In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing, parents and students everywhere are looking for ways to be entertained, to learn, and to persevere through these difficult times. Due to school closings and event cancellations, many authors are bringing their stories to readers’ homes through live, virtual readings or Q&A sessions.
Alysson Foti Borque, author of the Alycat series, recently launched a weekly Live Storytime and Q&A series. Alysson is also collaborating with Lori Orlinksy, author of Being Small and the Tooth Fairy’s Tummy Ache, on “Ask an Author” Q&A sessions!
We asked Alysson and Lori how they organized these sessions, and their tips for authors who are looking to host their own virtual readings.
Q&A with Alysson, host of the Alycat Storytimes:
- There are many options out there (Instagram Live, YouTubeLive, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, etc.) for live readings. What platforms did you choose for your virtual storytimes?
I will be doing virtual storytimes on Facebook, Instagram, and Google Hangouts. Facebook Live is a great avenue for read alouds as it allows sharing immediately without excessive steps.
- How did you decide on the structure of your storytimes (book reading followed by a Q&A)?
I am choosing to do storytimes and Q&A with myself and Alycat to get viewers and readers actively engaged in literature and character development. I hope that their participation and experience will leave them with a smile on their face and joy in their hearts.
- How does the Q&A section of your storytimes work? Do viewers submit their questions to you ahead of time, or do they submit their questions as comments during the live feed?
Viewers can ask me, the author, anything related to the books or about being an author. For Alycat, viewers are welcome to ask Yes or No questions and she will respond. Viewers can submit their questions prior to storytime too through the Facebook event page.
- How did you promote the storytimes to your followers?
My storytimes are promoted through my social media accounts and local kid-related organizations such as Macaroni Kid, Lafayette Moms Blog, and The Little Gym.
- What do you hope readers will be able to take away from these storytimes?
I hope that my viewers and readers see Alycat Storytimes as a positive break from the recent events surrounding our world and enjoy the simple joys of life that include creativity, imagination, and friendships.
Q&A with Lori, Co-Host of the “Ask an Author” series:
- There are many options out there (Instagram Live, YouTubeLive, Google Hangouts, GoToMeeting, etc.) for live readings and Q&A sessions. What platform(s) did you choose for your virtual Q&A sessions, and why?
We chose Be.Live because it easily integrates with Facebook and allows for us to have multiple presenters.
- In the “Ask an Author” series, you and Alysson will be inviting a new author to the panel each week to help answer audience questions about the author experience. How did you decide on the structure of these Q&A sessions?
Author visits are so important for kids and we wanted to replicate the experience virtually as best as we could. This interactive distance learning series will allow for authors to talk about their books and the writing process while giving kids the opportunity to ask questions in a live, open format, similar to how they would do so in school.
- How do these Q&A sessions work? Do viewers submit their questions to you ahead of time, or do they submit their questions as comments during the live feed?
Viewers can go to the event page and submit their questions in advance or ask them during the live feed.
- How are you promoting the “Ask an Author” series to your followers?
We created an event page with custom graphics for Facebook and Instagram and are pushing out to our social media followings organically. We have also reached out to book bloggers and podcast hosts to spread the word about this series. The feedback has been very positive so far!
- What do you hope people will be able to take away from these sessions?
Author visits have a positive, lasting impact on children. They help bring books to life, introduce the writing process and inspire children to express their own creativity. Above all, they empower children to read more. During these uncertain times, it is important for authors to continue to connect with children so they can keep their brains stimulated.
Want to organize your own virtual reading? Try taking these steps:
- Decide which platform you would like to use. Options include Facebook Live, Instagram Live, YouTubeLive, GoToMeeting, Zoom, and Google Hangouts.
- Structure your virtual reading. What part(s) of your book do you want to showcase? Do you want to include a Q&A for the audience? Do you want to offer any promotions (like a coupon code for attendees on the Mascot bookstore)? Do you want to host the reading alone, or do you want to work with other #mascotbooks authors?
- Create a promotional plan. How will you get the word out? Will you post on social media? Will you send out an email blast?