Ten Steps to Doing a Book Cover Reveal: How to Build Community as You Prepare Your Book Launch

book cover for Blush

My memoir book cover

During the holidays, when my tech-savvy adult children were visiting us, we had a blast with an event called a Cover Reveal. It brought my publisher, my audience, and me together for the first time in a formal way.

So, using the holiday theme, I’ve concocted a recipe for the event to share with you. Before you are ready for a cover reveal you have probably done years of work writing and polishing a manuscript, locating an agent or publisher or learning how to navigate the exciting, complex world of indie publishing, and developing a cover you are proud to share. You also need to have some base in social media. Even one base in FB, Blog, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc. is enough.

Ingredients:

  • a group of people somewhere who care about you, your book, and/or the ideas it represents. Invite these people to your living room or other intimate setting.
  • some basic equipment. A webcam is essential. We used a Logitech 615 webcam connected to a laptop.
  • either previous knowledge of Google Hangouts on Air or a technical assistant/consultant
  • a model of someone else’s cover reveal
  • personalized paper invitations to the live event. Twitter, blog, Mailchimp, and FB “blast” to online fans and friends as the event time neared.
  • a clear idea of what you want both the live audience and the online audience to experience
  • food and a gift for live event participants
  • a script, including a short list of questions to be asked

Ten Steps:

1. Ask your audience questions.

I actually had a copy of the finished cover at Thanksgiving. I’m an exuberant type who likes to share news, and I almost put up the image right away. Instead, I slowed down a minute and asked my FB page “fans” this question: “Would you rather see the cover in an event or shared online?” I fully expected all my fans to clamor for “see it now”! But the first person to reply said “event” and others followed. That not only gave me energy to pursue what an event might look like, it also gave me permission to keep involving my prospective readers.

2. Find technical/marketing expertise.

The next step was to consult my son, Anthony, who set up my original blog, and daughter Kate, whom I’ve hired as my marketing consultant. Anthony suggested we use Google Hang Out on Air, which allows live audiences and remote ones to interact simultaneously and then automatically converts a livestream into a youtube video. Cool!

3. Select a model.

Kate found me this Taylor Swift cover reveal. Watch it to see how the pros do publicity. But don’t be intimidated. I didn’t even know who Taylor Swift was before Kate showed me this video. Yet the album itself climbed to the top of the charts in 2012. And you can see why.

This model included some elements our low-budget version could not compete with. Lighting, multiple cameras, live chat with online audience, etc. Yet the basic approach was easy to appropriate. And so we did. Shamelessly, down to the length of the video and the poster under the cloth.

4. Work with your publisher/designer/editor.

I am so fortunate that the small press that contracted with me, Herald Press, has been a great partner all the way from the book proposal to the editing and design processes. They provided a larger poster of the cover, sent out designed invitations to about a dozen local friends, and in general provided backup for the event. I did nothing for the cover design except provide some photos and respond to drafts. So I found it fascinating, as did the audience, to hear details about the design decisions from my editor, Amy Gingerich, who was able to connect from Ohio via Google Hang Out. The artist, Merrill Miller, was unable to join the event, but Amy represented his choices well.

5. Set up your video equipment in the space.

We placed a webcam a few feet away from where I would be sitting, removed wall coverings behind my seat, and made sure the poster would be visible always. We were not able to show the ten people in the room, with one permanent webcam, but the important stage was set. Here I need to thank my son-in-law Nik Stoltzfus, whose technical skill (he is partner and lead developer at Plumb Media) made it possible to connect with Amy, set up the camera, and roll it! Without Nik and Kate, believe me, the only party that day would have been in the living room!

6. Prepare some special touches for the live audience.

the paper invitation sent to a dozen friends

The paper invitations, designed by the same artist who designed the cover, went out by mail about three weeks before the event. Since everyone in the room was taking holiday time to be there, I wanted to limit the amount of time they spent with me, make the event informative and fun, offer a little refreshment and social time to those who could stay a little while longer, and give them a little gift, a box of  select Virginia peanuts. Within an hour of their arrival, our guests were headed home again, with good feelings.

7. Don’t just wing it!

As we got closer to the event, even though I was spending most of my time playing with grandson Owen and granddaughter Julia, and cooking, I made up a to-do list that Kate and I followed through-out the week. We did a little something each day to get us closer to the goal of a great event. I constructed a script, a set of three questions on a huge post-it note for the live audience to use as guides (off camera), and reviewed Amy Gingerich’s script with her a few hours before we went live. If Amy would not have been reachable by Google Hangout, I was prepared to do her part. Thank God that wasn’t necessary. But the lesson is to practice Plan A and be prepared for Plan B.

