Marketing Outside the Box

Marketing Outside the Box
Terry Odell

This is my last post before TKZ takes its annual holiday hiatus, and I’d like to wish everyone a happy whatever you celebrate. If things have gone according to plan, I’m in Prague on my way to Vienna to embark on a Danube river cruise. I’m not likely to be around to respond to comments immediately, but I’ll do my best to check in.

In a happenstance of diversity, we’ll be observing Hanukkah on board while stopping at numerous Christmas markets. Another event we’re planning to participate in  while in Prague is Krampusnacht, which celebrates the Norse God of the underworld, although it’s become associated with Christmas. Works for me. Of course, I’ll have trip recaps and pictures when I’m back. And, I hope, notes for a new book.

Speaking of new books, Deadly Adversaries is moving along the pipeline, and it’s time to think more seriously about the (to me) dreaded marketing. As long as I’m here, I’d like to point out that Deadly Adversaries is now available for preorder.)

Even if you’re traditionally published, you’re expected to bear some of the load. Inundating the interwebs with “buy my book” proclamations isn’t my thing. Remember, too, that social media platforms should emphasize “Social.”

Say “Marketing” and people assume you’re talking about running ads. That can be part of it, and depending on the platform, can be very effective, but there are other low-to-no-cost options to build buzz for the book.

What have I been doing?

Creating images that help call attention to the book. Between Canva and MockUp Shots, I’ve made half a dozen or so, using quotes from the book, such as the ones below.

Instead of making everything “buy, buy, buy”, I like to give readers something in return. I’ve been writing vignettes, scenes, and short stories that are companions to the books. These take two forms. For some, I interact on a personal level with my characters, giving readers a chance to peek behind the curtain. Here’s an example showing when Randy Detweiler, of my Pine Hills Police romantic suspense series showed up at my office.

When Randy Interrupted

“Come in, Randy,” I say. We’ve been working together on Finding Sarah for a couple of months now, but I still can’t get used to how tall he is. I’ve written him as six-six, but I have a hunch he’s even taller. But he’s comfortable with his height, walks with an easy grace across my office and settles himself on the couch.

I remember his awkwardness at our initial interview. Like he was afraid it was a stereotypical casting couch, and he might have to ‘buy’ his way into the job, or I was going to make sure he could handle the sex scenes.

“What can I do for you?” I ask.

His lips curve up in a shy smile, and he shoves a lock of hair off his forehead. “I…um…I had a suggestion. For my character.”

I give him my full attention now. He’s never demanded—heck, he’s never even suggested anything. Maybe he’s nervous. We’re about to get into his first real sex scene with Sarah. It’s not like he’s naïve or anything, but I know how characters can get self-conscious when they’re actually asked to perform on cue. At least he’s not one of the cocky ones, no pun intended, who thinks he can take over the scene.

“Well, I was looking at the pages. You know how, afterward, we’re sitting around eating pizza. I’m watching a basketball game, and Sarah’s trying not to be bored. I thought maybe you’d let me play piano for her.”

My jaw drops. I search my memory for his initial interview. “Piano? You play the piano?”

He ducks his head and nods. “Yeah. I haven’t played in a while—long story, old memories. But after working with Sarah on this book thing, well, she’s made me a lot more comfortable with my past, and I’d like to get back into it. I thought it might work for the story.”

“You can really play the piano?” I ask, sounding too much like a babbling idiot than a writer in control of the manuscript.

“Would you like to hear?” he asks.

“No, that won’t be necessary. I believe you. What’s your preference?”

He shrugs. “Doesn’t matter. I play it all. Classical, rock, jazz. I worked my way through college playing in lounges.”

Okay, so now I’m scribbling notes. “You can do Simon and Garfunkel?”

He grins. “Piece of cake.”

“What about something melancholy? One of those things that make the world stop?”

“I can handle that. Beethoven’s Pathetique should work.”

I stand and walk around the desk. He remains seated, not because he’s rude, but because he knows our eyes will be level. I shake his hand. “Take a couple of hours off while I rewrite. See you at three.”

