Authors Helping Authors

How COVID-19 has helped usher in a new era of online book promotion…and a new book-promotion brand

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

While many writers may like the quiet time that comes with a quarantine, those with new titles published at such an inopportune time are missing out on a critical window for book sales. Face-to-face networking opportunities such as book launches, book tours, and book festivals often lead not only to short-term new-release sales but to new readers who become fans over the long term.

Since it became clear in early March that such events were not going to happen this spring, numerous established authors have devoted their time, energy, and networking efforts to helping their peers promote their new books. In “8 Ways Authors are Helping Authors with Books Releasing During COVID-19,” BookBub.com industry marketing manager and author Diana Urban provides an impressive rundown of such efforts, which include launching digital book festivals, producing joint Instagram Live videos, and “signal boosting” — blasting details of another’s project to one’s own followers on social media.

In March Publishers Weekly ran two articles on signal boosting among authors in the age of coronavirus. In “Children’s Authors Boost One Another on Twitter,” PW featured an effort launched by Sabaa Tahir, an author of young adult books. Tahir invited writers with books coming out this spring to contact her so she could help spread the word to her 70,000 Twitter followers. In this way she has signal boosted numerous titles, from pictures books to young adult novels…and inspired other authors of children’s and young adult books in the U.S. and abroad to help. In Australia, author Amie Kaufman added a weekly Twitter party she dubbed #KidLitGoesViral to her signal-boosting efforts to promote authors with new releases.

Tahir, who writes intense, futuristic teen novels that are New York Times bestsellers, has featured a wide variety of new titles in the past few weeks, including Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi; Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know by Samira Ahmed; This Is My Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio; and Lizard in a Zoot Suite, a graphic novel by Marco Finnegan. She also recently shared a tweet from Junior Library Guild, which is offering free, unlimited access to ebooks on its digital reading platform to help parents keep their children engaged and educated while schools are closed.

A mighty blaze of book buzz

In “Novelists Ignite A Mighty Blaze in Response to Extinguished Book Tours,” Publishers Weekly also reported on a new nonprofit recently founded by novelists Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum. Originally dubbed “Nothing Is Canceled Virtual Book Tours,” A Mighty Blaze is effectively creating buzz around new releases in place of the season’s many canceled literary events. Authors who had books coming out this spring and canceled book tours are reaching out to Leavitt and Blum to have their titles promoted by A Mighty Blaze on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Participating writers’ videos and photos as well as their books’ covers are featured, with many supplemented by interviews and group discussions.

On Facebook, A Mighty Blaze has blossomed into a new promotional brand name in the book industry with more than 2,000 followers after only a few weeks and sponsors that include Poets & Writers and the Authors Guild. Participating celebrity authors include Jodi Picoult, Dani Shapiro, Elizabeth Strout, Michael Chabon, and Alice Hoffman, and supporters include singers, song writers, and authors Judy Collins and Carly Simon. Thanks in part to such heavy hitters, the initiative has already been featured by Oprah Magazine, People Magazine, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The New York Times.

Featured authors

Videos posted by A Mighty Blaze promote not only authors of new releases (on Tuesdays) and independent bookstores (Wednesdays), but also interviews with established authors (Thursdays), the first featuring none other than novelist and creative writing guru Anne Lamott. A Mighty Blaze wraps up each week with a Cocktail Hour Friday and continues into each weekend with a Social Media for Authors Saturday. It’s proving to be a fun, festive resource for all types of writers wishing to connect with other authors and with readers despite writing — and even having their books published — under quarantine.

In her recent Author Interview Marathon, A Mighty Blaze interviewer Robin Kall of Reading with Robin produced an incredible array of videos with a variety of noted authors. In addition to Anne Lamott, A Mighty Blaze interviews have included Divergent author Veronica Roth; Sarah Mustafah, celebrated debut author of The Beauty of Your Face; pioneer Latina author Julia Alvarez, whose latest novel, Afterlife, was recently published; Iris Krasnow, author of Camp Girls; Mindy Mejia, author of Strike Me Down; Beth Morrey, author of The Love Story of Missy Carmichael; and Haley Shapely, author of Strong Like Her, who was interviewed by author Adriana Trigiani.

Other featured authors with new books out this spring have included Aaron Jackson (The Astonishing Life of August March); Carey Rosen Davidson (The Five Archetypes); Alison Hammer (You and Me and Us); Ali Araghi (The Immortals of Tehran); Lindsay Chervinsky (The Cabinet); Susan Meissner (The Last Year of the War); Ann Murray (Greedy Heart); Ann Lewinson (Still Life with Meredith); Stephanie Storey (Raphael, Painter in Rome); Jennifer Keishin Armstrong (Pop Star Goddesses); Rona Simmons (The Other Veterans of World War II); Barbara Linn Probst (Queen of the Owls); Victoria James (Wine Girl: The Obstacles, Humiliations, and Triumphs of America’s Youngest Sommelier); and more.

How the blaze was lit — and keeps burning

According to Publishers Weekly, Leavitt and Blum had both started independent efforts to support writers with new books out this spring when they decided to join ranks to create A Mighty Blaze. Based in northern New Jersey, Leavitt is a developmental editor and the author of 11 books, including New York Times bestsellers Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You. Her twelfth, With or Without You, is due out in August. Jenna Blum is a writing instructor at Boston’s GrubStreet writing center and the author of four books, including the New York Times bestseller Those Who Save Us. The pair now has a small group of volunteers helping to make A Mighty Blaze a roaring success. Plans are even in the works for the team to host a virtual book festival on April 25 and May 3 in lieu of the Newburyport (MA) Literary Festival.

Leavitt and Blum also recognize that authors with new releases out depend on independent bookstores across the country to help promote their books. Avid supporters of indie bookshops themselves, Leavitt and Blum were sure to include booksellers in A Mighty Blaze. In addition to devoting each Wednesday to celebrating indie bookstores, A Mighty Blaze features numerous bookstore logos on its website and social media pages and encourages followers to order books through their favorite independent booksellers.

On Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, A Mighty Blaze has garnered a mighty following of avid readers eager to read new releases, booksellers trying to find new ways to get books into the hands of readers in these trying times, writers eager to follow career and debut authors and learn from them, and veteran authors who love to help spread the word about new authors’ works. As award-winning mystery writer Hank Phillipi Ryan recently tweeted, “@AMightyBlaze is inspirational, community, generous and joyful!” And it likely will help hundreds of authors sell many more books than they otherwise would have — this year and for many years to come.

I write fiction, poetry, and nonfiction when I’m not working as a copy editor. Author of the novel One Sister’s Song.

Written by

Bylines in Publishers Weekly, the Syracuse (NY) Post-Standard, others. One Sister’s Song (novel). Not Nearly Everything You Need to Know About Writing (ebook).

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