Tuesday 4 August 2020

Launching a book in lockdown: disaster or opportunity?

by Teri Terry
Do you have a book coming out - during lockdown or post-lockdown or possible future lockdown? The book trade and publishing landscape has changed - the world has changed - and we're just finding our feet again. Dark Blue Rising came out on 9th July. It was a difficult, stressful time in the lead up to publication. But some positives definitely did come out of it.

I ADORE my cover!!!!
Designer: Michelle Brackenborough
GIF by Sara O'Connor
A new book - a new series! - a new imprint, Hodder - a new year. It was all change for me after a 2019 that, well, let's just say had more than its share of challenges. But somehow I got through it, finished editing, was happy with the story, AND - the dream! - got a book cover that I ADORE. So around February 2020 I was feeling cautiously optimistic about the launch of Dark Blue Rising, coming in July.

And then ... well, you know what happened.

At first there was denial: this isn't as bad as it seems, it is an over-reaction, everything will be back to normal in a blink.

Then panic: it isn't as bad as it seems - it's worse. I'm worried about my family, my friends, the world. I can't write, can't concentrate on anything. 
(I got past my block, eventually - I'll post a vlog on that below.)

Then guilt crept in: I'm worried about launching my new book. 
The very entertaining, tail-wagging,
sock-stealing Scooby

It felt wrong to even admit it with so much going wrong for so many people. So far, the worst for me was having to cancel some events and a long overdue trip to Canada to see family. We were healthy and well, had Scooby to entertain us, a park across the road for our early morning walk, a decent sized garden for outdoor space, no immediate financial concerns. We had it good, and I knew this - still know it now. 

But what about MY BOOK?? WAHHHHH

Sometime around April I called my lovely agent - wondering if the publication date should be postponed. There were conversations back and forth with my publisher. They felt we should stick to the July date; that so many books were being postponed that the Autumn would be too crowded, and with the only other option leaving it to 2021, I agreed. 

Then things seemed to be getting even worse, both with the pandemic and in the book and publishing sphere. There were tales of new books being held up and not delivered to shops, supply chain woes, even Amazon was putting book delivery down the priority list. And again - feeling guilty to even be thinking about things like this when people were losing family, friends.

There is no point worrying about things out of my control, right? I'm rubbish at listening to my own voice of reason though. I half-heartedly read up a little on zoom and other virtual event platforms, but I was scared: of working out the technology, of security and privacy issues using virtual events with my mostly 12 - 14 year old readers, our woeful broadband, being on screen, etc etc etc. I was putting in time learning how to use a number of different platforms on free trials even as I didn't really want to go that way, and feeling increasingly unsure of the right approach.

Then on 9th June I attended - virtually! - a Society of Authors event with Candy Gourlay and Chitra Soundar, entitled Social Media 101. In the chat box I confessed my worry about launching my book, that nothing would happen if I didn't go virtual, that I didn't know what to do. And it felt so good to say it out loud! Well, typed in a chat box. And it really was from that moment on that I decided to take control of what I was going to do.

I won't go into all the details of how I came up with and structured my virtual events as I've blogged about it elsewhere; I'll post the link below. But this is what I did:
1. Virtual Publicity Tour:

I offered a week of free virtual events run on password-protected pages on my website, complete with live Q&A with me, but done in comment boxes: so there was no live video of me or them, no requirement for me to have their personal details. It worked kind of like chat boxes - the sort of thing I felt comfortable doing myself. 

Would schools be too stretched and stressed to want to take part? No! I ended up with eighteen school events being booked, from class size to year groups. I found them in a variety of ways: past teacher and librarian contacts; twitter; Facebook; being shared on a few librarian groups.

the tweet that started things off
Why free? Well, it was my book launch week. Also, I felt I didn't really know how it would work; it was a learning experience. From what I learned, I'm ready to go forward with paid events in the new school year.

2. GIF and Book Trailer:

The GIF was total serendipity - from lunching with lovely Sara O'Connor, previously of publishing fame but now working in coding and programming. I showed her my book cover which, in case I haven't mentioned yet, I ADORE, and she offered to make a GIF, as above. With everything going online it was brilliant timing.

The trailer I made myself: on Vimeo!

3. Social Media:

Hachette Childrens Books rightly focused their efforts here, and they truly did a great job of getting the word out on Instagram and Twitter. They made some great images that were perfect for sharing, and share I did. I did worry a little if I was sending out too much book spam, but actually I think that at the moment, we're all more tolerant and supportive of these things. We all understand - this is our megaphone just now, and we have to use it.

Overall: Disaster or Opportunity?



1. Not getting to events in person. 

2. Missing YALC. WAH! I was really looking forward to that.

3. Book Fairs being cancelled and foreign publishers likely being more cautious; time will tell how that pans out. 

4. Difficulty getting books sold with virtual events.

5. Worry about a certain large online retailer taking over, while independent bookshops and highstreet chains struggle. 


1. I know how to do stuff I didn't before. I'm much more comfortable making videos, something I used to HATE. I know how to make them look and sound better. There was a fair amount of hair pulling and occasional swearing along the way as I worked it out, but if I can do it - anyone can.

2. Even though I was quite seriously stressed about what to do/not to do in the lead up, I actually really enjoyed the virtual event experience! Answering an avalanche of questions in comment boxes took concentration and good touch typing skills, but it was FUN. I'm sure I'll continue promoting virtual events even if - finger's crossed - there is a miracle vaccine available just around the corner. 

3. Comments from librarians afterwards were that they felt the format engaged the students, in some cases even more than an in-person event: students who wouldn't readily engage or ask questions were comfortable doing so using this format (link to their comments, below).

4. Going forwards with paid virtual events in the new school year, the reduced cost compared to a live event will make it more accessible and less something only schools with bigger budgets can afford.

5. Shouting out about the virtual event offering got a huge amount of engagement from librarians and teachers around the UK. Many of those who couldn't take part for one reason or another expressed interest in hearing about my coming virtual workshops. Yay!

these were LUSH
6. The reach of virtual publicity events is far greater than just the few I could have travelled to in person. The word is out, even if only time will tell how that translates to sales.

7. I missed some hugs, but Zoom book launches have some pluses: you only have to buy your own wine, and you get to eat ALL the cupcakes.

8. At last: I could dye my hair to match my book cover! In complete confidence that no one would see it unless I wanted them to.

A final word: After my launch week, I was tired - but happy. I did all that I could to give my book its chance in the world, and what more can you do?


And finally, below is my Vlog on struggling to write during a pandemic: other narratives are important!


  1. Well done,Teri - this was an immensely stressful undertaking and you really seem to have got to grips with the virtual event format. Hooray!

    1. thanks. It was rewarding - working it all out - once it was done. And worked.

  2. Love this piece, Teri. I share so many of your feelings on this and I'm so happy that you're enjoying learning new stuff!

    1. I didn't always enjoy it at the time ;-)
      (thanks for your help along the way)

  3. All round brilliant stuff, Teri! Although I will confess to feeling sad about not eating even one cupcake.


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