To Promote Your Book, Consider a Webinar
In addition to all the social media, a webinar is an excellent promotional tool for your book. Combining PowerPoint slides and audio and posting on your website, YouTube, and the ubiquitous social media, a webinar delivers valuable information and shows you’re the one to deliver more. But you’ve gotta do it well, or people (potential readers/buyers of your book) will click off. As the proud veteran of one webinar (I blush to admit with some excellent feedback), here I share what I learned about designing and delivering an excellent webinar.
For the webinar on my book Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), I had wonderful help and structure from the publisher’s promotion director. You can achieve similar results alone or with a few seasoned colleagues. In any case, the steps are similar.
Decide on a Date, or Dates, and Time
Consulting with your publicity director, or those seasoned friends, determine
what date and time will attract the most viewers. In your pre-webinar publicity, don’t forget to designate the time zone (you can even add all the time zone translations). Publicize the webinar in advance—through your publisher, on your blog, in emails.
Start watching webinars in subjects that interest you and are close to yours. What’s wrong with them? You can easily tell from the first three seconds: Rambling topics, too many slides, too much text, too many words, too few, too many um’s and ah’s, monotones, slurred speech, muffled audio. (When I hear faint or indistinct audio, I immediately turn off.)
What’s right? Instant hooking your interest, speaker’s lively pace and tonal variations, smiling, voice dynamic and unhurried, humor, evident structure, easy-to-grasp and attractive slides, bell-clear audio, pointed perfect anecdotes, clarity and simplicity of messages. You find yourself scribbling furious notes and wishing that after the first ten minutes you didn’t have to go pick up the kids.
Determine your purpose. Introduce a book and/or service? Sell them (of course)? Help others? Instruct them? Increase your visibility? Build fan base? Reach a specific segment? Connect with like-minded others? Challenge your proficiency and comfort? Multiple purposes are permissible. Write them all down and keep the list in front of you. Your specific reasons will direct your approach. My purposes were to introduce the book, give viewers tools for better living and reaching their dreams, and sell copies.
A webinar can be any length you choose or one suggested by your publisher, publicity head, or experienced friend. My promotion director specified an hour, about half for presentation of my book and half for audience Q&A. I found out that one slide, a short summery of the point(s) to be covered with supportive anecdotes and examples, takes one to two minutes. For my thirty-minute presentation, I would need twenty to twenty-six slides.
I always feel more comfortable writing than speaking, so I wrote out my “script” for each slide. One to two minutes, speaking unhurriedly and with the right emphasis, is about 120 words a minute. So: 120 words times 20 slides = 2,400 words = (at traditionally 250 words a double-spaced page) = 10 pages. 120 words times 26 slides = 3,120 words = 12-13 pages.
With my purpose and length in mind, I started with an outline that could also serve as slide headings. Using some materials already available—press releases for the book, Q&A from interviews I’d given, and the book’s introduction—I created the outline, highlighting various points, choosing the most important and universal ones. Then I used the outline to write my narrative . . . with the inevitable several rewrites.
I also kept in mind the high school rule of good writing we all rebelled at: opening (beginning), body (middle), close (end). That is, tell ‘em what you’ll tell ‘em, then tell ‘em, then tell ‘em what you’ve told ‘em.
If your webinar is sponsored by an organization, like mine was, arrange to have yourself introduced, with credentials, possibly as the title slide appears. If you are the sole deliverer, you can do the same, with modest asides, as the title slide flashes. And at the end of the presentation, add your website address and, if you choose, your email. Principles of Good Sliding
For effective slides, and to avoid the very entertaining “Death by PowerPoint” (Alexei Kapterev, https://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint/58-Presentation_checklist), I had to learn some principles of good slide presentations:
- Three to five points per slide (some strict sliders dictate fewer).
- Five to six words (or fewer) per point, preferably not full sentences.
- Lotta white space.
- One font, one size for headings and another for text. Or two fonts at
the most for headings and text.
- Trust your text.
Too, make use of the script notes box at the bottom of each slide (viewers don’t see the notes). You can transfer your typed text to these boxes for explanations and illustrations of the slide points.
After the script, I was ready for graphics. (Maybe you conceptualize with pictures first, words later—whatever works.) I thought about how best to illustrate my points and combed the Web for (free) images of all kinds (e.g., http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/). One of my first slides outlined the “three big ideas” of the book (“There are no mistakes. You can reframe your past. The outer reflects the inner.”). The accompanying photo? A kitten looking in a full-length mirror and seeing a lion reflected back.
