On Friday I decided to perform a little experiment and do a "launch" for the release of a new story direct to digital.
Spirits is the tale of two young lovers who caught up in the legend of The Phoenix Baby, the ghostly crying that haunts a repertory theatre in the city of Ottawa. As they unravel the mystery, they find themselves becoming inextricably entangled to the old abandoned building.
If you're at all intrigued, you can listen to the entire story online (or download an mp3 of it) for free.
So at lunch time on Friday, as part of the joy of experimenting, I did a virtual launch via UStream, which is a streaming live video. I did what one normally does at a book launch (I read from the tale, spoke a bit about it and answered questions) - except, of course, I wasn't in a book store.
I can imagine that as the physical and digital begin to work more closely together, one might very well be able to do a virtual book launch right into a bookstore, or more than one bookstore simultaneously. I know my colleagues at Collected Works Bookstore & Coffeebar in Ottawa have done this very thing several years ago; they projected an author from the UK into their store, and filled the place beyond capacity.
I've also experimented in the same realm with my colleagues from University of Alberta Bookstore - they had an author appear there and we had an audience without our own store watching the event and communicating with the author and folks in Edmonton via a two-way video chat. And, for the launch of Robert J. Sawyer's WATCH, we broadcast the event from our store to a UStream feed, with twice as many people attending the virtual event than were in the store.
I can imagine more experiments like this, particularly as booksellers work out various ways to allow customers to purchase ebooks through their businesses.
The live broadcast was about 45 minutes, and I recorded about 30 minutes of it. This is raw and unedited video, so do be warned.
Eighteen people attended this virtual launch via UStream. I'm not sure how many watched via the direct-to-Facebook feed that I built into my Mark Leslie page there. But in any case, having 18 people "attend" a book launch is a huge success for an author such as myself.
And, BTW I know that my Mom (who doesn't own a computer) wasn't one of the attendees. Neither was my wife - she was upstairs cleaning the house at the time. I do know a few friends who attended and greatly appreciate their enthusiasm and support. It's always nice to look out into the audience and see a few familiar friendly faces.
Of course, that's one thing that was a bit strange for this launch - I couldn't see any friendly, smiling faces. All I could see was the green light on my web cam letting me know that I was broadcasting. Also, normally when I speak in front of a group, I can judge how things are going by the looks on their faces and can adjust my presentation accordingly. You can't get any of that feedback during a virtual launch.
There is, however, the ability for folks to pipe in during a chat stream and ask questions - and at least one person in the audience did -- one of my friends. Thanks, William!
So, ultimately, WAS the launch a success?
Well, on Smashwords, Spirits hit the Top 5 Bestsellers list within Horror and on Amazon it climbed as high as 13,693 on the Paid in Kindle Store list (up from where it started at 102,755) and it was also listed at #93 in the Top 100 Hot New Releases in Horror for the Amazon Kindle.
I'd call that a decent showing.