On September 8, 2020, the Midwest Independent Publishers Association presented an educational session called, “Hosting from Home.” Program Coordinator Jenna Kahly and Marketing Coordinator Hillary Stevens, both of the Lake Agassiz Regional Library (a seven-county library system in Minnesota) shared their experiences in hosting on-line readings. Our guest contributor, Sydney Larson, attended the virtual meeting and reflected upon what she gleaned from the session.
Since Covid-19 began, authors, publishers, libraries, and booksellers alike have been needing to adapt quickly and efficiently to the new technologically-driven society we’ve been forced to become.
When it comes to online book readings, most libraries–or at least libraries in the Lake Agassiz Regional Library network–prefer to use Facebook Live as their medium of choice. This is because a lot of the people who visit normal book readings and those who are patrons of the library already have a Facebook account. It is the platform that is most convenient for a large amount of the audience.
In addition to Facebook Live, they use a site called be.live, which allows the author to broadcast and talk to the Facebook Live audience. The benefit of having the book reading online is that it helps invite people from all over the country to visit, and the format makes it more convenient for people who wouldn’t normally come to their local library for said book reading.
To market a book reading, libraries and other interested forum hosts use multiple social media platforms. Some of the platforms include Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Publishers can help with the marketing of the book as well.
Reading from their books is important to authors, publishers, and booksellers because it is an active and informative way to promote and sell the author’s book. Publishers can get their names out there too, as well as help with the advertising, promotion, and sales of the book.
For the author, the benefits of book readings are straightforward and clear, and while most of those benefits have not changed through this new medium, online readings do have some drawbacks. In the past during book readings, libraries could help sell the author’s discussed book, but with the program now being online, authors have to take a little more agency in their book sales. If the author wanted a more hands-on approach, they could start to sell their book through a personal forum or website and send a link through the Live chat to the audience. There is potentially a chance for the author to get in contact with the library and work out an agreement for sales, but that is not a given for all libraries. Another option is for the author to get in contact with a local bookseller and work out an agreement where the author sends anyone who’s interested in buying their book to the local bookseller. The bookseller could take charge of the distribution and sales of the book in that town. In this way, the bookseller is directly impacted by the online reading work of that author. It must be noted, however, that any option the author, publisher, and/or bookseller takes, they still won’t be selling as many books as they would if the book reading was in person.
Book readings are useful to authors in another way, too. Book readings are chances for readers to probe the author’s mind and have them answer anything readers need clarification on. It can help the author and publisher to know what area of the novel needs elaboration, or other suggestions the readers might offer (if the author feels it would improve the book). Book readings also help make the author more relatable and allow readers to get to know the author and book better.
This article is contributed by Sydney Larson, a Junior at NDSU, double majoring in English and Anthropology, with minors in Honors and Zoology. She is pictured here at the fortress of Bourtzi in Napflio, Greece, during a two-week study abroad experience in 2019. Sydney is a student in the Introduction to Publishing course, a required course for the Certificate in Publishing at NDSU.