It’s so good to be back here on Writer Unboxed after a year’s sabbatical hunkering down and focusing solely on my work helping authors build buzz and visibility at BookSavvy PR. I’ve missed being an active part of this wonderful community (though I’ve still been stalking), and have been bursting with thoughts to share from the frontlines of promotion.
Many of those thoughts suddenly feel less relevant, though, as we all stand paralyzed with shock before the Coronavirus crisis. People across the planet are being forced to adjust in ways we never imagined, and the writing community—despite a penchant for solitude that might suggest we’re relatively “safe”—is no exception. On top of losses ranging from jobs and livelihoods to favorite writing spots in coffee shops and libraries, the cancellation of launch events has come as an especially painful blow. Gratitude to Teri for the initiative to support those whose launches are suddenly un-scheduled.
Yes, it’s an immense disappointment. And yes, it is crushing to imagine not having that well-deserved, long-anticipated celebration and the bond of community it brings. This is a huge, painful loss. But if you are also biting your nails about the impact on your book’s success, my advice from the promo trenches here is: breathe. None of this is as gloomy as it might feel. Need convincing? Here is my reasoning, based on many years on the frontlines:
You Can Reschedule – and There’s a Silver Lining
This is quickly becoming the year of cancellations—and resilience. In the spirit of resilience, the show must go on. Take steps now to reschedule your launch. Your local bookstore may be shut at the moment but you can be in touch with the owner. If they are struggling as sadly, many independent bookstores are right now, and don’t know what the future holds, make a backup plan: a library, or somebody’s home. Invite the bookstore staff and owner too. It might help boost their morale.
And in the meantime, take comfort in knowing that postoning your launch event means you can look forward to it for that much longer, can build buzz in the lead-up to it that much longer, and that you have the support of many amazing communities as Allison Hammer mentioned  last week here on WU.
It’s Okay if Your Launch Event and Publication Date Don’t Align
Maybe the idea of rescheduling your launch event worries you because you’ve heard that a launch must happen around the time of publication. Don’t let it. Perhaps because traditional publishers prefer to see as much buzz and as many sales as possible around a publication date, there is a huge amount of pressure on authors to do everything in their power to create that initial bang. But trust me: the bang can happen at other times, too. Books have a long shelf life. (Pun intended) I’ve known and worked with dozens of authors who for various reasons don’t hold a launch event or even begin promotion of any sort until months after a publication date at earliest, and their books have gone on to sell strongly. A publication date is just a split second in a book’s lIfetime.
Publishers have all sorts of internal reasons for wanting to see as much as possible happening around the time of publication. But many of these reasons are less relevant in today’s world of online book purchases and 24/7 news feeds than they used to be.
A Launch Event’s Sales Impact is Limited
On the one hand, launch events are great for book sales because so many people you know and love are together at the same time to celebrate and purchase your book. You might generate forty, fifty or sixty sales or more and some great word of mouth. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared to your book’s real potential, and the impact is very short lived. It’s after your launch event that the real, long-term work of marketing begins.
There’s Much More to Launching a Book Than In-Person Events
In-person events are usually few and far between. The real action and connecting over books nowadays happens online: social media (especially Facebook), blogs, podcasts, news articles… All of which can take place and be visible over extended periods of time, reaching hundreds if not thousands of people or more. A launch event on the other hand—or any other in-person event—is a flash in the pan reaching only a select handful of others.
You Can Hold Two Launches: One Online and One in Person Later
Another silver lining: you can hold your launch twice, with the first iteration online. Using Zoom, google hangouts, Skype or Facebook live stream, you can gather all those who would have come (and more, since now the out-of-towners can join), read a few passages, answer some questions and just spend some time chatting. While you’re at it, sip some champagne! We all miss socializing right now. Make sure to let everyone know you’ll be doing an in person event as soon as you can, and who knows—maybe you can encourage them to buy a copy online now but to buy a second copy at the in-person launch to give to a friend.
Now More Than Other Readers and Writers Are Rallying to Support New Books
Last but not least, in these unprecedented times we’ve been seeing an amazing rallying cry of support from readers and writers everywhere. This Publisher’s Weekly article says it well. As does this story  in the New York Times.
Let the support uplift you. And write on.