A year ago this week as bookstores began closing their doors to in-person traffic and publishers started canceling author events, A Mighty Blaze was lit on social media. Its purpose, co-founders Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum told PW last March, was to connect readers with the authors of new adult releases by traditional publishers whose tours had been canceled due to the pandemic.
“We’re two technophobe female novelists in yoga pants trying to save authors from canceled tours and indie bookstores from being shuttered and we’re doing it every Tuesday,” they said.
A lot has changed at A Mighty Blaze in the past year. What seemed like a hobby launched by two novelists with some extra time on their hands has become a veritable book promotion powerhouse run by a 30-member all-volunteer staff under Leavitt and Blum’s supervision. Besides hosting more than 300 live author interviews with the likes of John Irving, Judy Blume, Cheryl Strayed, Edwidge Danticat and other authors, A Mighty Blaze has published thousands of Facebook posts, Tweets, and Instagram stories viewed by 12,000 Facebook followers, 2,000 Twitter followers, and 2,000 Instagram followers. And thousands of people have viewed A Mighty Blaze author interviews on YouTube.
There’s even a weekly series promoting indie bookstores, “Authors Love Bookstores,” hosted on Wednesdays by Kimberly Hensle Lowrance and Joseph Moldover, along with “Publication Tuesday,” a curated list of hot-off-the-presses new releases, and “Frontliner Friday” hosted by Blum and Leavitt, plus other programs posted on social media four days a week.
“I feel like I’m running a television network,” Blum said, “Every week we spark a new piece of programming. It’s been such a wild ride, a life-changing ride.” One of Blum’s most recent projects is conceptualizing a new initiative, “Anatomy of a Book Tour,” which will be a behind-the-scenes exploration of the creation, launch, and tour for Blum’s forthcoming memoir about her 15-year-old black lab, Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Very Old Wise Dog (Harper, Nov.).
Recently, A Mighty Blaze launched a podcast on Sundays broadcasting author interviews. While, at some point, host Trisha Blanchet, an author and former journalist, will conduct live interviews, for now the podcast consists of previously recorded segments. “It’s a historical preservation project,” Blum said, “These authors are talking about lives during the pandemic. We have incredible content, and I want to bring that back to listeners before moving forward.”
According to Blum, "while 90% of A Mighty Blaze is altruistic and will remain so, 10% is for-profit." Paid by event organizers, the group has produced virtual book festivals and conferences on Streamyard and Zoom this past year, including the Sanibel Island Writers’ Conference, Newburyport Literary Festival, and the Salem Literary Festival. In March 2022, it will host A Mighty Blaze Conference, educating for a fee authors, publishers, booksellers and anyone else in the book world wanting to maximize their social media presence. Sessions will be led by A Mighty Blaze personnel sharing, Blum promises, “practical stuff we learned over the past year about using social to reach readers in the digital age.”
Even after authors once again go out on tours, Blum predicted that social media will remain a powerful tool when it comes to creating marketing and publicity campaigns. To take advantage of this trend, A Mighty Blaze has begun offering online marketing services to book festival and conference hosts, as well as to bookstore owners and individual writers. "Anything from planning book launches and social marketing plans to teaching social media skills to tech-hosting entire events and conferences," says Blum of the services now offered.