The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdowns and isolation have left many of us with extra time on our hands. We filled in all kinds of ways – walks, exercise and hobbies. Some people have used that time to fulfill lifetime dreams of writing that first book.
Three years ago today, our CEO, Dr. Sheila Brooks, released her first book, Lucile H. Bluford and the Kansas City Call: Activist Voice for Social Justice, in hopes of bringing light to a never before told Black female trailblazer and activist of Kansas City, Missouri.
She released her first book on this very day, April 23, in 2018, never thinking in her wildest dreams that a couple of years into her book release, right when she peaked on her book tour, that the tour and its accompanying publicity would come to an abrupt stop in 2020.
That all got us to thinking: How can you remain relevant as an author during the pandemic or any other disruption that basically shuts down America?
The SRB Communications team, manages all of Dr. Brooks’s PR for her book. We faced a great challenge in 2020 when the global health pandemic hit. Our goal was to ensure that book sales did not plateau, even though face-to-face events and promotional opportunities disappeared almost overnight.
So, what did we do? We put our thinking caps on, strategized and pivoted. Whether you just wrote your first book and are wondering how to promote it in the midst of a pandemic, or you released a book a year or more ago and are stuck wondering what’s next and how to bounce back, this blog is just for you. Keep reading. We have some of our best and proven methods of success for remaining relevant as an author during COVID-19.
First and foremost, it goes without saying, we have all experienced our fair share of the “Rona Blues” in the last year. As a full-service marketing and advertising agency, we saw many transformations. Not only with the team and our company, but we witnessed first-hand how the pandemic impacted our clients in all of our industry business verticals, as well as how it had an impact on entrepreneurs and their passion projects. From 2018 to the end of 2019, Dr. Brooks traveled across the country on a promotional tour for her book, sharing Bluford’s story. The SRB team secured conference sessions, vendor tables, author panels, keynote speakers, book signings, class lectures, fireside chats, television and radio interviews, the list goes on. Then came “Miss Rona” in the beginning of 2020 and everything changed. Well, almost everything. The one thing that remained consistent was Dr. Brooks’s book sales. And here’s how:
Conduct an initial analysis of who your book represents and what are those unifying factors that they will latch on to, relate to and become invested in. For example, Lucile H. Bluford, was a journalist, an editor, a civil rights activist, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated, and a Black female, just to name a few key things. That initial assessment gave us several key categories and potential audiences that we were able to target. Your list can be short or as comprehensive as you like.
After you identify your audience, it’s time to compose a media list of all of the important individuals that you can contact at various organizations, libraries, schools, local publications, blogs, etc. You will want to start building connections with the media, if you already haven’t, to ensure your contacts will be more receptive when you find the right time to pitch your book for some PR. Relationships are harder to build and maintain during the pandemic. Don’t put off what you can start today.
Over the years, the one thing we consistently hear from our media connections is that people do not know how to pitch properly. It is important that your pitch as an author is not just your book summary and a laundry list of your professional accomplishments. Your pitches need to be short and sweet. DO NOT BURY THE LEAD in your email or phone call! Be specific to who you are pitching to, and even better if you can relate it to the organization, the specific radio host, or the current societal landscape and what we are all experiencing. Paint the story for them that you want told so they don’t have to do that work for you! The more tailored your content is to who you are pitching to, and the clear identifiable ways you can relate it to their audience, the higher chances you have of securing the event, interview or coverage.
Just because the in-person events have stopped, doesn’t mean there are no events going on! Get creative and find them or create them yourself. Host a panel with other fellow authors, seek virtual networking opportunities for authors or other business leaders and attend with the intent to promote your book, schedule times for some “live” chats on social media. Your opportunities are endless, and you can truly reach far more people that you would have in person, now that travel is not a barrier. This digital world that we are in now is always changing and people are looking for new things to engage in, now is your time!
If you are not active on social media, you should be. It can really be one of your best friends as an author. Since in-person events have significantly declined, use this time to share throwback photos and videos from your past events. Tag the event hosts, the media outlets, and others who were there. You can also share book testimonials online too, that is a proven way to help others be more inclined to purchase your book. Don’t forget to add a call to action to anything that you share, to get higher engagement online.
Proper planning is the key for any successful strategy. Take the time to really map out the year, find key milestones in your book journey (like an anniversary) as well as key calendar year milestones and observances (i.e., Black History Month or Women’s History Month) and find ways to connect the two. This will help you stay ahead of what is to come, and not be reactive or miss opportunities.
We could talk for days about the amazing experiences we had promoting Dr. Brooks’s book in her first three years, and more importantly all of the lessons learned. But today, on the anniversary of her book’s publication, and also World Book Day, we want to shout out to all of the wonderful authors out there! We know that this is no small feat, in addition to all that you do, many also working full-time jobs. Just remember, do not feel bad about bragging on yourself and your work because if you don’t tell your story, who else will?
“On this book anniversary today, I am at a loss for words as I reflect on my journey as an author so far,” said Dr. Brooks. “It has been a blessing to travel across the country to share Ms. Bluford’s story, and more of a blessing to have your continued support for me and my book. It gives me great pleasure to share how we persevered during the pandemic, in the hopes that our story will help others through these trying times.”
Asked about her journey as an author, Dr. Brooks said, “One of my proudest memories was being nominated for a 2019 NAACP Image Award in the Outstanding Literary Work – Debut Author category! To have that honor in year one of my book was unbelievable. I truly cannot wait to see what is next.”
– The SRB Communications Team