Marketing Meetup Recap: Hosting Virtual Events, Part II

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On April 23, the American Booksellers Association presented a Marketing Meetup focused on virtual events, during which booksellers heard from four guest speakers who have held virtual events recently. Booksellers can learn more about ABA meetups here.

Guest speakers included Liz Decker of Caprichos Books in Bel Air, Maryland; Kimberly McNamara of Read It Again in Suwanee, Georgia; Cassie Riva of An Unlikely Story in Plainville, Massachusetts; and Roseann Backlin of Love’s Sweet Arrow in Tinley Park, Illinois.

Here are some of the key points from each store:

Caprichos Books

  • Decker uses Sqweee, a platform designed for direct sales and marketing.

    • The platform is closed, so only those who RSVP or get the link can access the event. 
    • Bookstores can include an RSVP survey to get more information about their customers before they join the event. 
  • Sqweee offers a free trial for the first month, and costs $20 per month after that. 
  • Decker uses this to host a Choose Your Own Adventure event, where she reads sections of the book aloud and allows attendees to participate in polls or a spinning wheel to choose what will happen next. 
  • Hosts can set up a slideshow with videos, images, and text. Decker typically uploads unlisted YouTube videos to keep the content available only to those who participate. 
  • Attendees can follow along with the slideshow while interacting with each other in the chat.
  • Products can also be added to each post; during the event, attendees can star products they might like to purchase and at the last slide can view a list of everything they starred during the presentation. This list, with links to buy directly from the bookstore, can also be emailed to attendees.
  • Once a presentation is created, the host can copy a template code that has all of the slides, links, and videos, which can be used to run the event again.

An Unlikely Story

  • Riva’s store uses Crowdcast, which, she said, has a similar feel to Eventbrite. Pricing for Crowdcast can be found here.
  • In the hours leading up to the event, Crowdcast has a countdown function, where customers can drop in questions. Before going live, Crowdcast also has a green room function that allows the host to talk with the guest speakers and prepare for the event.

    • Riva uses this function to do practice runs with authors before an event begins, which helps to work out technical difficulties.
  • Crowdcast events can be embedded on a store’s website; leading up to the event, users will see the countdown screen as well as a chat box with questions and comments. Attendees can register and watch the event without ever leaving the store’s website. Buy buttons can also be embedded into the feed. 
  • Depending on the plan, Crowdcast can multi-stream to different platforms. The service also allows a second admin who can handle questions and comments as they come in.
  • Riva noted that she hasn’t experienced too many technical difficulties with Crowdcast. 

Love’s Sweet Arrow

  • Backlin’s store hosts Facebook Live events where a different author takes over its feed for an hour each night. To do this, Backlin adds authors as an editor on her store’s Facebook page for the duration of the event.

    • In order for an author to be made an editor, they must be added as a friend from the page admin’s personal Facebook; authors can unfriend Backlin as soon as the event is over. 
  • Each author has approached the event differently. Authors have done readings, answered questions via social media, and discussed non-book topics, such as their favorite drink. Guest authors are also sending the store signed bookplates, so those who order a copy of the book can receive one. 
  • Backlin is planning to host an event on Be.Live, during which two authors will conduct an interview. 
  • To monetize events, Love’s Sweet Arrow is offering custom surprise boxes, with the option for customers to share their Goodreads profile so the store can gauge their reading tastes, as well as store-branded T-shirts.

Read It Again

  • McNamara’s store uses StreamYard, which costs $25 per month; the free option does not allow users to add branding. To brand her store’s events, she includes her name, her store’s name, the name of the book being discussed, and a picture of that book on the screen. 
  • The service allows her store to livestream through Facebook and YouTube. Right now, McNamara views this as an opportunity to create content and remind customers that she exists, so she isn’t looking for ways to monetize the videos yet. 

Booksellers can visit the Education Resources page on to view a recording of this session.