“Will do. I’ll go home and practice.” He stands, towering above me. I study his hands and understand why I described them the way I did on page 26.

I watch him leave, wondering if he’ll like the scene coalescing in my head. It’ll mean a bit of a rewrite. Will he be able to handle an on-scene emotional breakdown, or will I have to write it in Sarah’s POV? I turn back to my computer and open a new document. I hear him whistling Bridge Over Troubled Water as he walks away.

Others works provide back story that doesn’t really have a place in the books themselves. This is my newest one, When Titch Met Gordon, featuring a secondary character who showed up in book 2 fully formed. I thought readers might like to get a closer look at his history. It’s a little too long to include here, but if you’re interested, you can downnload When Titch Met Gordon here. Consider it my holiday gift to you.

What do I do with them?

The images go into my newsletter and onto my blog and Facebook pages.

Randy’s story was offered to my newsletter subscribers as a simple ‘thanks for being here.’

When Titch Met Gordon is going to be a reader magnet, a gift to new subscribers.

How do I get it to them?

BookFunnel is an easy way to distribute works. I have Draft2Digital do the formatting, then upload them to BookFunnel. D2D doesn’t require you put works on sale, so it’s an easy way to use them as gifts or magnets. You also have a choice of collecting emails or not, or having them sign up for your newsletter. For this one, I’ve gone the ‘no string’ route for now. If it’s a reader magnet, they people will have to sign up for the newsletter to get the story, so there’s no point in making them sign up again. BookFunnel will let you make separate landing pages, so you could have one that requires a newsletter signup as well.

What about you? What marketing techniques beyond taking out ads have your found effective?

How can he solve crimes if he’s not allowed to investigate?

Gordon Hepler, Mapleton’s Chief of Police, has his hands full. A murder, followed by several assaults. Are they related to the expansion of the community center? Or could it be the upcoming election? Gordon and mayor wannabe Nelson Manning have never seen eye to eye. Gordon’s frustrations build as the crimes cover numerous jurisdictions, effectively tying his hands.
Available for preorder now.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.”

Another Take on Book Trailers

Another Take on Book Trailers
Terry Odell

Creating book trailers

On Monday, Kay did an excellent how-to on creating book trailers. She definitely did her homework. Since I’d already written this post, and it gives another method, I decided to go ahead with it. Rarely is there only one way to do things, and opinions always vary.

It’s hard for me to remember my own preferences and prejudices when it comes to marketing (among other things) don’t necessarily represent those of many others. For example, I’ve never seen the draw for book trailers. Books are written words. Trailers are moving pictures. They don’t connect for me, as evidenced by the fact that even though I’ve written more than 30 books and novellas, I’ve never done a trailer. But I’m not everybody, and there are plenty of people who seem to like them. Who knows? They might even be drawn to further investigation of the book in question, and from there, some might go on to buy it.

Thus, as I’m in the “let the book marinate” phase, and it’s not due to my editor for a couple of weeks, I decided to see if creating a trailer for the current manuscript was something I might be able to handle. After all, they wouldn’t still be around if people didn’t like them.

I looked at a few trailers and decided which elements worked for me. Some of them didn’t suck. So, I hunted around for some tutorials. I found a very helpful one, and I’ll provide a link at the end of this post.

Turns out you can make a free book trailer using Canva, a service I’ve been using to create images for blogs and newsletters for some time. Free and familiar seemed like a good starting point. There was a learning curve, but I managed to create a draft trailer in a day, so not a huge time investment. Should I ever want to do another one, it’ll go much faster.

In case anyone here is as behind the times as I am, here’s a nutshell version of how to make a trailer using Canva. You’ll have to play with the elements, but this might help you find them faster than I did. I’m not going into all the image manipulation you can do with Canva. You should get familiar with the sidebar menu choices and know/learn how to do things like adjust an image size, change positions forward and backward, adjust transparency. You can do all of this in the free version to get the basics down. I’m only going into creating a book trailer here.

Note: I have the paid version of Canva, so I have access to more features, but you should be able to create a trailer using what’s available with the free version.

Most book trailers have three things: images, text, and music. That’s what I’ll focus on in this post.

