I am working with several business book authors on their book launches while we’re all in different stages and types of self isolation and lock down.

And, I’ve been part of several virtual book launches so I thought it would be useful to share some insights and tips on how to plan and execute a virtual book launch.

Here I answer some of the most common questions I’ve been asked, and have asked authors who have already launched their book virtually.

1. Should I still launch my book?

Absolutely. The global pandemic is actually creating more opportunity for people to read, learn, and watch for leisure according to Amazon KDP as people are required or guided to stay at home.

Book launch events are integral to the success of any business book. They are a point in time to focus the attention and engage potential readers (before, during and after the launch). They are also the best way to spread a word about one’s writing.

2. What does a virtual book launch look like?

Well, it’s pretty much exactly the same as a physical book launch in terms of the preparation, planning and organisation, it’s just that it’s online and if you haven’t been active online with any of the sharing platforms you’re either going to need to get good or hire someone to run it for you.

In fact, I think that virtual launches are better than physical launches. Why?

  • They cost less (no room hire, catering, video and audio equipment hire)
  • You can invite as many people as you like and it (mostly) won’t cost you any more money
  • You can have a global audience
  • Launch event engagement is more interactive
  • Post event engagement is way easier
  • It’s still relatively new so there’s a different buzz about virtual launches
  • They’re more environmentally friendly
  • You can interview key people mentioned in your book no matter where they are and you can interview different people at different launches

3. What type of launch event should you do?

With a virtual launch you have a range of options (way more and a physical event actually). For example:

  • Audio or video?
  • A large, multi-session event seeking the widest possible audience?
  • An intimate gathering for a select audience?
  • Single session webinar or podcast series?
  • Free or charge? 

Not all the online event platforms are the same so you need to be very clear about the functionality and support you want/need.

4. What platform/s should I use?

Like most things in the online world there’s a myriad of options and working out which one is best for you/your book launch is a daunting prospect in itself.

I am focusing on two of the most popular platforms in this article – Zoom and Streamyard – but there are many others especially in the live video space (YouTube Live, Facebook Live, Periscope, You-Now, Instagram Live, be.live and Twitter). I’m creating a more comprehensive list of other platforms that you can download and will share that shortly.

Zoom

Millions more people are now familiar with Zoom, however you need to be aware that there are two types of Zoom: Zoom Meetings and Zoom Webinar.

Without getting too technical with Zoom Meetings you get to see everyone in panels and there’s a limit to the number of attendees whereas with Zoom Webinar you have more control of who can be seen on the screen and you can have different numbers of attendees (for different prices).

I’d recommend Zoom Webinar as it’s way more professional, you can have your guest speakers, MC and even video messages integrated as well as monitor and track comments and Q&As.

The numbers of attendees you are allowed depends on the Zoom package you are on – from 30-odd through to 500, over 1,000 and more.

Zoom provides a recording of the event that you can send to those who registered but did not attend.

Zoom provides a link that you can copy and paste to emails and send to others.

You can edit the recording and re-purpose it for social media.

Streamyard

Streamyard is a multi-streaming platform, meaning you can stream your live event to a Facebook page, Facebook Group, LinkedIn live, YouTube and others at the same time.

It’s incredibly easy to use and set up and has a free (basic) version and other paid versions that you can pay for monthly (no lock in yearly contract). You can create branded overlays and upload these easily (Canva is great for these).

You can have up to 6 guests on the screen at one time and up to 10 ‘backstage’.

It’s an excellent platform for audience interaction and anyone can join in without registering (might be a good or bad thing depending on how you view this).

Like Zoom you can download the event as an MP4 and edit easily as well as generate transcripts, and then you can upload this to YouTube.

An important tip is to use a laptop or desktop NOT a mobile phone, although it’s totally OK for guests to join via their mobiles.

A colleague of mine, Andy Willis, founder of Work from Anywhere, raves about Streamyard and has two tutorials he’s happy to share for free if you contact him [email protected]

A linked question I’ve been asked is which platform would I choose between Zoom and Streamyard (or other platform)?

