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Friday, May 1, 2009

How (NOT) to make a Webcast!

Are you technically challenged? Before I explain what happened yesterday I have to confess that I’m not a natural either behind or in front of the camera. (You can see that from the picture of me with my editor Kim Young at the top of this blog. I'm the one gurning.) Much as I would love to present historical programmes on the TV, I suspect that Bethany Hughes and Dr David Starkey don’t need to worry about their jobs. I’ve only recorded one webcast video before and that was for the Meet The Author site. (No I'm not putting in a link. The site is wonderful - my video was awful). The chap doing the recording was absolutely charming and did his best to put me at ease but my choice of a red jumper to match my red face was not an inspired one. I’d never noticed before how many times I blink – well, you don’t do you, unless you spend a lot of time staring into a mirror. But it was slightly disconcerting to see all my mannerisms (let’s not call them tics).

Anyway, I had agreed to record a webcast and a podcast about my new Regency series The Brides of Fortune, which launches in two weeks time with the e-book The Secrets of a Courtesan. To be honest, it was jolly nice to be asked and since my lovely editor, Kimberley Young, would be taking part I felt reassured. Kim and I have worked together for a number of years now so I felt it would be like chatting to a friend rather than doing a monologue. And the huge benefit of recording a joint author/editor chat was that we could both lust over our favourite romance heroes of page and screen… Whoops, no. We could both talk not only about the trilogy but also about what it takes to write a Regency mainstream series, the highlights and pitfalls, tips, drawbacks and ideas, so that hopefully other authors as well as readers might find something useful and interesting.

It all started well. First of all I recorded a congratulations message for Harlequin Japan, who are celebrating their thirtieth anniversary this year. I’d learned some Japanese especially for the occasion so I could thank my Japanese readers, and I had been repeating my lines feverishly in the car travelling up to London. After about five takes I had that one in the bag and had mastered the on off switch on the video recorder. Or so I thought... It was time to refresh with a cup of tea and a bucket load of rocky road and rice crispy snacks that I had picked up at Marks & Spencers on the way.

Kim came in and we set the room up for the next webcast. We sorted out our chairs, waved copies of the books around, zoomed the camera in on the buckets full of chocolate and the empty tea cups, chatted about how technically challenged we were and tried to arrange our facial expressions to look less mad author/editor and more normal and engaging so that we didn't actually frighten the viewers away.

Finally we settled down to record. Although I say so myself, we managed to come up with 12 minutes of relaxed, chatty dialogue about the books and about the challenges of writing a Regency series, and we were very pleased with ourselves. Kim leaned forward to turn off the video and we chatted again about how well it had all gone and what total stars we were when it came to mastering the technology and then… I will never forget the look of dawning horror on Kim’s face as she spotted the green button still glowing on the video recorder. Nor indeed her colourful language as she realised that we had recorded the “before” and “after” but not the actual interview itself. (It proved to me that editors do indeed have a very extensive vocabulary!) Yes, we had made the classic mistake of having the camera running when we were setting up – and pulling faces and chatting about everything from my tea addiction to why she looked bigger in front of the camera than I did when actually in real life the reverse was true – and we had turned it on again at the end but we had not had it running FOR THE INTERVIEW ITSELF. We had confused the on switch with the off switch. We were more technically challenged than even we had thought!

What can one do in such a situation other than top up with chocolate and record it all over again? After our hysteria had subsided that’s exactly what we did. So now we have the official recording about the Brides of Fortune trilogy and the “outtakes” which we are thinking of putting up on YouTube as a guide of how not to make an author/editor webcast. I suspect I know which video will prove more popular!


Kate Hardy said...

A blooper reel, hmm? LOL!

I'm sure you come across much better than you think you do. You have a nice voice, you know what you're talking about and I've always enjoyed your conversation!

And how lovely that you had the chance to learn some Japanese, too.

Amanda McCabe said...

Ack!!!!! I have to do one to these next month, and now you have me even more scared than before, Nicola. :)

BUT I am sure you were actually fabulous...

Nicola Cornick said...

Konnichi wa, Kate! Thank you so much for a lovely compliment.

Oh, Amanda, I'm so sorry if I put you off!!! I'm sure you will be much more technically capable than I am (or be in the hands of someone who is!)And isn't it funny that I am really excited about your webcast whereas I wasn't about mine! What will you be talking about?

Elizabeth Hanbury said...

I'm laughing so much reading this, Nicola! I'm technically challenged too - rarely get ON/OFF switches mixed up because I have trouble finding them in the first place ;0) Glad you got it sorted eventually and I look forward to watching the webcast.

Jan Jones said...

Oh dear, Nicola, I really shouldn't laugh.

But I am. Sorry.

What a good thing you both DID eventually realise what you'd done.

(You could, of course, always claim you can't put the out-takes up because you've inadvertently wiped them)

Carol Townend said...

I'm with Jan! It's hard not to laugh, but I am sure it was frustrating at the time. Am very impressed though that it worked in the end, and your confession makes it all the more interesting when we get to hear/see it!

Nicola Cornick said...

Thanks, all! Must admit that it was hugely frustrating but that I could see the funny side after a while. And there was the rest of the Rocky Road for consolation!