Welcome to session 1 in our Book Video Workshop. [Updated February 2, 2010]
You’ve likely learned by now that publishing a book isn’t all about writing. Once the writing is done, along comes another phase of work: marketing. One of the emerging ways to market takes a page from television: creating a mini commercial for your book. comScore, Inc. reported that in November 2009, video viewership reached a phenomenal 31 billion videos watched. (This was all videos, not just book videos).
But with a viewership that high, it’s impossible to ignore the emerging possibilities. Book videos becoming more and more a part of an author’s marketing plan and a way to gain new readers.
What is a Book Video?
You’ve likely heard one of these terms: Book Trailer®, Book preview, Book Teaser®, book video, or book commercial. (Book Trailer and Book Teaser are trademarked by COS Productions.) They are all the same thing, and at its core, a book video is a visual advertisement to gain interest for your book – the book equivalent of a movie trailer.
The technical specs of a book trailer include a short script about your book set to music, still images and possibly video, depending on how in-depth you want to get. The process of building a book video starts with your script – which is the drilled down, shortened teaser of your book. From that, you match it with elements – stock photography, video, motion graphics, and music – to tell a story. This workshop is going to focus on the basic concepts to focus on.
Make It Yourself or Hire a Professional
Book videos cannot be discussed without talking about hiring a professional. When is this a good idea? Is it worth the expense? As a marketing professional and designer, it’s tough not to talk about the number of ways hiring a professional for these tasks can improve your chances of success. But not everyone has the budget or interest in hiring someone, so here are a few things to consider when making this choice:
Time invested. I can tell you from my own experience that they take a tremendous amount of time to put together – if you want to do it right. It takes research into finding the right music, the right pictures, video and animation if you use it, then time to create your script and your storyboard, edit any graphics you need to, and then put it all together in the video editing software. It takes time. Be sure you have it to give.
Technology. You can build a basic slideshow video on Powerpoint, though I’m not sure I would recommend it. The basic video editing programs are not that expensive and if this is something you want to do for your books (yes, I mean plural), it could be a good investment and it’s worth the time to learn how to do it right. Especially if you think it’s an area of marketing you’d actually enjoy working on. Here is a summary of the various programs out there: http://video-editing-software-review.toptenreviews.com/ I’ve used Windows Movie Maker, which comes free on a Windows system and I now use Adobe Premiere.
Outreach and Intention. What is your intention for your video? If you want it to put on your website, YouTube and maybe one or two other sites and call it a day, you can easily do that yourself. For a book video to have the most effect, it needs to be seen. COS Productions, the top book trailer ® company in the business gets tremendous traffic on their YouTube channel, in addition to the numerous other ways they distribute. For many who choose a professional, this distribution outreach is a big part of why.
Cost. I’ve seen various mentions in loops and such about the high cost of getting a book trailer done for you. They can seem expensive, especially when you’re working on a low budget, but when you factor in the time spent and the materials needed to be acquired alone, you’re adding up cost. And an often forgotten factor involved in paying a professional is that you are paying for their experience and expertise. That counts for a lot, because it’s that experience that will help present your book and you, the author, in the best possible light.
Deconstructing What Makes a Video…
It’s just my opinion, but I don’t believe a book video will sell a book by itself. If you had to assign different jobs to project items in your marketing plan, the job belonging to “book video” would be “Make them curious.” It’s what any good advertisement does: teases you with just enough information to make the reader want more.
It’s not to reiterate the book cover copy (too long), it’s not to tell them the entire story. It’s to connect to one or more of their emotions quickly, so they will take action by clicking on your website, going to Amazon to search out the book or maybe just add your name and book to their mental “check out later” file.
So without further ado, let’s deconstruct a few book videos and see what they are made of. Part of any good marketing plan involves research – and so our first step is to research what goes into book videos, what you think works and what doesn’t. It’s time to start looking at the videos in a constructive way, as a creator, not a reader, and be specific about the elements that you like and don’t like. Take notes. Keep a file of the videos to refer back to.
Some things to think about:
- What emotion is invoked from it? Is it an emotion that goes well with the book?
- Did you notice the music? Did it blend well with the scenes on the screen?
- Was the script easy to follow, easy to read? Too long? Too short? Just right?
- Did the images match the story? Were they compelling? Why or why not?
- Did you stop watching before the end? When – note the time into the video and figure out what stopped you.
So here we go:
Allison Brennan FBI Trilogy
Length: 41 seconds
Media: music, stock photography and text – basic, simple and to the point.
Allison Brennan presents veterans tortured, human trafficking, domestic terrorism, conflict, passion, FBI agents become targets. The FBI’s caseload just got a whole lot deadlier.
This video works for me because one, it adopts the famous marketing adage, KISS — Keep It Simple Stupid. The imagery and transitions are simple and not flashy, but do they need to be? Consider her subject: FBI, torture, human trafficking. Flowery or fun transitions would be out of place. The music is a basic drum beat followed by suspenseful sounds to stretch to the end. The switch is an effect in itself — goes from action to just a little creepy. The imagery matched quite well to the tone set across the board.
Wicked Lovely, Melissa Marr
Length: 45 seconds
Media: music, video and animation, stock photography and text
Rule 3 never stare at invisible fairies
Rule 2 never speak to invisible fairies
Rule 1 don’t ever attract their attention
Break the rules…and enter forbidden world both beautiful and threatening, alluring and dangerous. Find and lose yourself in Wicked Lovely.
