I trust everyone is keeping well. One aspect of the lockdown I hadn’t expected was finding the video conferencing app, Zoom, and wonder how I’ve not discovered its usefulness before. I’ve been on Skype and What’s App for a while but Zoom has come into its own. For more info do click on this link.
Now the above is an expression I never thought I’d say yet alone write! I “go” to church every Sunday thanks to Zoom. For communion services, I bring my own bread and wine (it’s Vimto!) and, on cue from our minister and the service sheet he sends by email each week, take part at the relevant points in the service.
What is lovely is being able to see many of my church friends though I am deeply missing those who are not “into” computers. They have the service sheet posted to them and can take part at the same time as we do as the time is given on the service sheet.
This is what I did before getting on to Zoom and just following the service sheet at the right time helped my family and I feel part of something bigger. We also knew our friends would be doing the same so there was a connection there even if we couldn’t see them or they us. Just following the service sheet also helped us to tell Sundays apart from the other days of the week (and I don’t know about you but that aspect is really helpful right now!).
But Zoom is lovely and once you’ve got used to seeing people in their little boxes (just like Celebrity Squares, the old quiz show hosted by the late Bob Monkhouse years ago), and how to ensure you’ve got your audio and video all set up correctly, away you go.
I am also struck by how much technology has developed in such a short time. When I started using computers, video conferencing was a very distant dream.
Slimming World the Zoom Way
I’m also going to my Slimming World group via Zoom and again it is lovely to see friends, my consultant, and to share thoughts and helpful ideas. Ongoing support when trying to lose weight (or maintain your target weight as I am) is vital and if you can’t go to group directly to have this, then being online for that support is the next best thing. It also helps me to remember which day is Tuesday! (Naturally writing my CFT post helps me to focus on when Friday is coming up. There is a point to having a regular slot at a regular day of the week. It is coming into its own at the moment).
Writing and Family Time via Zoom
I’m also catching up with writing friends and family via Zoom at regular intervals and many a good laugh has been had online. There is something special about being able to see your loved ones even though we would all rather be getting together at their homes or mine to laugh together in person. But that is something to look forward to hopefully later on in the year. I’m due to return with compliments the ribbing I had on my 50th birthday to other family members who have just reached that milestone themselves! I am so looking forward to that!!
I’m using the free version of Zoom as, for what I use it for, the 40 minutes free slot is more than enough. (Though I have noticed for family events at the weekend, they extend that time out and for free).
I’ve hosted the odd meeting via Zoom (though I am mainly a visitor clicking a hyperlink) and meetings are easy enough to set up. I use the Schedule Meeting function and have found this easy enough to use. Ease of use is crucial for the success of something like this which is why Zoom has taken off in such a big way.
Writers and Technology
Writers, of course, have had to use technology for a while. As well as being au fait with laptops etc given nobody in the world to my knowledge accepts handwritten manuscripts any more, we have had to get to grips with social media and build our “platforms”.
Our platforms vary but mine consists of my website at https://allisonsymescollectedworks.com, my Facebook pages (one as author and a separate one for my book From Light to Dark and Back Again), and my Twitter and Goodreads pages. I am on Linkedin too and use that sometimes. Of course all of this is my shop window.
It is a question I think of writers deciding what works best for them. You have to manage it all and it is better to have one or two things you focus on well and consistently than spread yourself too thin. I’ve never understood Instagram so don’t use it. Likewise Pinterest. Other writers I know love them both. Different strokes and all that.
One thing though common to most of us has been the growth of the cyberlaunch. I had one back in 2017 for From Light to Dark and Back Again and hope to do so again when Tripping the Flash Fantastic comes out later this year.
Every writer I know has missed going to book events, whether it’s their own or their friends, and that includes having a physical book launch. (It does not mean throwing your cherished work at a critic, no matter how much you are tempted, incidentally!).
But we can have cyberlaunches. They are a Facebook event/party which you set up in advance and invite friends to drop in and support you. The hope is in turn they will encourage their friends to drop in too. Despite all the advances in technology, you can’t beat good old word of mouth for advertising!
Tips for Cyberlaunches
Preparation is Everything!
I can’t stress that enough so my first tip is give yourself plenty of time to:-
1.Collect suitable material for use on your cyberlaunch.
This can be anything from suitable Youtube songs (to add music to the proceedings). A writer can have a lot of fun here thinking of music that is suitable for their writing. Then there are classics such as Paperback Writer by The Beatles of course.
I like to include lovely Pixabay pictures of food and drinks to set an online party atmosphere.
I also work out what snippets of my stories I am going to share.
I also shared my book trailer. I chose the images and music for this though the wonderful Gill James at Chapeltown Books put it together, finding a suitable copyright-free music source too. It was a perfect thing to share on social media (and do spot the plug for CFT too!).
I also prepared quizzes and had prizes on offer. I had a couple of quizzes, with a winner’s prize and a runner-up’s one for each. For these, I used copies of my book, a notebook with the book logo on it, a pen and a bag of sweets such as Haribo (they don’t break. They don’t melt either! Important given the prizes are going out in the post though I am duty bound to say other brands are available). My runners up received everything except the signed copy of my book.
2. Prepare your text in advance.
Think about how you’re going to introduce your event to your guests. I prepare an opening. I also prepare something to wrap up the proceedings.
I also like to have interesting facts connected with how I wrote my stories. Have you pictures of interesting places you’ve been to that have inspired your stories in some way?
I write a series of short blog posts that I can insert into my event whenever I need to and you really cannot have too many of these. The nice thing is whether you use them all or not, this material can make additional information for your website.
Keeping your website interesting with new material every so often is vital. So it is worth taking the time to prepare this material. Even if you don’t use it for the cyberlaunch for the happy reason you are too busy engaging with your guests, the material can be used in other ways.
Could you give your guests an insight as to what your character(s) is like without giving the whole story away?
Could you share what you love about the writing process and what you find most difficult?
Tips always go down well too.
3. Think about timing
My cyberlaunch was an all day one. Good fun but exhausting as you are on the go all the time keeping up with people wishing you well. Remember a cyberlaunch is a great exercise in public relations so you need to engage with people. This is also why I have plenty of material I can use on the day. It means if there’s a lull in proceedings, I literally have fillers to get things going again.
I think, with hindsight, a cyberlaunch for three to four hours would probably be best. It gives people plenty of opportunity to drop in and out of them. I must admit I love that aspect myself when I “go” to such events run by writer friends.
Timing? You need to think of when people are most likely to be available. Ignoring the abnormal situation we find ourselves in now with most people at home, I think you are better off having a cyberlaunch either in the evening (say from 6 to 9 pm – people can drop in and out before and after dinner doing this) or going for say some point over a weekend.
4. Think about your guest list and spread the word
Yes, it is down to you to invite people to come along so plan this. Inevitably some people will not be able to join in due to other commitments but you will find people who thought they weren’t free suddenly are able to pop along, if only briefly. (It’s my experience that most people who say they are interested do turn up on the day).
5. Accept there is no way you can know how it will go but enjoy it anyway!
Think about the things you would like to see on a cyberlaunch if you were attending one held by another author. I like facts, bits on how the author came to write their stories, their battles on the way to being published, tempting snippets to lure me into reading their book.
Don’t forget the buy links and that includes Amazon, but remember a cyberlaunch is an online party. It is not just about “buy my book”. You want people to enjoy your event so they happily then go and buy your book!
In many ways you are putting yourself out there as well as your stories, so be sure that what you share is what you are happy to share!
Oh and the most important thing?
Have fun at your cyberlaunch and so will your guests. They’ll remember that (and your book!). Good luck!
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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