Booktrailers – Be Careful

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A book trailer can be a valuable tool in promoting a literary work, but it must be used carefully. Moreover, a cinematic book trailer, where the trailer mirrors many of the elements used in movie trailers, including utilizing actors, locations, dramatic pacing with editing and music, etc., must be used even more carefully, as the objective is to garner interest in the work, not detach potential readers from interest in the material.

 For example, in The Silent Partner’s cinematic book trailer, I utilized actors and dialogue from the actual novel, but I was careful to illustrate conflict within the visual promotional “tease” of the book, while not telling much of the story. In fact, many people gave me similar feedback: “It looks very interesting, but I don’t know exactly what the book’s about.” This was the exact reaction I had hoped for. (The Silent Partner‘s book trailer is available on YouTube HERE.)

You know when you go to the movie theatre and see a three-minute trailer, only to be turned off from seeing the actual film and muttering to your friend, “Ahhh, I’ll skip that one”? I used my own real-life experience to avoid doing this exact thing, so the viewer doesn’t believe they’ve seen the best that the source material has to offer. The objective is to leave them wanting more.

Most book trailers are not dynamic and, in my experience, fail to bring about a feeling of any kind by the viewer. Why bore people to death? They can love the humor, dislike a character, or be frustrated by something happening to a character, but they have to care. Protect your visual promotion of your storytelling by ensuring that the viewer is more interested in your story after seeing the trailer, not less.

A book trailer may or may not significantly add to your book sales. My utilization of the trailer did help me get a couple specific interviews, including one with a FOX TV affiliate in San Diego, but it’s hard to tell exactly how many books have been sold due to the trailer. Rather, the trailer provided additional interest in the overall process of self publishing, and that in itself has in some cases been more interesting to some than the content of the source material. The trailer helped build the profile of the book and build my Twitter following, as well as gain interest from some in the novel. Truly, though, it’s hard to tell of specific ROI impact.

A simple checklist for producing your very own book trailer:

  1. Like with your book, draft out key points to showcase your story. Think of elements you can tell or enhance with visuals, and stay away from spoilers. Have a plan.
  2. Put together a crew. You can’t do it yourself. Get different people with skill sets in different areas, and find ways to compensate them. If not with money, use food, furniture you would have gotten rid of anyway, etc.
  3. It will take more work than you’re prepared for, so don’t set any promotional dates until after it’s completely done. Completely.
  4. Be nimble and prepared for actors or crew members to drop the ball. It’s your responsibility to pick up the pieces, so when something goes wrong, look at the situation as an opportunity to improve your work. There’s no reason to accept defeat.
  5. Try to be less than 3 minutes in length. It can be hard, especially for a 300-plus page novel. It was difficult for me.
  6. If someone is more talented than you in some way in putting the trailer together, hear their voice and utilize their talent, but don’t compromise your overall theme or feel of the original work.
  7. Use the ecosystem you’ve built with your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to publish access to your promotion.

Good luck in bringing your writing to life!

The Search for Free Publicity

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It may be a noble pursuit to seek out free publicity for your self-published book. After all, great work deserves to be shared and talked about, right? The problem is, there is a tremendous amount of great work that doesn’t get promoted by media outlets merely because the work exists. Sadly, great work’s existence means little to the world without some sort of relevance or meaning to specific “influentials” who can share your voice, who likely believe that your work may help a sector of the world look at itself differently, understand itself, or be thoroughly entertained. It’s up to us as writers to find these reasons in our work, share them, and get our work in the hands of those someones who can champion it.

When I wrote The Silent Partner, I was conscious of my professional standing working in advertising here in San Diego, and utilized relationships for part of the promotion of my first novel in getting a little bit of local press. (For this, I was very fortunate.) Of course, I used Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube (for the book trailer), my blog, and my website to promote my work . . . and still do. But to expand beyond my own little ecosystem of what I hope others don’t consider self-importance, I continue to aspire to connect with other writers’ blogs and book-reading communities. A GREAT place to start, with readers hungry for material they want to love.