This video is compelling. The imagery and transitions are a mix of light and shadows. The transitions use shadows quite a bit to add a touch of mystery. The animation of the butterfly is beautiful and fitting, but still very simple. The music perfectly matches the mysterious, but not ominous tone of the script and images. Everything blends to set a mood.
Wake, by Lisa McMann
Length: 1:01 minutes
Media: music, video, stock photography and text
Are you alone in your dreams? Or is she there? Can you hear her? Can you see her? She can help you if you let her. But who will help her? We know just the guy, if he can be trusted. Your Dreams are not your own.
This video is an excellent example of how much can be accomplished with very little imagery. The video element doesn’t change – the curtain. A few images are placed here and there, but it stays very simple. Nothing superfluous.
Deadly Little Secret, by Laurie Faria Stolarz
Length: 2:42 minutes
Media: music, stock photography and text
Camelia lives a simple life. Attends a normal high school. She has best friends. But someone is always watching. Ben has always been diffeent. With his power of psychometry. He can sense and see things through touch. Rumored to be responsible for his ex-girlfriend’s death. Camliea remains drawn to him and to his touch. As she starts receiving mysterious threats, Ben begins to sense the danger surrounding her. Can he be trusted? Some secrets shouldn’t be kept.
I included this one as an example of how to pare down a book blurb into a video. Click here to read the full blurb. This is longer than I personally like for a book video, and I would challenge that the script could be pared down more. But there are elements here that work even with the length. As the video progresses, the script and imagery move faster. Combined with the music, it creates a sense of tension and urgency.
Death of a Cure, by Steven H. Jackson
Length: 2:06 minutes
Media: music, stock photography, video, and text
Somewhere in Manhattan are the leaders of the largest charities in the world. Living lives of excess and power. Trusted and believed to be simply better. We want them to be. We need them to be. They are the keepers of our hope. But is the dream of a cure really their mission? How far would they go to protect the lifestyle, the power, the money? Then a good man dies. On the other side of the world, his brother, a military doctor on a mission learns of his death and calls upon a woman from his past for help. Together they unravel layers of evil and deception about a trusted charity. Would they kill?
This video has a lot of elements to it — in my opinion, too many. It’s a bit scattered and difficult to get a read on exactly what kind of book to expect. The book itself, by the book jacket blurb, sounds terrific:
They are the keepers of our hope. They are better, we need them to be. They battle daily in the fight to find a cure for our loved ones. But is the dream of a cure really their mission? Have they come to see the disease, our enemy, as their benefactor? How far would they go to protect the enemy? Would they kill? Death of a cure is a novel of mystery, suspense and action. The murder of one good man by a respected colleague is more than a crushing personal deception, it is an unequaled violation of the trust of millions afflicted by a horrible disease. The brother of the murdered man, a military surgeon born to wealth and accustomed to success, is thrust into the role of homicide investigator. Discovering that his skills as a detective are insufficient, he calls upon a woman from his past for help. Together they unravel layers of evil and deception revealing that the work of this healthcare charity has little to do with curing the terrible disease born by a trusting constituency.
But this video does something that I see a lot of videos do: they try too many things and lose the message in the process. In this video, the text is different each time, different color, different placement. The script needs to be shortened and focused on the emotional connection they should pull from the reader. There are competing elements in the imagery and motion to compete with the viewer’s attention — the main focus of a book video is to get them curious about your book, not wondering how you did such-and-such technique in the video.
Why The Sexiest Man Alive Has No Head, Diana Holquist
Thanks for Katrina Stonoff for mentioning this video — a very funny, very unique take on a book video. It actually mentions nothing about the book, but it tells you a lot about the author’s style. A note of caution though: this humorous take on a book video only truly works if the author’s writing style matches. If you aren’t a humorous writer, this could be misleading to a reader. (More on this next week when we discuss script.)
Remember: K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple, Stupid
Some of the things that I see in book videos gone wrong:
- Too many transition types. It can be fun to try ten different transitions between photos, but again — simple is best. Use fades and blurs most often.
- Too many fonts and colors. Fonts should be simple and easy to read. The eye follows best when it doesn’t jump all over the page.
- Imagery that doesn’t blend well with each other. The images should all match the overall tone and emotion of the script.
- Music that doesn’t convey the right emotion. Often times people want to go the route of free music, but that severely limits your choices. If you’re going to spend the hours to build this video, isn’t it worth the $20 – $30 to purchase a royalty-free license for the right music?
The best videos are simplistic almost — the message is clear throughout every element. Nothing competes for your attention, it all blends to tell a story, to touch something in you — whether it be excitement, fear, sadness, envy… the goal is emotion. And you know what — you are writers. That is what you do best.
So tell me in the comments — in the videos above, what did you see that you liked or didn’t like? Or if you are up for it, start searching YouTube and find some examples of your own that we can discuss in the comments.
Next Tuesday, we’re going to talk about writing the scripts of your videos. So be prepared — bring a script to share and discuss. If anyone wishes to be my “guinea pig” – please email me your script at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll use it in my post as we break it down and rebuild it.
Featured Photo credit: Free-Photos at Pixabay