Daily Archives: September 17, 2009

Lights, Camera, Action!

I belong to several wonderful writing groups, a few of them very focused on marketing. For some reason last week, the subject rolled around to book videos. 

Yes, aren’t they the coolest? But as I perused the many book videos floating on the web and connected to author’s sites, even though my “writer” self was dazzled, I found my “marketing” self cringe. Like many potentially successful marketing tools, I fear most book videos are mis-conceptualized, misdirected and mismanaged. 

I look at book videos (or Book Trailers) a lot because like everyone else; I want to make them for my books. Some of my favorite book videos are at http://www.expandedbooks.com/video/view/551 

The majority of them (in several genres) are 30 seconds and some are less. The purpose of these videos is to keep the viewers attention and entice them to buy the book. It’s about getting sales. 

Now, I completely understand the excitement and attraction to having a promotional video for our book. After all, we’re storytellers and love to tell our story any way we can. Book videos can serve as wonderful marketing vehicles if handled correctly … but I think we should explore a few things about communicating in this particular format. 

So before we fire up our handy-dandy moviemaker computer programs, I seriously think we need to keep in mind what a trailer really is.  

1) A book promotional video is a direct imitation of a movie trailer. AND a movie trailer is a direct application to reaching television viewers. When we watch television, unless it is a paid programming promo, the commercial is no longer than 30 seconds. It’s a pattern we’re conditioned to and that may be why most viewers of book trailers (including me) tend to get bored after 30 seconds. We’re programmed for 30 second clips. 

2) This 30 second format is the reason many children (and adults), no matter the subject or product, will suddenly still and pay attention to a good commercial. (I LOVE the new Mac/PC spots!) A 30 second space of time requires quick impact and clean images to reach the viewer. Some commercials are far better produced than most television shows we watch! 

3) As writers we’re always told to cut back, get more concise, tell the story efficiently. What’s the hardest thing we’re told to do? Write our elevator pitch! 25 words that encapsulate our story, clean, neat, polished. I strongly suggest it’s the same with promotional book videos. 

4) When a book video moves too slowly and tells me nothing for a long time, I tend to imagine that the book is the same. Slow, boring and dragging. This isn’t the impression we want to get across at all. 

My suggestions are: 

A) Treat your promotional book video the way you wrote your book. If it’s fast paced, make the trailer fast paced. If it’s emotional, say that clearly and right away. If the book has twists and turns, let the viewer know that visually and within 30 to 40 seconds

B) Keep it brief and powerful, within 30 to 40 seconds. I do understand that many subscribe to the idea that book videos are targeted to the music video audience, requiring 2 to 3 minutes of entertainment. If your book is paced to be an exciting book video that long, and you know how to create a 2 to 3 minute music video, by all means do it. Remember, it’s all about holding a viewers attention. My attention span for videos is usually 30 seconds and I move on to something else. If your video is going to be 2 to 3 minutes long … make sure the viewer is totally hooked in the first 30 seconds. 

C) Be careful with the slow dissolve full screen verbiage. Think in terms of a movie trailer. They’ve got 30 seconds to excite the viewer about a 2 hour film and gain success at the box office. Like the open of your book, your trailer shouldn’t start as a snoozer. 

D) I have no issues with showing faces or using actors, as long as it gives the feeling of being professionally acted and videoed. 

E) Be careful with voiceover narration. Hire a professional or make sure it sounds professional. Write a narrator script as sharp and tight as your book. 

F) Be very, very careful of the music and images you use in your video. Just because something is on the worldwide web does not mean it’s ours to use. Familiarize yourself with licensing and the appropriate sites where images and music can be used or purchased as well as the limitations for that usage. 

G) The author’s website and the publisher’s website should be clearly shown at the end of a book video. Don’t forget a pocture of the book cover and a line stating where the book can be purchased. You’d be surprised how many book videos forget these critical elements! 

Yup. Done well, these book promotional videos are the greatest! 

And now for the bad news. 

So far, there’s no real proof or way to gauge whether having a book video actually helps sales. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t, it simply means no one has figured out how to track sales in relation to book video viewership.  

I see book videos as just another vehicle for marketing. No matter how wonderful it is or how much time and/or money is spent on it, just popping them on YouTube isn’t all that effective. 

I don’t think every author and every book requires a book video, but having one may be very effective providing you create it well and promote it aggressively. It’s a new toy and until we all discover how to make it a viable moneymaker, it may never become super important to an author’s success. In fact, it has the threat of being a distraction from other, more efficient ways to gain sales. 

But hoh, man, they are so cool and I want one for Cold in California! I can just see it! Flaming torches, hot sex scenes, desperate vampire moments! So someone, anyone, chime in with book video success stories!