Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere


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Virtual this, virtual that

Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

Nothing like a pandemic to make the already super-fun chore (yes, that was sarcasm) of book marketing more challenging. One of my last book fairs of the year was finally cancelled. The last one of the year is now virtual. I’m still going to participate; can’t hurt to try it.

I know a number of self-published authors are releasing this year, and some traditionally-published authors who have had their releases pushed back. No matter if there’s a pandemic or not, blog tours are virtual any way you look at them.

But there’s something about meeting readers in person. There’s a connection you can make as an author to a reader when you can shake their hand and talk to them directly. Author panels are another great way to connect with readers, and meet some fellow writers. Our Sisters in Crime chapter did a number of author panels with local libraries (and some not so local).

Then they all cancelled because, you know, COVID-19.

I miss author panels. I’ve met some neat people, and had the opportunity to share some of my “life as an author”.

So what can a writer do now to connect with readers that doesn’t involve gathering in an enclosed area? We can do all the online promotion we want, but word of mouth is still the best way to find new readers, and that in-person connection, that handshake and greeting with a little small talk can go a long way when it comes to a reader recommending your book to a friend.

Sure, we can organize our own virtual author panels, or ask-the-author events, but we’re still authors, and I suspect most of us don’t do marketing very well.

Our Sisters in Crime (SinC) chapter is great at figuring out ways to connect authors and readers. We have an awesome mystery bookstore in Minneapolis that has done virtual book launches this year for some bigger local authors, like William Kent Kreuger and David Housewright.

So what does a group of mystery authors that has a great relationship with said bookstore do? They ask about conducting virtual author panels with the bookstore. It’s a win-win: the authors get to do the author panels we did with libraries but now with the bookstore’s genre-focused audience, and the bookstore gets to sell the authors’ books.

Woo-hoo! We have our first panel in August; we’re going to start with the panels that got cancelled by the libraries and go from there.

So, point being, if you have a local bookstore that has been doing virtual book launches, maybe they would be open to hosting (and promoting) author panels. Granted, we’re focused on one genre for the most part, but if you are part of a local chapter of, say, SCBWI (childrens’ books), and you have a local bookstore that focuses on childrens’ books, (or sci-fi/fantasy, or whatever genre), contact them and ask if they would be interested in hosting virtual author panels.

Heck, if you have a few author friends who are willing, and maybe have a connection to a bookstore, it wouldn’t matter if you’re scattered all over the place. You could do a virtual author panel anyway.

It’s one way we, as authors, can connect with readers you may not otherwise meet. In a way, virtual book events can be better than in-person ones considering people don’t have to drive to get there or worry that there isn’t room to walk or bad weather. Sure, they can’t get that instant gratification of buying the book right then and getting it signed by the author, but you might get that superfan in Helena, MT who tells all her friends about your awesome book.

And that’s what we all want–superfans who tell everyone who will listen how great your book is. Check it out. It might be one of the best things to come out of this whole screwed-up 2020 with respect to your marketing chores!


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Indie Bookstore Adventures #amreading #bookstores #authors

Image by Lubos Houska from Pixabay

As authors and many readers know, independent bookstores are gems in the literary world. The “big box” bookstores … er, there’s only one bookstore chain left, isn’t there? And that one (Barnes and Noble) is hanging on for dear life. Anyway, the chain bookstores are big, with lots of non-book stuff like puzzles and toys and coffee bars (don’t get me wrong; coffee bars are good!)

Indie bookstores are much smaller, often tucked into a space that isn’t on the main drag but located on a side street along with other quaint shops. They have an appeal that goes beyond the relatively small selection of books they stock (they will order books they don’t have on the shelves if you ask). Many have coffee bars that aren’t tied to Starbucks or Caribou Coffee. Bonus there: they often also have homemade treats to go with the coffee. Think going over to Grandma’s house when she and her lady friends gather for coffee.

Other indies specialize in one or more genres. In our neck of the woods, we have an indie bookstore specializing in mysteries. And they have a great name: Once Upon a Crime. Other local indie bookstores focus on local artists as well as books, often with a theme such as indigenous or diverse art. Some cater to kids and anyone who isn’t old enough to vote.

These little bookstores offer great atmosphere. You can smell the books. You can sense the love for books that the owners and staff have. Many have cozy common areas set aside where customers can hang out and read. The bookstore I was at recently, Buffalo Books and Coffee, had a small common area. Before I left after my author signing time, I noticed someone enjoying both the comfy space and my book!

The best part about indie bookstores is they tend to be very supportive of local authors. They will gladly invite an author in for a book signing or an author event. Once Upon a Crime in Minneapolis regularly hosts “big name” local authors who include William Kent Kreuger, John Sandford (even if he doesn’t live in MN anymore), and PJ Tracy. They also host authors not as well known, like Jess Lourey, Jessie Chandler, Anne Fraiser, Brian Lutterman, and soo many more (who also happen to be members of our Twin Cities Sisters in Crime 😀 ).

Today I have an author signing at Fair Trade Books in Red Wing. (Yes, that Red Wing. Where the stoneware pottery and the shoes/boots come from.) Fair Trade Books is spoken of with admiration among local authors because they are so welcoming and enthusiastic of us. When I talk to my fellow Sisters in Crime members, the two bookstores that always seem to come up when discussing author events are Once Upon a Crime and Fair Trade Books.

Do you have a favorite indie bookstore in your area? Maybe one that likes to host local authors? Have you done author events or signings at an indie bookstore?

I’ll try to get some pictures this time. I forgot when I was in Buffalo. If you want to see some of my past author events, you can find them on my author website.

Have a great writing weekend!

Enjoying summer!