My response is use both as they reach different audiences and provided you’re clear about your audiences and the platforms they are engaged with you should be using both to share your virtual but ‘real-time’ book launch.

5. How much lead time should I plan for?

Like a normal launch you should start your virtual book launch planning 6-8 weeks out from your launch date. You can organise it in a shorter period of time but I highly recommend allowing more time so you can become super familiar with the tech aspect of a virtual launch.

If you are having a guest speaker you need to lock in their availability earlier rather than later. And, if your first pick for a guest speaker isn’t available but keen, a GREAT idea is to ask them record a short video that you can play at the virtual launch. This opens up a whole new world of potential guest speakers.

Separately, you should be promoting your virtual book launch 4-6 weeks out from the event (and have a set of emails/content to your database and networks that let’s them know about your launch, invites them to it, reminds them that it’s coming up, finalise RSVPs, prompts them the day before. Sending of an invitation and waiting for responses won’t get you the attendance you want.

6. Do I need an Emcee?

Absolutely. And you need one who is totally conversant with the tech and the platform you choose to use. Not only will your Emcee be undertaking the usual function of this role but they may also be managing the speakers on screen (and then off screen) as well as the engagement with ‘attendees’ throughout and the Q&A session if you have one.

You may choose to have someone else managing the tech, but there are Emcees out there who can do both.

As with a physical launch the Emcee guides the event through it’s various stages and ensures it runs to time, the engagement level is there and attendees know what’s happening and when.

I have to give a shout out to Peter Merrett (https://petermerrett.com/) who was a terrific Emcee for Phil Preston’s virtual book launch. If you’re looking for someone who is a speaker who has MC’d some virtual book launches and knows his tech, Peter is your man. Plus you just have to love the description of what he does: Bringing Wonder to Life. We all need more of that right now.

7. Do I need a guest speaker?

As with a physical launch, this is a question for you. I always prefer to have a guest speaker or two at a book launch. It’s way better to have someone else talking about your book and it’s value than you as the author.

If your preferred guest speaker isn’t available on the day/time you choose, get them to record a presentation in advance and show this. As noted earlier your speakers can be ‘from anywhere’ although you do need to be aware of the time difference if you’re speakers are in another timezone/hemisphere.

Make sure ALL the presentations are no longer than 5-6 minutes.

Long, 20-minute presentations simply won’t work in a virtual launch environment.

8. How long should my virtual book launch be?

There’s no ideal timeframe for a virtual book launch but I’d recommend between 25-45 minutes with additional time AFTER the official event for a short Q&A/engagement time (10 minutes max).

The Emcee and speakers should log in at least 15 minutes beforehand,

about the time the holding ‘timer’ for the event starts running and should stay on the event till the Emcee formally closes it.

9. How should I structure my virtual book launch?

Your virtual book launch should contain relatively short set pieces with some audience engagement elements. A 30-minute virtual book launch might look something like this:

Pre-launch log-in timer: 10-15 mins before the event

Welcome from Emcee: 2-3 mins

Author presentation: 5-6 mins

Engagement piece: 3 mins

Guest speaker presentation: 5-6mins

Launch of book: 2 mins

Thank you and engagement piece: 3 mins

Q&A: 5-7 mins

Short info session on where to buy the book (with slide), special launch offer (mention launch offer code and time limit)

Formal end (book purchase options slide stays up)

Here I share a recent virtual book launch by Phil Preston, (https://vimeo.com/405209235) one of my clients. Phil launched his book, Connecting Profit With Purpose (https://philpreston.com.au/book/) in mid-April and had 150 people attending, terrific engagement during the launch and more than 6,000 views, 140 reactions and 60 comments for his LinkedIn post about the launch.

Clearly, if you have more than one guest speaker this would change…but you see the flow.

10. What level of engagement should I have/or not?

It’s a great idea to engage your audience early and then have 1-2 other engagement actions throughout the launch.

