Authors, shut out of holding in-person events at bookstores, are getting more creative and collaborative when it comes to promoting their books. For the publication of Melanie Conroy-Goldman’s debut novel, The Likely World (Red Hen), this means inviting as many people as she can to join her for what could be the world’s first drive-in book launch. The event will take place August 4 at the Fingerlakes Drive-in in Auburn, N.Y., where Conroy-Goldman will have a conversation with author Bob Proehl and attendees will be treated to swag bags, free popcorn, and a screening of the 1989 movie Say Anything.
“I’ve spent 48 years writing The Likely World,” Conroy-Goldman said, “and Covid-19 devastated my launch plans. There are 10 virtual stops on my tour, for which I’m grateful, but I wanted to celebrate the book’s birthday with the many people who helped me bring it into the world, and it wouldn’t be the same without safe in-person interactions. This is an incredible opportunity to do that. Fiction is always about alternate realities, the might-have-beens and the it-could-possibly-bes. Here we are, in a summer we never foresaw. Shall we make a little joy in it?”
The hope is to offer books for sale on site, and Conroy-Goldman is considering various options for signing books, such as having attendees indicate from their cars whether they want signed copies. The free event is being promoted with #ParkAndRead on social media.
For veteran thriller writer Daniel Silva, promoting his new book, The Order (HarperCollins), involves casting as wide a virtual net as possible. He is partnering with 18 independent bookstores to livestream his launch on July 14. It will feature the author giving a virtual tour of his writing space and then sitting for a remote interview with CNN’s Jamie Gangel and answering questions from the audience.
To attend the Silva event, readers must buy the book from one of the participating booksellers. They will then be sent a login for the event, which will be hosted on Crowdcast. Participating stores include Bank Square Books in Mystic, Conn.; Brookline Booksmith in Boston; Left Bank Books in St. Louis; Murder by the Book in Houston; Parnassus Bookstore in Nashville; Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale, Ariz.; and Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, Calif.
Silva’s launch is just one of more than 40 virtual events that Poisoned Pen is hosting in July, including programs with bestsellers like Brad Thor and international authors such as Camilla Läckberg. Owner Barbara Peters said that, though the store has livestreamed its big events for several years, there was a bit of a learning curve involved in becoming, essentially, a broadcaster. “Every day we are learning new things and embracing new opportunities,” she added.
Peters frequently does several events in a day and has a multicamera setup in the store. The videos are then posted to social media channels, including IGTV and Facebook, with several having garnered more than 50,000 views.
One event, featuring Diana Gabaldon and Theresa Carle-Sanders, for the latter’s The Outlander Kitchen: To the New World and Back Again (Delacorte), racked up 140,000 views and downloads across all platforms, and the store sold 1,000 copies of the book, according to Peters. She has also added some events for authors who don’t often put in appearances at stores best known for selling mystery novels. For instance, Poisoned Pen will stream an event for Jonathan Slaght’s Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl (FSG) on August 18.
“It’s crucial to step outside our comfort and experience zone,” Peters said. “And I hope we can keep some of the new tools and opportunities when more traditional events return.”