To be honest, launching my two upcoming middle grade titles has been the least of my concerns this past month. Like most of us, I've been carrying around a ball of stress that has been growing a little each day since the start of the pandemic. I've had it easier than many. My health has been good. I have the luxury of writing from home, so my work life hasn't really changed. I also benefit from white privelege in general and in regard to health outcomes. That said, the stress snowball as of late has still been massive. I was super chill at first, but add in identity theft, my apartment flooding and, the major blow, my dog getting sick (she's fine btw, thank the gods!), and my book launches could not be farther off my radar.
Still, I have been writing. Delving into the imaginary worlds I create has been the one thing keeping me steady during this turbulent time. I've finished two books so far (with many revisions still to go), and I'm diving directly into a new project. Why? Because I need stories to steady this ship.
My first tip for launching a book during the pandemic? Keep writing new stories. If you're like me, it will save your mental health, and it's the one aspect of the publishing game you control.
Beyond that, focus on the aspects of marketing and promotion that bring you joy, and forget the rest. I remember meeting with my editor at Scholastic before the launch of my first book, Skeleton Tree. She said in no uncertain terms that nothing I do as an author will move the needle when it comes to promotion. Her point was for me to stop stressing and leave it up to the publisher. Now, we all know that, even in the best of times, publishers rarely do as much as authors would like when it comes to promotion. And now? Um...even less. However, I think one part of her advice was super important, i.e. the don't stress out part. Yes, writing is my livelihood, but why stress about aspects of the business you can't control?
So why bother promoting at all? Do it if it makes you happy. For example, I adore making graphics. It's something I've done since high school, for fun, never professionally, but I actively enjoy making graphics, especially when I need a break from the real work of writing.
You can check out a nice selection of the graphics I've made on my Instagram account. Have they pushed the needle? Nope. Did making them benefit my life by giving me a necessary break from writing? Absolutely!
My tip for writers looking to create their own graphics: Experiment and have fun! Every graphic is not going to be super stunning, but you will learn a little more every time you try.I love Canva because it's so, so easy! Start with a template, but don't stop there. Canva lets you modify their templates as much as you want, so play around and make the designs your own. Another benefit is that you can tailor graphics specifically for each social media outlet. No more awkward sizes that don't show up properly on Twitter or Instagram. If you're looking to create 3D mockups of your books, DIY Book Design has an easy, free tool to do just that. I like to combine 3D mockup images with Canva to create cool promos that can stand the test of time.
I made the above images in Canva (I have a Pro account), by selecting the background image from Canva's photo offerings, adding 3D mockups of my books, overlays and additional images (i.e. the skull, Orange Crush, lures, cookies, etc.) to represent items from the stories. These kinds of promos aren't connected to any specific event, so you can use them throughout the years.
What about school visits and other types of promotion?
Apart from graphics, I'm doing the requisite blog interviews and giveaways. I actually sent physical mailers to nearby indie bookstores offering to partner with them on virtual events. I've had fun hosting Facebook Live interviews with some author friends. My series is called, Talking to Real Live Human People, because that literally is the point :P It's not so much for promotion as it is for human contact.
Before the stress of everyday life set in, I had also contacted school librarians via email to discuss fall author visits. Since we're in pandemic times and nothing for fall is certain, I did not finalize dates, but instead gathered a list of schools interested in scheduling some sort of visit. I let them know that I have options for both virtual and in-person sessions, but time will tell how that all pans out. Either way, it's a great idea to at least connect and let educators know you're available and flexible.
What about the actual launch party?
I'm partnering with a local indie, Best of Books, to host a virtual launch party via Zoom. The store created a Facebook event to promote, adding me as a co-host, and participants need to pre-order my book to receive the Zoom link. During the virtual party, I'll do an interview-style Q&A with a bookseller and give away some cool prizes. I'm also planning to collaborate with fellow authors on some similar panel-style events, and will be doing another virtual launch for my fall release.
The bottom line? There's way too much important and often dire stuff going on in the world right now to let a book launch stress you out. Do what you enjoy. Do what you need to do to feel productive...and, as always, keep writing.
KIM VENTRELLA is the author of THE SECRET LIFE OF SAM (Fall 2020, HarperCollins), HELLO, FUTURE ME (Aug. 2020, Scholastic), BONE HOLLOW and SKELETON TREE. Her works explore difficult topics with big doses of humor, whimsy and hope. Kim has held a variety of interesting jobs, including children’s librarian, scare actor, Peace Corps volunteer, French instructor and overnight staff person at a women’s shelter, but her favorite job title is author. She lives in Oklahoma City with her dog and co-writer, Hera. Find out more at https://kimventrella.com/ or follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram.