Elham Ali is a writer and publishing professional based in Toronto. She graduated from the University of Toronto in 2014, and since completing the Humber College publishing program in 2015 she has worked in marketing and publicity at Canada’s Ballet Jörgen, Penguin Random House Canada, and Dundurn Press.
Attracting Audiences: Getting the Most Out of Digital Events
Events are an important way for authors, new and seasoned, to promote their books, even now as our current situation forces us indoors. As authors and publishers make the shift from physical to virtual events, here are five tips to help you maximize both your audience reach and the impact of your event, before, during, and after you go live.
In order to get the most out of the five tips, and the most out of your events, we need to clarify how we understand what these virtual events are for. Typically, an event or reading is a sales opportunity for authors, but sadly publishers and other event coordinators are all finding that there is no clear correlation between sales and virtual book events. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do them! The key is to reframe your thinking and look at virtual events as a promotion opportunity. Virtual events, like ads or interviews, are a chance for you to put your book in front of readers, to make sure people know that your book exists. Having a link to a bookseller or any sales info is still really important, but the main desired outcome now is not to sell books but to promote your book and yourself to as many people as you can.
Choose your platform wisely!
I would like to start by stressing that Zoom is not the only option you have for online events. Pick the online platform that works best for both your audience and the type of event you want to have. Maybe your publisher has a great following on YouTube, or you’re part of a big writers group on Facebook, or you have a huge following on Instagram (the most underrated platform for virtual events if you ask me). Think about where you can reach the most people and host your event there.
If you’re only going to take one thing out of this whole post, then let it be this tip. Virtual events are missing the critical aspect of engagement that in-person events have, so create that by teaming up with someone else for your event. This also has the (massive) added bonus of expanding your reach as you tap into that person’s audience as well. Whether it’s another writer, an expert on a subject related to your book, a colleague or friend, someone from your publisher, or a bookseller or librarian, by bringing them on board they will be promoting to their audience as well which can exponentially increase the reach of your event.
Bonus tip: If you’re not sure who to partner up with ask your publisher if they can suggest another author they might be publishing that season, or if they can reach out to other publishers who might have a book that would be a good fit.
Find new and creative ways to attract people who may be interested in attending your event. Team up with your publisher to host a giveaway of your book in the lead-up, take questions for Q&A on your social, post your virtual event on online event listings like Open Book & NOW Magazine, or if you have the means give your Facebook event page a targeted boost. The idea here is to go beyond your own followers and reach even more people who might make be interested in attending.
Keep it fresh!
Again, without the critical presence of an audience, doing a one person reading or presentation for a virtual event can be challenging for both you and your audience. This is your chance to mix-it up and come up with a unique program that will make your event stand-out and keep your audience engaged. Options to consider are performers or musical guests, a video or slideshow, games with your guests or even the audience.
Video is forever!
If you’re only going to take two things out of this whole post, let this be the second. Make sure that you record, save, and make use of the video even after the live stream is over! The idea is to maximize the number of eyes that are seeing your virtual event and thus your book. Reusing and resharing the video is a vital way to do that!
Bonus tip: Make your video accessible. Both YouTube and Facebook videos can have captions added to them after they are posted. Have your video transcribed and upload closed captioning to make your video accessible to everyone.
This final tip is free and one I give to every author I work with: don’t get discouraged! While the internet can make it feel like it should be easy to reach everyone in Canada with each livestream, turnout to online events tends to be small, but don’t let it get you down. I always say, publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.