Wednesday, March 28, 2012

The Curious Case of the Book Video Trailer

The specter of self-publishing (where anyone one can become a published author) has, as its dark shadow, marketing walking closely behind. Hundreds of thousands of books are published each year through both traditional and nontraditional means. And both sides (the old New York Publishing houses vs. self-publishing) fight not just for your eyes on pages but your ears as well. Witness the explosion of book trailer videos. If you haven’t noticed, just type in book trailers in Google YouTube. BTW, YouTube is owned by Google.

Here is the cool trailer for the book Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters

 You will find imaginative videos, stupid videos, good acting and embarrassing bad acting. Some videos make you want to buy the book and others scream “amateur.” There are reasons why some people should never be left near a video camera and there is also evidence that the iMovie software should be deleted from their computer. And for others it is a magical tool. And this goes for some of the big houses as well. At the IBPA conference I attended a few weeks ago, Eric DelaBarre (GO HERE) gave a great presentation on book trailers. He also noted that currently 70% of informational searches on the Internet are toward videos. And I have to admit that for much of my research, such as information on the use of the AK-47 and the M-1 carbine, I have gone to videos. I have watched container ships being loaded and unloaded and enjoyed finding out how to sail an America’s Cup sailboat.

But the trend now is to support your book’s launch with a video. The following are short self-produced trailers that tease the viewer into buying the book.

Here are a few important points about self-published videos:
  • Keep them to less than 2 minutes.
  • KISS – Keep It Simple, Stupid!
  • Get the best sound you can produce – in GarageBand there are effect tools you can use.
  • Use a great microphone with the video camera.
  • Music helps a lot – but remember that YouTube has copy write controls, use iTunes and download Royalty Free music – there’s hundreds of pieces.
  • Be different and creative.
  • Avoid a lot of still videos (my crutch), shoot your own action footage.
  • Shoot in HD – down load to a smaller file, we all hate waiting for a video to download.
Remember that you are fighting for a couple of minutes of your potential reader’s time. Slow downloads and long trailers are never watched.

Note: If the video doesn’t load, cut and paste the URL into your browser.

And, thanks to Eric DelaBarre, here are three bad/mediocre videos:
              Interesting but too long and questionable acting

               Please not one more image of this girl, it’s too long at one minute.

               Don’t do your own acting – unless you’re Julia Roberts

               Much better at 1:30, don’t you think?

One more – really, really bad:
               Enough said.

Here are three good videos:

            Left me wanting to know more.

               Professional and crisp

And two more:
            Make you want to find out what’s in the book.

This short is by a delightful writer about her stay in Paris for her fortieth birthday:
And here are two that are just wonderful and costs hundreds of thousands, if not millions to produce:
               So cool and engrossing – you sit in wonder

And this one while not a book trailer, this just keeps you watching:
Now don’t you wish you had a bigger budget?

And please, if inclined, check out my book trailers. Even I cringe a bit, but we are all learning.

Land Swap 4 Death

Containers 4 Death

Toulouse 4 Death

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Desert Fact Finding

This will be a short missive, Sharon's on a fact finding trip in the Scottsdale area. Seems a potential client needs the latest info on golf courses and Mexican restaurants. It's her job to check them out and let this paying client know what the skinny is. It's her hope that this same client will ask her to do the same thing in the fall in New York City.

Next week we're going to take a look at movie book trailers. Sort of a primer on YouTube and other outlets. Will show some of the good and the bad. Not sure where mine fall, but they are fun to do.

More later . . . .

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Curious State of the Publishing Industry

My CFO and I spent last Friday and Saturday in glorious San Francisco (if you can ignore the politicians) at the Independent Book Publishers Association’s (IBPA) Publishing University; I left shaking my head. The overall conference was great but some of the pieces of the publishing industry are ill fitting. And I also now wonder if some people in the publishing industry even understand the profound effects that are underway. Below are my comments about some of the speakers and subjects.

