Monday, February 06, 2006

BOOK VIDEOS -- Great marketing tool, or waste of time and money?

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.

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 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.

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.


Rob Gregory Browne said...

Great article, Anne. I can't believe how much vidlits is charging. I, frankly, am not all that impressed by them -- at least not 5 grand worth -- but that's me.

I'm experimenting now with blogcasts. Don't know (and don't really care at this point) if it sells books (especially since my book doesn't come out for a year), but they're fun to do.

anne frasier said...

rob, i listened to your blogcast -- very cool! it certainly adds another interesting layer to your blog.

Kelly Parra said...

Great article, Anne. Shows an honest viewpoint and the beforehand of the vid movie. I hope it works out well!

Jeff said...

Good job on the article, Anne.
I'm wondering if videos such as you've described might one day show up in bookstores like previews in movie rental stores? Maybe have a set up so people can approach a row of monitors, put on headphones, select the genre, and get a quick preview of the latest releases. I have no idea what cost might be involved, but readers would probably go for it. :)

anne frasier said...

kelly -- good to see you back!!
jeff -- that would be great, but it's hard for me to imagine how it could be done. the publisher would probably want control of it, but most writers would have to pay for it. i don't know. maybe if publishers put out a cd every month with their catalog. the cd could feature certain books. it'll be interesting to see if it goes anywhere.

Anonymous said...

Anne, I think the videos are cool, but I'm not sure about how often they are seriously viewed. Would a $5,000 investment be recovered in sales? I have to guess probably not. Then again, videos are easy to trade on the internet. Perhaps they'll catch on with Amazon and the bookseller internet store fronts. If that occurs, I could see more value.

emeraldcite said...

I am a product from the tail end of MTV's video years (dying sometime in the mid- to late-nineties).

I love short, short films. I'm also a fan of trailers. Hell, some trailers are so good that they have little to do with the movie or they stand on their own.

I really think that bookvids really fit into a marketing niche that's been catching on for last decade or two: commercials that sell an idea more than a product.

Commercials have really made headway in becoming their own entertainment tour de force. Sometimes, I enjoy the commercials more than the shows (see the film content above).

Gee, I'm starting to see a trend here. I think they might stick around. Since MTV stopped airing videos, for the most part, record companies turned to direct marketing with commericals, much like the Time Life collections. I think it would be interesting to see books take this direction.

It would be great for an industry that's been stagnant for the past couple of years and excellent for literacy to boot.

I hope it doesn't die out. I wonder if a few weeks before a book comes out if buying a few prime 30 second spots during shows with similar demographics would increase sales significantly.

I think it would be a tactic many wouldn't expect and really spark interest in both the book and its author and the book trailer genre.

Shesawriter said...

I say it's a great marketing tool. I would have never known about your book without seeing that short film. So I'm living proof that it works.


anne frasier said...

the cost is probably the biggest issue with the trailers.

i'm also hoping something like this will trigger an interest in reading among people who would normally not think about picking up a book. i think both you and jeff mentioned dvd players in bookstores, which could be pretty effective.

it does seem to have worked with people who've viewed the video! most say they want to buy the book.