As both a library technician (working in a school library) and a young adult author, I've been promoting the benefits of Skype, or virtual, author visits. For libraries, the immediate benefit is financial - authors usually provide a 20-30 minute Skype visit for free or a very small fee. For authors, you may not make as much money as with a live, in-school visit, however, less of your personal time is required - no lengthy travels, driving in crazy weather or flight delays. But you still reach new audiences, get your name and book out there - and you can make your virtual visit as memorable/exciting/unique as your imagination allows.
Through the Writers Guild of Alberta, I've been lucky enough to be paired with another media savy Alberta author, Joan Marie Galat. Joan writes travel books, as well as the very cool Dot to Dot in the Sky series, blending ancient myths relating to the stars, planets, and Moon - a fitting mix with my shapeshifters. ;) Together we are working on a few presentations outlining the dos and don'ts of Skype visits. Hopefully I'll wrangle Joan into my session for the Canadian Library Association's annual conference in Edmonton this June. (hint, hint).
Here is a sneak peek from our D&D list so far:
- as with any author visit, prepare your presentation ahead - practice and time yourself
- look directly at your laptop or desktop camera. Joan made an awesome suggestion, put a "look here" stickie note beside the camera as a reminder. I struggle with this one a ton because it feels natural to "look" at your audience (which in a Skype visit, is displayed under the camera and to the viewers, you're always looking down).
- hold your book up to show the crowd - but hold it, Vanna White style, beside your face - not in front of it.
- slouch - it's common to start off your visit sitting nice and tall, but as you talk, or answer questions, you might get "comfortable" and let your posture slide - DON'T - this will lower your image in the camera and detract from your presentation.
- move around too much - as you become animated (because, hey, we're talking about stuff we love - books and writing!) you might begin to use your arms, hands, shift in your seat, lean into the camera, etc. Try to keep your movements as small as possible - even with high quality live feed cameras there will be a certain amount of blur.
As I work the bugs out of my own Skype skills, I find myself watching newscasters on TV - marvelling at how they can remain still, yet be expressive as they stare into the soulless teleprompter. I think I should track down some broadcasting sites for tips. ;)
Speaking of tips, I'm keen to collect feedback on these visits - from authors and schools/libraries alike - please email me (well, my pen name) if you'd like to share your experiences thus far: judithgraves @ ymail dot com
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