|Image from Democratic Underground|
Twitter parties are pretty much the same, only they work with a specific hashtag, much like the Twitter chats we talked about with social media. Sometimes Twitter parties happen alongside a Facebook party (the Souls of Indie celebration did this with the hashtag #SoulsofIndie). So if you open a tab with Twitter and run a search for the specific hashtag involved with the party (and then click All at the top of the feed so you see all of the tweets), you'll see the party tweets as they happen. Twitter can be overwhelming with something like this if there is a lot of activity, but keep in mind that you can read the tweets at your own pace and respond as you come across things you want to respond to. Don't feel like you have to comment on every tweet, and don't feel bad if it takes you a few minutes to narrow down your response to 140 characters or less (unless you want to split your response into parts, which I always forget you can do).
Google Hangouts is another great way to have a party. I haven't joined one yet, but I'm really looking forward to trying it out. From what I've seen on the How Hangouts Work page, it looks a lot like one giant instant messenger chat. You also have audio and video options, which can work alongside a Facebook or Twitter party. For #NALitChat, they usually have audio to accompany the chat, which is where the special guests talk about the particular topics for that week. So you can have a party with audio or video. But keep in mind that if you use video, people will be able to see your pantsless dance.
|Image from Vulture|
So now that we've talked about the why, let's talk about the how. First, let me advise you not to be intimidated if you've never done one before. You have to start somewhere, right? If you're worried about it, attend one before hosting. If you haven't been invited to one, just ask an author friend (like me) to pass along any invites they've received. I can tell you from experience that attendance and activity can go either way. I've guest hosted for parties that were insanely busy, and ones where I swear virtual crickets should have popped up onto my screen. So if you decide to host for a party or throw one of your own, don't be discouraged if activity comes and goes. It might not have anything to do with you or the party, but more to do with the hour, the invites, and the day of the party.
Hosting is a blast! I'd definitely suggest coming up with posts before the party, even if you are only booked for a half an hour slot. There are several different things you can do. If you have the time, mix it up a little. Start some discussions related to your book. Is it a tear-jerker? Ask who has seen The Fault in Our Stars. A zombie book? The Walking Dead has a pretty big and rabid fanbase. Same for fantasy and Game of Thrones. But you aren't just limited to topics that are related to your books. Mine have nothing to do with time travel, but I'm not shy about bringing up the fact that I am a Whovian.
Games are another way to engage partiers. You can play a caption game, where you post a random funny picture and have people caption it, then choose a random winner, or choose the best caption. If you are going random, then random.org is a great way to pick one. If you want to play games related to your books, you can have partiers cast your main characters (always be sure to link to the Goodreads page for your book and give a brief description of the characters) and pick your favorite. You can talk about the love interests in your book and run a game for book crushes. You can do the same thing for quotes or anything else that comes to mind. Always try to tie the game back to your books though, to draw in interest without rubbing it in their faces. You can also give them tasks for games, like sharing a status about the book, sharing an image, or following you on social media. Technically, Facebook warns against sharing things on personal pages for games. It happens all the time, but be warned that it is against the rules of Facebook.
Don't be afraid to be creative with your games, or to do research to see what other people have done. As for how often you post, the key thing to keep in mind is that you don't want there to be too much time in between activities because that might bring on a lull. But you also don't want to overwhelm partiers with your posts, either. I recommend timing it around 15-20 minutes in between posts. I usually start with an introduction and pair it with a game to like my Facebook page or follow me on Twitter. I ask participants to post that they did so, and I try to ask a question too, just to keep them engaged and keep interacting with them. Then I'll either move to another game or a discussion post. I usually try to sandwich discussions between games.
Of course, if you are playing games, you are giving things away. So keep that in mind with planning how many games you play during the party. You can give away signed books or swag, gift cards, and e-books. I tend to give swag and e-books away since print books cost to send. I also give gift cards away, but I keep it around $5. I like to give stuff away, but I also keep it cost-effective. E-books are a great way to get more readers without breaking bank. I use Smashwords to give away e-books. You can create a coupon code there to pass along to winners, and they can use it to get whatever format they want.
If you decide to plan a party, don't be shy about asking for guest authors or donations for giveaways. Authors love promoting their books, so you'll probably be surprised by how many people sign up to help in one way or another. Heck, if you are looking for a party to get involved with, let me know. I've got a couple that I am planning this year. ;) The biggest thing to take away from this post is that virtual parties are a great way to have fun while promoting.
|Image from Debra Kristi's Blog|