Friday, September 7, 2007

Promote your book and your brand with video

Sheila EnglishThe Mavens are thrilled to announce Sheila English, today's guest blogger.

A publicist and CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, the premier creators of Book Trailers®, Sheila Clover English has created a niche in the book industry with creative promotional and marketing ideas.

A five-year veteran as an Executive Producer of award winning book commercials, Mrs. English is best known for her creative media endeavors, bringing book commercial distribution to movie theaters, television, cable and an online network of approximately 150 sites.

MM: What interested you in making book trailers, and how did you turn that interest into a business?

Sheila: It was a combination of things really. I was an aspiring author looking to find a way to promote myself in a unique way, but also, once I came up with the idea of book trailers, I thought it would be a fantastic marketing tool and I wanted to create them for other authors.

MM: Could you describe your book trailers' integration with social sites and subsequent viral marketing?

Sheila: Book trailers are formatted and supported by a variety of online social sites. User-generated video sites such as YouTube, Veoh, Google, Yahoo, iFilm and over 100 other sites created a venue that allows books to be seen in a way that most people respond to - visual.

We have a fulltime staff that is responsible for distribution of our videos onto those sites. But, they do so much more than that.

Social sites are like cities and the landscape of those cities can change according to the type of people that come in, new widgets, new groups and other variables. So, book video may be popular there for a while, but it there may come a time where book video isn't being watched as much for a time. Our distribution department does research on a continual basis to make sure our videos are uploaded to sites that have interested viewers and to sites where the video will get quality hits.

We distribute to more than social sites though. We have boutique or specialty sites as well, such as The Romance Zone or Find Me An Author. We also send our videos to booksellers and the videos play on bookseller sites.

Viral marketing is often misunderstood. Viral marketing happens when you put up information, in this case a video, and other people take it and pass it on to others. This is a common occurrence for COS videos. We have a loyal fan base who will put our videos on their sites or blogs. We make video sharing very easy to do. Since 2005 every single video done by COS has gone viral to some extent.

MM: Could you give examples of the types of authors who should consider using book trailers, and examples of authors who may be better served waiting for a different time/project?

Sheila: This is a really great question!

I have actually recommended that a client wait to have a video done. There really are good times and reasons to do a book video.

New authors benefit by getting their name out there. You can have the best book out there, but if no one knows about you, how will they know to pick up your book?

For new authors we would do a different distribution package than what we would do for an established author. A new author has different needs than an established author. Our distribution is catered to the needs and situation of the client.

Any author trying to create or change their brand. I feel branding is very important. So many authors try selling their books one at a time. Really, they should be selling themselves and making themselves a promotional tool for each book. We have worked with authors to help develop or change their brand.

Any author starting a new series. It's good to have a video that announces a new series is coming. For author Christina Dodd, we started working with her to establish her brand. Then, once we got that done, we wanted to highlight the different genres she does. She started a new paranormal series and we did a video for each book, but we also did a video for the series as a whole. It was a great success! The books did great and it caused a real buzz online because she'd never done a paranormal series like this before. We even had booksellers contact us asking to use the videos! The same thing happened with author Lisa Kleypas. She started doing contemporary novels after years of doing historical novels.

Highlighting a cross genre is a wonderful reason to use a video. You may write romance, but your books are well researched and you write about SEALS or suspense or something else equally as exciting.

Expand your readership. Much along the same lines as highlighting a cross genre, you can highlight certain aspects of your book in the video to target specific readers. You can concentrate on action/adventure to bring in more male readers. You can concentrate on paranormal elements to bring in more fantasy readers.

Bring in new readers. If your numbers are staying the same it's because you're doing the same thing. If you want your numbers to go up, do something different. Video reaches more viewers than a print ad will.

To build your website traffic or membership. You can feature your video on your own website first and direct people to that site in order to see the video. If you're building a membership, you can do two videos, one that points to the one on your site. Christine Feehan's website membership has gone up 600%!

Fan appreciation. You can do one as a gift to your fans. If your book just did great how do you thank your fans for their loyalty to you? Fans love the videos!

