Just because you don’t have the time or money to travel the country touting your book doesn’t mean you have to languish at home post-publication any longer. Programs including Skype and Google Hangout make it easy (and free!) to meet a group of your fans face-to-face. Explains Sarah McCoy, author of The Baker’s Daughter, “Now authors can jump online and literally be a face at the party for an hour. It’s lovely, and such an opportunity for us to directly connect with wonderful readers.”
So how does one successfully bring his or her computer screen–literally–to life?
Choose the right program: Sign up for Skype and Google Hangout and get a feel for what you like most. While both offer free long distance, Skype requires a premium membership for 3+ people, uses a lot of bandwidth to work well, and will drop the entire session should the host drop off. Google Hangout has its drawbacks, too, so figure out what works best for your needs. Be upfront with potential virtual guests about which platform you prefer, but also be flexible to go along with the wishes of those with whom you’ll be chatting.
Announce Your Availability: Post your online meet-and-greet intentions on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook page. Add a page to your website that houses your contact information, any stipulations you have (e.g. a minimum number of people at the virtual event), and questions books clubs or classrooms can use to kick off a lively discussion. Don’t forget to tell friends and family of your virtual plans and encourage them to send along your information to people they know who may be interested.
Give the Gift of Reading: Build buzz for your book by offering free copies to book clubs or classrooms who sign up by a certain date. If you have limited supplies run a sweepstakes and give away five books to the winning group. Make sure to kindly encourage readers (but don’t be too aggressive) to write a review on Lulu, Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble’s site, and Goodreads. It may be hard to part with books for free at first but remember past word-of-mouth successes like Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. Investing some time and a little money now, and you could reap huge rewards!
Partner up: Know of other authors who’ve published books in a similar vein? Reach out and partner up for book club parties! Contact librarian and/or book club bloggers (a simple Google search will bring up the most popular) and work with them on book bundle giveaways. Or, alternatively, reach out to sites like BookTalk.com or ReadingGroupGuides.com to come up with advertising or other marketing ideas. By having more than one author involved you can split the costs, making it more cost-effective for everyone.
Communicate: Check in with the chat organizer one week before your scheduled event to discuss the group’s expectations. Should you prepare something beforehand? Will you be doing a reading of any kind? Is there anything that attendees are hoping to speak about in depth? Come prepared to your event — but don’t be stiff. As Sarah McCoy says, “Bring your relaxed self to the party and think of it as just that — a celebration!”
Be prepared: Technical difficulties do happen. Think of a back-up plan for issues you know you may encounter. For example, worried that the sound on your end, or theirs, may lag? Get your host’s phone number beforehand and conference in if things go awry. Get cut-off prematurely? Don’t panic. Just call back in with a smile.
Most importantly, go with the flow. As McCoy advises, “Readers are looking for the magic of meeting the author in person. So come with a smile and a willingness to let them take the reins. It’s a conversation not a presentation.”
Give it a try and tell us how it goes! Share tips from your experience in the comments.