By contrast, I’ve twice paid a publicist to also assist with press releases, and have gotten interest in my novel’s subject matter more than a few times by media outlets. Publicists’ work is not underrated, either. It’s not cheap . . . that is for sure. But in the end, once you’re on track to become a master of your type of work, and you’ve promoted yourself beyond what you can by yourself, I very much recommend getting a publicist. Even a 4-week campaign can be a shot of adrenaline into the marketing of your book. You’ll get it into hands of people you otherwise would not have. And then, whether something “big” happens with your book or not, you’ll experience growth as a marketer of yourself, you’ll become smoother at your presentation of yourself and your work, you’ll make some new contacts, make new friends, sell a few books, and you can spend more of your energy starting your next project.

Things to Ponder When Doing Your Book Acknowledgements

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The last thing you probably think you need to think about is how to thank the people who supported you through your enterprise of writing and publishing your book. Whatever the size of this magnificent stable of psuedo-fans–many of whom would also be in your cheering section should you, say, be on trial for murder–there will absolutely be important people you forget. Or people you should have forgotten. Friends may be slighted for reasons you cannot imagine, from their position in the supporter roster (“Did I make the first page?”) to their dissection of what names preceded theirs. (Clearly you, the writer, have a deficiency if that person supported you more than that one.)

Be aware of this possible disappointment, and don’t go off course because of it. Simply, it’s most important that you thank the people that must know that they contributed to your success. Be genuine. Then, no matter who grumbles, you know what you always knew: you thanked them for the right reasons.

Um . . . You’re the Crazy Ones

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God bless my friends and family who’ve said I should proud of the accomplishment of completing and publishing The Silent PartnerTragically, they have no idea what they’re talking about.

“You should reflect and be proud of yourself.” “It’s such an accomplishment, you should rest awhile.” “You should be so proud of that review!” “Bask in the glory and be proud.” Glory? . . . REST?? . . . Pride? . . . Are you friggin’ kidding me? I’m behind! I’ve got to promote the novel somehow while I conceive my next work! There are more rules to learn, more writers to meet, more stories to tell . . . all while the clock ticks and the publishing world continues to evolve into a new universe while the economy doesn’t get off its ass. It’s madness!

Of course, I’m surrounded by good intentions with spirits around me that are pragmatic, thoughtful, and grounded. In some cases, very loving. However I, like many artists, can be creative, emotionally charged, searching, and inspired. I try to manifest all the aforementioned characteristics, well, most of them . . . and while I don’t know how I’m always doing with this bombardment of conflicts, paradoxes, and mixed emotions, I know when I’m focused on something, it will happen.

I knew once I started the book, I’d finish it. I knew I’d publish it. No matter what. To me, this isn’t amazing at all. I said, “This is what I’m going to do,” and I did it.

You’re already working on your next book? What’s wrong with you?” Some people think that a writer who submerges his or herself into a writing project for YEARS has a serious problem with reality. I think skydiving or racing a car from zero to 60 in 5 seconds is crazy. Coming from a family with 4 siblings, having that many children is crazy.

I’m fortunate to have an amazing array of wonderful people in my life. They’re just the ones who’ve lost their minds. Clearly.

What I Learned From My First Book Signings

For any writer thrilled to (finally) share their work, a book signing should be an exciting time. Puppy dogs and ice cream. I’ve done two signings so far, and it was exciting to prepare to share the experiences with friends, family, and supporters. It took much more work than anyone had ever told me to set them up, and that, of course, is time and focus that wasn’t devoted to other writing, work, or play. And as many of us know, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. (An homage to James Howell and, most famously, Stephen King.)

I learned a lot and met some great people through the book signing experience. (The people at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, by the way, are fantastic. Both locations: San Diego and Redondo Beach. I imagine it could have been much more difficult to work with bookstores that found “un-famous” authors to be a nuisance.) Here is what I learned:

