During the holidays, when my tech-savvy adult children were visiting us, we had a blast with an event called a Cover Reveal. It brought my publisher, my audience, and me together for the first time in a formal way.
So, using the holiday theme, I’ve concocted a recipe for the event to share with you. Before you are ready for a cover reveal you have probably done years of work writing and polishing a manuscript, locating an agent or publisher or learning how to navigate the exciting, complex world of indie publishing, and developing a cover you are proud to share. You also need to have some base in social media. Even one base in FB, Blog, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. is enough.
- a group of people somewhere who care about you, your book, and/or the ideas it represents. Invite these people to your living room or other intimate setting.
- some basic equipment. A webcam is essential. We used a Logitech 615 webcam connected to a laptop.
- either previous knowledge of Google Hangouts on Air or a technical assistant/consultant
- a model of someone else’s cover reveal
- personalized paper invitations to the live event. Twitter, blog, Mailchimp, and FB “blast” to online fans and friends as the event time neared.
- a clear idea of what you want both the live audience and the online audience to experience
- food and a gift for live event participants
- a script, including a short list of questions to be asked
1. Ask your audience questions.
I actually had a copy of the finished cover at Thanksgiving. I’m an exuberant type who likes to share news, and I almost put up the image right away. Instead, I slowed down a minute and asked my FB page “fans” this question: “Would you rather see the cover in an event or shared online?” I fully expected all my fans to clamor for “see it now”! But the first person to reply said “event” and others followed. That not only gave me energy to pursue what an event might look like, it also gave me permission to keep involving my prospective readers.
2. Find technical/marketing expertise.
The next step was to consult my son, Anthony, who set up my original blog, and daughter Kate, whom I’ve hired as my marketing consultant. Anthony suggested we use Google Hang Out on Air, which allows live audiences and remote ones to interact simultaneously and then automatically converts a livestream into a youtube video. Cool!
3. Select a model.
Kate found me this Taylor Swift cover reveal. Watch it to see how the pros do publicity. But don’t be intimidated. I didn’t even know who Taylor Swift was before Kate showed me this video. Yet the album itself climbed to the top of the charts in 2012. And you can see why.
This model included some elements our low-budget version could not compete with. Lighting, multiple cameras, live chat with online audience, etc. Yet the basic approach was easy to appropriate. And so we did. Shamelessly, down to the length of the video and the poster under the cloth.
4. Work with your publisher/designer/editor.
I am so fortunate that the small press that contracted with me, Herald Press, has been a great partner all the way from the book proposal to the editing and design processes. They provided a larger poster of the cover, sent out designed invitations to about a dozen local friends, and in general provided backup for the event. I did nothing for the cover design except provide some photos and respond to drafts. So I found it fascinating, as did the audience, to hear details about the design decisions from my editor, Amy Gingerich, who was able to connect from Ohio via Google Hang Out. The artist, Merrill Miller, was unable to join the event, but Amy represented his choices well.
5. Set up your video equipment in the space.
We placed a webcam a few feet away from where I would be sitting, removed wall coverings behind my seat, and made sure the poster would be visible always. We were not able to show the ten people in the room, with one permanent webcam, but the important stage was set. Here I need to thank my son-in-law Nik Stoltzfus, whose technical skill (he is partner and lead developer at Plumb Media) made it possible to connect with Amy, set up the camera, and roll it! Without Nik and Kate, believe me, the only party that day would have been in the living room!
6. Prepare some special touches for the live audience.
The paper invitations, designed by the same artist who designed the cover, went out by mail about three weeks before the event. Since everyone in the room was taking holiday time to be there, I wanted to limit the amount of time they spent with me, make the event informative and fun, offer a little refreshment and social time to those who could stay a little while longer, and give them a little gift, a box of select Virginia peanuts. Within an hour of their arrival, our guests were headed home again, with good feelings.
7. Don’t just wing it!
As we got closer to the event, even though I was spending most of my time playing with grandson Owen and granddaughter Julia, and cooking, I made up a to-do list that Kate and I followed through-out the week. We did a little something each day to get us closer to the goal of a great event. I constructed a script, a set of three questions on a huge post-it note for the live audience to use as guides (off camera), and reviewed Amy Gingerich’s script with her a few hours before we went live. If Amy would not have been reachable by Google Hangout, I was prepared to do her part. Thank God that wasn’t necessary. But the lesson is to practice Plan A and be prepared for Plan B.
8. Have a clear goal in mind.
Ideally, you begin with this step. Since I had no handy blog post like this one to follow, my goals evolved over time rather than drove the project from the beginning. Kate and I have been reading Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. We were struck by the definition of wooing the reader with Wow. Here the the ten elements we discussed as we did our planning:
Aiming for wow! We definitely had surprise and anticipation going for us. We think audiences in the living room and online were able to enjoy the wow of the event through most or all of these elements. Just feeling wow together is no small thing.
9. Find a way to archive the event and continue sharing.
The livestream immediately became a youtube. Here it is!
10. Learn from your mistakes
On the day of the event, I came down with a cold, which made it harder for me to convey warmth with my voice and may have slowed me down a little. Not much to do about that problem except to slog right through it. However, as Kate and I debriefed, she pointed out that I didn’t ask anyone to take any action. Previously, I had asked people to sign up for my list (and get both a free guide on How to Write a Memoir and short weekly writing prompts called Magical Memoir Moments). I could have done so again. Since I didn’t, now there’s a subscribe form.
Now, I’d love to know what other questions and comments you might have either about the cover, the reveal, the technology, or anything else! Who will start us off?
Copyright Shirley Showalter 2013. All Rights Reserved Internationally