Publishers Share Expectations for Booksellers Planning Virtual Author Events

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As booksellers look toward scheduling virtual events, American Booksellers Association Director of Development and Publisher Relations Matt Zoni has spoken with a number of publishers to learn about their expectations and the types of assistance they can offer. Here is some publisher feedback on the questions ABA asked:

How far into the future should booksellers plan to be hosting virtual events?

  • Many planned physical events have been converted to virtual events through the spring and into June. For events scheduled later in summer, publishers are waiting to see how the pandemic develops unless the hosting store or author wants to cancel.
  • Fall event grid deadlines have already been pushed back. Fall events would normally be planned now, but publishers are waiting to see what develops before moving forward.
  • Publishers are excited about the possibilities for virtual events in the future if booksellers, authors, and staff become comfortable with them now. Authors will be able to do more with hard-to-reach stores that don’t normally get events, and an investment in virtual events will help publishers and booksellers to leverage events programs in entirely new ways.

What do authors think about virtual events?

  • Both frontlist and backlist authors want to help however they can.
  • Some publishers have made virtual event grids available through Edelweiss and are frequently updating them with new author names.
  • Booksellers are encouraged to ask about the availability of any author they are passionate about.
  • Many authors are willing to participate in virtual book club meetings or happy hours, in addition to in-conversation events. They are sheltering at home like the rest of us and happy to have a meaningful conversation about their book with a small number of readers. 
  • For events intended for the widest possible audience, ask “What makes my event different?” Often, that means bringing in a moderator with their own audience who can add a different element to the conversation. Authors are happy to play this role as well and don’t have to be the headliner.

What do publishers expect from virtual events?

  • Publishers understand that booksellers are primarily concerned about keeping in touch with customers and staying relevant in their lives by providing content and connecting them with authors.
  • Publishers are happy to connect stores with authors who can help them stay connected to their customers and thus have minimal sales expectations for virtual events; a 10 percent sell through rate is perfectly good, and these are books that would not have otherwise sold.
  • It is taking longer to ship books, so if stores want to have stock to ship to customers for online orders during virtual events, allow enough time to receive books when scheduling. 
  • If stores book events directly with authors, get in touch with the publisher as soon as confirmed to arrange shipping and promotion.

How can booksellers encourage sales during events?

  • From publishers’ general observations, Crowdcast and Zoom seem to be most successful platforms for including a buying option.
  • If a store’s goal is primarily to grow their social channel, then Facebook or Instagram can be good options. 
  • Publishers are not particular about one platform over another; they just want each store to be comfortable with whatever platform they choose.

Booksellers can now visit the new Online and Virtual Events Tools chart on BookWeb to learn more about services such as Crowdcast, Twitch, Google Meet, IGTV, and many more. The chart provides a link to each service and looks at its pricing, reach, interactive features, and sales capabilities.

Booksellers who are hosting online and virtual events can find a detailed list of publisher policies regarding story times and related events on the Coronavirus Resources for Booksellers page. In addition, ABA has created a list of Author-Hosted Virtual Events and Downloadable Digital Event Kits that booksellers are invited to take advantage of.

For more information on the crisis, booksellers can visit the Coronavirus Resources for Booksellers page and a dedicated members-only COVID-19 Bookseller-to-Bookseller Forum on BookWeb.