How to Create a Book Video

photo by Gayle Martin

One of the perks of being a novel writer is learning new skills, and one of the new skills I learned was video production. Book videos are a must-have tool for building your brand and marketing your book(s). They’re like a TV commercial or a movie trailer and they’re used on websites, blogs, and social media. There are several different ways to go about producing a book video. The most common are slideshows, author readings, and book trailers

Video Slideshows

Back in the mid 2000s, when I wrote my Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers, Internet videos were a new technology. Video editing software was expensive and difficult to use. So, back then, many authors produced video slideshows, which were easy to create in Powerpoint. My first two book videos were simple PowerPoint presentations that I produced myself for very little money.

Even today, you can still create a nice video slideshow without having to spend a lot of money. Powerpoint has come a long way, and nowadays you can animate slides, record voice overs, and add music tracks to your presentation. Or you can take it to the next level and produce your slideshow in iMovie or one of its Windows counterparts. Whatever approach you take is entirely up to you.

Author Readings

Thanks for smartphones, we all have a camcorder in our pocket. Those authors who wish to make a more personal connection with their readers may opt to read a portion of their book to their readers. Such videos are inexpensive and easy to produce. All you need is a smartphone, a tripod, and some basic video editing software, such as iMovie.

Lighting, however, may be a challenge, so you should definitely take some test shots of your set before you begin shooting. If you have the means, consider hiring someone to shoot the video for you. A professional will know how to light the scene and can determine which camera angles are the most flattering. Either way, be sure to read a sample that’s interesting and action packed, but don’t give too much of your story away.

Book Trailers

Book trailers are like movie trailers. You shoot a few scenes from your book, but like the author reading, you don’t want to give too much of your story away. The idea is to entice a potential reader.

Unlike slideshows and author readings, book trailers are more expensive to create, and in most cases you’ll need to hire a professional to produce the video for you. Be sure to read their contract carefully before you sign. You may also need to hire actors. If so, they will need to sign a release form, granting you their permission to use their image. There are many release form templates available for download on the Internet, and oftentimes they are free.

Whether you are creating your video yourself or hiring a pro, there are a few things you need to be aware of when it comes to producing a video.

Royalty Free Doesn’t Mean Copyright Free

Some people think royalty free means copyright free. However, this isn’t the case at all. Royalty free is a term for a particular type of licensing agreement. Simply put, it means you don’t have to pay the right holder each time their image or music is used. You still have to pay a one time licensing fee up front to use the footage or music. There may also be limits on how the footage or music can be used. For example, it may be limited to editorial or non-commercial use only, so be sure to read the fine print carefully.

Other Sources

Pond5 is my go-to company for video production. You name it, they probably have it. Stock footage, music, photos, and whatever else you may need. Shutterstock and Can Stock Photo are also good sources. All of these companies will charge a fee, so you may want to shop around. Be sure to read the licensing agreement before you buy, and be wary of any website giving you “free” stuff. The quality may not be that great, and you may be buying pirated materials.

And finally

Whether you’re doing a simple slideshow video, or hiring a professional and doing a full board production, it’s important to remember that content is king. You want viewers to take an interest in your books, but you don’t want to give them too much information either.

I’ve posted one of my  book trailers below. It’s for my Marina Martindale contemporary romance novel, The Deception. I’ve come a long way since I created my first book video. Instead of a simple Powerpoint slideshow, I’m now producing book trailers.

Gayle Martin

 

The Trouble with Twitter

© Can Stock Photo/
ShutterM

I wrote my first book when social media was still in its infancy. MySpace was the big kid on the block, and all the book marketing experts were telling authors to embrace social media to promote their books. Among the recommended social media networks was one called Twitter.

Twitter Then

Twitter was a very difference place back then. It was for posting, “mini blogs.” It’s purpose was, “to let your friends know what you’re doing.” A typical tweet was something like, “Taking the kids to the park. TTYL.” Back then tweets were limited to 140 characters, so to me, Twitter was more of a bulletin board. Let’s face it. It’s kind of hard to engage with people with only 140 characters.

One of my author friends showed me how to use Twitter to drive traffic to my blogs. She introduced me to Hootsuite. Hootsuite could shorten my blog link, making it easier to to stay within the 140 character limit. I could also schedule my tweets to post on a day and time of my choosing. It worked. In less than 30 minutes, I could set up tweets to post throughout the day, and it really increased my blog traffic.

