The more observant of you may have noticed this blog post is a day or two later than normal. Partly this is because I’ve been a bit unwell and partly it is because I have been very busy making some book promotional videos.
Book promotional videos are a relatively new tool in the authors ever lasting campaign to bring their books some publicity and hopefully even a few purchases too. These days Amazon lets you host up to eight videos on Author pages though sadly it costs upwards of $1,000 to have the video actually listed next to the book on search listings which to me seems a bit short-sighted of Amazon really.
Some authors go down the route of hiring marketing campaigns on Twitter or other professionally paid for promotions but to me, the general concept of paying someone else to make your book sell well doesn’t really sit easy. Sometimes it is necessary to hire a cover artist and editors whether professional or willing friends are always a good idea if you can.
Recently some authors have started their own YouTube channels. I wonder how much of this is due to the recent publicity of Video bloggers who seem to make an awful lot of money for not very much effort or dare I say talent? Yes I’ll say talent… it’s my blog and my fever is making me unusually feisty! More realistically, I like most other authors would never dream of talking to a camera or bigging myself up that way. If I was comfortable with that then I would have become a V-Logger too. As it is I likely couldn’t string a sentence together and besides, the camera wouldn’t pick up much in my darkened writers lair where the only light is that of the WordPress notifications on my iPad of someone liking my blog!
Of course having a blog or writers website means that as well as Amazon you can have a second bite of the proverbial cherry and display your book promo videos on that as well or on Facebook or other online profile you might have.
Whilst there are some very talented people who can make professionally animated videos and the like or at least there are authors with such talented friends, I think that pretty much anyone can make themselves a good book promo video. I did my first book promo video in the summer of 2014. I wasn’t even sure I could produce one on my decrepit old PC but even I or rather it managed to produce something eye-catching.
It’s very tempting when producing a book promo video to try to make the next blockbuster epic but unless you can do it well so that your product lives up to your imagination then it may be best to limit your scope at first.
The above video is for my book Planes Trains and Sinking boats which is a funny travelogue detailing my adventures in the Sahara, the Middle-East, Eastern Europe and a few other places. It is simply a collection of the photos that I took from my travels with a few title cards interspersed here and there. I hope it gives the impression of what one can expect from the book as well as being slightly amusing or entertaining in its own right… with all due respect to the people in the sea or on that plane of course. I could have tried using some home-video footage or even something from the internet but for my first project I thought that may be complicating things a bit much, my PC may have outright died from the effort and I wasn’t too sure if I could do it or if the whole video thing was worth it to begin with.
As it happened I think the low-budget style actually fits the book well and makes the video stand out in its own way from the crowds.
An important thing to bear in mind is that of copyright both for the video footage and of the background music. Having said that, there is a wealth of free or nearly free resources on the internet and you’d be surprised what an offer of publicity might do for a musician or film maker who is as equally struggling to make it big as you are as a writer.
Last weekend I decided to make a book video promo for my book In The Footsteps of Heroes which is a photo tour guide to the highlights of the WW1 Western Front. Obviously I have hundreds if not thousands of photos to choose from and I am sure that I could have made a great video using them. However I got diverted on YouTube and found some fellow WW1 enthusiasts and historians had used drones to fly over various battlefields and memorials that typified what was in my book. What’s more they looked fantastically professional and provided the sort of footage until the last 18 months that would only have been possible with a big budget BBC drama or Hollywood blockbuster.
As luck would have it, many of these videos were available for use free of charge though I took care to get permission too which was very quickly given. I guess we historians are all good honest hardworking type people! One thing that sold the videos to me were the music. Some of which was free to use upon proper credit and I found others on the inbuilt features of the iMovie video creator my new iMac. I really wanted to use a piece by the Regimental Band of the Coldstream Guards but I know that someone using the backing for a YouTube video is something different that using it for a book promo which has a commercial sense. Yes, I probably could have got away with it but I thought I would ask to be sure.
I sent the regiment a message on Facebook at around 7.30am and within seconds got an instant reply. Most public material by state bodies whether in the U.K. or U.S.A is in some way public domain so I hoped that the Army would be the same… somehow. In fact the very helpful Sergeant told me that the regimental band did not copyright their music…. Hurrah! Unfortunately he thought that as it was taken from a iTunes release then it may be copyright somewhere and I knew it would be.
I must take a moment here to say what great customer service the Coldstream Guards gave on Facebook at an unGodly hour of the morning. So many big corporate companies spend millions on PR only to give awful customer service let alone respond to off-message inquiries. Nice to see the underfunded British Army is light years ahead of the commercial sector with the old-fashioned ideals of service.
Anyway I by using sections of two or three drone footage videos and by including one or two shots of my own I think I created a great book promo video. The music is quite atmospheric too and though I could maybe have spent a little more time making fancy screen swipes between scenes I think does its job well.
Seeing as I was on a roll and I needed a little break from writing I decided to also make a book promo for my WW1 history book, Lest We Forget – A Concise Companion to the First World War. Doing a promo video for this book had its own set of challenges and though again I could have used a selection of personal or public domain photos, I wanted to make a dynamic video. The challenge was making something big enough in scope to cover a world war. The problems were many but they were in no way insurmountable. I decided that I wonder some moving footage of two or three different areas of the war and would then include several stock and personal photos to flesh it out.
Obviously there is rather limited footage of WW1 and you would be surprised how much of it is copyrighted. In fact even writing the book was a bit of a mine-field as it is very difficult to ascertain what photo is owned and by whom. Many items are so old they are now public domain but some are not either due to their creator surviving the war and living many decades more or by what I call accursed image libraries who charge a fat fee for a black and white photo. I don’t mind the image libraries generally speaking but I do think it is a bit unfair to charge people to use footage which may even feature their family in it and which they only have because some rich corporation bought the rights from museums or government agencies.
Anyway rant over, I managed to find two or three clips of footage that as far as I can tell are public domain and freely available or at least are low profile footage. I’m not sure I could ever tell for certain but they marked up as freely available by the people I got them from. To do the best I could, I removed the pre-existing soundtracks of the footage and then put in some more freely available music. At first I didn’t like the longest track of background music but the more I watch it, the more I think it suits the aggressive and scary nature of war. It certainly sets a more tense tone than the other war book video which is entirely in the spirit of respectful remembrance.
Though we say that no-one ever buys a book by its cover, it’s safe to say that if there are two books that we haven’t heard of and are neutral about going into it, most of us will pick the book with the most enticing cover and I think book promo videos are another tool to help authors.
Like everything else to do with writing and publishing, it doesn’t have to cost a penny. All my videos were created using free software and with a bit of research and investigation, free footage and music with only minimal skill involved on my part. Once I got into it, I really enjoyed making them, and crafting them into an end product rather like writing and creating a book. Each one took just a few hours from start to finish and are now uploaded in various areas of cyber-space.
At a time when it is so hard to garner positive attention and affordable advertising, I think producing a promo for your book is a great way to help stand out of the crowd. Do take a look at my book promo videos and let me know what you think. You can find more info on all my books on my books page and of course amongst other places iTunes/Ibooks, Amazon UK and Amazon USA.
When I get a bit of time I think I will create another video for one of my tours!