Dan Poyntner spoke to the well-attended but ungodly early  7:00 Saturday morning pre-breakfast crowd about his history in self-publishing; for many this was their first taste of Dan. He is a dynamic and powerful leader in the industry and is someone who has the guts to demand that the hyphen be removed from e-books. Yes, it is now ebooks. But do we still need to call the alternatives pbooks? I ask you?

Ebooks come in so many different flavors that Baskin-Robbins could open a shop. There’s .mobi for Kindle, Epub for Apple, Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, and others, good old PDFs, RTF, LRF (ancient), PDB for the failing Palm devices, and for the real crazies, HTML and Javascript (don’t ask). The reality facing writers and publishers is trying to understand what format is best for their work. For straight fiction it’s fairly easy with mobi and epub doing the heavy lifting, but when it comes to color it’s a whole new world. I’m holding judgment for a while. With the incredible colors in both the Kindle Fire and the iPad (and others as well), I believe that a more efficient format will be developed (probably based on one of the above, that will allow for efficient file sizes). Most children’s books are only valuable in color and PDFs seem to do the job, but again file size can be a problem. It’s also both the flowing text and disconnected image thing as well. Children’s books and graphic novels are very different than text manipulation – I’ll wait and see what happens.

What was even more exciting is that print-on-demand (POD) printers are now offering color and hard cover books – minimum orders of 25 copies. What a world, what a world!

I sat through an hour with a gentleman from Google who explained their efforts to be all things to all people. Social networking: Google+, Publishing: GoogleBooks, Maps: Google Earth, Search: Google, News. Well, you get the idea. Their presentation was confusing and very weak. They are trying so hard, with all their money, to capture every market in the digital world that they come across as a dyslectic institution with an extreme case of ADHD run by geeky twelve year olds. They are a long, long way from threatening Amazon.

Without a doubt Amazon is leading every effort at going digital. They help small and large publishers (both the big houses and self-publishers) to get their efforts before a growing audience. They also have put together a great program through their print-on-demand business, Createspace. And they send knowledgeable and helpful people (see below). I see better things coming from them.

Independent Bookstore (Indies):
They put up a great face against a publishing tsunami. Hampered by limited shelf space, time, and money, they must deal with the incessant demands of every writer with a paperback version of their ebook. Sales have increased with the death of Borders Books but Indies are still small businesses fighting the flood, i.e. Amazon and iBooks. A couple of hand claps for local bookstores Books Inc. and Bookshop West Portal (SF) for putting on a reality check for writers and real books. Both Neil Shofman and Margie Scott Tucker swept away some of the clutter and let some light shine in.

Social Media:
It’s everywhere and not one person has an understandable let alone successful business plan on how to use it to their advantage. Google+, Facebook (I'm HERE) - (yee Gods, I finally signed up, Sharon O’Mara has had her own page for months), LinkedIn which I really enjoy, and a ton of others. One social site, at the recommendation of another writer, immediately besieged me with invites from women named Olga and Elena and Inga and Ludmila – you get the picture. The say they are a travel site, don’t think so. If these are the places to go to find customers, then okay, but I’m still trying to figure them out and I don't speak Russian. And what is it with Goodreads, the trying to be social, by-collecting-all-the-books-you-are-reading, site. Their president, Otis Chandler, spoke and thoroughly annoyed me. He seemed disconnected and aloof. Is this the future of social media books? I hope not, especially when he avoided the question about his divorce with Amazon. We’ll see. And why is his site so hard to use?

Rock Stars:
Joel Friedlander again shows why he commands the respect of bloggers and book designers. Check out his site in the left column The Book Designer.
Joan Stewart showed how to make a few pennies from your blog that can build into real money. 
Mark Coker founder of Smashwords is hitting his stride - watch this company, he is the man in e-publishing.
Thom Kephart, with Amazon, finally explained how to use Createspace, KDP (publishing for Kindle), and Amazon to a more than confused audience – I’m moving as soon as possible to Createspace for my print on demand (POD) books.
Eric DelaBarre, award winning filmmaker and speaker, showed how to make your book/movie trailers more effective. Most of us were just embarrassed by our own feeble attempts – but we will try harder. He is an outstanding speaker and has a good sense of humor as well.

