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Kelowna author adapts to virtual book launch

Children’s book writer Karen Autio learn new ways to reach out to potential book buyers

The COVID-19 pandemic presents all kinds of challenges, and for authors trying to promote a new book, those issues also exist.

Case in point is Kelowna children’s book author Karen Autio, who is in the midst of a six-week virtual tour to promote her latest literary effort, Kah-Lan and the Stink-ink, the second in a series of novels about a sea otter character geared to young readers age seven to nine.

Unable to hold the usual in-person book signings because of the pandemic, Autio has turned to virtual events to help launch her book.

This past week, she held two virtual presentations with students from Pearson, Bankhead, Rutland, Rose Valley and Chute Lake elementary schools, in which she was joined by her book’s illustrator, Emma Pedersen, and a marine rescue centre official.

Last Saturday, Autio reverted back to a more traditional book promotion event at an outdoor craft and book signing hosted by Kelowna’s Once Upon A Bookstore, held in a socially distanced setting.

To become familiar with the virtual marketing world, earlier this year Autio started to pay attention to how other authors handled virtual book launches.

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“I watched as many as I could to learn how to do them. I learned that you need a headset and mic, to have the books on display behind you and how partnering with the Vancouver Aquarium enabled me to e-blast to a larger audience,” she said.

“I probably interacted with well over 200 students for the school events this week where normally I might just meet with kids in a classroom.

“To be able to present to eight classes at once, and my illustrator, who lives in Toronto, being able to participate in both sessions was great.”

Sept. 20 to 26 was Sea Otter Awareness Week, which allowed Autio to be able to incorporate that into her education lesson as well while interacting with students.

The disadvantage of the virtual world, she noted, is the inability to do in-person book signings where she can interact one-on-one with readers and allow people to make a personal connection with her.

At the 2018 launch of Autio’s book Growing Up In Wild Horse Canyon, the Great Room at the downtown Kelowna library branch was filled to capacity, but public gathering restrictions make that kind of event impossible right now.

“I also had my illustrator for that book, Lorraine Kemp, who is from Kelowna, with me, and we had about 130 people out and or book sales that day were phenomenal,” she said.

“People get to hear and meet the creators of the book and often end up leaving with several copies.

“Making that personal connection…it’s a lot harder to do that virtually.”

Kah-Lan and the Stink-ink tells the story of Kah-lan the sea otter, leaving his home and branching out on his own to find new friends, leading to a dangerous encounter with an orca, and fleeing into an oil slick that calls on marine wildlife rescue to save his life.

It is the sixth book Autio has published, and the 24-year resident of Kelowna has several more manuscripts in the pipeline, including the confirmed publication for her next book Making Seaker.