Twitter Now

Things change over time, and Twitter was no exception. I write contemporary romance novels, (under the pen name Marina Martindale.) I keep politics out of my books and out of my blogs. In fact, I write my books for people who want to take a break from politics. Twitter, however, was becoming more political and increasingly hostile. I still used it to drive traffic to my blogs, and while my number of Twitter followers increased, my blog stats showed significantly less traffic coming from Twitter. So as Twitter becomes more controversial, I keep wondering how much longer will it be of benefit to me?

For now I’m staying with it. However, the jury is still out. Most of my blog traffic now comes from Facebook, but about the time I’m ready to give up on Twitter someone retweets one of my tweets, so who knows? I suppose time will tell.

Gayle Martin

 

Consistent Book Cover Design

Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, building your own unique brand as an author is essential. For those of us who’ve written more than one book, this includes having consistent covers. After all, what’s the first thing a potential reader sees? Your book cover.

Five Star Publications, Inc., published Gunfight at the O.K. Corral: Luke and Jenny Visit Tombstone, the first title of my Luke and Jenny series of historical novels for young readers, back in 2006. As publisher, Five Star took care of the cover design. The illustrator and cover designer created a beautiful book cover, and I was quite pleased with it.

Unfortunately, when the time came to publish my second book, Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War: a Luke and Jenny Adventure I found out that the person who designed and illustrated the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral cover was no longer available. Thankfully, we were able to find another illustrator with a similar drawing style. However, no two artists are exactly the same. I loved the Billy the Kid cover illustration, but it didn’t match the O.K. Corral illustration closely enough to make the two books look related. I now had to make a decision. I could either have a book series with one cover which looked like it didn’t belong, or I could have the original Luke and Jenny book cover redone with a new artwork from the new illustrator. I opted for the latter. It really was my only option.

My covers were now consistent, which, in turn, made it that much easier to build my brand.

A few years later I published updated editions of the Luke and Jenny series, this time with my own publishing company, Good Oak Press, LLC. I could have redesigned the covers with new illustrations, but opted not to. My brand had been well established by then, and other than new ISBN numbers, and some minor copy editing, the books were essentially the same as the Five Star editions. The only change I made was to add the brown borders to distinguish them from the earlier Five Star series.

After completing my Luke and Jenny series I changed genres and started writing fiction for adult readers. This meant starting all over from scratch and building an entirely new brand, including creating a pen name, Marina Martindale, but the same rules for my covers applied. While I now write stand alone novels, I still work with Wes Lowe, who did the Luke and Jenny cover illustrations, and I still have consistency in the cover designs. It’s all about building your brand.

Gayle Martin

 

 

Are You Posting Your Politics?

© Can Stock Photo/
ShutterM

Nowadays many people express their political views all over social media, regardless of whether or not an election is coming up. I understand freedom of speech, and you certainly have the right to express yourself. However, there may also be unintended consequences.

Why political posts on social media is a bad idea for novel writers

Social media is an invaluable marketing tool for authors. It’s the best platform we have for driving traffic to our websites and blogs and building our brands. It takes a lot of time and effort to build a following. It can take months, or even years. So why, after doing all that hard work, would you want to risk alienating your fans and followers?

If you’re a nonfiction political writer then it’s a given that you should write about politics. It’s what your readers expect. However, many of us aren’t political writers. If you write novels, short stories or other creative fiction, and your sole purpose is to entertain you reader, then you may want to think twice about posting your politics on social media.

The risk you take

I make no claims of being mathematician or a statistician. However, I think it’s a safe bet to say that roughly half of your fans and followers don’t share your political views. It doesn’t matter if you’re conservative, liberal or libertarian. They don’t share your views. Nor will you get them to change their minds.

If you’re all over social media bashing conservatives or liberals, or their candidate, then you risk alienating roughly half of your fan base. These fans may unfriend or unfollow you on social media. They may unsubscribe to your blogs and newsletters. Most importantly, they may stop buying your books. And if you’re made them angry enough they may leave scathing reviews. So, before writing that political post, ask yourself this question. “Do I really want to lose half my fans?”

I’m sure some of you are so passionate about your beliefs that you don’t want people who disagree with you buying your book in the first place. If so, that’s certainly your prerogative. However, I think most of us really don’t want to lose any of our fan base. I know I don’t.

