From SD Public Relations Coordinator Sara Dobie:
This column was originally posted on my PR blog, but with the surge of SKYPE MANIA, I thought it would be useful to all the authors and illustrators out there. (In fact, Sylvan Dell author Suzanne Slade has just joined the Skype revolution. Read all about her here: http://skypeanauthor.wetpaint.com/page/Suzanne+Slade.)
Back to Skype…
Imagine entertaining a roomful of readers in Texas while sitting at the beach in the Bahamas. Or how about giving a writing workshop to teachers in Ohio while watching the gondolas in Venice? I’m not talking time-travel. I’m talking technology. Welcome to the world of virtual publicity tours.
I had the pleasure to meet publicist Bonnie Harris via email. In the self-promotion world, authors can’t necessarily afford expensive trips to Vegas for a star-studded book signing. Sometimes, authors need a cheap, effective way to reach fans. Skype is part of the answer.
Skype is a way to communicate via live feed with bookstores, schools, libraries, etc., nation- and world-wide without leaving your home. I asked Bonnie for some advice on this useful and CHEAP technology. Here’s what she had to say.
The Skype Effect
by Publicist Bonnie Harris
Oprah started the inevitable buzz known as the “Oprah effect” by using Skype last year to conduct a chapter reading of Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth: Awakening Your Life’s Purpose. Since then independent authors and major publishers (including Random House and Wiley) have been using the platform to conduct virtual book signings and author visits with great success.
As an author, how can you use Skype to reach markets that might be inconvenient or expensive to visit in person? It’s actually quite easy so long as you don’t get spooked by technology. Booking the visits shouldn’t be any different from a regular speech or book signing, and there’s lots of information out there on how to do that. But using Skype adds a whole new twist – here are a few tips to help make your first “Virtual Tour” a success.
- Test your technology thoroughly. Download Skype and call other users to get used to the configuration you’re using. Some people will want to try different headsets and webcam angles to make sure that you get the best sound and video quality possible.
- Test the connection with the bookstore or classroom 15 minutes prior to the visit. This is no time to “wing it” or be late to the interview.
- Remember that it IS technology and will fail at times. I haven’t seen a major outage like the one Skype experienced in 2007, but dead spots and dropped calls are possible. Make sure you have a protocol in place if this happens…for example who will be calling back to re-connect? Audiences can get very impatient when they have to wait – even for New York Times bestselling authors.
- Send plenty of signed books ahead of time. This may sound like a no-brainer, but I’ve had a few authors whose publishers didn’t send books because it wasn’t a “real” signing.
- Make sure you are very expressive on camera. Remember that instead of seeing all of you (particularly your hands) you are only visible from the shoulders up. Watch your favorite talking heads on TV (Rachel Maddow or even Bill O’Reilly) to see how they express themselves.
- Be as crisp as possible in your speech. Although this is good advice at any time, on Skype it’s CRITICAL. Sound quality can be poor and sometimes so can the video. If you’re not speaking crisply and concisely you will lose your audience (and possibly a few fans, too).
- Make the Q&A section of your visit longer than you would in person. Watching you online is not as engaging as seeing you live. A highly interactive session will help you keep your audience’s interest much longer.
Having said that – keep these relatively short. We can only watch so much online – some people even get nauseous due to the delayed voice/video aspect of Skype so rather than an hour try for 30 or 40 minutes, depending on how many questions you get.
If you’ve only had limited success with blog tours, adding a virtual tour using Skype can be an excellent complement to your book promotion campaign. Publicists like me are finding the best results from a combination of broadcast and online promotion. If you can’t afford to pay someone big bucks to put you on a national radio tour or get you on Good Morning America, virtual tours can be a great addition to your promotional arsenal. Like anything else, though, it shouldn’t be your only weapon.
A final note – in order to be a successful author (translate – sell a lot of books) you can’t be a technophobe. Dive into technology and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Most people know that newer technology can be finicky, and they do tend to be more forgiving in these cases. It only takes a couple of virtual visits before you feel like a true pro!
More resources for information on Skype:
Bonnie Harris is the President and founder of Wax Marketing, Inc. For more information visit www.waxmarketing.com.
Thanks so much, Bonnie, for this outstanding column! If anyone has additional questions about Skype and virtual tours, leave comments. I’ll keep an eye on things and pass your comments/concerns on to Bonnie and SD’s own Suzanne Slade. YAY for Skype!