How COVID-19 Has prompted a ‘New Normal’ When It Comes to Promotions and Book Festivals
Published Tue Aug 18 2020•10:00 EDT
Key Points
  • There are still a few book events that will allow in-person interactions.
  • Many events are turning to Virtual Book Festivals to continue their annual traditions.
  • Virtual book events allow more author exposure since they are no longer limited by geographic area.
  • Many authors are looking to social media and reading sites in order to self-promote.
  • Most authors agree that COVID-19 has increased their exposure because people are on social media more and are able to interact with authors on a daily basis compared to a few times a year.

An author puts his and her blood, sweat, and tears into every book that he or she puts out.  Many will tell you that it takes 10 years to become an “overnight” sensation.  With all the time put into writing a book, everything being put on hold for months at a time must truly be devastating. And the 2020 pandemic did just that. COVID-19 has hit everyone like a ton of bricks, but how did it impact the literary community? By looking at annual events as well as promotions put on by authors themselves, we can see that, although there is a new way of holding book events and festivals , the bones and soul of the literary community have remained strong in these trying times.  

Although it feels like COVID-19 has been around forever, it did not appear in places like the United States and Australia until around March of 2020.  Events like the annual Ball Gowns and Books, a book event mainly for fantasy and romance readers and authors, in Australia showcasing more than 70 international authors,  still went on as planned on January 31, 2020 according to their website BABE.  Other events, like the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Stories & Ideas, that is geared towards a wide variety of genres, had to reschedule their event from March 10, 2020 to the weekend of October 3-4.  As reported by The Balance Careers, this was so people could still attend the event in person at the University of Southern California, since it draws between 130,000 and 140,000 people annually.

However, with the world as it is, many people did not feel comfortable going into such a crowded area to attend an event, and so, the authors and event coordinators offered an alternative.  Enter Virtual Book Festivals.  

Countless annual events and festivals have chosen this route to be able to promote themselves and their authors, and this is a great thing. Many of these events appeal to readers and authors of all genres. Because they are virtual, their exposure multiplies from those that can attend in person (many are those that live near the event and surrounding areas) to anyone that has an interest and an internet connection. These events include, but are not limited to: the Brooklyn Book Festival from September 2- October 5, 2020, the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C from September 25-27, 2020, the Texas Book Festival from October 31- November 15, 2020, and the Miami Book Fair from November 15-22, 2020 “and all year around” to name a few.

So what are authors doing to promote themselves in the era of COVID? Many are flocking to social media to get their names out there. Facebook has countless groups and pages dedicated to individual authors, multiple authors, genres, and subgenres that are both public and private. In fact, there can even be multiple groups for the same genre or subgenre where readers will interact with their favourite author or any new authors on a daily basis. When asked if social media has helped promote an author, Catherine Glenn, author of “The Promise of A Storm”  agreed, saying that she and many other authors are now interacting with readers on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter more than ever.

Most authors will have a promotion event where they go to a different group or groups on Facebook and post pictures, writing samples, and games in order to encourage people to comment on the post. The more that the reader interacts with the post, the more likely they are to win a gift card or a free copy of that book. Authors also encourage their readers to “stalk” them on all sorts of different platforms and reading sites like Bookbub or Goodreads. Links are posted at the end of an electronic book that will take you directly to their reading group on Facebook or Twitter to make it even easier to ‘follow’ the author.

All in all, COVID-19 has forced people to retreat into their homes until it passes. To stave off boredom, many have turned to books and have started to look for new authors to pass the time.  By promoting themselves through Virtual Book Festivals, Facebook groups, and other forms of social media, authors are able to get their name out there better than ever.