How to Create a Virtual Group Author Reading (like this one!)

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I wanted to do an online author reading for my new book, Winter Light (Oct. 6, 2020), but I didn’t want to go it alone for all of the reasons that come to mind:

  1. People will only want to listen for a short while, so what do I do the rest of the time?

  2. What if no one comes?

  3. Who’s going to think of this as a legitimate event if I, the author, am hosting the reading, rather than a bookstore or organization?

  4. My social media network is small. How do I get more people to come?

So instead of going solo, I tapped into the support of the independent publisher of my book, Vine Leaves Press, and specifically the wonderful camaraderie among VLP authors, and put out a call for those who could like to do a group reading.

And voila! Four other talented women embraced the idea.

That’s resulted in Vine Leaves Press: Strong Storytelling by Strong Female Authors, an author reading, Q&A and giveaway at 5 p.m. Pacific/7 p.m. Central/8 p.m. EST on Thurs., Sept. 17, 2020.

Wonderful!

Now how did we get to this point?

The Advantages

The advantages of a group reading are numerous:

By banding together, we give one another courage. In the process, we authors get to know one another better and broaden our author network. In the future we’ll help each other promote, provide advice, and just generally aid one another in the tough business of publishing.

A group means we can offer our audience a fun mix of stories. When promoting as a group, we greatly extend our reach to well beyond that of our own networks.

We have fun and learn something new!

Logistics

As with most events, 98% of the effort revolves around the details of hosting what amounts to an online party.

Author Information

The first task is to collect the contact info, bios and short book descriptions of those taking part.

Once collected into one document that can be shared, the organizing can begin.

Team Members

A moderator

One of our members recruited a very accomplished author to be our moderator. Her job will be to greet the audience, introduce the authors and announce the winner of the giveaway.

A giveaway helper

My sister very generously volunteered to collect participants’ names, put them in a bowl and pick one to be the winner of our 4-book bundle + 2 notebook giveaway.

Event Details

Time

We decided on a 45-min. event, which seems like a reasonable amount of time for an evening’s entertainment.

In terms of choosing a specific time, we had to accommodate authors on both coasts, and so chose a start time of 5 Pacific/8 p.m. EST. Interested viewers on the West Coast won’t mind ending work a little early, while those on the East Coast won’t feel too tired.

Day

We chose a Thursday night, though anywhere between Tuesday and Thursday is suitable. People tend to feel overwhelmed on Mondays and ready to relax by Friday, and weekends are usually reserved for family.

Date

We chose a date that wouldn’t conflict with any holidays.

Virtual Venue

We chose Zoom, a venue most people are now familiar with.

Whatever venue you choose, be sure the platform has the features that will allow you create the show you want. We didn’t want any time constraints and we wanted a webinar format that will allow all of us to be onscreen to answer questions. Therefore we chipped in to purchase a premium membership for a month. We now have unlimited time and have planned a webinar that allows panelists. Participants will be able to use the chat function to say where they’re from, as well as ask questions and make comments.

Whatever venue you use, do multiple practices until you fully understand the various features and which will be most appropriate for your event.

Because I purchased the upgraded Zoom membership, I’m the host, and so spent several hours and recruited a number of friends to help me determine:

  1. how to admit panelists and participants

  2. who will have video and audio capabilities

  3. how to show slides

  4. how to eject disruptive guests

My rule of thumb is to practice until I don’t have any more questions about how things word.

Extra Materials

A program

We developed a program to fit the time limit we set. The program includes:

  1. an introduction from the moderator

  2. a 3-5 min. reading by each author, which is the recommended limit

  3. the Q&A session