The evolution of pandemic-era children’s book author events

From The Washington Post:

Jeff Kinney needs a shovel: a six-foot shovel, to be exact.

The creator of the extraordinarily popular “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” series has been one of the few children’s book authors to host in-person events throughout the pandemic, even if they weren’t his usual raucous affairs. Back in 2019, during what he calls “the old days,” Kinney took his interactive tour to theaters across the United States and to seven countries, selling out huge venues at every stop.

“The travel, the thousands of people,” Kinney recalled, “it just seems so naive now.”

But in early 2020, like all his colleagues in the children’s book universe, Kinney couldn’t go to the corner store, much less a packed theater. And for an author who admits that he needs the payoff of seeing his readers engaged and happy, the thought of not being around kids didn’t sit well.

“Touring gives me closure,” Kinney said last fall. “It’s a lonely business to write and illustrate, and I need that connection.”

Kinney is not the only author who feels that way.

“Oh, I need it,” author-illustrator Jay Cooper said. “Actual interaction with kids is a well of energy. You don’t always realize how empty your well is when you’re writing, but you can sure tell when kids fill it up again.”

Lamar Giles, a young adult author and founding member of We Need Diverse Books, knows that feeling. Giles had packed more than 30 author visits into the first couple of months of 2020 and had a full schedule for the rest of the year, but during the first week of March, he found himself stranded in a Seattle hotel room after his series of school visits in the city was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“My first thought was, how am I going to get home?” he said. “But my second thought was, I am really going to miss seeing these kids.”

But grief gave way to reality: If authors wanted to interact with their readers, they were going to have to get creative.

“It’s difficult to engage on a screen, especially with really young children,” Newbery winner Meg Medina said. “As an author, the last thing I want is to ask teachers and parents, who are already stretched so thin, to take on more work to keep their kids engaged while I am talking into a computer.”

Phil Bildner “has to be a magician” to keep kids engaged when he does his virtual author visits, he said. But Bildner is also a booking agent, so he knows that these virtual events are an absolute necessity, no matter the steepness of the learning curve.

Link to the rest at The Washington Post

PG has opined previously about what a waste of time he believes that traditional city-to-city book tours are for most, perhaps all, authors.

He’ll let visitors to TPV opine about whether book tours by children’s authors are worth the time and strange hotel rooms that may be less than ideal for writing. Including the recovery time following a book tour.

PG just considered how much Amazon advertising could be purchased for the cost of a book tour. The efficacy of that comparison would, of course, assume that the publisher was willing to hire someone who actually knew how to create, purchase and place online ads effectively. (Note: People who are really good at that sort of thing and who can generate results tend to be in high demand and charge accordingly.)