What do I mean by engagement? Create a short competition to ‘win’ a signed copy of your book based on something the Emcee or you the author, or guest speaker has said. At one launch, where the author had his family as part of the launch (of course he is self-isolating at home), the author introduced his dog and the audience had to guess how old he was!

How you engage your audience is up to you and the level of informality/formality you want to create.

But find a couple of ways to engage so that people stay for the duration and don’t’ drop off.

11. What new skills do I need?

If you are going to organise and manage your virtual book launch yourself you need to have strong skills in the platform you are going to use. This means setting up and practicing on the platform before your event on your own and then doing 2-3 run-throughs with your Emcee and guest speakers.

Have a back-up plan if the Internet gets wobbly or cuts out, be prepared for your slideshow, or video presentations/other elements not to work.

Hope for the best and plan for the worst.

And if you’re not a ‘tech person’ pay someone else to undertake the backend set-up and management of the event. As the author and major presenter you need to be totally focused on your audience NOT the tech!

12. Should I practice my presentation?

Definitely. And, practice it presenting to the computer you are going to use, record these practices and review what you can improve. Presenting from the front of the room on a raised platform is completely different to presenting to the little green light in the centre of your control panel at the top of your screen.

Make sure your computer is at the right height, that the lighting in the room you will be in is right (lighting in front of you not behind), that your background is appropriate and not distracting.

DO NOT sit at a desk as you would in a work virtual meeting. You are presenting not discussing.

You can implement a branded virtual background in Zoom (this is quite a groovey feature) but if you’re working with an older computer/operating system you might need to upgrade to be able to access this. Also be aware that there is some ‘ghosting effect’ with some backgrounds.

13. Bloopers and tech challenges

I’ve always loved the blooper section of movies but you don’t want to have your virtual book launch remembered for the wrong reasons. Here’s some

common mistakes that many of you may have seen over the past 4-6 weeks in your online meetings.

1. The phone rings, then rings again;

2. The background has some funny/inappropriate image;

3. Your cat, dog, young child wanders past;

4. Your lighting is more in tune with Halloween than a book launch. Make sure your main source of lighting is in front of you at NOT directly overhead. You want to have good lighting on your face that doesn’t create a shadow on half your face;

5. The placement of your computer (i.e. your computer camera is too low or two high) leading to any number of prominent facial features being blown up out of proportion. Think double/triple chins, bags under your eyes, half your head being cut off, the ‘talking mouth’ visual;

6. Screen sharing doesn’t work so you can’t run your slide presentation;

7. Your uploaded videos don’t run or ‘buffer’;

8. Someone knocks your ‘home studio’ computer stand (aka Ikea step-ladder/stack of books) and your computer is knocked off centre or worse still tumbles

9. You need to go to the bathroom and take your computer with you (YEP this happened not in virtual book launch but in a Zoom meeting…now up to 4.5 million views on YouTube).

14. Follow up

As mentioned earlier with both Zoom and Streamyard you can record, edit and share your virtual book launch across a wide range of platforms and you need to do this.

Follow up everyone who attended with a Thank You and a link to the event. Some people may not have stayed on for the whole time and may want to

view the recording and/or share the link with their network.

Follow up those who were registered but unable to attend.

Review your analytics. How many people registered and attended? How many book purchases were made with the special offer? What’s the follow up been on social media posts and engagement levels.

15. Plan your next ‘launch’

The beauty of virtual launches is that you can do several of them at very little extra cost. Here I am thinking about specific ‘custom launches’ for key partners, clients, industry organisations/associations you’re linked with. You could do specific inter-state launch events, connect up with your State Library or local library for an event depending on the topic of your book.

You’ve now become familiar with the tech and the format so take advantage of this. Think creatively about who you could secure as your guest speaker…maybe your launch morphs into a type of PodCast….there’s a lot of options.

And, remember. Your book launch is just one part of your book marketing campaign.  If you want to market and sell your book think of your book launch as the start of a marathon. It’s a critical punctuation point but what really matters is executing your marketing and promotional plan over the entire course so that you reach your goal at the end of it.