C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

Write and publish with love and fury.

Marketing books: Thirteen video options

Season One of This Plague of Days is free until midnight tonight.

Season Two launches in two weeks.

Book trailers are problematic. Video can be done well. It often isn’t.

Most of them are too long. Production values are typically lower than viewers’ expectations. We’re trained to expect CGI on the level of major movie studios. Also, there’s little evidence trailers generate any sales. Go big and you’ll spend money with no return on the investment. Go too small and you might not be proud of it. Here are magnificent options, ranging from giving up and doing zilch to going big. Since I’m in touch with reality, most options are no-budget or low-budget.

Alternative 1

Don’t do it. It’s not worth the bother.

Alternative 2

Play with iMovie in your spare time. If it’s fun, great, but certainly don’t lose writing time to it. 

Alternative 3

Rather than worry about making a little movie and learning an editing program, do six seconds on Vine and/or fifteen seconds on Instagram. Focus on one quick, easy message. Don’t spell out the link to the camera. Leave the link in the caption. Note that people love video with cats.

Alternative 4

Upload to Youtube from your camera, iPod, iPhone or Android. Viewers will be more forgiving of low production values if they see you didn’t try to make it fancy. Just talk to the camera with a joke and/or announcement.

Alternative 5

Video pulls more clicks to your blog. Combine it with punchy posts for greater effect and more subscribers.

People have more tolerance for a short, laid back video than they will for long blog posts. For instance, yesterday’s post went deep into serialization and book pricing strategy. It was only for the most serious of book marketers and publishers. However, many more readers will click the video above and read this blog post for information because it has video and the text is breezy and scannable.

Alternative 6

Focus on what’s cool or ironically cool. Make it fun for you and the viewer. Try for the opposite of earnest and don’t try to tell too much of the plot of your book. Let the visuals do more work. Entertain first and come sideways at giving out information. One of the best book trailers I’ve seen was an author who talked about the glamour of the writing life while he scrubbed toilets.

Alternative 7

As I’ve suggested in the past, try a quote trailer. A quote trailer simply pulls intriguing quotes from your book. Don’t forget to include a buy link. Keep it short. No spoilers.

Alternative 8 

Use Animoto, as I did, for the video above. I already had the book covers. It took all of five minutes to use the free option for a video shorter than 30 seconds. The fire effect was appropriate and the music was a nice fit. Cool, huh? Animoto includes sharing options so you can export it to Vimeo, YouTube, Facebook, etc.,…

Alternative 9

If people don’t respond to your stabs at filmmaking, try making it more about you and how you can help others instead of making it about the book. Video reviews and how-to stuff get more hits. Funny’s always good, too.

I put up video of my podcasts to get more viewers and listeners. Some people simply prefer video to audio, or a YouTube video is how they will discover a podcast. Interaction in an interview setting can be easier to pull off than talking directly to the camera. Some people, like Hugh Howey, do it well and even dance for reviews. For most of us, solo videos look like hollow-eyed, stuttering hostage videos pleading for ransom under the threat of death.

Alternative 10

Have you set up your YouTube channel yet? It’s a great place to collect your video book reviews, too. Video reviews get more attention on Amazon than written ones, so it’s worth doing, for you and for authors.

Alternative 11

Go with Fiverr.com and get help to create quick videos like I did for my promotion plan for This Plague of Days. Check out my video samples at the link.

Alternative 12

If you really want to go big, get a semi-pro involved. There’s no proven ROI and most professional video production is expensive. Therefore, consider approaching a drama class or a film school. If your book trailer becomes a school project, at least your vanity project will benefit the education of a young actor or filmmaker in a concrete way. You could go the Scott Sigler route and make it a contest. Since every entry went up on YouTube for judging, Sigler’s books got multiple ads and multiple hits.

Alternative 13

I think Kevin Smith and Steven Spielberg are available for princely sums, but if you’ve just won the lottery, go with any of the above options and get your video production done free or cheap. Starving children everywhere would appreciate your generous donations. If you’re rich enough to consider professional directorial help, good karma’s the better way to go.

BONUS

Are you on Bookbub? Here's what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Are you on Bookbub? Here’s what the email looks like for my TPOD promo. Sale ends at midnight, never to return. Enjoy.

Screen Shot 2013-09-19 at 12.53.17 PM

Bookbub allows you to showcase deals to many targeted readers who are interested in your genre. Got a deal? Get noticed with Bookbub.

