Erotica Readers & Writers Association Blog

Monday, September 28, 2009

“Shameless” Tips on Book Trailers with Kim McDougall

This month’s Shameless Self-Promotion discusses the cross-media thrill of creating a book trailer. I have the pleasure to interview professional book trailer producer Kim McDougall, who has graciously agreed to share her experiences promoting her work in general and creating book trailers in particular. Kim is a professional photographer, award-winning and prolific author and the founder of the new book trailer promotion site, Blazing Trailers. She writes fiction that “ignores boundaries, mixes genres and confounds classification”—which is definitely my kind of fiction! Her many credits include the fantasy titles The Golden Hour, “Luminari,” and the Twisted Tales series. She writes for children and young adults as Kim Chatel with titles including The Stone Beach, Rainbow Sheep, and A Talent for Quiet.

Shameless Self-Promotion: What have you found to be the most effective ways to promote your books? The most enjoyable?

Kim McDougall: The most enjoyable for me is definitely visiting schools and libraries to read my book to kids. Sometimes we do a craft too. This brings me full circle, back to the beginning of the creative process. It’s a reminder (after all the hard work, waiting and promoting) of why I write for kids in the first place. I have also made decent sales this way. I usually get about a 10% return from these visits. So if I see 300 kids, I might sell 30 books.

SSP: The least effective ways or biggest challenges?

I’m not convinced that chat groups and forums are a great way to promote. I know some authors have been successful with these, but I just feel like I preaching to the choir. And while it’s pleasant to chat with other writers, I haven’t seen any indication that this translates in many sales, especially considering the time involved.

SSP: What has been the most surprising thing about the experience of book promotion?

I was surprised that local chain bookstores were so difficult to deal with. Barnes and Noble won’t have me in to do a book signing because my book is POD. Yet another author in with my publisher is having great success with her POD books at her local B&N in California. The biased against POD is a local thing and I don’t understand it. There is nothing for the bookstore to lose.

SSP: Any tips about designing a website?

I’ve received one comment from a viewer on my site www.kimmcdougall. It was positive. She was impressed with my site because it was clean, simple and easy to navigate. She complained that so many writers try to jam everything and the kitchen sink into their sites. I have to agree. When I go to a site that has so much clutter I can’t find anything, I’m immediately turned off.

SSP: Do you have any thoughts on blogging?
Because I’m such an inconsistent blogger, I’ve found that keeping a blog myself is a waste of time. These things need to build steady steam to be effective. For myself, I have found two effective ways of making blogs work for me.

First, I guest blog at other people’s blogs. This gives me exposure to varying audiences, without having to keep a blog myself.

Second, I use Google alerts to find blogs talking about subjects similar to my book. For instance, I get Google alerts about needle-felting, and when I find someone blogging about it, I go in and invite them to my site to see the movie about me making a felt sheep. This is a soft sell. I may mention my book, Rainbow Sheep, if it’s appropriate, but if I get them to visit my site, they’ll find the book themselves. This is a tricky way of promoting though. You don’t want to spam a blog with a simple ad for your book. Rather, this is a way to strike up a conversation with others who may have the same interests as you and hope that something will come of it.

SSP: Can you share your experiences with book fairs or in-person events?

Because of the craft element in Rainbow Sheep, I have been able to sell my book quite successfully at local craft fairs. In fact, I do better at these than at bookstores. Some craft fairs will allow author signings. It’s a good thing to look into locally. I also make many great contacts in the community this way.

SSP: How about swag--such as postcards, bookmarks, pens, flyers, T-shirts, magnets, etc. Which has been the most useful?

I don’t believe giving away books is a good way to sell books. If you have a series, this might work, by holding a contest to win the first book. However, in general, when I hold contests, I give away other things. For December, I had a giveaway for my short story, “Luminari,” from Eternal Press. I made necklaces of little glass vials filled with gold glitter to represent the “Luminari” in the story. I gave these away free to the first 25 buyers of the story in December. I also used them for contests on chat forums.

The cost of the supplies and the mailing was more than my royalties on the story, but I consider it a loss-leader. It brought people to my site and enabled me to start a mailing list.

SSP: You specialize in creating book trailers for other authors (and yourself), do you have any specific tips for beginning book trailer artists--maximum or minimum length, use of effects, things to avoid, best places to buy images or music?

When all is said and done, a trailer is a commercial and I think many authors making their own forget that. The three things you want your viewer to take away from the trailer are: your book title, your name and a vague memory of your cover. You want to engage the viewer with the imagery and music, but those three factors need to pop, too.

Here’s is a description of many author trailers I view that I feel don’t work as a promo: 4-5 minutes of static photos, with long lines of description, ending with the book cover. If I had already read the book, the passing images might hold relevance to me, but as a possible buyer, they make little impact. And while these slide shows may be beautiful to watch, they aren’t a good selling tool because they don’t leave the viewer thinking, “Wow, I’d like to read that book!”

I try to combine video with photos and bring movement to the still images. Also, I prefer to use fewer images, but choose those with more impact. Music is also really important. Dramatic music can make a huge difference to the feeling of a trailer. Finally, I try to limit my trailers to two minutes. It’s so easy for a viewer to click away from a video that is too long or doesn’t interest them.

SSP: Which trailer(s) would you consider good examples of your work?

Here’s an example of a trailer that uses still imagery but is not static. “River Bones” by Mary Deal. It uses only a few images, but they are all dramatic as is the music. This would be a fairly inexpensive trailer to make.

The Locket,” by Suzanne Lieurance is another example of static images, coming alive. This one uses sound effects to good measure.

One of my favorite trailers using video clips, is one of my earliest for my YA novel “The Stone Beach.” This would be a more expensive trailer to make, but it is quite dramatic. You’ll notice, there is very little text on this one.

Another alternative is to take one video clip and split it into pieces so to spread it over an entire trailer. This in an inexpensive way to bring movement to a trailer. An example of this is my trailer for “Barbegazi.”

SSP: How do you get book trailers noticed?

The reason I established Blazing Trailers, was because there were few places to showcase trailers properly. It is important to post your trailer all over the net. There are many sites other than YouTube and a simple Google search will call up a dozens of them. Let these sites bring traffic to your site.

But when it comes to inviting people to see your trailer, you’re best to offer a link to your site or a place like Blazing Trailers where the viewer has an immediate opportunity to buy your book. If you’re on a chat and you say “look at my trailer on YouTube.” The viewer may go look at it, but then what? It’s a dead end. But if you post your trailer on your site with a buy link, they have to opportunity to find out more information about the book and possibly buy it.

That’s why at Blazing Trailers, each book page has the trailer and then a blurb, excerpt, review and buying information.

Here are a couple of sites that get good viewer clicks that some authors might not know about.

Gather.com

Break.com

Previewthebook.com (for shorter book trailers)

SSP: Thank you so much, Kim, for sharing your experiences and especially for the insights into making book trailers! For more very helpful information on creating your own book trailer and using it to market your book, check out this interview with Kim at Book Talk Corner.

Find out more about Donna George Storey and her adventures in shameless self-promotion at her blog.

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