Welcome again to another Author Etiquette. We are glad you have joined us. Author Etiquette is a column where we discuss various things that come up in publishing. We started this little series because we love authors—we wouldn’t be in this business if we didn’t. But authors are human. Sometimes they make mistakes. Whether you are a new author or a seasoned pro, we hope this column will give you some perspective on issues and help keep you out of trouble.
As we’ve said many times before, very little in publishing moves quickly. Publishers plan things months and sometimes years ahead of time. Book launches, membership drives, and big publishing events take lots of preparation, work, and coordination. For the most part, things run on schedule and things are successful. But you can’t always count on long terms plans when turmoil arises.
Turmoil, whether it’s a natural disaster, sudden illness or death, or other upheaval, isn’t something most publishers plan on. No one looks at a calendar for the upcoming year and says, “I think I’ll wait to launch (NEW BOOK) for another month because there’ll be (insert your favorite flavor of chaos).” Instead, a publisher selects a launch date by making sure a new acquisition has plenty of time for edits, formatting and cover art adjustments. Authors try to start a crowdfunding project at a time when they can dedicate time and effort into the project. Conventions and subscription drives are usually the same time every year.
And yet, no matter how hard you plan and how ready you are for a project, there’s always a chance that chaos can arise. And when it does, authors and publishers are caught in the middle of a sticky situation.
The question then becomes what do you do? Can you suspend a book launch or crowdfunding project? What do you do if you can’t? What do you do?
No one wants a project to fail. Launching a book, crowdfunding project, or a subscription drive during turmoil will often negatively affect your success. There are some steps you can take to help minimize the damage and even turn it around into a bigger success.
First of all, be realistic.
Being realistic means that you are aware that the turmoil going on will have an effect on sales and participation. It might be lower than expected or not succeed at all. Disappointing as it may be, people’s attention will be focused on the situation, not on your book.
Suspend your promotions.
The first 24 hours of a disaster is critical for several reasons. Many people use social media to contact friends and family or spread information about what’s happening. Attention is going to be focused on whatever turmoil is going on. Whatever promotions you have, delay or suspend them for those critical hours. People appreciate a feed free of promotion when they are hurting, scared or just trying to figure out what’s going on.
Be an ally.
Being an ally means that you are signal boosting verified information, support and understanding. If you’ve got a large public following, the messages you send will go farther and reach more people. Do check what you are sending out though. Misinformation can be as harmful as whatever is going on.
Delay or suspend a launch.
We know you’ve worked hard to make sure your book is ready for the masses, but when turmoil strikes, not everyone is going to be in the mood for your new book. Talk to your publisher about what options you can use. While you might not be able to delay the launch, you might be able to take advantage of a soft launch.
You can use the soft launch approach—which means pushing back your main promotions for short time. This allows some time for things to get back to normal before you push your book. A week or two should long enough for things to settle down.
If you have a launch party scheduled, speak with your guests on how to proceed. They might agree to push the date back, use the party as a signal boost platform, or have connections on pairing up with an organization involved that needs a platform.
If you have a crowdfunding project launching or about to launch, see if you can delay it for a few days. Trying to compete with turmoil will not help your project and a successful launch needs a lot of attention in the first few days. If your project has already launched, try to be low-key for a couple of days. If it’s ending soon, try not to jam up the feeds if possible.
Don’t be “THAT” guy/gal.
Two things that will get you muted or unfriended on lots of social media feeds. First, if you hop on and begin blasting promotional material when most people are focused on a disaster. Second, go on other people’s feeds and try to argue with them. Neither of these are going to gain you any friends or support of a project. In fact, it could very well have a negative effect with future projects.
And PLEASE don’t use the turmoil to boost your promotions. Having a “Fire Sale” during wide scale wildfires is crude at best.
Even though disasters strike, it doesn’t mean that everything has to stop. You can promote your book/event/whatever, but do be subtle. Here are some tips to help you promote your work in times of turmoil
Pair up with support organizations.
Pairing up with an organization that assists those affected by the turmoil helps both parties. Having profits go to one of these organizations on any sales helps you and them. It also allows people to do something to help, and get something in return. Just make sure that the organization you pair up with is legit and you hold up your end of the bargain.
Subtle and quiet is best.
After that first 24 hours, you should get back into the promotional groove. But you don’t want to go full blast. A few posts, a blog update and background work should be the most you should send out for a few days. This gives people a gentle reminder that you have something going on, but you aren’t pushing them.
Even if your book launched, you can delay a celebration to a more appropriate time. A few weeks or even a month after is plenty of time for people to recover and appreciate your newest project. Plan some fun events and giveaways to help attract people to your event.
The biggest thing to remember when you are promoting a book, event or anything is to be aware of what is going on around you. If people are concerned with current events, they aren’t going to want to celebrate your newest work. Their brain power is going to be concentrated on friends, family, and information.
By freeing up the social media feeds you are allowing a distraction-free feed. And while most people won’t realize that you have cleared up this space in the virtual world, those of us who do know greatly appreciate it.