Yes, they will unfriend you

I’ve unfriended many people on Facebook because of their political posts. This includes unfriending fellow authorss. Some of their posts were so hateful it was shocking. Others were people I’ve known for years. Unfriending them made me feel truly sad. However, I’m tired of all the hate. I’m tired of all the negativity, Most of all, I’m tired of all the mean spiritedness and the divisiveness. It’s also put me in a place where I’m seriously reevaluating some of my friendships.

I guess I must be old school. I’ve always subscribed to the notion that who I vote for is for me to know, and the rest of you to wonder about.

Gayle Martin

Author Business Cards

an overlooked book marketing tool

© Can Stock Photo / iqoncept

The lowly business card. One of the most overlooked, and underused, tools in an author’s promotional arsenal.

I studied graphic design in college, and one of my instructors taught us to think of a business card as a billboard in miniature. It’s an advertisement for the product or service you represent. Sadly, too many people don’t see it that way. Many of the business cards people hand me are so poorly done I want to dump them in the recycling bin. Honestly, it’s not hard to design a professional looking business card that helps promote your book. (Or your product or service.) 

Use easy to to read serif fonts

You want your message to be understood. Therefore, it needs to be easily read. As a graphic designer, I suggest using serif fonts. Serif fonts are easier to read than sans serif fonts. Common serif fonts include Times New Roman, Baskerville, Century Schoolbook and Garamond. All are attractive and easy to read. I highly recommend using them for your most important information, such as your name, phone number and email address. If a fancy, decorative font makes this information too hard to read, your card may end up in the trash.

Use a light colored text on dark backgrounds

Someone once handed me a business card with tiny red text on a dark brown background. Both colors had the same value, meaning there was no contrast between them. This made her phone number and email address unreadable, so her card went into the trash.

If you must use a dark background, use a light color for your text, such as white or yellow. Ideally, you should use a light background with black or navy blue text. Light texts on dark backgrounds are hard on the eyes.

Keep the font size to a 9 point minimum

I’ve been frustrated to no end trying to decipher phone numbers and email addresses printed with a 6 point, or smaller, font. Even with my strongest prescription glasses, the type is too small for me to see clearly. My graphic design instructors taught me that any font size smaller than 9 points is very difficult for people to read. If I can’t read it, the card goes into the  wastebasket. No exceptions.

Don’t be cheap

I get it. Money is an issue for many of us. However, you want to avoid cutting costs on your business card. A cheap looking card makes you look, well, cheap, and no one wants to do business with someone who looks like they don’t have any money.

One of the biggest no-nos is printing out your business cards at home. I recall a business association meeting where someone asked the woman sitting next to me for her card. She smiled and proudly handed that person a home printed printed card. The person she gave it to responded with, “Oh, I see you’re using Papers Direct.” That was it. She was done. What could have been a good business lead instantly went sour. Don’t be that woman. A homemade business card makes you look like a rank amatuer.

Be careful with online templates

Online business card templates have become popular with those on a budget. However, other people are using the same template too. I have, on occasion, ended up with identical business cards from different people in different occupations who used the same background template. This made it all too easy for me to pull up the wrong card. If using an online template keep it simple, and stay away from the artsy fartsy Vista Print background templates with all the flowery swirls. 

The best design for author business cards 

For you authors out there, I recommend a designing simple card, with your book cover or logo, along with your name, website and contact info. A plain white, ivory, or pastel background should work just fine. If your budget is small there are plenty of online printing companies, such as PrintingForLess.com, who can print 500 4-color cards for around $50, including shipping. If needed, they can also help you design your cards.

Remember, your business card represents you. Oftentimes it’s the first thing people will see about you, and you want to give them the best impression you possibly can.

Gayle Martin

Book Signing Etiquette

Whether it’s a bookstore, a book fair, or other special event, book signings can be a lot of fun. They’re a great way to engage one-on-one with potential readers and network with other authors. However, we authors sometimes let our enthusiasm get the best of us. 

Treat other authors with respect

The worst experience I ever had at a book signing was during a big event weekend in Tombstone, Arizona. The local bookstore had invited so many authors to come and sign their books that they ran out of space inside the store. So, they seated me, along with one other author, on the boardwalk in front of the store. Strategically, we had a great advantage. There was a lot more foot traffic outside the store, and we were right next to the door. Customers had to walk past us before they went inside. I should have had one of the best weekends ever. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. The other author completely sabotaged it. 

