a more expensive package. Either package allows you to give away physical books or Kindle copies. Before you decide, determine your goal. Do you want to send out signed copies that winners can pose with for photos they post on social media, thus increasing your followers? If so, you or your publisher will have to foot the bill for the cost of the book plus postage.

My goal is to get as many reviews as I can, so I chose the Kindle giveaway that requires an independent author or publisher to connect the book’s Amazon account to Goodreads for an easy digital transfer.

An ebook costs nothing to send to a winner, which means you can offer up to 100 books, which gets the story into more hands and so increases the odds of getting more reviews.

Either way, according to this Goodreads blog post:

About eight weeks after your Giveaway ends, winners receive an email from Goodreads to remind them to rate and review your book.

Though winners are not obligated to review the book, Your Guide to Giveaways on Goodreads claims, “Roughly 60 percent of giveaway winners review the books they win.” I’m not sure I believe that, but even if 1 out of 10 writes a review, and you give away 100 books, that’s 10 more reviews for your book.

The sign-up process takes about 10 minutes and includes a best practices page to guide you in how to use the opportunity while avoiding mistakes. Your current Goodreads friends are automatically notified about the giveaway, while your book is added to the want-to-read shelf of anyone who enters. The offer is also featured in the Goodreads giveaway section, which is well-known to those readers who love trying to snag books for free.

Goodreads recommends running the offer for a month and end at least three weeks before your book is published, giving winners enough time to read and review the book.

Please forward the Winter Light Goodreads Giveaway link to your reader buddies!

And keep in mind that when it’s your turn to promote your book/charity/sports event/artistic endeavor, I’ll be there to help you not only with emotional support, but offer you the experience I’m gaining.

We are all so much stronger as a team!


Preorder my forthcoming novel, Winter Light, due out Oct. 6, 2020.

For updates and a full list of my book launch events, please sign up for my newsletter.