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Launches in Lockdown – Part 1

January 22, 2021 By Alison Symes

This post has been republished with permission from Allison Symes. It originally appeared in Chandler's Ford Today.

From a writing viewpoint, 2020 had the benefit of:-

1. Zoom. 2. Being able to have some writing events thanks to Zoom!

The major disadvantage was the lack of our usual writing events. This was something I discussed with YA writer, Richard Hardie, last week. He has faced the challenges of the pandemic as author and publisher (see link at the bottom of this post).

But writers and publishers still had books to launch, so I thought I’d look at how authors, including me, managed this during this strange period.

A huge thanks to all of the writers taking part in this series. They have all shared fabulous insights and something that comes across from what they share here is where one way is not possible, others will be.

That is something positive from 2020 I think.

Feature Image – Launches In Lockdown Part 1.

Image created in Book Brush using an image from Pixabay

Allison Symes and published works. Image by Adrian Symes

Allison Symes

1. What book(s) did you launch in 2020?

Mainly my second flash fiction collection, Tripping The Flash Fantastic, though I’ve been promoting three anthologies too – The Best of Cafelit 9, Mulling It Over, and Transformations. I have flash fiction and/or short stories in these.

Tripping the Flash Fantastic. Book cover image from Chapeltown Books

2. How did you do this?

For the anthologies, I’ve been sharing the word on social media and my website regularly (including putting images up – people remember images).

For Tripping The Flash Fantastic, I held a cyberlaunch on Facebook. I continue to spread the word about it, and have created story videos which I shared on Youtube (having set up my own channel which was easy to do) and Facebook group pages such as the Christmas Book Hub which was set up to help authors promote their wares from October to December 2020. I am also on Paula Readman’s Clubhouse Bookshop Facebook page (and Paula will be making a very welcome return to CFT later on in the series). Now Facebook pages need eyecatching banners to draw people in and I think Wendy H Jones did a fantastic job on this one. (And yes I will be chatting to Wendy later on too).

Clubhouse Bookshop pic by Wendy Jones on 9th December 2020. Eyecatching Facebook banners like this are all part of the marketing work.

I also created a book trailer for the book: I also took part in the Brechin/Angus Book Festival, which was a Facebook event and again an excellent opportunity for showing readers the “wares”.

I was on Chat and Spin Radio twice to talk about the book.

Book promotion is an ongoing thing. The trick is to make marketing interesting for readers and yourself (and then nobody minds the promotion!).

I was also on Wendy H Jones’ The Writing and Marketing Show podcast a few months before I knew when my second collection would be out but I could advertise flash fiction in general – so I did!

3. Why did you pick those options?

My publisher, Chapeltown Books, ran the cyberlaunch for my debut collection, From Light to Dark and Back Again, in 2017 and I was co-host. I learned from that it paid to prepare as much material as possible in advance, including links, so I could paste and go. I also saw what worked well, including Youtube music clips with themes linked to my book.

So for Tripping The Flash Fantastic I wanted that again only this time I ran the show.

When my books arrived, I asked my better half to take pictures. Lady, my border collie cross, ended up in some. (If Mum is opening a box, there’s bound to be something in there for me!).

One picture had “perfect for a photo caption competition” all over it so I used it for that during my cyberlaunch. That was popular (and a good laugh!) and I hope to do this again. (I still use that picture sometimes on my Facebook posts. Usually gets a good response. Lady has a significant “aaah” factor!).

Lady discusses TTFF with me and how this could make a great

snap for a photo competition. It did too! Image by Adrian Symes.

I considered holding a Facebook Live event, having been to one run by a friend (and very good it was too, Fran Hill, and she too will be a guest later in this series). But I ruled it out in the end. The problem with Live is it is live! Difficult to take comfort breaks etc and Murphy’s Law being what it is, I could guarantee something would crop up during said live session!

The advantage of holding a “standard” Facebook event was I could post loads of material, take breaks if needed, and resume the online conversation from where I’d left off.

If I hold a Facebook Live event in future, I’ll keep it to an hour. My cyberlaunch ran from 7 to 10 pm. Maybe the Live aspect is better kept for things like readings, taking questions, and brief promo work.

With a book launch, while publication day is rightly the big event, your promoting of that book continues so there is nothing to stop you having a series of events, well spaced, celebrating your book. Not everyone can get to every event in any case so having more than one is a good idea! You just mix up the type of thing you do – a great way to keep everyone interested.

Cafelit books – Book Brush mock up

4. How do you think these events went?

I had good feedback on both cyberlaunches so huge thanks to everyone for that. I was shattered at the end of them! You give out more than you think doing these things which is why you must find a way of holding an event you enjoy. That comes through to your guests.

