Survivor: Writer’s Island

By Kathryn Lilley

No, the Killers at the Kill Zone aren’t taking a vote by tiki-torch circle to kick someone off our little blogger island.

I put the word “Survivor” in the heading because I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I am going to survive as a writer in the coming years. I’m also wondering how the book publishing business is going to survive in general.

Here’s my conclusion: we could learn a thing or two from our new President.

As a candidate running for election, President Obama (Like the sound of that name? It’s official now) turned political conventional wisdom on its head. He ran his campaign from the bottom up, in a grass roots, internet-savvy way.

I think that’s what we writers have to do. Social networking, viral marketing–we have to take the marketing reins for our books in our own hands, and make it work.

Easier said than done. After a dismal fall in which I evaded many of the usual marketing chores, I recently decided to try to brainstorm ways to approach marketing from a bottom-up direction. I decided to start by creating a book trailer for A KILLER WORKOUT and posting it on YouTube

Michelle blogged about her trailer for The Tunnels that’s been up on YouTube for awhile. It’s a very good one, but I wanted to create mine for no money. So I spent hours over the weekend, reading how-to articles and seeking advice from my social networking sites. The results have been interesting. I first posted a video that included a shot of a woman who was completely naked except for a thong. I thought the picture was artistic, but some of my friends thought it was a bit too much. Anyway, I’ve reworked the trailer and put it back up on YouTube. Next I’m going to work up a new trailer for Dying to be Thin.

One interesting statistic from the book trailer got my attention: In the first day it was posted on YouTube, the video got 17,000 impressions–an “impression” is a video that was displayed in front of the viewer, but was not clicked for viewing. Sure only a fraction of those people clicked on the video and watched it but still…seventeen thousand!

I did an analysis of who was actually viewing the video: The vast majority of people who watched the book trailer for A KILLER WORKOUT were kids (I have to assume girls) who had searched on the word Twilight.

Uh, as in Twilight the book and movie? Aka Vampire love.

You probably need to have an adolescent daughter in the house to have heard of this movie.

I threw the word Twilight into the search terms when creating the metadata for my trailer thinking, “Aw, hell, Twilight is selling a gazillion copies. Couldn’t hurt.”

And evidently it didn’t. I got fourteen thousand Twilight-generated impressions, plus some kind of miniscule click-through percentage that I don’t understand yet because I refuse to understand math.

I have no clue whether this translates into any sales of books. A friend of my adolescent daughter took a look at the trailer and went, “A book trailer? But isn’t it already out?”

Uh, yeah. Movie trailers come out before they’re released, I explained. Book trailers…well, they’re different. But good point. Should we call them book videos to avoid confusion?

So anyway, viral marketing is one of my goals for 2009. Do you have any marketing goals to add for the year?

11 thoughts on “Survivor: Writer’s Island

  1. Interesting timing on your post, Kathryn. I spent most of yesterday scripting a book trailer for NO MERCY, which comes out in June. I’m surrendering to the new media, but I’d feel a lot better if there was some bit of evidence to prove that trailers actually sell books. To my eye, some of the trailers in circulation now are so poorly produced that they actually do harm.

  2. Timely post, Kathryn. We posted our first book trailer in 2005 and have done one for every book since, both on our sites and YouTube. I just wish there was a way to know if they helped sell books. My guess is they create impressions that help the viewer remember an author’s name. But beyond that, who knows?

  3. Hey Joe, I’m running some tests using their Insight tool. Quite inexpensive and gives you lots of data. Gives you an idea about who is clicking on your video, at least. That’s how I found out about the Twilight girls. Now as to who is making the decision to take the next step and go out and actually buy the books, that’s another story. Hmm. Wonder if there would be a way to link from video to vendor? As in “Buy the Book” Software engineers, put your thinking caps on and make a million dollahs!!

  4. John, production values is what’s held me back for so long. I thought there’d be no way to do it without spending big bucks. But the YouTube audience isn’t expecting DreamWorks, fortunately.

  5. My marketing strategy for 2009 is to market my free audio books to the point that someone pays big bucks for the paper version of same and subsequent novels.

    Back up plan:
    Win lottery.

  6. As far as trailers, I have always wanted to do a movie style trailer for my stories as a few other podcast authors have done. I have held off though because I have a picture in my mind but not the video production talent to put that image together just yet.

    In lieue of a good video I simply videoified my audio promo with the book covers on the screen to make it a video of sorts.

    Another form of new media marketing I am employing is getting interviews on as many webcast shows as I can. All low cost or free stuff.

  7. Great trailer, Kathryn! I am an advocate of trailers, especially if your publisher manages to get them posted on the books page. I think it adds something, especially if it’s well done. That being said, does it actually translate into sales? Tough to say. It’s the old adage that 50% of marketing works, you’ll just never know which 50%.

  8. As a pioneer of the book trailer market I love seeing blogs like this. Very thoughtful!
    You can do a “buy” button on YouTube. We do it for all of our videos now. Since it sounds like a lot of people are making their own let me tell you our secret.
    First, don’t put a link to a bookseller. It makes other booksellers upset with you. Go to your publisher’s product page that sells your book. The URL is probably very long. Copy it and got to and make yourself an abbreviated URL.
    Next, you will need to make that a clickable link. To do that just be sure to include the “http://” in front of the URL. Now people can watch the video and immediately go buy the book.
    We have been in the book trailer business longer than anyone. And we’ve learned through the highly respectable school of “hard knocks”. I could probably write more about what NOT to do! lol
    Having a trailer is half the work. Now you have to make it effective. How? Distribution.
    We distribute to booksellers, libraries, book clubs, social sites, media sites and we do offline promotions as well.

    And I think the term “book video” is best. I heard somewhere that the term “book trailer” is a US Registered Trademark. 😉

    Sheila English
    COS Productions

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