Sales Teams. You can have your video put on DVD or CD Rom and sent to your publisher to give to the sales team.

Expanded Media. You may be ready to do television or movie theater ads. You can spend less than $2000 and get great spots. Plus you have the benefit of telling booksellers that your book will be on television. And you can put "As seen on TV" on your site.

There are good reasons to do a video. And there are bad reasons to do a video.

Book video is a promotional tool like any other. If you use it correctly you can build a great marketing campaign. I see a lot of people creating videos and putting them on their site, YouTube and MySpace. They put them there because they don't know what else to do with them. You need to use the video to hit specific target audiences, or for very specific reasons, in order to get the most out of it.

MM: Your web site shows a wide array of services, ranging from a $250 single-image video to a $50,000+ amazing trailer, complete with a live action custom script, sound effects, and CGI. What possibilities would you recommend an e-book author (who earns no advance), a debut trade paperback author (with, say, a $5000 advance), and a multi-published author (with, say, a $25,000 advance)? How much depends on the disposable income available, and how much depends on where they are in their career?

Sheila: If you're an author you need to determine what your disposable income for promotions will be. Only the author can really decide that. And of that money, what is your ROI (return on investment). If you pay $250 for bookmarks because you can get 2500 you need to really know what you expect out of each and every bookmark. How many sales do you expect to get in relation to the number of bookmarks you give out? How many people will remember your name from a bookmark? How many other bookmarks are competing for that same reader?

People often go for what they feel is more instead of what is effective. It's a common mistake that I see made over and over.

The trend I've seen with e-book authors is that they are doing their own. If they do their own they could still get COS to do target-specific distribution for them for $150. They could have a Fast Track Trailer done for $390 that will also go to booksellers, can be linked on and will be seen by thousands of people. They need to determine for themselves what they feel is right for them. If they're looking at making $150 - $300 on that book, then I wouldn't recommend a $390 video. But, I would recommend the distribution.

A debut trade paperback author may want to spend 50% of their advance. They aren't just looking to have a video made, they are looking at an investment in their career. Our most popular videos are our level 1 mini teaser ($750) and our level 2 mini teaser ($1500 and very popular with booksellers). Every video we create comes with distribution. Every video we make is sent to booksellers and book clubs. It does on Reader's Entertainment TV and on our MySpace. If the author spends 50% of their advance, they could have a video done, perhaps purchase extra distribution or put the video on television in certain US regions.

An established author with $25,000 is still going to want to be thrifty with their money. But, studies show that the live action trailers are by far the most popular with fans. We have done live action trailers since 2002 and we have our own fan base for them. For $5000 you can get a great live action video. That may sound like a lot, but on average, the cost of a professionally made commercial is currently $12,000 per second. COS actually makes the least amount of money on live action Book Trailers in relative comparison to our other products. But, in all honesty, they are the most fun to make. Where many of our competitors are charging $7000 to $20,000 for a professionally made Book Trailer, we try to keep the costs low and script to budget.

The type of video you choose should give you an effective tool for your situation. Whether it is a $250 Cover Story video or a $5000 - $10,000 Book Trailer, you need to know what you want to use it for before you pay for it. We have had top authors start with our $250 video and after they see what it can do for them they immediately move up to our $1500 video. We don't try to persuade an author to do a particular product. If they ask what kind of video they should go with we ask them what their budget is, or if the budget is flexible, we ask them what they hope to accomplish with it.

It is not uncommon for me to have a one hour consultation with a client to determine what product and distribution is best for what they want to do with their career.

MM: How much control/input does the author have over the video's fonts, colors, script, casting, sound/CGI effects, cinematography, etc?

Sheila: We have an established contract that spells all of that out with our client in advance to them even sending us a deposit.
We want their input. And in the end they must sign off on the script, casting and final video proof. We want them to be so happy that they come back again and again. One of our strongest marketing tools is our repeat business.