Go for high resolution graphics; they transmit well onto your slides and viewers will thank you. Avoid animation and excessive graphics; they can be distracting and too cute.
Small caution: Be sure the images you use are in the public domain. Or get copyright permission—one of the photographs I used was a postage stamp of Dr. Seuss and his characters. Permission was required-and obtained—from the USPS.
Houston, Do You Read Me?
My publisher, blessedly, took over the tech aspects. The promotion director and tech specialist used a very popular webinar software package, GoToWebinar (http://www.gotomeeting.com/online/webinar). A virgin webinarian, I still wanted to get acquainted with it all. So, feeling very techno-author, I invested in a $40. headphone-mic combination. When I registered for others’ webinars (a tech feat itself), I saw the clear instructions for using my combo, played around with the options, and felt like a senior member of Control. This all helped my physical and mental comfort when I adjusted my headgear for my own delivery.
If your webinar is not live, enlist an experienced tech person to record it. A spiritual teacher I know has a great recording tech who, incidentally, through the recordings has come to study her materials.
How Do You Get to Broadway?
The answer: practice, practice, practice. First, rehearse your delivery and time it. Rehearse it alone, in front of a (smirking) family member, your dog, your wastebasket. The more you rehearse, the more you’ll relax. Second, remember you’re an actor! Maybe not a melodramatic emoter but a professional presenter. Let your passion show through.
Third, practice with your tech(s)—my promotion director and staff member scheduled two rehearsals, and they offered more if I felt the need. And for the Q&A portion, prepare some of your own questions in case the audience is reticent. If you don’t intend for the webinar to go live and don’t invite audience questions, you can fashion some of your own—perhaps those others have asked you—and answers. Make slides of these too. And at the bottom, invite readers/watchers to send in their questions.
The day before, even if no one will see you, prepare to go onstage. Amply in advance, get dressed decently, comb your hair. Adjust your headphones. Test your equipment. Lay out all your materials—script, schedule, book if applicable, emergency discussion questions, water. Then breathe and smile.
Clear your throat (beforehand). Tell yourself you’ve done this a thousand times. Have faith in the script(s) in front of you. If any glitches occur, and they do with the best, as I heard on a recent Writer’s Digest webcast, just swallow and keep talking.
As my webinar progressed, I relaxed more. It became a flowing conversation, between the host and me, and then with the viewers. I actually enjoyed it!
At the close of your webinar, thank the audience. For audience follow-up, repeat your contact information verbally at the end. Casually mention your other services. When all the questions have been answered and all mikes are off, have a critique session with your colleagues on the webinar. Ask for their opinions on improvement, and review your performance and the slides for more clarity and logical flow. You may want to refine the materials for next time.
Once the webinar recording is available, post the link on your website and with your email signature. Add the book title and webinar link to your bios. Expect responses!
Giving a webinar undoubtedly is a lot of work, and eventually a lot of fun. The creation and delivery will bolster your confidence in your material, your presentation, and yourself. And your webinar will give you new learning, expanded audience connections, and great publicity.
© 2023 Noelle Sterne
Dissertation coach, nurturer, bolsterer, handholder, and editor; scholarly and mainstream writing consultant; author of writing craft, spiritual, and academic articles; and spiritual and motivational counselor, Noelle Sterne has published over 700 pieces in print and online venues, including Author Magazine, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children’s Book Insider, Graduate Schools Magazine, GradShare, InnerSelf, Inspire Me Today, Transformation Magazine, Unity Magazine, Women in Higher Education, Women on Writing, Writer’s Digest, and The Writer. With a Ph.D. from Columbia University, Noelle has for 30 years helped doctoral candidates wrestle their dissertations to completion (finally). Based on her practice, her Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (Rowman & Littlefield Education, September 2015) addresses students’ often overlooked or ignored but crucial nonacademic difficulties that can seriously prolong their agony. See the PowerPoint teaser here. In Noelle`s Trust Your Life: Forgive Yourself and Go After Your Dreams (Unity Books, 2011), she draws examples from her academic consulting and other aspects of life to help readers release regrets and reach lifelong yearnings. Following one of her own, she is currently working on her third novel. Visit Noelle at www.trustyourlifenow.com