He was a nonstop talker who talked and talked and talked about anything and everything. Yak, yak, yak, yak, yak. He wouldn’t shut up. Not even while I was talking to potential readers, or trying to close a sale. And yes, he actually killed some of my sales.

As if this weren’t bad enough, he started babbling about a controversial book he planned to write about his religious beliefs. So while I’m trying to talk to my customers, he’s now quoting Biblical scripture, chapter and verse, in a very loud voice. Not only were people no longer stopping at my table, they were literally running away.

I strongly believe in religious freedom. However, this was not the venue for a religious debate. I normally did well at Tombstone events. This time, however, I had a disaster. I hardly sold any books, all because of one very self-centered author who couldn’t keep his stupid mouth shut.

A book signing is not a place to socialize

A book signing is where authors come to connect one on one with their readers. If there are other authors at the same venue, as there often are, please show some respect and a little common courtesy. Keep your conversations with other authors brief, and try to limit those conversations to those times when there are no customers around. Most importantly, keep your mouth shut while other authors are talking to potential buyers. Nothing says rank ametuer more than interfering with another author’s sale.

Gayle Martin

It’s Time to Go Without a Net

© Can Stock Photo / airn

Once upon a time I used to advise other authors and writers that if the .com name they wanted wasn’t available to get the .net extension instead. Dot net websites were fairly common at the time, and whenever I registered a new domain, I’d get both .com and .net. This was to prevent someone else with the same, or similar, name as mine from getting the .net extension and creating confusion.


The Internet, however, is an ever changing landscape. What may have worked five years ago, or even last year, may not apply today, Such is the case with the .net extension. Over time we’ve learned that people will automatically go to .com out of habit, even when .net was clearly posted. It’s sort of like my name, Gayle. Not a bad name, I suppose, but it has the less common spelling. And no matter how many times I spelled it out for people, they still give me the more common, Gail.


So please disregard my earlier advice. From what I’m seeing now, the .net extension is becoming extinct, and you certainly don’t make yourself look dated. If the .com isn’t available, you’ll have to come up with other variations. If you’re an author, try adding, author, writer, or books to your name. By the way, if the .com version of your name is available, I still recommend getting authoryourname.com or yournamebooks.com with it. Domain names usually aren’t that expensive. However, they’re crucial for building your brand and promoting your book. Therefore, it doesn’t hurt to grab as much Internet real estate as you possibly can. 


Gayle Martin

Should I Enter a Book Competition?

From time to time my inbox fills up with calls to entry for various book awards, and I always have mixed feelings about entering. While winning an award is certainly a good thing, there is also a downside.

PROs

I’ve entered competitions in the past and some of my books, such as Billy the Kid and the Lincoln County War,  have won awards. I’m not going to lie to you. There’s nothing quite like the euphoria of knowing that your book beat out dozens, if not hundreds, of other entries. Awards are also a nice marking tool. Once again, there’s nothing quite like having that award sticker proudly displayed on your book cover. In fact, I’ve included one of mine. Not to brag, but to point out the downside to winning a book award.

CONS

I won the award in 2007. By 2010 my book looked dated. 

The other big drawback is the cost. The last time I tried to enter a book competition the early bird entry fee was $90. They also wanted four printed copies of the book. By the time I added in the cost of the books, and my best guestimate for the postage, I realized I’d be spending at least $120, if not more. This was just to enter one title, in one category. If I wanted to enter a second category the cost would double. Competitions aren’t without risk. There is no guarantee your book will win, so as I thought it over I realized I’d be better off spending that $120 dollars on advertising my book. 

So, is entering a book award competition a good idea? It’s something  you have to decide for yourself. If you have the inclination, and the budget, then go for it. Who knows? Your book could be a winner. But if you don’t have the money, or if you feel unsure, then don’t. While it’s nice to win an award, winning an award does not guarantee that you’ll sell more books. 

Gayle Martin

So Who’s Responsible for Marketing Your Book?