5. What have you missed most about not being able to hold signings etc in the usual way?

I’ve missed live events and conversations with people visiting my stand and with other writers at their stands. There is a lot of camaraderie at these things, which is hard to get across on Zoom.

For my first book, I held a signing at Chandler’s Ford Railway Station which went well. I hope to do that again (and the people who helped organise this are happy for that to happen as they want to encourage community events) but Covid has put paid to that for now.

I’ve also missed going to the Swanwick Writers’ Summer School and taking books to the Book Room there. And there are writing days, such as the ones run by the Association of Christian Writers, where again I can take books along. Difficult to do when we’ve all gone online (though the plus side it is has made events more accessible to people who could not have gone to the usual physical events. What would be ideal would be having both kinds of events!).

Some of the anthologies where my work has appeared.

Image created in Book Brush.

6. What have you learned from your experiences here?

The thought you can’t prepare too early or too much material was confirmed by my second launch!

I also took part in a live Zoom event with Gill James and Dawn Knox in September 2020. That wasn’t specifically to plug my book but it was a great opportunity to talk about flash fiction. So sometimes you promote the book(s). At other times, you’re talking about what you do and you need to be prepared for both. What matters is being entertaining to readers (which is where readings work well and flash fiction, due to its brevity, is ideal for that).

7. Name one top tip based on your experience of your launch(es) in 2020.

Give yourself time to prepare properly. It does pay.

Some promotion work going on right here! Image created in Book Brush. book page (where I share advice on flash fiction in particular)

Now over to my guests. Please welcome guests from Authors Reach Limited, Richard Hardie’s publishing company, Teresa Bassett and Francesca Tyer.

Teresa Bassett: The Time Crystals

Teresa Bassett. Image kindly supplied by her.

1. What book(s) did you launch in 2020?

My lockdown book was my debut novel, The Time Crystals, a time travel mystery set in Cornwall. It’s aimed at older children, but is suitable for young-at-heart adults too. Prior to publication, my manuscript won an international contest named The Next Novelist, and was shortlisted in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, so I believed I was well on my way—but I wasn’t prepared for being a lockdown author!

2. How did you do this?

My route towards publication had so many ups and downs, it felt like a high-octane game of snakes and ladders. After years of hard work and one failed publishing deal, The Time Crystals was finally published by respected independent publishers, Books to Treasure. The paperback version came out prior to the e-book, on 21st February 2020, just as Covid was beginning to bite. Unfortunately, my situation was further complicated as it was the last book my publisher released before semi-retiring and returning home to Australia. So, through no one’s fault, the usual promotional activities were drastically curtailed.

3. Why did you pick those options?

With so much going on—the world beginning to panic, and lockdown around the corner—we were unable to arrange the launch I’d hoped for in a bookshop. Other events I was organising (bookshop signings, school and library visits etc) couldn’t take place either. As the Covid situation worsened, I opted for a Facebook launch to coincide with the release of The Time Crystals e-book. I hoped the world would be in a better state by then, but soon realised how optimistic a view that was!

The Time Crystals by Teresa Bassett.

Image kindly supplied by her.

4. How do you think these events went?

My Facebook launch took place on 8th July 2020 and, although nervous, I loved it! I was thrilled by the support I received. Since my journey towards publication was prolonged and complicated, I’d had a long time to drum up interest via my blog, writing group, Facebook page, local press and radio etc.

By that time, I was lucky enough to have found a new publisher, the wonderful Authors Reach. They have been brilliant, very supportive from the start, helping with the launch and everything else since. My first book under their banner, The Mystery of Acorn Academy, is due in February 2021, and I’m really excited about it.

5. What have you missed most about not being able to hold signings etc in the usual way?

Like many authors, I’ve dreamed of publishing my stories, practically since the moment I could read. I was also vain enough to envisage standing in front of admiring readers, telling them about my novels, should I manage to get them published!

Sadly, with Covid tightening its grip, the physical events I’d negotiated were put on hold, and I’ve been unable to make progress since.

As I’m shy, in some ways it suited me to concentrate on online promotions instead. In the months following publication, I sent out press releases and was featured in our local newspaper and Writing Magazine.

I gave an internet radio interview on Chat and Spin.

Chat and Spin Radio, an internet station, has helped authors spread

the news about their books. Pixabay image

I’ve tried a little paid advertising and even hand-delivered signed copies. One of the best things I did was become involved with our village magazine, which not only helped me get the word out locally about my writing, but enabled me to make new friends.

Alongside preparing my next novel for Authors Reach, I continued submitting short stories. Just recently, I won first prize in Crowvus’s annual ghost story contest, which was a lovely surprise! The release of their new anthology, A Ghost for Christmas, involved taking part in Our Own Write’s virtual book fair in December.

