Here's an article I wrote for the Midwest Fiction Writers newsletter. Thought I'd post it here as well.
Great marketing tool, or a waste of time and money?
By now most people have heard of book videos or book trailers, and many have probably watched several. From my research, costs seem to start around $300.00 for something short and simple, and can go as high as $25,000.00. Videos vary greatly in quality depending upon who makes them. VidLit, which uses flash animation, seems to be the most expensive but they do a great job. Last time I checked they charged 5,000.000 per online minute. Yes, that's five-thousand bucks. One of the least expensive companies making trailers is Circle of Seven Productions. I'm not crazy about them, but a lot of people really like their videos which are done with actors and props and costumes. I chose to play the childbirth-is-painful card, use my own kid, and pay her not nearly enough for her time.
DO VIDEOS SELL BOOKS?
One author I questioned said her book video definitely increased her sales. But along with the online video she also made DVDs that included an author interview and an hour or two of writing tips. Other authors who claim an increase in sales already had a big readership and online following before they began making videos so they didn't have to worry about rounding up viewers. One writer said he especially liked to use his video when speaking to groups and felt it helped immediate sales.
MY OWN BOOK VIDEO
My daughter is a film major and videographer, and both of my son and daughter are in a band. My idea was to make something artsy, more like a music video. I wanted something that was an anti-ad; I wanted something entertaining. My kids (The Chambermaids) had a CD coming out, so I thought we could combine my book and one of their darker, moodier songs. Hopefully if the video didn't click for me it might click for them. I gave my daughter a vague description of the book, suggested three scenes, and let her take it from there. The actual shoots went fairly well, but things got difficult and tedious in the post-production phase. The voice-over didn't work out, so we decided to go with text. Bad idea. The video was done digitally and we couldn't get rid of the blurry text. Apparently this is a problem with Final Cut Pro. The online version is fine. It also looks good on television, but we were never able to completely eliminate the blur when viewing the DVD on a computer.
Many times I felt like saying forget it, this is taking too much time away from my writing and if it isn't perfect I don't want it. After weeks of headaches, the video was finished just days before the publishing house strategy meeting for my book. I sent five DVDs to my editor and she presented the video to the marketing department. They asked for 50 DVDs to go out to all their reps. The video is now online, and we will be making at least 300 DVDs to give to booksellers and package with ARCs.
IF YOU MAKE IT WILL THEY COME?
This type of viral advertising relies heavily upon word of mouth, email and blog links. You tell two people, and they tell two people.... There is no way of knowing if my video will sell books or if very many people will bother to view it. My feeling is that it might help some, but it probably won't sell enough books to pay for the making of the video which ended up being a little over one-thousand dollars, roughly the cost of the conference I probably won't be going to this year. I won't know if the video had any impact on sales until the book comes out in September. I will report back at that time! I also feel this is a fad that will soon whimper and die, but I said the same thing about MTV.