Webinars, Writing and Delivering on Your Promises

photo credit: sridgway via photopin cc

photo credit: sridgway via photopin cc

Most of the time, I try to talk directly about things to relate to writing, indie author marketing, branding and so on, but I had an experience watching webinars a couple weeks ago that I want to relate because it’s about delivering on promises. In a roundabout way, though, my experience does relate to the broader topic of writing and marketing because those are also about delivering on promises

So, a couple weeks ago, I watched two webinars. For those of you who aren’t familiar with webinars, they are essentially live webcasts that feature an expert or two speaking on a topic with the aid of slides. One of the webinars I watched was about inbound marketing. The other was about a piece of writing software called Scrivener. The experience of watching these two webinars could not have been further apart.

The inbound marketing webinar, sponsored by Hubspot and featuring marketing expert John Jantsch, was what I would consider a textbook example of how to do a webinar. Jantsch delivered a structured talk with supporting infographics, charts and explanatory slides. He moved smoothly from topic to topic and wrapped up his talk in approximately 42 minutes. For remaining time, Jantsch fielded moderator-selected questions to which he gave very cogent answers.

The Scrivener webinar was hosted by Joel Friedlander. It featured presenter Joseph Michael, the self-styled Scrivener Coach, and a moderator. This webinar was, by most measures, a hot mess. The purported purpose of the webinar was to show people how to write in Scrivener and then export files into ebook formats…effortlessly.

From the outset, it was clear that this webinar was being delivered off the cuff, with minimal preparation or thought given to structuring the content for maximum value. They lost a lot of valuable time bouncing control of the screen between the presenters. The content itself came across as a tour of features that the presenters liked, rather than the promised tutorial.

A major low point for me came when one of the presenters attempted to walk the other one through a new process for saving research material. While no doubt a valuable tip, it could have been shown to viewers in under 60 seconds, instead several minutes, if they practiced it prior to the live webinar.

By then, I was ready to bail and go do something productive. However, at the beginning of the webinar, they promised that 50 attendees who stayed until the end would get a chance at a free copy of Scrivener. So, I stuck it out. I figured that another 20 minutes for a chance at free software was a small enough price to pay. Only, things didn’t work out quite as advertised…

When the “educational” portion ended and the obligatory product pitch commenced, a standard feature of webinars, we found out that the only way to get a “free” copy of Scrivener was to sign up for a $497 training program cost.

For my money, saying viewers can get a free copy of something, as a stand-alone statement, implies the free item is a no-strings inducement to stay until the end. What happened was more like getting promised a free Blu-ray player for showing up at car dealership’s event and finding out you need to buy a car to get the Blu-ray player. Maybe it’s not precisely illegal, but it’s not ethical.

The Scrivener webinar failed to deliver on all of its promises. It didn’t show me how to do anything on Scrivener effortlessly. Even listening to the presentation was an effort in trying to discern meaning. It barely discussed, let alone provided a walk-through, of exporting a file as an ebook in any format. Finally, it failed to deliver the promised 50 free copies of scrivener to attendees who endured the whole webinar.

Those failures, particularly the shady advertising, turned me off to any future webinars by Joel Friedlander and Michael Joseph, but also guaranteed that I’ll never buy anything from either one of them. If they play that fast and loose with potential customers, I can’t imagine how they treat actual customers.

All of which brings me around to writing and indie author marketing. All writing, and all forms of content when you get down to it, serves a purpose. We identify the purpose with titles, tags, and category descriptions. We identify fiction and non-fiction and, when people see such identifiers, they expect the content to conform to that.

When I say that my Sam Branch novels are contemporary fantasy with a dose of action-adventure, I’m making a promise. People who read my books know that I deliver on that promise. The books are contemporary, fantasy, and deliver action-adventure. I also like to believe they deliver good writing, but that’s always debatable.

Whether as a writer, someone producing YouTube videos, or someone offering a webinar, we should take those promises seriously. Building audience trust takes time, but one bad experience can destroy that trust forever. The Hubspot webinar promised to discuss inbound marketing and it delivered an in depth and detailed discussion. I’d absolutely roll the dice on another Hubspot webinar. The Scrivener webinar promised much and delivered almost none of it. I won’t be wasting my time with them again.

Playing Catch Up

photo credit: schani via photopin cc

photo credit: schani via photopin cc

I’ve been incredibly bad about updating this blog recently, violating one of the rules I preach about. That rule, of course, is that you should update your blog on a regular basis. So, in order to play fair, I feel like I owe everyone an explanation. I actually have been writing the posts. What I haven’t been doing is giving them proper edits and posting them. So, on the good news front, you can expect some posts over the coming weeks.

The big question anyone has the right to ask is, “why haven’t you been posting?” The answer to the question is easy, but not simple. It’s been a matter of time. I can’t rightly say that, if I looked over everything I’ve been doing over the last month, I absolutely could not have found an hour here or there to get a post knocked into shape and posted. On a day-to-day basis, though, it’s felt that way.

This week, for example, I’ve been having terrible headaches and finding it more than a little difficult to do anything beyond the bare minimum. For those of you who, like me, tend to get chronic headaches, you know that it makes every task harder and, even when you force yourself to sit down and work, everything takes longer.

I’ve also been working on the preliminary stages of a few projects that are close to my heart. One is a podcast. I recorded a short, preliminary episode and a friend of mine is in the process of writing some music for it. I’ve been brainstorming ideas for the logo, along with ideas for episodes and thematic elements I’d like to hit on.

I’ve also gotten started on an idea for a limited run web-series that I’m planning to post on YouTube. There are a lot of moving parts involved with something like that, way more than you might think, even for something that I only expect to run 5-10 minutes per episode. At this stage in the game, I’m still hashing details in my own head and will soon be hashing those details with my presumptive partner in crime for this project, who will, for the moment, only be identified as Agent X. I will tell you this much, it involves food, and nerdery, and general good fun. It will not be scripted (mostly) and it will be reality-based.

Then, of course, there is the new Sam Branch novel, which I have continued to edit, one chapter at a time. Unlike the first two Branch novels, I am doing a hard edit on paper. Editing on paper is a very different process than editing on screen. The upshot is that I’m catching a ton of errors I would have missed on screen. So, you can all look forward to much a cleaner read with far fewer typos.

The downside is that editing on paper is a slower process, in part because it is just inherently slower, but also because I have to make the edits in the Word document after I do them down on paper. Then there is the fact that this novel is significantly longer. More good news, though. I am approximately 25-30% done. At this pace, the novel will go live sometime this summer.

I’ve also been hashing out the details for a crowdfunded project that is much, much closer to going live than anything else I’ve been working on. I’ve got some video work left that I need to get done, but that project is likely to go live in the next few weeks. Once it’s a little closer, I’ll talk about it so much that it will make you hate me a little. I don’t want to give away too much, but I’ll say this much. I’ve written a fair bit of fiction in the last year or so that isn’t Sam Branch-based and this project is all about providing you a way to get your hands on that fiction. So keep your eyes open for updates.

Then, of course, there is the regular old, run-of-the-mill work that keeps me fed and caffeinated. It’s not always interesting, but it’s always necessary. That eats a lot of time too.

So, like I said, the answer is easy, but not simple. I’ve been writing, a lot, and with any luck some of it will be in your hands very soon. I’ve been chipping away at projects, which I’m hoping will see the light of day this year. I haven’t given up on the blog, not by any stretch, and I’ve got some good ones coming your way over the next two to three weeks. So keeping tuning in.