What It's Really like to Throw a Virtual Book Launch: Q&A with Stacey Atkinson

For the past couple weeks we've been talking about why and how to throw a virtual book launch party. This week, we decided to round out the topic by talking to a self-published author who's actually done it. 

Stacey Atkinson is the author of Letters from Labrador, for which she threw a Facebook launch event in May. We talked to Stacey to get her insight into throwing a virtual launch, what worked, and what she would have done differently.

Why did you decide to throw a virtual launch party on Facebook?

An online book launch has a greater reach than an in-store book launch. I have friends across the country, so this way they could all celebrate with me as I launched my new book Letters from Labrador. Actually, doing both a virtual book launch and an in-store book launch is ideal.

How did you prepare for the event?

I created a Facebook event page and invited all of my Facebook friends. I also created an incentive for the day of the launch: if people bought a book via Facebook on launch day, they would receive a signed copy. People really liked that. To set this up, I created a Shopify online store, which activated the “shop” feature on my Facebook author page. So when people came to my Facebook page, all they had to do was click on my book cover image, and they were taken to a checkout page where they could purchase the book. Those orders came to me to sign before shipping.

What were some of the things that you did over the course of the launch?

I mentioned the launch several times on Facebook and Twitter, starting a few weeks before the event, and I also created a Facebook event/invitation page. I also bought a simple Facebook ad, which resulted in about ten more people joining the event. I created a two-hour agenda and shared it on the event page so that people would know when I was going to be online, and they could come in and out of the event as they liked. The two-hour program included a live video, a Newfoundland & Labrador quiz, and a Q&A with my book designer and editor.

What worked?

I began the book launch by livestreaming a video of me talking about the book. Livestreaming video was a brand new feature on Facebook (in May 2016), and the video worked perfectly, but I had no idea if people were seeing it live or not because there’s no way to practice a “live” video. Since it was my first time doing it, you can see at the beginning of the book launch video that I’m a little unsure about it, but then I decided, hey, the show must go on!

What didn’t work?

The Facebook event worked perfectly…a little too perfectly, actually. When the launch began, people arrived promptly on the Facebook “event” page and got stuck there. They didn’t realize that my book launch was actually happening on my main Facebook author page. I assumed (never assume anything) that the event would link people through to my Facebook author page, but it did not. So while I was livestreaming my video on my main Facebook author page, some people were waiting for me to arrive on the event page (the invitation page).

The “getting stuck on the event page” also affected my Q&A session. One of my guests went to the event page and saw that it was quiet and then left. So when she didn’t arrive for the Q&A, I had to come up with new content on the spot to fill the programming gap.

If you could do it again, what would you change?

I would have included clear instructions and a URL to get people from my event page to my main Facebook author page.

What would you tell an author thinking of hosting a virtual book launch?

Go for it and have fun! A virtual book launch is just another way to promote your book, and it’s worth the effort you put into it. Come up with some interesting original content, like a video of yourself talking about why you wrote the book. People often buy books because they really like the authors.

Stacey Atkinson is the president of Mirror Image Publishing, which began in 2012 when she decided to independently publish her debut novel Stuck. She learned so much along the way, especially when it came to writing, editing, publishing, and marketing a book, that she began offering her services to other authors, bloggers, and the business community. In 2015 she completed an editing certificate at Simon Fraser University, and became a member of the national executive council for Editors Canada. In May 2016 she self-published her second novel, Letters from Labrador.