Filed under: author platform, book trailer, Books, Publicity & Promotion, publishing, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Self-publishers: Why I went multimedia (and why you should, too)

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Boy, did I have an eye-opener this morning that left me spinning! I shouldn’t have been surprised, but when you write and publish and do your thing, you naturally assume everybody gets your message at the same speed and time. Well, I naturally assumed that.

And I was wrong. Again.

Last night I posted a little promotional trailer for my books. It wasn’t anything fancy nor was it specific to one book. I was just playing around with iMovie. I had never messed with it before and I didn’t even look at a tutorial or read a help topic. I wasn’t feeling great, so I thought I’d use an otherwise unproductive Sunday afternoon to do something fun. I’ve blogged about book trailers before and generally I take a dim view of them. Let’s be honest: most book trailers suck. In fact, I might argue that the little movie I made kind of sucks, but first, a review of my problems with book trailers:

A book trailer is a commercial. People don’t like long commercials and most book trailers go on way too long. Nobody watches a commercial and wishes it was longer except for the old Old Spice commercials (that showed wit) and the commercials for the beer favoured by The Most Interesting Man in the World. From my research, I found what most authors have found: book trailers don’t sell books. John Locke points out that little movies about your books appeal to the author’s vanity but don’t do much for most readers and do nothing to increase sales. Some say that if you’re going to make a book trailer, make it funny or forget it. Or spend some real money on it, go big or stay home.

Despite all that, I did make that trailer for my books. (It’s in the post directly below this one if you’re curious.) Given all that I’ve said, why bother with a trailer at all? I made it for a very specific reason. It’s posted on YouTube, but really, I’m sure that’s not going to do anything. I posted it on Google+ and Facebook, but that’s probably nothing more than an idle curiosity or for people who, I’m almost sure, already know what I’m up to for the most part. For me, the trailer had to be of specific use for Goodreads.

I put the trailer on my Goodreads author profile. There are many authors on Goodreads and it’s a great forum for book lovers. If you want to read reviews and find books you might not otherwise find, it’s the place to be. I was slow to adopt Goodreads, but now I love it. However, it’s not a good place to promote yourself as an author and when you do much of anything outside of your own profile, you have to be very careful not to appear spammy. Sure, you’re filled with joy at the latest review or publishing milestone, but venture out into the forums with that same joy and someone will call you out pretty quick for subverting the mission of Goodreads. It’s for readers, not for writers. (If, as an author, you want to advertise on Goodreads, there’s a proper route for that and it requires payment and mucho dinero.)

I was shocked and embarrassed to find that I’d already violated Goodreads’ etiquette. I got a really great review for one of my books and I thought it only polite to thank the reviewer with a note on the post. The Powers That Be don’t want authors to thank reviewers. I can see, in the big picture, why they don’t want authors to do that. Maybe reviewers would be less honest if they were self-conscious or trying for thank you notes from authors. Worse, authors might also fall into responding to bad reviews, which we should never, ever do. Mmmm…almost never ever.

So how does one distinguish oneself on Goodreads without running afoul of the Goodreads sheriff and the good townspeople? Be nice. (I hope that’s not an act, Dexter Morgan.) Engage. Act like a reader and be passive about your self-promotion. Keep the self-promotion to a minimum and keep it on your page, no one else’s. No spam mail and nothing that could appear to a reasonable person as a personal agenda. Crank the helpfulness and interest up to maximum and just be you. (Unless you’re a serial killer.)

Goodreads devotes a lot of instructional text to authors so we can learn the proper rules of comportment and etiquette on the site. If you don’t adhere, they might kick you out or at least make you feel bad. Most author pages look pretty much the same, so I made a trailer to put on my page (not to send out to The People of Earth, awaiting applause.) Some people are more willing to watch a little movie than read through your witty little bio and personal mind map of the dreamscape you intend to self-actualize. I hoped to distinguish myself by having a little movie where many authors do not.

(Yes, at the end of this post, I’ll tell you the shocker I got, but first…)

So I have books on Kindles and smartphones and e-readers thither and yon. And now I have video (be it ever so humble.) I also went with audio. Here’s where things get really interesting. Podcasts are the new radio. I hardly ever listen to old radio unless I’m trapped in a car in a snow bank in a snowstorm with two broken legs and cannibalizing a Lutheran in a coma. It still astonishes me when I say the word “podcast” and get a blank look. I listen to podcasts constantly. The wonder of internet radio allows me to get through all the mundane tasks, like washing dishes, doing laundry and spaying the neighbour’s cat with lawn darts. Blindfolded. (Me, not the cat. Where’s the sport, otherwise?)

