As the coronavirus pandemic spreads, with government authorities and medical experts urging people to practice social distancing for the next several months, the future looks dire for the authors of spring releases, especially debut authors who have yet to build a readership. Book tours and literary festivals are being canceled, and many bookstores are temporarily shutting their doors for the duration. Those bookstores that remain open are curtailing their programming, especially author visits.
But the close-knit children’s book world has always taken care of its own, and the response to this crisis by middle grade and YA authors is no exception. While YA author Julie Murphy has been spotlighting on Twitter for the past week a different indie bookstore that she is doing her online book shopping at, urging her nearly 25,000 followers to do the same, several other prominent children’s book authors are using their social media platforms to amplify spring releases in front of their followers.
“I remember my debut year and how stressful it was,” said Sabaa Tahir, author of the Ember in the Ashes quartet for YA readers, who has been signal boosting since March 12—one of the first ones to do so.
“I can’t imagine doing it during a pandemic. I just want to help out my fellow authors,” Tahir told PW. “A lot of people are worried, and this is a way to provide some exposure for authors who’ve had their book launches and/or tours canceled and can’t even do local events. And I feel for the indies who depend on these author appearances.”
Tahir, who has close to 70,000 Twitter followers, posted, “all authors, debut or otherwise, with [traditionally published] books coming out before June 30, DM me or respond with a one-word description. I’ll blast it out for the next few days.”
All authors, debuts or otherwise, with books coming out before June 30, DM me or respond with name of your book and a one-line description. I'll blast it out over the next few days. Love you guys and hope you aren't too stressed. ❤️❤️❤️
— Sabaa Tahir (@sabaatahir) March 13, 2020
That initial tweet received more than 2,600 likes and has been retweeted 545 times as of press time. She also received almost 350 responses to her tweet.
Tahir told PW that she hopes that her followers and others will also order any books that appeal to them from their local indie bookstores or request them from their local libraries.
“I want to get people to connect,” she said, noting that her own parents were small business owners and thus she not only empathizes with debut authors, she empathizes with indie booksellers, who are taking financial hits.
“I’ve been on Twitter a long time and it’s all about the reach,” she added. “The reach is pretty far and we’re all just united. It’s so difficult not to be able to connect with your audience at a time when it’s so important. There are a lot of authors trying to help each other out however we can from our little bubbles.”
Tahir, who has a graphic novel being released in July, a prequel to the Ember in the Ashes series entitled A Thief in the Trees, explains that she “definitely understands how scary it can be” trying to inform readers who do not know her previous work about a new release, as graphic novel fans are “not my audience.”
Tahir has since signal-boosted 30 books, beginning on March 12 with Roseanne A. Brown’s June YA fantasy release, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. The signal boosts are for releases ranging from picture books like Kao Kalia Yang’s The Shared Room, to middle grade reads like Renée Watson’s Ways to Make Sunshine, to YA novels like Amber Lough’s Open Fire. She’s even signal-boosted a resource guide for teachers and librarians on how to reach out to marginalized teens and reluctant readers: Novels in Verse by Lisa Krok.
She not only retweets the author or the author’s representative’s tweet, she also provides a few words of praise for the book in her retweet, although she admits to not having read most of the books she’s boosting and not even being able to boost all the books she is hearing about—more than 200 to date, in her estimation. She does emphasize, though, that she knows or knows of most of the authors she has been boosting and has read some of those authors’ previous writings. And when she has read the book being boosted, she mentions that in her retweet.
Tahir is signal-boosting a few times each day, in the afternoons and evenings from her home in San Francisco, which has ordered its residents to remain in place and refrain from any unnecessary travel.
“There’s a ton of great books here from some great authors,” she noted; most of the books being boosted are either by multicultural authors or contain diverse characters and/or themes.
Piggybacking on to Sabaa’s great idea. Shout-out your book below or message me a photo on Instagram, and I’ll be happy to amplify. Let’s make some noise. 🎤 https://t.co/Wo25SX6c44
— Victoria Aveyard (@VictoriaAveyard) March 13, 2020
Twitter Shout-Outs and Book Launches
Inspired by Tahir, Victoria Aveyard, author of the Red Queen series for teens, started signal-boosting on March 12 as well, tweeting that she was “piggybacking on to Sabaa’s great idea” and suggesting that authors “shout out” their book on that thread or else send her a photo via Instagram “and I’ll be happy.” Aveyard has 90,500 followers. Her tweet has received 500 likes, 58 retweets, and 62 responses to date. She has boosted 18 books so far, most of them other YA novels, with the first book boosted being Krok’s Novels in Verse.
“My heart goes out to every author right now. This is an impossible, unpredictable time,” Aveyard told PW. “I have a paperback out today [for her series finale, War Storm] and it feels wrong to talk about it, but that isn’t correct either. We have to keep elevating ourselves and each other, so we can weather this storm together.”
Newbery Medalist Linda Sue Park is also signal-boosting to her 16,600 followers, but is doing things a little differently. Park tweeted on March 15 that she would signal-boost any children’s book released this month by posting a short blurb along with the book cover beside the cover of her own March middle grade release, Prairie Lotus. She has received to date 168 likes, 32 retweets, and 27 responses. The first book Park boosted was Coo, an MG read by Kaela Noel. Like Tahir, Park’s boosts have included a mix of picture books, middle grade reads, and YA novels.
Explaining that her seven-city tour was halted with two stops to go on March 10, after she had been on the road for almost two weeks, Park said that while she had been able to appear at most of her scheduled stops and that Prairie Lotus had received press attention, she was still disappointed, as she was supposed to appear at five festivals and conferences this spring that have been canceled. She also is concerned about other authors who are not as fortunate as she who have had their entire tours canceled and are not receiving press.
“I’m not good at marketing,” she said. “But this is one thing I can do, to put my book cover in front of as many eyes as possible, and to do it with other people’s books.” Park has signal-boosted thus far more than 20 books.
Park explained that her retweets, which all compare Prairie Lotus to the other book in some way, usually genre or cover art, are not meant to be book reviews or even recommendations, but rather “just people with spring releases, right now only March releases and/or March book tours like me that were canceled, and if your book is a kids’ book.” While she is only signal-boosting March releases right now, she may expand to later releases.
“I am going to do it until the end of the month, and then see how it’s going. Who knows, I might be doing this until the end of the year, “ she said.
The signal boosting trend is gathering steam beyond the North American children’s book community as well: Australian YA author Amie Kaufman is doing her bit to signal boost MG and YA authors with a bit of Down Under moxie: she is hosting an hour-long Twitter party, #KidLitGoesViral, for MG and YA authors each week for the next four weeks. The party, held each Monday evening through April 6 at 8 p.m. ET/ for North American participants, which is 11 a.m. Australian Eastern Time, is in honor of any traditionally published author whose book is being released the next day, “whether debut or 10 books in,” she tweeted on March 14.
“We always need stories,” she said in her tweet. “Especially when times are dark. Our friends have waited years for this moment: let’s make sure it’s not overshadowed. Let’s support them and our bookshops. I love hosting launches, and I guarantee a good time! See you there!”
The first #KidLitGoesViral party on the evening of March 16 featured an hour of book talk, questions for authors, and publisher-sponsored book giveaways. Special guests for the first party were Brad McLelland (The Key of Skeleton Park, the third book in his Legends of the Los Causes western fantasy trilogy for MG readers); debut YA novelist Diana Urban (All Your Twisted Secrets); and YA author Lexa Hellyer (Frozen Beauty).