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Selling and Marketing Books During a Pandemic
By Ursula Wong
Posted on 5/27/2020 10:56 PM

We’ve had the ability to connect with readers online for many years, but the Covid-19  pandemic is forcing us to revisit online interactions and make them work better. Virtual book launches have become more common now that in-person events aren’t possible. But how do you run a virtual book launch? Selling books at in-person events is problematic due to the pandemic, so how do we sell more books online? Discounts are important to homebound families who crave entertainment when cash is tight. Are discounts sufficient or should we make our books free? What are other ways to connect with readers? Here are some answers and ideas.

Virtual book launches promote and celebrate newly published books using online technology and online events.

Some common online technologies for hosting virtual book launches are Facebook Live and Zoom, although BookBub explains not to use other platforms including YouTube here.

Authors can announce a virtual book launch using social media and email containing specific information about when the event is taking place and how to join. Ask friends to share a Facebook announcement or to retweet the event information in order to reach more people. Mention incentives such as discounted and free ebooks, or coupons for print books to entice people to attend.

During the event, an author can read from the new book, answer questions, and spend time socializing with prospective readers. Consider selling “tickets” that can be redeemed for a signed copy and mailed to the owner. Entice people to stay by running a contest where the winner is announced at the end. Publishing Consultant K. B. Jensen suggests running a contest where the prize winner becomes a character in a next novel.

Pricing to promote sales during the Covid-19 outbreak makes books more accessible to folks who have less disposable cash.  A sale means you make less money per book, but your books become more desirable and potentially more visible.

One pricing strategy that can promote sales combines a countdown strategy and time incentives. It can for example, announce that a book will be priced at $.99 for five days, and then priced at $1.99 for the next five days before reverting to its regular price of $3.99.  David Gaughran, author and book marketing expert, offers details and other thoughts here..

Price incentives aside, is there a reason to give your book away for free during the pandemic?

Book Bub suggests that free books are a symbol of good will. Smashwords, a large ebook aggregator, agrees. They’ve been partnering with writers to offer their ebooks for free during the crisis in a ‘Give Back’ incentive. See www.smashwords.com.  Other companies including BookFunnel at www.bookfunnel.com offer additional ways to get free ebooks to readers.

Techniques for reaching homebound readers include virtual readings, virtual book tours, and ‘talk with the author’ events. Virtual readings can be live events when using Facebook Live, Instagram Live, or Zoom. Alternatively, they can be recorded and uploaded to YouTube.

In virtual book tours, authors use guest blogs hosted by colleagues to write about their books. Consider blogging about why you wrote a particular book, or something new and interesting about you and your book.

A ‘talk with the author’ event can be hosted using Zoom or similar means, and can be a fun way to touch base with fans. Here, an author would talk with readers and answer questions during a live online event.

This is merely a sampling of ways writers have adapted to the isolation imposed by the pandemic. It makes sense to learn from our current situation, and try to identify sustainable online techniques for book sales and marketing. What we ultimately choose to do will probably be based on personal preferences. Some may do well at interactive events, while others prefer readings and interviews where some editing is possible before posting.  But once the pandemic has abated, the combination of in-person and select online events may foster even closer ties with readers.

Have you used virtual book launches or a pricing strategy during the pandemic? How has Covid-19 affected your book marketing and writing? What have you done to adapt?

The Programming team at SINCNE would love to hear from you. Reply to this posting or send us email at sincneprograms@gmail.com. Edwin Hill and I will tabulate the responses and get them back to you.

Stay safe and happy writing!

Ursula Wong writes about strong women who battle impossible odds to achieve their dreams. Her Amber War series of historical thrillers are available on her website:  http://ursulawong.wordpress.com. In her latest novel, Black Amber, Russian natural gas becomes a bargaining chip in a ruthless game of fuel versus freedom.

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