Writing and producing and performing a podcast seemed to me the natural companion strategy to writing books. I wrote Self-help for Stoners, Stuff to Read When You’re High. Why not cross-promote with a weekly comedy podcast that features excerpts from the book? I called the podcast Self-help for Stoners and naturally the tagline is Stuff to Listen to When You’re High. It’s up on iTunes. The combination is an easy fit. I had a little background in radio. I’m not at ease on the mic at all, but I’m relearning those skills, like how to sound natural again.

The book is a weird hybrid I could easily draw from for a weekly comedy podcast. It’s mostly fiction with suspenseful elements, but there are funny stories, parables, exhortations, weird facts and brain tickles. When it’s preachy, it’s preachy on purpose and, I think, entertainingly so. There’s even a sci-fi story in the mix! It’s a collection that most publishers wouldn’t touch, but from my background in traditional publishing, I decided that those reasons were bad reasons. I had a book with a hook. (And no, you don’t have to be a stoner to enjoy the fun. Many people are surprised when they find some stories challenge the idea that being a stoner is even a good idea.)

If that sounds like a lot of work that has nothing to do with writing books, you’re right…sort of. I write full-time. This all I do, so I have more time than most. Yes, I know how lucky I am and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for my family’s support. I tell them every day. As She Who Must Be Obeyed ventures out into the real world each morning, I say, “Win that bread and bring home that bacon, Ward!” She says, “Have a good day, June.” And then I skip (no, not metaphorically) back into the house and to my desk, into unreal worlds. The book feeds the podcast, but the podcast can inform the rest of my writing and, most important, touch an audience I would not otherwise reach. I podcast so the books I write may be read.

But what about you, you, you? Podcasts are everywhere on any topic you can dream up. It’s cheap promotion. It’s fun (mostly). You might make new friends and find a new readership. If you aren’t already podcasting, you should consider it. Or think about advertising on a podcast. That’s also inexpensive compared to traditional avenues. Podcast the same way you blog: talk about those things that ignite your passion, stimulate your skull box or tickle you silly. Get a friend to co-host and you’ve got a conversation. (I have no friends so I’m doing it solo. “But someday…” he said wistfully.)

But that’s not all. There’s Facebook, of course, though that’s generally more for tight amigos than business. Facebook has its problems as a business outlet (but this post is already too long and overuses the delightful parenthetical so let’s move on briskly.) Aside from blogging for writers and the self-published here, I also post on my Goodreads blog and on allthatchazz.com, the site for my readers. (If I ever say “fans,” drag me out into the street and reinvent the guillotine.)

Whenever I have down time (among the many tasks of formatting for ebooks, formatting for print, administrivia and…oh yeah, actually writing my books) I maintain three Twitter accounts. You probably know me from @RChazzChute on Twitter and such industrial films as “Whose Thumb is in the Fry-o-later?” @RChazzChute is where I meet most of my writing friends and fellow self-publishers. I got frustrated with Twitter’s whacky algorithm that slows me from following more people, so I went for more Twitter accounts.

@Expartepress (from my company name) is geared to readers and for activism. My pets are free speech, Occupy Everywhere and sovereign choices wherever no one else gets hurt, like eating Lutherans, for instance.

To promote the podcast, I let loose on @THECHAZZSAYS. I do an explicit comedy podcast, so when I have something edgy to say, it’s probably there (though some of you are already pissed off at me for the cat spaying joke. Most everyone who isn’t a Lutheran is okay with the cannibalism joke, however.)

So my target audiences are: Writers, Readers and the People of Earth With a Sense of Humour and an Interest in Fiction. It’s a small target but I can hit it.

What and how much is right for you?: Yes, multimedia promotion is a lot of work but don’t whine about the workload if you choose it for yourself.  Whining is unattractive.

I only do as much as I enjoy and the core writing always comes first. I wrote 11 pages of my new novel this morning, thank you very much.

Wait, wait! What about your terrible mistake? You said you’d tell us why you’re a complete idiot, Chazz! Oh. Right. Ahem. I’ve written this blog for some time. I’ve talked about my books and I’ve blogged about the craft of writing and editing extensively. I figured regular readers already knew what I was up to. However, this morning a fellow writer commented that the book trailer was cute. And…wait for it…up until she saw the trailer, she thought my books were all non-fiction. 

