Marketing Meetup Recap: Virtual Events, Part III

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On Thursday, April 30, the American Booksellers Association presented the third Marketing Meetup in a series on virtual events. This meetup focused on virtual events from a publisher perspective. Guest speakers included Lara Phan of Penguin Random House, Taryn Roeder of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Melissa Campion of Macmillan, and Karen Torres of Hachette Book Group. 

Booksellers can learn more about ABA meetups here.

Penguin Random House

  • When PRH works with outside organizations, like bookstores or libraries, those groups are in charge of their own events and platform selection.
  • PRH also hosts events, such as author Q&As, but these are not meant to compete with what bookstores are doing. Instead, they are a way to offer more content to readers; PRH is emphasizing newer authors that don’t otherwise have a platform. 
  • Phan stressed that PRH wants bookstores to host events, and they want everyone to be comfortable with the services they’re using because they know the transition to virtual events can be difficult. 
  • For kids’ events, Phan noted that she’s heard that some children have become “Zoomed out” because of school; this might be something booksellers should keep in mind when choosing a platform or structure for an event. 

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt 

  • Roeder said that right when the coronavirus outbreak hit, she had to personally cancel 75 author events, including an 18-city tour for Veronica Roth’s Chosen Ones. Most of the events were bundled with book sales, and Roeder had three weeks to figure out what the publisher could do to make up for the loss. 
  • Roeder had Roth host several livestreams on her personal Twitch channel, each being tied to a few of the bookstores that were supposed to host events in person. Each event featured Roth talking with a different person on a different theme, which encouraged attendees to join more than one event. They also encouraged customers to buy the book from one of the mentioned stores, but didn’t mandate it because it didn’t feel feasible at the time. 
  • Events were promoted through digital ads and e-blasts, all linking back to a bookstore website with the event details.
  • The events garnered a strong response from readers. Roeder is considering adding virtual events to tours in the future so readers who can’t attend in person can still participate. For upcoming titles, she’s also thinking about partnering with bookstores to do tours that are ticketed and bundled with a book. 


  • Macmillan is hosting events across numerous platforms. So far, said Campion, they’ve mostly used Zoom, but the publisher is worried about security issues and is looking at contingency plans. 
  • Macmillan’s kids’ group has done a lot of virtual programming, including day-long festivals and events with authors on social media. The publisher has also partnered with indie bookstores for events.
  • Macmillan has monthly virtual event grids for booksellers, festivals, and other venues. The publisher is also interested in book club engagement. 
  • As far as deciding between free and ticketed events, Macmillan started with free events because they weren’t sure what the market would allow for. But, Campion said, they’ve recently seen promising results with ticketed events, particularly with John Scalzi. Moving forward, deciding between the two will likely come down to the bookstore’s comfort level and their audience, as well as the author’s.  
  • Right now, Macmillan organizes five events per author. 
  • For book bundles right now, the item might need to be digital rather than physical, said Campion, as physical fulfillment is difficult. She noted that stores should discuss this with publicists. 
  • Authors and stores should get creative, she suggested, since a lot of the old practices, such as providing tote bags as special items, don’t work well with our current situation.
  • Macmillan is using Edelweiss event grids to identify bookstore interest. The publisher is trying to be active in following up on requests. 

Hachette Book Group

  • HBG is currently using Crowdcast to host events, said Torres, but it’s also working with booksellers who are using other platforms. She noted she appreciates Crowdcast’s security, in addition to a feature that allows users to track the number of books sold before, during, and after an event. The service also offers information on how many clicks transferred to book sales, the number of registrants versus attendees, demographics, and more. 
  • HBG is looking at its event grids and tweaking them so bookstores can share information about their digital events with publishers. 
  • HBG is also tweaking its own policies during this time, including the ways in which it plans to get books to consumers. 
  • For the children’s market, Torres noted that bookstores should start thinking about the security of their platform and how to convey that information with attendees, as it’s a growing concern and an ongoing conversation. 

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