Of course, we do have to have limitations on certain things in order to stay within budget and on time. If a client pays $5000 and then insists on $1500 of that going toward wardrobe, that isn't fair to our production partners. So the best way to have a positive experience for everyone is to communicate effectively and establish acceptable parameters in advance.

And, clients pay us for our expertise. If they want to do this themselves they can hire a videographer/editor. And some do. But, we work closely with the booksellers and we do beta testing as a QC/QA measure to ensure that the fans like what we're doing as well.

If the client wants to have the majority of the creative control, we can't make any promises that it will go viral or get picked up by booksellers. We have a great deal of confidence when we maintain the majority of creative control.

MM: Once an author purchases a trailer, does it belong to her to do with what she will, or does COS retain copyright/ownership?

Sheila: This is an industry standard. The author retains the copyright to the book, characters, etc. COS retains the copyright to the video. But, it is a product and it does go to the author to use it wherever he/she wants. The client is given a formatted copy and they can put it on their site, on YouTube, etc. We do not automatically format for television though. So, the client couldn't take the video to their local TV station and have it played as a commercial.

Also, the client would not be able to take their video and have another company make changes to it.

Again, this is industry standard. If you watch a movie made from a book the copyright does not go to the author or even the publisher. It goes to the producer.

MM: Speaking of copyright, from what we gather Circle of Seven didn't just put book trailers on the map--you trademarked it. Do you actively police usage of the phrase? Is that even possible?

Sheila: We did trademark it. And, in all fairness, it was NOT a common term when we did it. As a matter of fact when we did a broad search on all the search engines at that time we didn't get back a single return on the term. When we went to NYC and spoke to every publisher there, we had to define what a Book Trailer was. People did not simply know what we were talking about by the term. It's common now, but we've spent tens of thousands of dollars marketing the term, the definition and the utilization.

By law we are required to police the use of the term or we forfeit our right to it. But, we only police the term in relation to people selling their own product under our trademarked name. If no one is making money off the term we aren't concerned with it. And, by making money we don't count the fact that authors who make their own video are making money through sales. We really are only concerned with competitors.

At this point in time it would be impossible to police the term. And we really aren't looking to penalize authors who use it to describe their video. We hope their video does great and that they decide to hire us later on when they can afford a professional book video maker!

MM: Do you have any data you can share on the success of various services you offer? Are there many good ways to measure click-through rates and increases in sales due to book trailers?

Sheila: A recent survey showed that 70% of the people who watched book videos were enticed to purchase the book. That's from all viewers though, not just COS viewers.

Here are some statements from clients:

"I call the money I spent on a COS mini teaser "the money that goes on spending" I have benefited from your tremendous after care." Veronica Towers (e-book author)

"In just three days of being featured on MySpace books, my blog got over16,000 views, my website received ten times the usual amount of hits, letters from interested readers greatly increased, and my pre-sales numbers on my upcoming release spiked. I cannot thank Sheila and COS enough for providing this service. " Alyson Noel, author of: Faking 19, Art Geeks and Prom Queens, Laguna Cove, Fly Me to the Moon, Kiss & Blog, and Saving Zoƫ

We have authors who have never made any of the bestseller lists make them after we did their video and distribution.

As far as click-through rates go that is not the best way to measure success. I work with other online distributors and no one uses click-through rates as the only measurement of a successful online campaign. There is a formula though. It has to do more with number of "engagements" instead of click-through. If the person shares the video, posts it to a site, blogs about it and links to it, clicks on it, comments on it, rates it, those are all "engagements". We do follow those on some of our videos, but not on all of them.

We have more and more booksellers taking the videos as content. That's very telling. And many of our clients who use the Amazon Associate program have reported increased sales during the time the video is up.

The fact is, you'll get more people to see that video in the year or more it is online than will ever see it in a single print ad. What is that worth?

MM: We notice on your web site that the commercials can be formatted for TV and movie theaters. What percentage of your clients take advantage of this? Do you have any data as to the ROI of showing the trailers at the movies as opposed to the Internet?

