That Time Our Books Debuted During a Pandemic


Dear #Writingcommunity,

As a first-time author, I’ve looked over the industry checklists and prepared for pretty much any challenge I might face leading up to my book launch.

A global pandemic wasn’t one of them.

My first picture book, The Voice That Won the Vote: How One Woman’s Words Made History, hits store shelves in two days. I’m sitting here staring at a stack of stickers and bookmarks and pencils and pipe cleaners. And yellow tissue paper, for the craft portion of my cancelled event. We were going to make yellow roses, the symbol of suffrage.

To be clear, the majority of my colleagues are dealing with far worse scenarios than one cancelled launch event. So many of you, including members of my Soaring 20s group, have had to cancel cross-country tours and dozens of school visits that you count on for income.

Bookstores like my local indie have not only had to make the heartbreaking decision to cancel a month’s worth of events, but also to face the fact that this disease outbreak could destroy their business.  

And we creatives tend to be an empathic bunch, so it’s easy to feel self-conscious and maybe even a little guilty for thinking about our cancelled launches when, in the larger scheme of things, it could be so much worse.

Hi there, mom who is my target audience, I know you’re panicked about who’ll stay home with your kids if their schools close and you have to go get a paycheck, and I see you scrambling to find toilet paper for your family of seven, but hey, here’s my new book…

Still, I’m feeling sad. But I am also feeling awe. And gratitude. Because just as soon as signings and launches and conferences started getting cancelled, this community started coming together to support one another. Like the literary equivalent of delivering casseroles.

First, I saw a twitter post by author Alli Brydon, offering to do a “massive” order from her local indie of kidlit books coming out this spring. Last I checked, she was up to 45 books.

Author and 12×12 founder Julie Hedlund made sure to add those of us with March/April releases to Alli’s growing list. Julie also rallied 12×12 members to brainstorm ways to help their fellow creators facing event cancellations. In less than 24 hours, that led to social media flyers promoting March books.

From there, the support snowballed.

Authors Christina Soontornvat and Ellen Oh began organizing a virtual book festival for March/April new releases, to replace cancelled events.

Agent Kathleen Rushall wrote an encouraging post full of ideas about how we can “lift the tide to raise all sails” by creating online content for parents and teachers to share with, amid disrupted schedules.

Authors like Kelly Mangan began boosting authors with new releases.

My publicist at Sleeping Bear Press, Julia Hlavac, who I’m sure is super swamped with reshuffling and rescheduling, emailed me asking about my event and if there was anything she could do to help.

Author/blogger Justin Colon emailed our debut group saying he wants to support authors with books releasing amid the coronavirus chaos… He offered to do interviews, read-alouds with students, host us on his twitter PB chat, and anything else we could dream up to get the word out about our books.

Powerhouse Glennon Doyle is using her huge platform to promote authors with cancelled events, and she is pre-ordering books with spring releases.

We authors tend to be a reclusive bunch. We’re introverts, mostly, and to the outside world we have this sweet and solitary routine of holing up at home, writing in our jammies while surfing the net and eating bonbons. It’s really not a fair characterization, as I am off sugar and can’t eat bonbons.

But the point is, this solitary bunch has banded together to take care of each other in the most gregarious, gigantic of ways.

I shouldn’t be surprised, really. After all, this is an industry filled with people who persevere. I mean, what other business model includes the expectation of a bunch of rejections? This community is nothing if not resilient. We know how to bounce back.

And something else is happening. We’re seeing each other more deeply than we did before. We’re holding space for each other’s feelings and fears. We’re sharing vulnerabilities along with book links.

My debut tells the little-known story of the mom who saved suffrage. She defied society’s expectations of her, by daring to use her voice. Her courage led to one of the biggest wins for women’s rights. During my launch event, I planned to emphasize to kids how much their voices matter; how one single act of courage can change history.

I dedicated the book to my son. For Evan: May you always know how much your voice matters.

My fellow creators, may you always know how much your voices have mattered to me.