Adebanji Alade promotes his book, The Addictive Sketcher, during a Facebook Live event organized by publisher Search Press.
Promoting your new craft book can be challenging even in the best of times. When you’re sheltering-in-place and can’t do in-person events due to a global pandemic, it can feel nearly impossible. Authors may also feel uncomfortable promoting a book at a time when many people are facing job loss and illness.
Still, it’s important for craft book authors to be able to sustain themselves during times of economic insecurity. Spreading the word about your new title can both support your small business and help people find an outlet for their own creativity during this stressful period.
Let’s explore some innovative ways you can promote your latest craft-related book during the pandemic, or really any time.
Pivot to online events
For Melanie Falick, the experience of promoting a book during the pandemic pushed her to stretch her skills, and her use of technology, in new and exciting ways. “Before the pandemic began, I was playing with the idea of creating a book club guide for my book Making a Life: Working By Hand and Discovering the Life You Are Meant to Live,” Falick explains. “Once I experienced Zoom for the first time (soon after lockdown), I realized that this technology opened up an exciting—and surprisingly intimate—new way to bring together large numbers of people from all over the world.”
So, she pivoted.
“Pretty quickly I decided to expand the book club idea into something more broad and landed on Making a Life: The Conversation. This gives me so much leeway and allows me to not only explore the themes of my book but also expand beyond what I was able to fit in those pages.”
Falick envisions the event series as more than just a promotional tool. It’s really an extension of what she’s trying to accomplish with the book, and a way to build community at the same time.
Author Melanie Falick pins a project with Katie Startzman. Falick learned new technology in order to host live events that build community and are an extension of her book, Making a Life.
Photo excerpted from Making a Life by Melanie Falick (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2019. Photographs by Rinne Allen
“Sure, I want to sell books, but, more importantly, I want to inspire as many people as I can to recognize and participate in making by hand as a pathway to individual, community, and environmental wellness,” she says.
“I truly believe that we can change the world for the better by sharing what we know about making by hand. I have hosted two events so far and am aiming to host one a month going forward.”
Learning to use Zoom and the other technology associated with putting on an online event for several hundred people was a challenge, but she embraced it. “The response has exceeded my expectations—as has the amount of work that goes into the process. The learning curve has been steep but it feels good to be reaching people interested in what I’m doing directly and to be learning new skills.”
Pre-order numbers are in important indicator of a book’s success, alerting booksellers that they should increase their initial orders of your book and signaling to consumers that your book is worth paying attention to.
Amy Oxford’s new book, Punch Needle Rug Hooking: Your Complete Resource to Learn & Love the Craft, is scheduled to be released by Schiffer this November when some bookstores will still be closed and consumer confidence about shopping in person will likely still be shaky. To drive sales, Oxford sent out an email to her subscriber list on August 20 encouraging pre-orders. She plans to continue to build pre-order momentum on her social media channels throughout the late summer and early fall.
Solidify your online presence
Now is a good time to polish your Amazon and Goodreads author profiles. Both platforms have author sections where you can set up a profile, connect your blog and social media channels, interact with readers, and conduct Q&As to promote your book. (Check out our guide to optimizing your profiles on both platforms.)
Partner with your publisher
Some publishers are working collaboratively with authors to create online events. Craft publisher Search Press has been running a series of live events on their Facebook page featuring their authors since lockdown began. For example, in April sketch artist Adababji Alade did a live sketch demonstration of Captain Tom Moore, a global celebrity who raised £33 million for the National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his garden at 100 years old. The Facebook Live garnered 2.8K views and helped to promote Alade’s book, The Addictive Sketcher, and his new book, Addictive: An Artist’s Sketchbook.
Marissa Huber, whose book, The Motherhood of Art which she co-authored with Heather Kirtland, was released by Schiffer on April 28 when most of the US was shut down, has had to get creative and be patient when it comes to promotion. Huber and Kirtland worked collaboratively with their publisher on promotional events.
“I did an Instagram takeover of our publisher and shared a day in my life and about the book,” says Huber, who emphasized the important role that Instagram has played in marketing their book. “I posted an Instagram carousel mini-article with tips to #carveouttimeforart and it got a ton of reshares and traction. Around 700 people saved it and more shared it.” She’s also working with several of the artists featured in the book to do a collaborative giveaway on Instagram, capitalizing on each person’s following.
Seek out collaborators
Companies and organizations outside of your network can help your book reach new audiences. Hubert is exploring the possibility of working with Minted on a virtual presentation featuring tips related to the content of their book. The authors also did a presentation on Zoom with New Mexico State University and are booked as guests at a virtual Artist/Mother retreat in October.
Participate in existing online events
Participating in online events targeted to your book’s demographic can be a highly successful way to sell books. Author and artist Carrie Schmitt has been offering book clubs special discounts and offering to attend their virtual meetings and be part of the discussion of her newly released self-published title, The Story of Every Flower. She’s also put together book club kits that contain sets of books along with stickers, cards, and other products from her shop.
When the popular Patchings Festival in Nottingham was canceled due to COVID, Search Press worked together with the event organizers to produce a Virtual Patchings Festival in July featuring artist and author demonstrations, competitions, and a 20% discount off any Search Press book.
Pitch to media outlets
As always, pitching your book to media outlets including relevant craft magazines, your local newspaper and television news, and podcasters in your niche, is worth your time. Javier Perez of PageTurner Publicity offered this advice for pitching during the pandemic: “When pitching yourself to a media outlet, familiarize yourself with the outlet and its audience before making contact. Make sure to have a press release prepared that explains who you are, provides information about your product, to whom it’s targeted, and what benefits the product offers. Is the goal of the product to help you relieve stress, to bond with family over a project, learn a new craft or skill, create gifts for loved ones whom you aren’t able to see during the pandemic?”
“I tell my clients that more than ever, the media is our greatest resource to help people connect and create community at a time when physical contact is hard to maintain. If you can express the value of your product in those terms, you have a better shot at getting coverage.”
“People today are gravitating toward activities that are tangible, physical, and that can be enjoyed with those with whom we’re quarantining. The media are actively looking for guests and experts who can offer their audience ways to both distract themselves and enrich their lives during this scary time.”
Consider a relauch party
When it’s possible to meet in person again, you can always host an in-person relaunch party for your book even if it’s months after the initial release. For Huber, it’s important to consider book promotion in an ongoing way. “I’m thinking of this book as being a slow burner perennial,” she says. “I think it will spread more by word of mouth-and be there for people who need it and it will resonate with. The goal was to get it out into the world and share these stories. Anything else is icing at this point.”
Jill L. Ferguson
Jill is the author of ten books, an artist, editor, entrepreneur and consultant. She is the founder of Women's Wellness Weekends (www.womenswellnessweekends.
Abby co-founded Craft Industry Alliance and now serves as its president. She’s a sewing pattern designer, teacher, and journalist. She’s dedicated to creating an outstanding trade association for the crafts industry. Abby lives in Wellesley, Massachusetts.