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Standing alone on a stage in a nightclub, comedian Wali Collins understands the power of personal engagement. “My joke may succeed or fail, but at least I get immediate feedback,” he said. So when he wrote a self-help book, The Y’NEVANO Book of Encouragements, Wali Collins wanted more direct engagement than jotting comments on Facebook and Twitter.
With big dreams of spreading his message—but lacking a big budget for a book tour—Collins looked into virtual online author events. Wali settled on the Shindig video chat platform. “There are a lot of ways to have fun with this,” said Collins.
Shindig began as an online platform for playing chess and has developed into an environment where authors can read, give slideshows, answer live questions, run give-aways, and even sell their books. “We wanted to create the same human dynamic of a live book tour experience,” said Shindig founder and CEO Steve Gottlieb.
“Real, meaningful, and memorable,” is the way Gottleib describes the live sessions, which on average last about 45 minutes. One of Gottlieb’s most memorable moments was watching the expression on kids’ faces when author Tom Angleberger complimented them on their origami Yodas. Angleberger’s best-selling children’s books include The Strange Case of Origami Yoda, about a boy who talks to his schoolmates via a paper puppet.
April Flores, Manager of Digital Relations and Strategy at Random House, uses live internet events for her digital-only imprints, Hydra (sci-fi, fantasy, horror), Alibi (mystery and suspense), Loveswept (romance), and Flirt (New Adult). “We open up the floor for Q&As like a Town Hall for that extra level of engagement,” she said, noting that fans, especially romance readers, are eager to be “super engaged” with authors.
Online author events
Authors looking for virtual visits with readers have a range of online platforms to choose from. Google+ Hangouts offer free video chats to Google members. WebEx and GoToMeeting offer robust platforms for those who download the free webinar software.
Promote to draw an audience
Once an author selects a virtual book event platform, marketing the event is as important for generating attendance. Flores makes graphics and banners and gives them to the book bloggers in her social network. She plans to reach out to book clubs as well.
While virtual author events are not a replacement for physical book tours, visiting local bookstores in person is simply not possible for many authors. Not only is travel expensive, online presentations can be more convenient for the audience. “In-person events are problematic in a world where everyone is over scheduled,” said Gottlieb.
Virtual author events is that they can be scheduled to occur on a regular basis to provide consistency in a marketing plan. For a new author like Wali Collins, a single event wouldn’t generate the steady level of interest that he’s looking for to sustain a constant stream of book sales. So he plans to run his online events monthly, on the same day of the week at the same time, He’s dubbed the project “First Wednesdays With Wali.” Collins’ goal is to build a group of new readers while making it easy for regular fans to remember when and where they can find him online. “This is not a ‘hit and quit’ kind of thing,” he says.