Not to be outdone by the children’s and YA authors "signal boosting" their fellow authors on Twitter, two novelists, Caroline Leavitt and Jenna Blum, are promoting their colleagues with an ambitious initiative called A Mighty Blaze. Anyone can participate in the conversations on A Mighty Blaze on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram about new releases, but for authors wanting their books to be signal boosted on these platforms, there are a few requirements: the book has to be traditionally published for adult readers, and the author’s book tour has to have been canceled.
A Mighty Blaze began with the cancellation of Leavitt’s appearance at the Texas Library Association’s annual conference earlier this month to promote her latest novel, With Or Without You (Algonquin, Aug.)
“I had already memorized my speech, complete with hand movements to make it funny,” she recalled during a Zoom conference call with PW and Blum, explaining that she then made a video of her presentation and sent it to the TLA. “They liked it and said we’ll send it to our libraries and I thought maybe I can do this for other authors."
Leavitt branded her initial effort as “Nothing Is Canceled Virtual Book Tours,” which signal-boosted short videos by other authors. After hearing that Blum was doing something similar, Leavitt and Blum joined forces and rebranded it as A Mighty Blaze. On Tuesdays--when most new books are released--A Mighty Blaze goes into overdrive, promoting authors whose books are being released that day with elevator pitches, interviews and discussions, and other group interactions, complete with visuals, such as author headshots and book covers.
“We’re just two writer girls trying to help our friends,” Blum said, explaining that she sympathized with writers who had spent “three, five, eight years” writing their books, and were “devastated” that they now were being denied the opportunity to “meet their readers.”
“Jenna came up with this line which I really love,” Leavitt added, “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.”
While A Mighty Blaze began as authors helping other authors, it’s grown quickly since March 13, when it was officially launched on social media. It now has more than 1,000 followers on Facebook, though it has not caught on as well on Twitter and on Instagram. Not only are prominent authors like Jodi Picoult, Alice Hoffman, Dani Shapiro, and Anne Lamott participating by promoting others on A Mighty Blaze, so are literary organizations and publishers. To date, A Mighty Blaze lists 28 partners, including the Authors Guild.
“We’re trying to bring everyone in from the literary community,” Blum said, noting that the two have had to add staff to help them, such as a scheduler, tech person, and literary festival outreach coordinator (all are working for free). The most recent hire was an indie bookstore liaison. Plans are also in place to launch a website and Blum is trying to have Stephen King and Reese Witherspoon participate. Currently, participation in A Might Blaze is free, but the Leavitt and Blum are thinking about monetizing it in some fashion at some point.
Literary organizations and publishers, even indie bookstores can participate by promoting A Mighty Blaze on their own social media platforms. And on April 25, A Mighty Blaze will host the Newburyport (Mass.) Literary Festival on social media with live author interviews and virtual cocktail parties.
A Mighty Blaze intends to further involve indie bookstores by posting bookstore logos on A Mighty Blaze’s social media platforms, conducting fundraising campaigns, and branding Wednesdays as “Indie Bookstore Wednesdays” and spotlighting a different indie each week. Blum is also contemplating adding “Favorite Line Fridays” and hosting virtual cocktail parties on Friday evenings.
“It’s so good to be connected with other authors and to feel you’re doing good,” she said.
“It’s like we’re holding each other’s hands,” Leavitt added, “There’s such s sense of community; it’s exhilarating. People are sequestered but they still need books."
While A Mighty Blaze was conceived as a response to the social lockdown accompanying the coronavirus pandemic, Leavitt and Blum are contemplating keeping it going even after the virus passes and life returns to normal. After all, Leavitt says, bookstore events in real life are always subject to external factors, such as distance, bad weather, “or the World Series,” she said. “If there’s video, people can watch author events at their favorite indie any time they want to.”