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.

Speed Dating and Swag

Speed Dating and Swag
Terry Odell

author swagI’m hardly a marketing guru—it’s the least favorite part of writing for me—but I made some observations at the Left Coast Crime conference and thought I’d share them.

As I mentioned earlier, Left Coast Crime is a reader-focused conference, which means it’s a place where readers come to meet authors, both familiar and new. It’s an ideal opportunity for us lesser-knowns to make connections.

Any writing conference I’ve been to, whether reader or author/craft focused, has a giveaway table where authors leave freebies—swag. With several hundred authors vying for attention, it’s important that these items entice readers (and authors are readers, too) to pick them up. Anything left on the tables after the conference closes will be trashed by the hotel staff, so you might be carting home a lot of what you brought.

The most common items are paper goods. Bookmarks dominate. How effective are they? With so many people using e-readers these days, they don’t serve the same purpose—something that the reader will encounter every time they pick up their book.

author swagI think bookmarks are more effective when handed our personally, like a business card, but even then, they are likely to end up in the hotel room wastebasket. I stopped getting bookmarks made years ago, but I do have business cards with QR codes to my website and Facebook Author Page on the back.

author swagSome bookmarks that did entice people to pick them up were dual-purpose, like these.

author swagA tradition at Left Coast Crime is their Author Speed Dating event. How it works: Tables for ten (There were 40 this year) are set up in a large meeting room. Two seats at each table are reserved for authors. The authors rotate from table to table and each has two minutes to talk/pitch/promote themselves and/or their books. They also bring swag to distribute at each table.

My observations.

The two-minute rule was enforced, which means authors had to be well prepared. Since handing out swag eats up precious seconds, authors were advised to let their partner hand out the swag while they talked. A fair number of them weren’t able to follow this simple direction. Some overran their time, ignoring the bell and finishing their prepared talks, eating up their partner’s time or having to arrive late to the next table.

The presentations varied from rehearsed and memorized speeches to stumbling or rambling attempts to summarize the gist of their stories. The best ones were those who knew their material well enough to make it sound off the cuff. Those attending are going to be listening to eighty two-minute presentations in a room that’s probably not going to have the best acoustics. Being able to be heard was challenge enough for some.

Takeaway: if you’re doing a presentation like this, adhere to the time constraints. Practice your material until it doesn’t sound practiced. If the organizers offer advice, take it.

And now, back to the swag. Handing out swag to a captive audience is better than leaving it on a giant table. But remember the purpose of the swag. To make people want to know more about you and your books.

Here are some swag items handed out at the Speed Dating event that, in my opinion, missed the mark.

author swagFrom left to right. A nice, sturdy magnet. A vial of perfume. A cute magnet. A pin-on button.

Problems with all of them: What are they about? Would you even know they were from an author? Because by the time you get home with them, you’ll have no recollection of who gave them to you. (Note: some swag was handed out in cute little pouches and may have included something about the author, but once you take the items out of the pouch, all connections are lost.) With the perfume, you’re risking the recipient not liking it. With a pin, would readers wear them? Pin them to something else?

Better ideas are things that readers will have a reason to keep and use. Every time they use them, they (one hopes) will remember the author. One author had Hershey’s Miniatures relabeled with his book cover. Great idea—until you eat the candy. Will they save the label? Maybe. I didn’t, but they worked in that I struck up a conversation with that author and did look him up.

author swagI know my lip balm is what people remember about me. Sticky notes, pens, pencils, coasters, magnets that do mention the author, and even a jar opener/gripper thing make for better swag. More expensive, yes. But if you’re spending money, it ought to be working for you.

Your turn. What swag are you likely to pick up? If you hand out swag, what’s been effective?


Available Now. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

Changing Your Life Won’t Make Things Easier
There’s more to ranch life than minding cattle. After his stint as an army Ranger, Frank Wembly loves the peaceful life as a cowboy.

Financial advisor Kiera O’Leary sets off to pursue her dream of being a photographer until a car-meets-cow incident forces a shift in plans. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences.


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.

Using Magnets to Attract Readers

Using Magnets to Attract Readers
Terry Odell

Reader MagnetSince everyone’s probably busy with holiday prep (unless you’re like me and your holiday is over), gift giving is or was part of the mix. Today, I’m talking about gifts authors can give to readers. Reader Magnets.

