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Silver Linings: How the Pandemic Led Me to Create Short Book Videos

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by Abbe Rolnick, Author, Generations of Secrets series —

Abbe Rolnick

Remodel the way you promote your books to have a further audience reach amidst COVID-19.

When COVID-19 hit the United States in March, my well-planned book launch of Founding Stones disintegrated. I was scheduled to talk at Village Books in Bellingham, Washington, at the end of March and then attend IBPA Publishing University, which would bring me to Los Angeles, where I was to give a talk at Chevalier’s Bookstore. Founding Stones was the third book in my series, and Tavia Gilbert had just narrated the audiobook version, with the rest of the books to follow. I was proud of the coordination, the media hype, and the combination of education with promotion. But, with the coronavirus in full force, I had to give up on that original idea.

Instead, I created five, three-minute videos, one for each of my books. Emboldened by the product, as well as the ease of me learning new tricks, I sent a video of Founding Stones to Village Books. Claire, the event planner, loved the idea of doing a virtual book launch. She began researching the best platform. Ultimately, Claire settled on Crowdcast, which allowed for a large group, the ability to re-watch and order, all the features of Zoom, and more. I found Sean Dwyer, an author, professor, and wiz at the controls, to be my interviewer. Village Books and I promoted the event on social media, through their newsletter, and I did the same with added personal notes to close friends. Attendees accumulated. If I had been in the store, the place would have had standing-room only. As the attendees watched, drank wine at home, or in pajamas, I talked.

Claire, Sean, and I bantered for an hour, and then the questions came from across the county: Florida, New York, Maryland, Nevada, California, Washington. For those who couldn’t attend, I reposted the event, and they were able to see it on Village Book’s webpage, my webpage, and, since it was streamed live on Facebook, over 500 people viewed the book launch. Attendees clicked the green button to purchase books through Village Books, who later would mail them signed copies. As a bonus, a book club viewer mentioned it to her group, and I will do a follow-up Zoom meeting once the book is read.

Here is a link to the past event (you can view it if you register). My fans enjoyed the intimate talk, stating that it was as if I was in their living room. I’m looking for ways to build on this with other bookstores, conferences, and book groups.

Looking forward, I am focused on creating content that has a further reach in terms of social media, like the short videos. In writing, voice is important to create a sense of authenticity. Using short videos, I can create a sense of intimacy with readers and an audience by speaking and sharing my life. A polished product is important, as is welcoming the reader and audience into honesty. I’m committed to learning new skills.

Tips for Creating a Short Video

Amy Stewart, a prolific author, artist, and promoter, has a YouTube video called “How to Create Your Own Video.” I distilled her suggestions down to what worked for me.

  • Write a 300- to 600-word script for each book.
  • Keep the video short, less than three minutes.
  • Engage in a conversation that reveals what you want the readers to know—not an elevator speech, not the back cover, but why the reader will love the book.
  • Find a place to record where the background enhances the talk and reveals more of yourself. This is a way to create intimacy and authenticity.
  • Stay close to the screen.
  • Practice, but keep it simple and unrehearsed. Talk to your own image as if it were your best friend.

Abbe Rolnick grew up in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland. Her first major cultural jolt occurred at age 15 when her family moved to Miami Beach, Florida. History came alive with her exposure to Cuban culture. After attending Boston University, she lived in Puerto Rico, where she owned a bookstore. River of Angels flows from her experiences in Puerto Rico and is the first novel in her Generations of Secrets series. She continued with Color of Lies, bringing the reader to the Pacific Northwest, where she presently resides. The third in the series, Founding Stones, was recently published and continues with characters from her two previous novels. To learn more about Abbe, visit her website.

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