A writer now has to know more than verbs, nouns and prepositions. He has to be a publisher of his own work, a marketing maven, and a geek. It's a very, very, brave new world. I’m beginning to get the shakes, again.

More later . . . . . .

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Fame and Fortune

Much in Common
As writers we would like to have two things: recognition for our work and to get paid for it. Often these are at cross purposes and like artists, sometimes you have to be dead a long time before the dollars equal the recognition. As an extreme example consider Shakespeare. My guess he would love to have 0.05% of the gross from all the movies made from his plays. Even those movies that claim he didn’t write any plays, was a plagiarist, and some even say he didn’t even live. Yes, but we do know his name!

For my money, I’ll go with recognition. Ah, to be known far and wide as the creator of Hercule Poirot, Jack Ryan, Sam Spade, and even Dr. Hannibal Lecter (and in the wings, Sharon O’Mara). Characters and recognition, if well-conceived, will equal sales. But what comes first: the story or the character? Did Jack Ryan, savior of the known world, leap, fully armed from a supply room at the CIA, or did he evolve into the President of the United States? Under Clancy's pen he evolved, and yes, there has been a continuous improvement of his GS rating since page one of The Hunt for Red October. Was Dr. Lecter just looking for a dinner partner, or did Thomas Harris have bigger things in mind for the masked avenger? I’ll go with story, then character. I believe that the story will push and drag a character into and through its pages. The author then has the opportunity to flesh them out, arm them (in some cases literally), and make the role fit the story. But be careful, sometimes the character can be to strong and will try to take over the story and drive it.

But the character I’m most interested in is the author. How can they build a story around themselves and their craft that becomes as interesting as the “Fava” king or the “Stuff dreams are made of!” detective? As authors we are looking for the Holy Grail (an agent with all the unlisted numbers at Scribner’s and Random House). We have to bide our time with Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and lord knows how many other disconnected medias to get reader facetime. There is no road map out there, no matter how many bloggers write, "This is the way to go." There is no right way or, for that matter, no wrong way either. I have been, for three years, trying to discover or build a business model that can achieve fame and fortune in this new world. So far, it’s just not happening. The model is as elusive as those damn phone numbers.

But there is a glimmer on the horizon, the newish phenomenon of the on-line book review and interview. Sometimes for a fee (they have to eat too), and sometimes not, these reviewers have set up both Skype and phone interviews that are live and take the time and energy to really get into the writer’s head (as messy as that is). They allow the author to talk about what they do the best, their craft. This is one area that I’m going to concentrate on over the next year, we will see what happens, and will keep you posted on the results.

Other face-time opportunities are book clubs (again some of these are going viral and are on the Internet). The discussion, one-on-one, with a group that has read your books, is both challenging and enlightening. This is another action point on the marketing board this year.
Lastly, recognition can come from the strangest sources. Last week, Smashwords and Mark Coker (its founder), announced a marketing program celebrating Ebooks. Smashwords is the largest distributor of ebooks in the world (my guess). Their simple on-line program allows for any Word document to be converted into all the formats that the ebook industry uses (Nook, Kindle, PDF, IBook, Kobo, etc.) and then they distribute those ebooks to all the major players. They handle the billing as well, all for a small piece. This marketing event allows the author to list their books in this program for one week. The price of the book is “Free.” I know this is counter to my statement in the first paragraph but the idea is to create a hopeful buzz and gain recognition. Since last Saturday all the O’Mara Chronicles have been free and will be until this Saturday. I’ve had over one hundred downloads since then (Go Here). Ah, I see fame and fortune on the horizon!

More Later . . . .