Authors at Home

There is a certain kind of intimacy that comes with seeing into the home of another person. Normally a relationship needs to reach a certain point before you’re invited inside, but we’re all having to adjust to a new normal. We’re all searching for something to inspire us, and we often turn to the things we read. In light of the stay-at-home orders that most of the world is currently following, authors have brought literary salons––places to explore ideas, share stories, and gain insight into the writing process––to Instagram. By allowing us into their writing spaces, these authors are giving us a rare, uncensored look into their lives. Sharing these spaces allows us to refill our creative wells through conversation and a shared love of books and writing. It won’t surprise me if there’s a new literary renaissance in the next few years as authors––both published and aspiring––create new work under lockdown.

If you’re looking for something to do on a Friday or Saturday night in, look no further than Instagram. Authors are using live video to welcome us into their homes with open arms, sharing a bit of their lives and their writing processes as a way to engage with their readers and escape from the world. Several authors have decided to dive deep into the creative process, sharing details from their publishing and writing journeys that, as readers, we’re not always privy to. You can always read interviews, of course, but there is something curiously enthralling and inspiring about watching authors detail their journeys themselves.

With each Instagram Live stream, viewers gain some perspective on just how much emotional work goes into penning a novel. It’s a rare, uncensored look into an author’s life and their work—from moments when the author is so choked up they can hardly speak to bursts of incredulous laughter when they reread a line written years before. The format allows for spontaneity as authors answer reader questions in real time, which is important in a time when we’re all having to frame our questions and answers around our new reality. We’re able to connect to the rawness and vulnerability that comes from talking about writing during these times, and this shows us what it means to share things together.

Authors sharing an inside look at their writing and publishing journeys are inspiring to aspiring authors. Every journey is different, and these literary salons with truly wonderful writers are providing us with the creative nourishment we need. It’s difficult right now for some people to feel a creative spark, and authors know that some of the best work comes from moments when our creativity is really tested. By welcoming us into their homes, they are supplying a place where we can fan the coals of creativity and hope that something catches and burns into something new.

Here are some authors to follow for that creative spark:

  • Jeff Zentner. His Instagram Live streams are peppered with writing and publishing advice, anecdotes about writing his novel The Serpent King, and small sneak peeks into his upcoming novel, In the Wild Light. He has tentative plans to continue live streams with his second published novel.
  • V. E. Schwab. On Saturdays, she chats with a different writer about their creative process, their origin story, hurdles they’ve had to overcome, and their writing process itself.
  • Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman. They run a weekly read-along and Q and A about their novel, Aurora Rising.
  • Catherynne M. Valente. She is reading from her series The Orphan’s Tales every night until the stay-at-home orders end.

The Rise of Livestreaming Authors

Every author and publisher knows that social media is a crucial component of marketing; however, it is more important to understand new, emerging trends in the media marketing world. Most authors remember the hit of the novel trailer and how Epic Reads swept viewers away with some of Harper’s most amazing adverts. Once again, they’ve stepped into the media marketing world and surfaced with a new trend that is starting to become viral: livestreamed readings and interviews with authors.

YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook have all launched live video streaming systems to their platforms. These systems allow followers to interact with the video as it is streaming live via the chat. After the footage concludes, it is still archived for future viewers to watch as a non-live video. Epic Reads started by hosting live interviews with their featured authors. This allowed their audience to feel connected to the author, like they were really there speaking with them, which kicked off a booming success. Shortly after this, BBC followed suit by adding livestreaming events to their “Authors Live” page.

As the hype of live interviews started sweeping the social media platforms, a new, more direct form of live videos began to arise—not just from Epic Reads, but even from indie authors and small presses. This new trend was live readings. In 2017, Alan Parks, reporting for Indies Unlimited, launched a Facebook group for authors to share live readings and Q&As with fans. Although this group failed, the idea did not. Authors started reaching out on their personal pages to host readings, share unpublished teasers, invite their readers to join in the editing process for future titles, and more.

As the phenomenon continues to grow, more “how-to blogs” on self-publishing have begun encouraging authors to use videos. Along with walking people through the types of videos authors can use, Book Baby Blog reporter Chris Robley has discussed the rising costs of hiring professional camera crews. Despite an up-front fee well into the high hundreds (if not the thousands) for professional camera kits, many authors are still making a killing on live videos using cell phone cameras.

We have reached a point in the last few years where even dominant publishing houses, like Penguin Random House, are sharing this method on their blogs and in their newsletters. Despite the trend emerging in 2016, the climb to popularity has been slow. As more and more content creators have suddenly flocked to YouTube and Instagram, the market for readers seeking video content has grown.

In this highly saturated market, nothing is more exciting to readers than a chance to feel connected to their authors and those authors’ books. Having a live video marketing strategy—even one or two videos per title—could increase readership across multiple platforms. Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram have offered up the golden opportunity for authors to meet and interact with their readers, and it is entirely digital. This eliminates the high costs of traveling, booking locations, and finding full staffing, but still yields similar results. For international authors, the digital approach can even provide better outcomes, since it allows them to connect with both local and international readers in one place. The future of streaming authorial content is an exciting prospect now that interactions with your favorite creator are only a click away.