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.
Now how did we get to this point?
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!
As with most events, 98% of the effort revolves around the details of hosting what amounts to an online party.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We chose a date that wouldn’t conflict with any holidays.
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.
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
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.
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.
We created graphics like the one above to promote the event everywhere we could think of:
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
Preorder Winter Light, due out Oct. 6, 2020!
For a full list of my book launch events, visit my website.