How to Promote a Book Using G+ Hangouts

Last month I did 23 (!) separate Google Hangouts to promote the paperback edition of my new book What Technology Wants. Many people asked how it went, and whether I would do it again. The short answer is yes.

The deal was simple: If you self-organized a group of 9 people to purchase 9 copies of the paperback book (one each), then I would spend 1.5 hours in a Google Hangout with the 9 folks. Because Google limits the number in a hangout to 10 (I was the 10th) and there is a screen window for everyone present, the result is a very intimate conversation. Technically, the Hangout set-up worked. There were very few dropouts due to Google.

A slight inconvenience is that everyone needed to have a Google+ account. I made that the responsibility of the self-organizer for each group. He/she turned over to me a list of 9 IDs which we then made into a temporary Google circle. When the time of the hangout came, I invited everyone in that circle, and we then we met wherever they we in the world. You get see each participant's name below their image which was very handy for me.

We used a public Google Calendar to allow people to self-schedule the hangout times. I posted which times on which days were available and it was first-come. For me the schedule was very intense; some days I had 5 hangouts in a row, although in the future I might spread them out more. To give an equal opportunity to both Europe and Asia participants, I offered some slots at 7am and others at 7pm California time.

There was no set agenda for the hangouts. It was a genuine open conversation. People could ask anything, and I also asked questions. I was amazed at how different each session was. There was a group of college buddies; there was a group of pastors, there was a start-up in Argentina; some philosophers in Berlin. There were fans in Singapore and Australia; there was a lawyer who bought 9 copies herself and cleverly used the hour and half as inexpensive consultancy. I loved each session.

But I also learned a few things that might be helpful to someone else hoping to use this new technology for promotion.

+ One person needs to be the organizer.

+ One and half hours is too long. One hour is sufficient; beyond that energy and interest fade.

+ Start with introductions. Makes everyone included.
+ As host you can really heighten the quality of the conversation by encouraging each person to speak up. The shy ones often have the best things to say. You can easily encourage them by name because everyone has an automatic name tag.

+ Invite the group at least 5 minutes or more before you show up because it takes that long for everyone to get settled in with their technology, particularly those new to hangouts.

+ Encourage everyone to wear headphones or earbuds. In a group of 10, feedback can build up fast and noisy.

+ There is a built in chat function for the participants. Notify everyone of this option which is very useful if someone can't hear, or for other tech problems, or to share links.

+ Save yourself hundreds of hours and have the groups schedule themselves. We use Google Calendar.

+ We had the organizer provide the proof of purchase.

The net result of the 34 hours that I spent hangingout in Hangouts was a decent bunch of books sold, many more than I would have sold standing in front of an empty bookstore. More importantly was the great fans I met, and the fantastic conversations I had with them.

I'd rate this a successful experiment. I am already thinking of how I might do something similar again.
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