Note: Clicking on the images should enlarge them so you can see more detail.

To start, open Canva and create a new project using the video template. The dimensions are already set, although I haven’t checked to see what it looks like on social media platforms. I’m not a big user of most of them, so I figured YouTube and my website would be where I’d start. You’ll get a screen that looks something like this.

creating a book trailer Those boxes at the bottom are your slides, and hitting the plus symbol opens a new one.

Next, choose an image. It can be a simple background, a photo, or a video clip. I wasn’t ready to try a moving background, so I went with photos. There are a lot of choices under the “photos” option, but since this book is set in Croatia, I had plenty of my own images to choose from. There’s an “upload” section where you can upload your own images. Just make sure you have the rights to use them.

Creating a book trailer

There’s another section where you can add your text. You have a choice of fonts, colors, and can size to fit. You can also play with effects. I like using the Shadow option, and there are further options inside that choice, such as how much to offset the shadow, which direction, and what color.

Creating book trailers

A brief digression. Way back in the day, I used to attend scientific meetings with The Hubster. Most of the time, I was out sightseeing, but occasionally, I sat in on a presentation. At the time, slides (as in 35mm camera images) were the norm. Hubster used to sit at the back of the room and see if he could read the text. He gave his grad students what-fer if they tried to put more than a few lines on a slide. Same went for graphs. Then along came PowerPoint. Wow! The things it could do. And people LOVED it. But the rule here is “Just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD.” All those dancing words and spiraling transitions between slides actually detract more than enhance. The same holds true for your book trailers.

My advice: Stick with one font. If you have a ‘brand’ font (mine is Americana), use it. On my slides, I did change colors based on the background (In another post, I talked about how the human eye can’t focus on red and blue and the same time, so for my slides with a blue background, I switched away from red text–another one of my brand colors) I’d used on the others.) It’s a good idea to have your text for each slide decided in advance. That way you can copy and paste (avoiding the risk of typos!)

Another thing you can use, since this is a video presentation, is animation. You can animate the entire slide (referred to as a ‘page’ in Canva) or any other elements, such as the text. Just be sure to select which one you want from the menu bar (which I never noticed, but the Canva FAQs were helpful).

Creating book trailersText caveats: Don’t overload the slide with words. Sentences, not paragraphs. Use another slide or slides. The more words, the longer you should leave the slide up there, and there’s a timer setting for each slide. They default to 5 seconds each, but you can adjust as needed.

There are a couple of options for transitions between slides, but when I tried them, I didn’t like the way they looks, so I simply opted for none. Your mileage may vary.

Your final slide(s) should be your marketing pitch. The book cover, genre, announcing it’s available and where (and as I see it, there’s not much point in promoting something people can’t buy or order), review clips if you have them, and your website. If you have a lot of things to add, don’t put them all on the same slide. You can keep the same background image and add text in small portions. However, any links won’t be active, so don’t use too many. (If I’m wrong and someone knows otherwise, give a shout.)

Then there’s music. Kay’s research said most people watch with sound off, but it can’t hurt to have background music for those who enjoy or expect it. Canva has a huge library of options. I found mine by going to the audio tab in the sidebar filtering to trailer music and scrolling.

Creating book trailersCruising Undercover is romantic suspense, so I wanted something that reflected that mood. I also looked for clips longer than my trailer. Once you find the one you like, you add it, and then you can edit which part to use if the selection is longer than your trailer by clicking the three dots and choosing ‘adjust’ to slide the sound back and forth.

Creating a book trailerAnd, speaking of length. This might be one of my prejudices, but if I see a trailer video is anything over 30 seconds, I’m far less likely to watch. (You can see the times for each slide on the above image.)

My trailer is still in draft mode. I plan to release it once the book is ready for pre-order, but here’s a sneak peek for TKZers. (Please don’t share the link.)

And here’s the tutorial I found most helpful.

Not interested in video. I blogged about using Canva to create still images for marketing at my own site.

The Blackthorne Inc Novels, Volume 3I’ve bundled books 7-9 in my Blackthorne, Inc. series, and the set is available now.

Terry OdellTerry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.