Hello from the Laurel Everywhere team. As you might have noticed, the world looks a little different right now. Like countless other companies and families, the students running Ooligan Press are trying to balance living in quarantine with the laundry list of life’s demands. For me, this means homeschooling a fourth- and sixth-grader while finishing up my graduation requirements, sending out blurb requests, creating a social media plan, and training the next project manager for the team.
I was prepared—as well as one can be—for homeschooling and the countless Zoom calls, but I assumed COVID-19 wouldn’t really change how we do social media. It’s already online. However, with most bookstores closed or using curbside pickup only, chance book discoveries among the shelves in your favorite bookstore can’t happen, making online visibility more important than ever. For small independent presses like ourselves with limited marketing resources, it means needing a social media plan that stands out. It means needing to be innovative, and finding new ways to catch the audience’s eye in hopes they will help spread the word.
Luckily for my team, we were still in the process of hashing out our social media plan for Laurel Everywhere when this began, so we have time to adjust our strategies and prepare. The themes the book tackles are hard to approach on social media. We are pushing ourselves to find ways to generate engagement, toeing the line between an honest conversation about the themes of the book and leaving our audience with its hopeful message that “it’s OK to not be OK.”
The biggest surprise for me in all of this was the uncertainty of our book tour. Online encounters with a favorite author over social media are fun, but nothing compares to the excitement of engaging with an author in a Q&A session or attending an author reading. There is a reason we stand in line for hours to share a brief exchange with an author and get our book signed. But we don’t know when it will be safe to gather in groups again. We don’t know what the new normal will look like. Because we are publishing in November, we have hope that life will have resumed by then, but we can’t count on it. As such, we need to plan both a live tour and a virtual tour to be prepared for whatever November brings.
The big publishing houses are quickly adapting to the current normal. They have already started organizing free day-long virtual tours with their armies of big-name authors, a resource small independent presses don’t have. We’ve always depended on chance opportunities in a bookstore, reviews, librarian recommendations, social media campaigns, and book tours to reach our audience. We will have to get creative and hope for the best, but prepare for anything. We are eager to explore the possibilities of touring online. Honestly, the more I learn about the exciting opportunities available to organize online—like blog tours—the more I wonder why we weren’t using them before.