8. Have a clear goal in mind.

Ideally, you begin with this step. Since I had no handy blog post like this one to follow, my goals evolved over time rather than drove the project from the beginning. Kate and I have been reading Michael Hyatt’s Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World. We were struck by the definition of wooing the reader with Wow. Here the the ten elements we discussed as we did our planning:

  • surprise
  • anticipation
  • resonance
  • transcendence
  • clarity
  • presence
  • universality
  • evangelism
  • longevity
  • privilege
preparing to reveal the cover

Aiming for wow! We definitely had surprise and anticipation going for us.

We think audiences in the living room and online were able to enjoy the wow of the event through most or all of these elements. Just feeling wow together is no small thing.

9. Find a way to archive the event and continue sharing.

The livestream immediately became a youtube. Here it is!

Several hundred people have watched the video since the event. All you need to do is type “Shirley Showalter cover reveal” into Google, and this video pops right up.

 

10. Learn from your mistakes

On the day of the event, I came down with a cold, which made it harder for me to convey warmth with my voice and may have slowed me down a little. Not much to do about that problem except to slog right through it. However, as Kate and I debriefed, she pointed out that I didn’t ask anyone to take any action. Previously, I had asked people to sign up for my list (and get both a free guide on How to Write a Memoir and short weekly writing prompts called Magical Memoir Moments). I could have done so again. Since I didn’t, here’s a subscribe form. If you have already subscribed anywhere on this site, no need to do it again. But if you have not, I’d love to stay in touch this way. I’ll definitely be doing more events, and the people on this list will get the first invitations. Just put in your email address (which of course I won’t share with anyone else) in the box:

Also, if you know someone writing a book, please share this post with them, using the social media buttons on this site or the URL above. Once one person learns how to do this, others can improve on it. That’s exactly what I want to happen!

Now, I’d love to know what other questions and comments you might have either about the cover, the reveal, the technology, or anything else! Who will start us off?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Shirley Showalter

17 Comments

  1. Kathleen Pooler on January 7, 2013 at 4:14 pm

    Shirley, This recap is priceless! Thank you so much for sharing these valuable tips. I attended your event “virtually” and it seemed it went off beautifully. No one would ever know you were sick as your warmth shone through. You prepared us all ahead of time and made the process very easy. It really was groundbreaking. Mostly, it made me want to get my hands on your memoir as soon as I can. Great job!

    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2013 at 5:52 pm

      Kathy, you are so good at encouragement and so sweet to spend your vacation time with me. Glad if you can use this “recipe” when it’s your turn. As I learn more about you and your memoir, I want to know even more and would be deeply honored to have you as a reader.

  2. Joan on January 7, 2013 at 4:50 pm

    Wow, Shirley, nice job. I wasn’t able to be there live but love being there now. I’m Looking forward to reading what sounds like a wonderful book.

    • shirleyhs on January 7, 2013 at 5:54 pm

      Joan, so glad you were able to watch this way. Isn’t that a neat feature of Google Hangout on Air? As soon as the event was over, the youtube was posted. I still am awed by what technology can do. Thanks for your comment and all best with your own writing.

  3. Tina Barbour on January 7, 2013 at 11:41 pm

    Shirley, I enjoyed watching the video and reading your how-to. Thank you for offering this chance to see the “reveal” as well as learn about your next step in the publishing process. I’m excited for you as you work on revisions and look forward to your publication in 9 months!

  4. shirleyhs on January 8, 2013 at 8:28 am

    Thanks, Tina. This next nine-month period will be very important. It feels a little like the first time I gave birth. Lots of writers feel that way, apparently. I included one of my favorite Anne Bradstreet poems to the readers who volunteered to read my manuscript (part of the revision process):

    The Author To Her Book

    Thou ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain,
    Who after birth did’st by my side remain,
    Till snatcht from thence by friends, less wise than true,
    Who thee abroad exposed to public view,
    Made thee in rags, halting to th’ press to trudge,
    Where errors were not lessened (all may judge).
    At thy return my blushing was not small,
    My rambling brat (in print) should mother call.
    I cast thee by as one unfit for light,
    The visage was so irksome in my sight,
    Yet being mine own, at length affection would
    Thy blemishes amend, if so I could.
    I washed thy face, but more defects I saw,
    And rubbing off a spot, still made a flaw.
    I stretcht thy joints to make thee even feet,
    Yet still thou run’st more hobbling than is meet.
    In better dress to trim thee was my mind,
    But nought save home-spun cloth, i’ th’ house I find.
    In this array, ‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam.
    In critic’s hands, beware thou dost not come,
    And take thy way where yet thou art not known.
    If for thy father askt, say, thou hadst none;
    And for thy mother, she alas is poor,
    Which caused her thus to send thee out of door.

