Friday Speak Out!: Meta-Notes on my COVID Book Launch

Friday, July 24, 2020

by Heather Siegel

I finally launched my book last month, which took 3 years to write and 2 years to see through to publication. Once I got over the bummer of not having my event at Barnes & Noble and embraced my backyard as the only viable venue, I invited a few neighbors to bring lawn chairs and masks, made individual plates of cheese and crackers, and dug out my daughter’s karaoke mic (4 minutes before going live on Facebook... turns out it was in the vacuum closet). Trucks rambled by in the background, people commented they couldn’t hear me, and one guy complimented my speaking, noting I also say “um” too much. He’s right, and one day I will get media training. For now, um is my crux when I throw a social distancing gathering and act as the entertainment.

Overall, however, the launch was successful-- which is why I’m offering this meta-reflection for those who may have COVID launches. My reading elicited over 1,600 views, which is a decent number in my indie world of writing. My last launch, held at a bookstore, drew in 75 people- and that was via emails, personal invites, texts, and good old-fashioned begging.

I also received over 200 positive comments through Facebook Live, which I believe helped increase viewership. Had I done the reading at the store, I may only have posted still pictures of the event, knowing how much I despise seeing myself read. If the bookstore manager had insisted upon a video, it likely would have been through Zoom or CrowdCast, which while great, would have limited my invites to my contact list, and not allowed for people to casually drop in, as the Facebook Live event did.

I also learned a few things. Besides that I need to put the karaoke mic back in the same place, and wear pants and not a short skirt, to minimize underwear-obsessing, working with what you have and doing what you can in this strange time, as well as having a sense of humor about this whole business of writing and presenting books, is healthy for the ego.

Of course, looking back—and speaking to fellow writers—there were ways I could have improved this impromptu launch. This would have included sound checks and better equipment. While I had originally purchased a podcast mic, I didn’t realize until minutes before I went live that I would not be able to present my book and simultaneously read and respond to audience comments, and so the mic became useless as I handed off my phone to a friend who acted as a liaison between me and the Facebook audience. Now, I think I could have filmed a Facebook Live with my computer, and handed my phone to that friend to read off comments, resulting in the same interactive dynamic, only with better video and sound.

I could have also planned my content better- preparing talking points, and passages to read. Since my memoir includes letters I write to “the universe,” asking for help with life issues, I chose to ask this same universe for help in choosing passages, which was, of course, silly. As one writer-friend later told me, “YOU are in charge of your book reading.” Also, remembering to slow down might have helped combat my umms, or perhaps, as fellow-professionals have suggested, preparing beforehand via something like Toastmaster.

Still, even with the glitches, I am happy I jumped in carefree, as the reading felt organic and authentic, and might even be part of the charm of why people have been watching it.

Then again, who knows, maybe the universe did assist.

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Heather Siegel is the author of THE KING & THE QUIRKY: A Memoir of Love, Marriage, Domesticity, Feminism & Self (Regal House Publishing, 2020) and OUT FROM THE UNDERWORLD (Greenpoint Press, 2015). Her work has appeared on Salon.com, in literary magazines, and popular websites and blogs. She teaches academic and creative writing, and runs private workshops and a book incubator Visit her at www.heathersiegel.net

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Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you!

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7 comments:

Sioux Roslawski said...

Heather--Congrats on the book, as well as the book events. I think you'll be able to compare your early events with later ones. As you have more signings and readings, they might be more polished and technically more advanced than your first ones, but they (I imagine) won't equal the joy and exhilaration of the first one.

Again, congratulations, and enjoy the experience of being a real-life author!

Heather Siegel said...

Hi Sioux,
Thanks for reading the post, and for the kind words. And yes, agree, polish comes with time. I think because this was actually my second book launch-- first one at a bookstore-- and because the pandemic has relaxed my expectations, I decided to just dive right in. Also, before COVID, I did a reading which I plotted and planned for, and it felt stilted to me. Will be working toward the happy medium-- freestyle minus the umms.
: ) Heather

Angela said...

Heather ~ Your home reading launch with the boost of Facebook Live sounds amazing, and smart! :) I say "um" a lot, too, when speaking, and lately I've been living in yoga pants, so I applaud you for putting on a skirt. :) That's a great tip about the podcast mic and using your computer and having someone else read comments. Did you try it after your initial reading?

Your memoir sounds fantastic, btw! I'm on my first draft of writing a memoir right now, so all I do is read memoir. I'll add yours to my list.

Cheers!

Margo Dill said...

I think you made the best of a stressful situation, and that is awesome. I am also glad that you shared it with us because I'm sure there are plenty writers in the same boat. We are all in this together is what we keep hearing, and so you sharing that with us is very helpful. I hope the book goes well!

Heather Siegel said...

Thanks, Angela! Wishing you luck on your memoir writing journey!

Heather Siegel said...

Thanks, Margo! This is such a wonderful community. Glad to be a part of it.

Jeanine DeHoney said...

Congratulations on your book launch Heather. It is such an accomplishment to have published a memoir. Even with the glitches you described during this time of Covid, that is indeed your merit badge, worthy of applause and a socially distant celebration.

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