Despite these welcome developments, I still hanker after bona-fide book signings at real life venues. The closest I’ve got was glimpsing my book for sale through the window of a closed bookshop!

6. What have you learned from your experiences here?

I’ve learned life never fails to find new ways to surprise you! With so little contact with others, I’ve realised I’m not quite the introvert I thought I was. I’d love to have the opportunity to hold real events, however daunting they might once have seemed. Meeting people face-to-face and talking about my work now seems like an amazing prospect. Once it would have inspired trepidation!

I still have a long way to go in terms of reaching new readers. Having got this far—so much further than a shy girl from a Cornish village dared to dream—I have no intention of giving up!

We’re all looking forward to book fairs and such like again. Pixabay

7. Name one top tip based on your experience of your launch(es) in 2020.

My advice to any writer in a similar boat would be to hang on in there. Don’t give in to negativity. Technology has its drawbacks, but it does mean we have more options now than we would have once had. I remind myself my novel is out there, come what may, with the next on the way. Compared with the awful situations many face, I’m grateful to be able to work on my novels.

Author Biography

Teresa Bassett writes mystery stories for young adults, mostly set in her home county of Cornwall. A graduate of the University of Bath, she has worked as a foreign languages tutor, translator, and tour guide at The Eden Project, leaving in 2011 to concentrate on her writing. Together with husband Mark and feisty cockatiel Lucy, she lives in a house she helped build, situated on former tin mining land.

Author Links

And now to welcome Francesca Tyer who launched her debut novel just ahead of lockdown but who very much felt the impact of it.

Francesca Tyer. Image kindly supplied by her.

Francesca Tyer

1. What book(s) did you launch in 2020?

Last year saw the launch of my debut novel, The Firestone. It’s a YA fantasy novel and the first in what will become a series of four. The Firestone follows the story of James Fynch, a teenage boy who stumbles across a parallel world and becomes bound to a quest for the mythical Firestone. In this magical place, dark forces threaten to destroy the barrier between worlds which has remained untouched for seven hundred years.

2. How did you do this?

The Firestone was published by Authors Reach, an independent publishing company. The launch was kindly hosted by my local W.H. Smith store a few weeks before the first lockdown was announced.

Before this, I held a Facebook launch event which was aimed at a larger audience. This laid strong foundations for the official launch. Since lockdown however, marketing and other promotions were all moved to online platforms.

3. Why did you pick those options?

Authors Reach already has ties with several W.H. Smith shops so it seemed logical to ask them to host The Firestone launch. Readers tend to buy books from authors they know, so making myself visible through an in person event was helpful.

It’s much easier to develop relationships in person so holding an event in a local shop was exciting. Unfortunately, due to lockdown, all follow-up signing events had to be cancelled.

The Firestone. Image kindly supplied by Francesca Tyer.

4. How do you think these events went?

The official launch was successful, as was the Facebook launch. The opportunity to meet interested readers and share my book with them was an invaluable opportunity.

Initial success and excitement was curtailed just a few weeks after the launch by restrictions. However, through building an online presence, running talks and workshops, everything is moving in the right direction again.

5. What have you missed most about not being able to hold signings etc in the usual way?

I miss meeting new people and being in a busy environment. Interaction with readers never fails to be interesting and online conversations aren’t quite the same.

I think it’s important to meet readers and spread the word through in person events. It can be difficult to just market books in a virtual environment which is already crowded.

6. What have you learned from your experiences here?

That physical events are a great way to extend networks and readership. I’ve discovered online events and promotions can work as well, but preparation is key. When working online, events need to be marketed well in advance to grab the attention of readers.

Networking takes many forms and during 2020 almost all of it had to be done online. Image via Pixabay

7. Name one top tip based on your experience of your launch(es) in 2020.

Whether your launch is virtual, physical, or both, don’t hold back from marketing yourself and your books. The online publishing world is competitive, so the larger your network and the more interactions you create, the better.

Author Bio

Francesca Tyer is a Young Adult fantasy author. She is 23 years old and currently lives in Wiltshire, where she works as a freelance copy and content writer, fiction editor, English tutor, and of course author.

Buy Link


Many thanks, Teresa and Francesca, for your wonderful contributions. Next week, I’ll be chatting to authors from The Association of Christian Writers.

With many thanks to Allison Symes for allowing us to re-publish this blog on our site.

1 Comment

Trevor Belshaw
Trevor Belshaw
Feb 26, 2021

I was due to take part in this interview but sadly, constraints on my time prevented it. So, I'll just say how much I enjoyed reading this, and for the record. I released two books, Unspoken and Murder at the Mill, during lockdown last year. The Legacy, the sequel to Unspoken, is being written during this latest lockdown and is on course for a March release. So a hattrick of lockdown novels. It all seems very surreal as last March I hadn't written a a word for five years.

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