  • Always be prepared with more books (in your car, if necessary). You never know.
  • If you’re getting a cardboard poster of your book cover made to display, plan a month ahead. At least.
  • These people, humbly speaking, are there to see you, but respect their time. Multiple sources told me I should speak for 30-60 minutes. Surely, an author should provide their “fans” (should that be what we call them?) insight into the process behind the book, interesting details, etc. While 30-60 minutes works for some authors, I spoke for what I hope was an engaging 10-15, and that worked out well for everyone, especially those with kids. It is, after all, their time as well. (You can see the video from my very first book signing HERE.)
  • People will gobble up your promotional materials. Have them available.
  • It’s up to US, as writers, to promote just about everything with our work. Mysterious Galaxy included me in their social media, which was great, but we have to be our own promotional machines. There’s a lot to learn and do.
  • Your besties might not show up at your signings, for whatever reason. All good.
  • You’ll never forget the people who showed up for you. I’m pretty sure I never will.
  • No matter how many books you sell, it’s not about the money. Not once did I do any dollar calculation of books sold. (Mysterious Galaxy handled all the transactional details anyway.) For me, that was never the motivation to start a 5-year-plus writing project.
  • Black Sharpies are awesome signing instruments.
  • And the number one thing I learned: The book signings were fun, but the writing is considerably more fulfilling and necessary. An unexpected discovery that’s probably quite healthy. It’s about the work first . . . THEN the promotion. This is the beginning of everything else in the process of exposing the work.
  • What have YOU learned?

Now, it’s time for me to get back to work and play. So I don’t lose my mind.

How to Avoid a Self-Pub Nightmare

When you’re self-publishing, all typos, errors, ineffective use of color on your book cover, any mistakes of any kind . . . are YOUR FAULT. With fiction, there are more choppy waters to navigate through and avoid, like superfluous characters, one-dimensional storytelling, and undeveloped or forgotten story arcs, among other common hazards for new writers. (Though it’s probably more common than we’d like to discover these mishaps with celebrated authors, with novels coming from big publishing houses. Here is someone taking issue with the number of errors in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games.) As any fiction writer knows, there are many more writing hazards. Self-published fiction hazards can be brutal. Here are some ways I’ve discovered to avoid them:

  1. Use one, maybe two, professional editors. Your first editor will discover errors you missed and problems you never thought of, and will help you with the fundamentals. The second editor can help you with nuances, because you’ve (hopefully) remedied the problems caught by the first editor. You may think your untrained but critical eye is good enough. It’s not. And once your work is out there, it’s open for critique. Employing a professional editor is like insurance, you just get the immediate results and answers, before mayhem strikes. (Actual mayhem, not the Mayhem guy in those Allstate commercials) Many self-publishing houses provide an editor (or editing team) to you during the self-publishing process. I’d recommend using a professional editor first. By the time you’re submitting your work for print, it should be polished, not go through the first round of professional editing.
  2. Friends and family are awesome. And friends who care enough to read your work and provide insight and help you in any way are priceless. But, read number 1 again.
  3. Book cover: Do something simple, and try to stand out. You can be poetic or ironic, but few will catch this or even care. Review other book covers and find something that suits your taste or your genre. You don’t have to duplicate, but be aware of what’s out there that others have determined to be marketable, and make it your own.
  4. Take the book cover text seriously, including and particularly the book summary on the back cover (or front book jacket for a hardcover). I had used a summary for literary agent submissions as a place to start, and still found improvements that “sell” the story better.
  5. When working with your self-publishing house, review your and their work carefully. No one will (or should) care more about your work than you, and once you sign off on your book going to print, it’s done. Blind faith can be unforgiving.

Of course, you can try to blame your publisher for your errors. Probably won’t work.

When Writing Must Go: Hello, World!

There’s no one right way to publish a book. Everyone I’ve talked to––including literary agents, editors, and writers––has shared different tactics for the aspiring writer seeking to get published. It can be tough for some writers to endure stories of great work being self-published into obscurity while mediocre work is often mass-published for the discriminating book shoppers at Walmarts and Targets. While the latter may incense book snobs and writers alike, the most important thing is that scribe talents get their work read, regardless of how it arrives into the world.

For The Silent Partner, I’ve chosen to self-publish review copies for bloggers and reviewers before I have formal representation or ever try to sell the book. After all, I didn’t start to write nor continue to for the money. This may be considered both honorable and ridiculous (or just naive) by some, but money was never the motivator. Additionally, the unpublished novel stands on its own free of the stressful shackles of commerce. (Who said there’s no silver lining without a book deal?) The next step is to allow the work leave its maker, so commerce has to come into play eventually. The final touches are currently being made to the interior and exterior of the book so the work is represented in its most polished state, in preparation for the somewhat-noble desire of sharing a story, followed by the optimistic, non-altruistic pursuit of capitalism.

The book must soon leave the isolated comfort of the laptop and fly into the world and be exposed to the world’s dangers of book reviewers and particular readers. It must leave the nest.