Wednesday, February 03, 2021

Planning a virtual book launch, Part 2; no hair left but was it worth it?

Barbara here, still alive to tell the tale. This post is the sequel to my Part 1 post two weeks ago, which you can find by scrolling through past posts. Today I talk about the invitation process, because that's where I lost most of my hair, and the actual event itself. So there I was; two weeks before the launch, I had designed a spiffy Eventbrite invitation, with the graphic courtesy of my publisher, I had bought a 100-participant  Zoom webinar package on top of the Zoom Pro Plan (for one month), and I had designed and scheduled the Zoom Webinar.

Eventbrite claimed it could generate an email campaign to send invitations to all my email contacts, and it could also interface with Facebook and Twitter to allow me to invite friends on social media sites. Having invitations delivered by both email and Facebook was important because I have friends and readers in both places. Email first. It turns out I needed to design an exciting email to catch their attention, which contained a link to the main Eventbrite invitation. More work! Fortunately they had a template which I could customize. So far so good. Then I had to send it out via my "subscriber lists", of which I had none. If I had Mail Chimp or Excel or other email list, I could import it, but it didn't like my jumbled mess of contacts. So one by one, I went through my contacts and entered their emails in my newly created subscriber list. Hours later, I had created three subscriber lists. One for local contacts, another for the rest of Canada, and a third for international friends. I figured splitting them up might save me time in the future. The good news is that Eventbrite saves these lists, so if I ever need them again, there they are! But this is not the time to ask if I'll ever use them again.

So I sent the emails out to the lists and turned my attention to social media. Twitter was a piece of cake. Eventbrite supplied a Twitter URL which I simply included in a tweet and off it went into the twittersphere. Facebook was where I lost most of my hair. Eventbrite said it had a seamless interface with Facebook, but they need to look "seamless" up in the dictionary. First, it wouldn't post it to my personal page, where most of my friends and readers hang out, but only to my author page. So it created an Eventbrite announcement that went on my author page, which almost no one looks at and which is almost impossible to navigate. I knew no one would see it there. I hunted around on the site and in the invitation, and finally found a way to "invite friends". So I went through my friend list and selected all those I thought might be interested. When I got through that task, Facebook gave me an error message so I had to do it all over again, breaking it into smaller groups.

Pressed share, and waited to see what happened. Nothing. By this time I had discovered that on my Eventbrite page, I could see each ticket "sold". Quite a few emailed invitations had been viewed and tickets "purchased." Facebook? Nada. I emailed a few friends whom I'd been using as guinea pigs, and one said there was nothing on her FB page and no alert, but she had found the invitation hiding in her Facebook notifications. Who checks their notifications? Not me. So then I posted notices (several over time) on my personal and author pages for friends to check notifications for their Eventbrite invite. An even sillier complication? The Facebook post on my author page gave people the option of clicking "going" "interested", etc. Numerous people had clicked "going", but that did absolutely nothing to get them a ticket. They needed to click on the "find ticket" button buried further down. So I posted more notices on my personal page to clarify the distinction. Bottom line? Eventbrite needs to improve their Facebook interface.

Was I ready for the event now? All running smoothly? Not quite. In the first twenty-four hours, I had "sold" half of the 100 tickets I could fit in my Webinar. And that was even before I invited on Facebook. I knew not everyone wold actually show up, but I didn't want people turned away, so I decided I had to buy a bigger Webinar package. The next size up was 500 participants, which was overkill, but given that I wasn't paying for a room, for food, or other launch costs, I went for it. I won't bore you with the details of trying to "chat" with the Zoom bots; suffice to say I needed an extra big glass of wine by the time I had made the switchover without destroying the existing webinar I had set up.

Once all that was done, I breathed easier and even designed a PowerPoint slide show to welcome people and entertain them while attendees joined in. In the end, 227 people bought tickets and 135 joined in on the night. Rick, my daughter, a tech savvy friend, and I had several practice sessions to make sure the settings were right, the chat and Q&A were enabled properly, the view was correct, and the lighting good. Even so, I chewed my nails. The event itself was a blast, and the feedback afterwards was gratifying.

Many people commented how much they liked the intimate, in-depth, conversational format and the fact they could tune in from home even if they were thousands of kilometres away. They even said they'd prefer this virtual format even when in-person events are allowed again. I enjoyed the hour but I did miss the personal contact. Launches are usually a chance to see old friends again and share some laughs, and it was very unsatisfying to talk into the green light of the camera instead. But I'm very glad that most people seemed to really enjoy it.

There were some technical glitches. Some people couldn't get it, some couldn't sign into Eventbrite on the night and others couldn't find the Zoom URL. Others just said it didn't work. I'm really sorry for these glitches, and sorry people missed out, but so much is out of our control when it comes to technology. 

The verdict? It was worth it. My hair and finger nails will grow back. Now, if only I'd remembered to record it!


Sybil Johnson said...

Sounds like you learned a lot. I attended and enjoyed it. Thought the format was good. Makes me want to travel to Canada. I've been to Ottawa very briefly and British Columbia a few times (mostly Vancouver Island). I need to do a trip across the country sometime.

Patricia Filteau said...

Ha! Well you did it! You didn't mention hitting the record button so you could share it for those 100 people that bought tickets but didn't join in. I belong to a group that once you register for the session - if you miss it or wish to refer to it again it sends a copy. I like that feature.

Barbara Fradkin said...

I forgot to hit the record button, Pat! That's all it would have taken. And I had a checklist, rather like a flight take-off, of things to do at the start of the webinar, but I didn't put it on there. So... I missed that chance. I'm really bummed about that.