Ack!

Gulp!

Well, that’s humbling. I thought I’d already reached my immediate circle with my promise of suspense, fun, literature and frivolity. I failed to do that with someone who has guest blogged here and comments often. That’s not her fault. She’s a peach. The fault is mine. Maybe I didn’t talk long enough. Maybe I wasn’t short and pithy. Maybe the titles were misleading. For whatever reason I am not at this moment discerning through my haze of tears for fears, it took the book trailer for her to hear, “Hi, I’m Robert Chazz Chute and I think you’ll enjoy my fiction.”

If I can’t promote general awareness of my books, actual sales are farther off than I thought.

Her confusion is a signal to me. If it’s true for one, it’s often true for many.

Clearly, I have more promotional work to do. Much more.

You probably do, too.

Filed under: book trailer, Books, getting it done, Publicity & Promotion, readers, self-publishing, Social Media, What about Chazz?, , , , , , , , , , ,

Here’s a trailer for my books.

Did this on iMovie today. I’d never used iMovie before, but it was fun to play with. Just took a couple of hours, two cans of diet pop and half a bag of salt and vinegar chips…well, those last items might not have been altogether necessary. Books, book trailers, the Self-help for Stoners podcast on iTunes…I’m multimedia now!

Will a book trailer make a difference in sales? Doubtful, from what I’ve researched, but it might draw more attention to my blog and author profile on Goodreads and that’s why I did it. The exposure on YouTube might not hurt, either. I’m sure I’ll do something more elaborate (but just as short) in the future and make each trailer book-specific. For now? This makes me happy.

Filed under: book trailer, Publicity & Promotion, , , , , , ,

Book trailers: Problems and solutions

1. Book trailers are often done poorly. You’re a writer so you probably aren’t bubbling over with a ton of film skills. You could learn, but how many hats can you wear and is this really where you want to put your energy?

2. To make a book trailer well costs time and energy. Oh, and some money, though smart and funny buys more eyes than money. (Want to see examples of cheap videos that work and get eyeballs? Go to YouTube and search Nigahiga and Ray William Johnson, or click this Harry Potter parody brilliance or this crazy Michael Buble/Dexter parody. These guys go longer than a minute, yes, but they deserve it. You probably don’t.) If you still want a book trailer, don’t spend a whack on it. Try not to spend anything at all because it probably won’t work at all. Really.

3. Book trailers can make an author feel great, but readers aren’t necessarily watchers. Love of one medium doesn’t translate to another.

4. The main problem with book trailers is that almost all of them are way too long! It’s an ad. A thirty-second commercial is plenty. Most seem to clock in at over a minute or more and that’s the wrong way to go. How often do you enjoy a long advertisement?

If you did spend a whack of money and saw no return on your investment, at least making a book trailer is fun. You had fun, right? Geez, I hope so.

Unless…How can you turn that frown upside down and twist the book trailer problem around?

You could make your next book trailer a contest among your readers (and potential readers.)

This turns the work over to budding film students and enthusiastic fans. While you were writing your short stories, they were dreaming of buying a new lens for two-shots and becoming the next Tarantino.

1. Turn an advertising problem into a challenge for your readership. Give a couple of months of lead time before the contest closes.

2. Come up with a prize that will motivate your people.

3. Be sure to give them all the information they need to sell the book and make a little movie. Every director gets a free copy or a good-sized sample. The trailer should intrigue, excite and sell without spoiling.

4. Ask the contestants to make their trailer, put it on YouTube and then everyone will vote to decide which book trailer is the winner.

One book trailer is chosen, but they are all up on YouTube.

You don’t just have one book trailer working for you. You have a bunch out there.

I’m still not convinced that you’ll sell a lot of books with book trailers per se. If it adds to your web presence, however, people could be more aware of your existence than they would otherwise be. So don’t make one book trailer that’s perfect and expensive. Have a bunch of them out there that are less than perfect…and still get one you love.

It’s a great way to engage your readership, spread the word and get help.

You can’t do it all. Well…maybe you can, you genius you.

But you don’t have to. Also, it sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Filed under: book trailer, Books, Publicity & Promotion, web reviews, Writers, , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

For my author site and the Chazz network, click the blood spatter below.

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