  5. Janet Oberholtzer on January 8, 2013 at 11:50 am

    Great recap of a wonderful event! Good job – congrats!

    This is now on my list for my next book… whenever that may be.

    • shirleyhs on January 8, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      Janet, I hope you will write again. I so admire how you are sharing your incredible spirit and vision for how to live with courage and strength through your book Because I Can. If you ever do a cover reveal for a new book, invite me!

  6. Sonia Marsh/Gutsy Living on January 8, 2013 at 2:12 pm

    Shirley,

    Is red the theme for reveals? I was watching Taylor Swift’s reveal with her “Red” album and wondered. Mine would have to be turquoise.
    I love what you did, watched it after the fact, thought it was well done. One question. What events would you use this at in the future?

  7. shirleyhs on January 8, 2013 at 2:53 pm

    You noticed the theme of the color. That made me smile also. Your own turquoise is such a serene color and just right for your story of choosing to live in Belize for a year.

    I’m not sure how many events I will co-create with my publisher, except, of course, for the book launch itself.

    Michael Hyatt, in the book quoted above, talks about assembling a pit crew well before the book launches. I hope to do that, and I hope events will be a part of how we build anticipation together.

    Have any ideas of your own? You have done a lot of events for your book From Freeways to Flipflops. Could you see using Google Hangout on Air for any of those?

  8. Sharon Lippincott on January 9, 2013 at 6:54 pm

    I did attend live, though I missed about three minutes at the beginning. The feeling of “liveness” was thrilling. I appreciate the link to Taylor Swift’s video and perhaps my reaction might help someone else later. Taylor’s constant “uhms” were like fingernails on chalk to my ear, and I clicked out after four or five minutes If anyone reading this has this verbal habit, do everyone a favor and spend a couple of years in Toastmasters!

    Shirley, I didn’t notice this with you. As I’ve said in Facebook and G+ comments, you were 100% professional and caring in every way. I didn’t even notice your cold!

    Thank you so much for this road map. I’m already a huge Hangouts fan, though I must confess it does not always work as well as we’d all hope, but it’s early in the game. I have full faith it will continue to improve.

    You’ve convinced me to quit showing the cover for my new book to others until time for a Strip Party. Brava!

    Best wishes for strength and wisdom as you plough through these final edits. I can’t wait to see your new “baby.”

    • shirleyhs on January 10, 2013 at 7:55 am

      Ha! You made me LOL, Sharon. Strip Party. Let me know when you have your own, I want to be there!

    • shirleyhs on January 10, 2013 at 7:59 am

      Oh yes, I found the Taylor Swift video hard to take, also, in places. I may not even have finished it. But it certainly did help with the idea of a poster, an easel, and a drape. I also agree that speaking skills are very important to today’s authors. Can you see Taylor Swift at Toastmasters? At my high school, she would have gotten the “Uh-scar,” our speech teacher’s version of the Oscar.

  9. Heather Marsten on February 5, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    Thank you for sharing the process of developing your cover. I love the cover and it was interesting to see all the considerations it took to finalize it. Your agent seems supportive and encouraging. I wish you well in revising your MS. I’m going through a first edit. Wonder if you might share some of how you determine what to cut and what to save.
    Have a blessed day.

    • shirleyhs on February 5, 2013 at 9:21 pm

      Hi Heather, thanks for stopping by and for your kind words. I am indeed blessed by wonderful editorial support.

      What to cut? I find myself cutting any story or scene that seems like it either repeats ideas or does not have an organic tie to the themes of either chapter or book as a whole. Even if it is funny or dramatic. It has to be connected but also unique in order to survive the knife.

      If the imagery is too splashy or overwrought, if the aside slows down the narrative, if the reflection isn’t necessary, out it goes.

      Thanks for the question. Maybe it would make a great blog post subject of its own.

  10. Yvonne Carder on July 21, 2017 at 10:15 am

    Hello Shirley,

    I just wanted to let you know that I found this article while searching on how to do a cover reveal for my own novel and I really enjoyed all the pointers you gave. I realize this was about 4 years ago, but it is still totally relevant! Thank you for sharing.

    • Shirley Showalter on July 21, 2017 at 11:47 am

      So glad this post was useful to you, Yvonne. All the best with your novel!

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