Friday, November 11, 2011

Office hours for authors on Google+ Hangouts

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="OPEN by Tom Magliery on Flickr"]OPEN by Tom Magliery on Flickr[/caption]

Earlier this week I gave a Google+ Hangouts tip to fiction authors. Here's one for non-fictions authors -- use Google+ Hangouts for "office hours".

Think back to college. Sure, it's hazy from time, beer and... college. Remember when you were struggling like mad to grasp the concepts of electron clouds because your shitty high school chemistry teacher knew nothing of basic science and only wanted to blow things up in the lab like you so you didn't really learn anything and now here you are at university and...

Wait. Sorry. I'm already off-track.

College professors deal with the failings of secondary education all the time. And one tool they use to help students (like me) with personalized attention is through office hours. These are posted times when they are available to walk-in students. They sit in their office, have a light workload, and wait for students to come to them with questions. They're the experts. We're the... well, students.

The parallel for non-fiction authors, typically masters of their chosen field, should be obvious.

So do it. Find a time that you can commit to being in front of your computer each and every week. That's really the key part; consistency. Make that time publicly known. Post it everywhere. Add it to your Twitter bio. Set up auto-tweets to remind people about it. Create a Facebook event and invite your fans. And obviously, talk about it on Google+.

When it's time for the event, start your Hangout. Don't just sit there and stare at the screen waiting for the masses to come to you. That way lies madness. And depression. Instead, get some work done. I would not recommend writing. At least not on the computer that's running the Google+ Hangout. File papers. Read a book. Fiddle with your tablet. But stay in view of the camera, and keep your sound up so you can hear when people join.

Who will come? Dunno. That's the beauty of it. It's open season. What will they ask? Anything, really. Hopefully things related to your expertise. It's your job to steer the conversation there.

What happens if more than 9 people want to be there at the same time? If you fill up on your Hangout, make a post on G+ asking people to be patient. And as soon as you've answered someone's question, exit them from the Hangout to free up a slot.

What happens if no one comes? Then you have a great hour of not futzing with the computer in front of you. Use it wisely!

If you decide to try this, please let me know. Send me a message on Google+ and tell me about. I'd love to hangout and watch the experiment unfold!

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