Sheila: More and more of our clients are taking advantage of this since COS has established relationships with National Cinemedia and Comast allowing us great distribution for relatively little money. COS also works with ABC, NBC and CBS, but they tend to be more costly.

Since the publisher is the gate keeper of the information about increased sales in a given area, we don't know the specifics of how well the tv campaign did in a given area. What I can tell you is more and more publishers are paying for the media time…repeatedly.

The movie theater idea started in 2004 when digital media was accepted as a format. This was all very new. Historically you could put up a static ad on the big screen, but nothing really exciting. Technology changed and so did the utilization of our videos. COS came up with a way to make digital media look great on the big screen. And, according to our rep at NCM we are the only company who has done this.

Now, we can penetrate areas such as Los Angeles and New York City via movie theaters at an affordable rate compared to TV spots. We ran one campaign in the middle of NYC that ran over 900 times for less than $2000.

The viewers online, television and in movie theaters are likely to cross over. People will see the video on TV then see it online. They are seeing it more times in more venues and are more likely to remember it that way. The great thing about using the Internet is that people can come back to it. If they missed the author's URL they can just watch the video again. They can search for it if they think about it later. They can share it with their friends. They don't have to move from their seat to buy it after they watch the video. I highly recommend Internet distribution.

MM: You have won awards for many of your book trailers. Can you tell us a little about the kinds of awards you and your videos have won?

Sheila: The most prestigious award that you can win in the commercial field is the Telly Award. It is like an Emmy or Oscar, but it's for commercials. We have won seven Telly Awards. The Davey Awards are International Film Awards and are sponsored by the International Academy of the Arts. Collectively we have won 11 awards so far. The categories range from special effects to screen writing and from comedy to best low cost video. We also won something called the Cameo Awards which were for romance videos only and we won 12 of those including reader's choice.

We are very proud of the awards, but especially the Telly Awards because those are so difficult to win. We won alongside Warner Studios, Disney, SciFi Channel and other top producers. We've spoke with people from other production companies who have been in the business for 20+ years and never won a Telly. So, the fact that not only did we win, but we were the first to win making Book Trailers, is really exciting for us!

MM: Sheila, thanks so much for joining us today!

YOUR TURN: When did you first hear of book videos? What are examples of the best ones you've seen? If you have one of your own, please link to it in the comments!


Erica Ridley said...

Hi Sheila!

Thanks for your great post. I have several friends and chaptermates with book videos, and I've been to conference workshops where the speaker has shown hers to the class. (Great ice breaker + more exposure! *g)

Erica <-- off to daydream happily about a video starring her characters...

Darcy Burke said...

Wow, thanks Sheila for such an informative post! I truly did think a book trailer would be helpful to a newbie author, but I can totally see the advantages. Like Erica, I'm going to imagine my characters in moving pictures...

Thanks again!

Bill Clark said...

Umm...who gets to play the Tooth Fairy in Erica's video?

As for Trevor, no worries - Bill is happy to volunteer!

Vicki said...

Thanks for the great info Shelia. As an not yet published author this will be added to my list of needs when that day happens.

Tessa Dare said...

Wow - what an informative post. I had no idea so many options were available. Thanks Sheila, and Mavens!

Jacqueline Barbour said...

I have to admit, I've never really considered using book trailers before, but I am now!

Thanks for taking the time to give us such great information, Sheila. I hope maybe I'll be giving you and COS a call one of these days :)!

Anonymous said...

Thank you! I think I could write a book on book trailers! I spared you the technological aspects of producing for optimal distribution and for best search practices. LOL I didn't want to put anyone to sleep!
The videos are fun to do and if you create your own contact me, mention the Manuscript Mavens and I'll put your video up on Reader's Entertainment TV for free!

Veronica Towers said...

Thanks Sheila for the plug by quoting proved my point YET AGAIN!

Veronia Towers
DCL Publications
view the
Naked Vision Silver Blue Dreams
video at

lacey kaye said...

What a generous offer, Sheila! Thanks for the cross-promotion and the great blog!

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