Literary Events Go Virtual in the Time of COVID-19

Kristen Millares Young was preparing for a number of events this spring to support her novel Subduction. Now, she’s in a very different position — one of many writers lacking one of the most widespread and popular tools of promoting one’s book, i.e. a book tour.

“The literary community is handmade,” Young told me. “Although I had planned to interact with readers in person, which I still hope to do in the summer and fall, I will now engage with online communities of thought, which are real, if somewhat tenuously connected.”

Young noted that she has some experience already with online events — including panels she’s appeared on at AWP, which have been recorded and archived online for subsequent viewing. “I’ve taught classes and given readings using Zoom and Google Hangouts,” she said. 

And she’s planning to echo the original shape of her book tour with a series of online events. “Although I have rescheduled many readings for later in the year, I will also livestream readings from my home to record and post on the original reading date with a preorder link to that specific bookstore,” Young said.

While the current national situation precludes traditional book touring, Young also pointed out that other tools available to writers to promote their books still exist — and she plans to use them. “Aside from appearing virtually at book clubs, which I can arrange personally or via the Novel Network, I will be writing a series of essays, op-eds, reviews and conversations for The Washington Post, The Rumpus, Lit Hub, Psychology TodayMoss literary journal and the Powell’s blog, among other outlets,” she told me. “It’s the working-class way to launch a tour from home.”

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