© Can Stock Photo/araraadt

From time to time I get into some rather interesting discussions with authors lamenting that their book isn’t selling they way they expected. So, I’ll ask them what they’ve done to market their book. Oftentimes they haven’t done anything. Many authors, especially newbies, honestly think all they have to do is list their book on Amazon, and people will come along and buy it.


“Build it and they will come,” may have worked in the movie Field of Dreams. However, it doesn’t apply when selling books. Nor is your publisher responsible for selling your book for you. They’ll distribute your book to booksellers, but they’re not in the marketing business. You, the author, are the one who’s responsible for marketing your book, and not taking the initiative means your book won’t sell. Fortunately, there are many things that you can, and should, be doing to help promote your book. 

How authors can promote their books

  • Have a website or blog, or both, about your book.
  • Promote your book on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook.
  • List your book on other websites such as Goodreads.
  • Have book signings.
  • Send out newsletters
  • Have contests and giveaways.
  • Have book trailers.
  • Advertise your books

If you can only do one item on this list, make it a having website. If you’re on a tight budget, you can create blog on Blogger for free. Blogger has an array of nice-looking templates and it’s very easy to use. Or, if you have the means, you can hire a webmaster and have them create a state of the art website will all the bells and whistles. Either way, it’s up to you to promote your blog or website. This is where social media comes in.

Of you’re an author, social media is an absolute must. It costs nothing to open account on most social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Keep in mind, however, that it takes time to build a following on social media, so don’t expect instant results. I’ve also found contests and giveaways to be a nice marketing tool. You can do giveaways through social media, or with newsletters.

If your budget allows it you can hire a publicist, but make sure he or she has experience in book promotion. Book promotion is quite different from other kinds of public relations. Also be sure to talk to him or her about the cost. Some firms may charge as much as $3000 a month for their services. Others may charge much less, and may do just as good of a job as the higher-priced publicists.

No one ever said marketing a book would be easy, especially in a time when anyone with a computer and access to the Internet can upload a Word file to Amazon and call themselves an author. However, unless your name is Stephen King, James Patterson or J.K. Rowling, don’t expect people bust down the doors to buy your book just because it’s listed on Amazon. You really do have to get there and do some work.

Gayle Martin

Blogs vs Social Media

© Can Stock Photo / gunnar3000

As authors we’ve all been told, dozens upon dozens of times, to use social media to promote our books. Good advice. Social media is an essential marketing tool. However, just like anything else, it can also be overrated, if not overused.

Some authors go on social media and post nothing but, “Buy my book! Buy my book! Buy my book!” To which I say, “Enough already!” We all want people to buy our books. However, social media was never intended to be a vehicle for free book advertising.

Why I think the blog is still king

  • You Can Engage One on One with Your Readers. Like social media, a blog allows you to connect with your readers on a more personal level. You can share ideas, have contests and promotions, and build your following. In fact, a blog is a form of social media, as long as you allow comments. Blogger, WordPress and other blog platforms also allow multiple pages, which means you can also use a blogging platform to build your website. That’s a whole lot more than I can do with my Facebook business page.
  • No Trolls Allowed. Trolls are people who apparently have nothing better to do with their time than to harass others or even destroy an author’s career. They’ve done some serious damage to Goodreads, and they can be a problem on other social media sites as well. However, with a blog, you can eliminate trolls completely. All you have to do is set up your comments so they cannot be posted without your prior approval, and bye-bye trolls. You’ve just created a place where people can feel safe engaging with you, and with each other.
  • Not Everyone Uses Social Media. Many people have either shut down their social media accounts, or they no longer use them due to privacy concerns and other issues. Others never signed up for social media in the first place. However, anyone with an Internet connection can read your blog. This makes you more accessible to your readers, especially if you include your blog address in your books. 

A word of caution regarding social media

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media sites are great platforms for sharing your blog posts. However, they can also be extremely distracting, and they can easily take up too much of your valuable time. Try not to spend more than ten to fifteen minutes per day on any one platform, and don’t feel that you have to post something on social media everyday. Better yet, use Hootsuite or other social sharing services.

With Hootsuite you can post on multiple social media accounts at once. This saves time and prevents distractions. Hootsuite also offers you the option of changing your blog post URLs. This can be very helpful if you want to reshare your blog posts at a later time.

So there you have it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media, when used properly, can certainly help you promote your books. However, in my opinion, there simply is no substitute for a blog.

Gayle Martin