The Digital Space In Lockdown – Writing With Intent

27th December 2020
6 min read

Madeleine White offers some tips on how to continue reaching readers during lockdown... 

Madeleine White

In my hopeful dystopian debut novel Mother of Floods, I centre our collective hunger to survive around a pixilated universe.

And for authors struggling in our COVID-19-stalled world, that shift of channelling energies online really Is happening right now. There are no book launches. Paid-for advertising campaigns on buses and in underground stations no longer matter. Right now, online and social media really is king. There’s nowhere else to promote. Interestingly enough, the publishing world is one step ahead of many other industries, as, across the board, authors had already embraced this space as a way of connecting positively. Twitter and Instagram platforms have been particularly important in bringing publishers and writers together. In my case I found Crowsnest, my publisher, on Twitter via pitch party #canlitpit which I’d carefully researched beforehand. 

No amount of ‘homework’, though, could have prepared me for a book launch in the throes of a global pandemic. But a willingness to adapt (and hold my nerve!), has proven to be essential when engaging with this new here and now. In my case, we launched a COVID-19 special edition in UK, US and Canada, with the foreword centred on hopeful dystopian theme. I have used hashtags and made wider digital content available as well as joined groups and written features to connect with the zeitgeist. I’m also planning live Instagram and Facebook streams as part of the UK launch.

So, although it’s harder getting work ‘out there’ in the traditional way, this new digital reality does bring opportunity. There is a caveat though; if you are published by a small press as I am, or you’re an Indie author, finding the hook to engage readers is even more critical. The digital space demands targeted creativity so engage strategically and be proactive

Here are some basic principles that have served me well so far:


Attend events. Hay festival is going ahead with an online line up and other festivals are set to follow so keep an eye out. It’s also worth bearing in mind there may be appetite for your style or genre outside the UK. Do check out other writing scenes such as Canada or the US. I came across A Mighty Blaze, a social platform that sheds light on authors whose books are emerging in the heat of this crisis, as part of my US launch.

Research how people are using video marketing for their book trailers and to build a social media presence.  I’ve found the Free download, Instagram for Authors very helpful. Using advice from this, I’ve engaged with a number of book groups (a useful place for authors to be!), including @ladieslitsquad. If you are a registered  as a not-for-profit, and have written to support this there are some great freebies out there you might also like to consider, the Google adwords grants for example. 


This is where you put what you’ve discovered into practice. Who do you want to connect with, what do you have to say, how do you want to say it? Benefit from all of the free writing advice on, and other organisations such as Penguin, with their How to Get Published advice site, are also great 

Mother of Floods by Madeleine White

Use what you’ve learned to make yourself more attractive in the digital space. In my case, I’d not planned a book trailer, but with the need to reach out in a different way, my publishers decided to go ahead. Recording myself led me to experiment with audio versions of my poetry which I submitted to BBC Upload, a great new lockdown initiative across the regions which gives people the opportunity to share creative work. Being on the radio also allowed me to plug Mother of Floods.


Find out who you need to connect with, and why. Then do it! If you have done people the courtesy of finding out who they are, what they do and what their motivation, they will want to discover more about you.  A great example of this is the #askagent hashtag. Writers can use the hashtag to tweet questions and agents will then respond to them, time permitting. If there is a particular agent you are keen on, you might find they do their own version of this. Targeted, intelligent questions will help you find out what you need from them, while you might also discover like-minded people who turn out to be friends and/or advocates of your writing. Live streaming via social media also works here.

Stay engaged:

It’s not enough just to say, ‘here I am’. You need to be an active member of the digital communities you’ve chosen. This means offering opportunities, ideas and opinions, no matter which stage you’re at with your writing journey. For example, the lockdown daily digest Write On! Extra, is starting to pull a real community around it, particularly the Saturday Spotlight, which is for new book launches. As well as interaction from publicists, we’re also seeing authors offering peer support to one another via social media as a result 

Madeleine F White is Editor of Write On! magazine, and author of Mother of FloodsYou can connect with her on Instagram and Twitter @madeleinefwhite

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