Marketing Meetup Recap: Virtual Events

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On Thursday, April 9, the American Booksellers Association held a Marketing Meetup on hosting virtual events. Learn more about ABA meetups here.

Virtual events are quickly becoming one of the main ways booksellers are keeping connected with their customers and community. In this session, booksellers heard from three guest speakers who have recently held virtual events using three different platforms. Guest speakers included Jessica Stockton Bagnulo of Greenlight Bookstore in Brooklyn, New York; Liz Hottel of Politics and Prose in Washington, DC; and Liz Decker of Caprichos Books in Bel Air, Maryland.

Here are some key points from each guest speaker:

Greenlight Books

  • Bagnulo said that Greenlight is using Zoom to move online April events that had to be cancelled. Events are promoted through email multiple times per week. Right now, events are mostly free to prioritize community engagement.
  • Greenlight purchased a Zoom Pro membership, which allows for longer video meetings, and an add-on for a webinar, which costs about $40 a month and allows users to host presentations. The store also paid to increase the number of attendees that could join meetings to 500.

    • While meetings allow everyone to participate by sharing their camera, webinars only allow for presenters to do so. Attendees can still participate using the chat function. 
    • Greenlight also uses Zoom for internal staff meetings and book groups, as the interface is more personal. 
  • Bagnulo noted that using the webinar function is fairly easy; she taught herself to use it in about two days using Zoom’s resources. 
  • Webinars help circumvent some of the security issues Zoom has — there’s no option for screen sharing, which makes “Zoombombing” the meeting more difficult. 
  • Webinars can, in theory, be streamed through Facebook, but Bagnulo found the experience to be glitchy. 
  • Greenlight has also seen a bump in select book sales before, during, and after webinar events. 
  • Bagnulo also noted that she hasn’t experienced too steep of a learning curve for attendees using the service — most seem to be used to using Zoom. 

Politics and Prose

  • Hottel said that P&P has such an established events program that she immediately moved as much as she could to an online platform. She chose Crowdcast as opposed to Zoom, and her experience so far hosting virtual events has been mixed. 
  • Crowdcast has a similar functionality to Zoom, but one thing that drew Hottel to the service was a large “buy” button in the middle of the page. It can be streamed to YouTube and Facebook Live, and also has a function that allows customers to ask and vote on questions. But Crowdcast is a startup and has seen a lot of recent traffic due to the coronavirus outbreak, which has led to connectivity issues. 
  • P&P will do a tech test with authors before going live to be sure everyone is comfortable with the interface. The store is also requesting that authors reach out to moderators they may not have been able to secure before, with some success. 
  • Book plate giveaways have also been successful, but Hottel recommends having the publisher or author send them out, because bookstores currently have limited bandwidth. 
  • Hottel noted the one way to ensure profitability from events is by ticketing them. This might result in a lower attendance but a higher sell-through. 
  • Hottel added that customers have adapted well to using Crowdcast. 

Caprichos Books

  • Decker noted that because Caprichos is a smaller store, she mostly uses Facebook Live and a service called Be.Live, which allows her to conference authors in directly. Be.Live can be pushed to Facebook Live or YouTube Live. The service has a 30-day free trial.
  • To add guest speakers to the event, hosts can send out a link for authors to join the video call. When hosting events, Decker handles the tech side of the service, which includes posting questions attendees ask on Facebook. 
  • Once completed, videos can be saved, edited, and uploaded to YouTube. 
  • A popular event Caprichos has hosted is “Drinking With Authors.” On Friday nights, Decker hosts an hour-long event with two authors, during which they drink and chat. 

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