Saturday, Patricia Bradley’s post addressed newsletters. Unlike social media, newsletters lists are one tool we can control. We “own” that content. If a social media platform disappears (anyone remember MySpace?), we’ve lost that audience and have no way to get in touch with our previous followers.

A reader magnet is designed to reward people for signing up for your newsletter. It can be a short story, a full-length novel, a sampler—anything that connects to your genre and would have subscribers wanting more. When someone signs up, they’re given their gift.

How should you deliver these magnets, and what form should they take?
My preference is always to make it as easy as possible on both ends.

First, you need a signup form, preferably a dedicated/landing page on your website. That way, you can link everything to that place.

Next, you want as many paths to your signup process as possible. I start with a simple signup link in my email signature line. I have signup forms on my website as well. And the dreaded popup. Everyone says they hate them, but they work, as I discovered once I got over my personal prejudice and added one.

But what I really came to talk about was the magnet itself. I have one main magnet—two short stories set in my Blackthorne, Inc. universe, featuring the head of the company.

I chose to deliver it in three formats: epub, mobi, and PDF. That way, the end user gets to choose the format, and you’re likely to satisfy more readers. Nobody wants something they can’t read. Although Amazon now wants manuscripts delivered in epub, the mobi format is still out there and (last I heard), lets readers sideload onto Kindle devices.

My least ‘favorite’ format is PDF. It’s a picture. You can’t do anything with it, and reading on a small device like a cellphone is next-to-impossible for me, especially if the offering is more than a few pages. But the takeaway here is you are not necessarily your reader, so I offer it for those who like it.

How do I create these formats? I use Draft2Digital’s free formatting service. They don’t require you put your book for sale, and they do a fine job of converting a Word document into mobi and epub. For PDF, I simply take my Word Doc and do a “Save As … PDF” and it works fine. D2D will convert to PDF as well, but for whatever reason, if you have a color image as your ‘cover’, it comes out in black and white.

BookFunnelNow that I have these three formats, I need a way to deliver them to my subscribers. I use BookFunnel. I’m sure many here are familiar with the platform, but in case anyone isn’t here’s a little about it. You need an account, which is easy to set up. Their basic plan is $20/year, so yes, there’s an initial investment, but I’m a firm believer in Do what you’re good at, do what you love, and hire out the rest. One of the perks is that if you’re using their service, and a reader is having trouble with the download process, BookFunnel will help walk them through the process, so you’re out of that time suck.

Once everything’s ready, here’s my basic workflow:

You use the signup form from my website. You’ll get a confirmation and a link to the BookFunnel page for the magnet. You download the book, and you’re added to my newsletter list.

If you’re not already signed up to receive my newsletter and want to see how it works for me, you can try it for yourself here.

(And, since it’s a new provider for me, if there are glitches, I want to hear about them.)

Another pathway to your magnet is BookSweeps. They offer a lot more, but today is magnet day. Readers can find your magnet (along with thousands of others) and when they decide they want it, they’re taken to the book’s page at BookFunnel (since that’s what I’m using) where they can download it, but they have to agree to be added to your newsletter list in order to get it.

But I digress. My focus was supposed to be the magnets themselves, so that’s it for today’s post. If you have questions, leave them in the comments. Feel free to mention other magnet delivery systems as well.

fudgeYou are now free to resume your holiday activities. And if they include food prep, here’s a recipe for a five-minute fudge you can throw together in no time.

This is my last official post of 2021. See everyone on the flip side, and have a wonderful holiday season!


In the Crosshairs by Terry OdellNow available for pre-order. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

Changing Your Life Won’t Make Things Easier
There’s more to ranch life than minding cattle. After his stint as an army Ranger, Frank Wembly loves the peaceful life as a cowboy. Financial advisor Kiera O’Leary sets off to pursue her dream of being a photographer until a car-meets-cow incident forces a shift in plans. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences.


Terry 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.

Amazon A+ Content

Amazon A+ Content
Terry Odell

Amazon A PlusRecently, Amazon, in an unusual gesture to all indie authors, not only those participating in its “Select” program, opened what it calls A+ content to anyone using KDP to publish. Previously, only traditional publishers could use the feature.

What is it? It’s content that appears on the book’s detail page on Amazon, and provides additional information, allowing authors to give potential readers a deeper look at the author and their work.

Curious (or procrastinating work on the WIP?), I gave it a look.

Amazon has its own “how to” but I thought I’d run through my experiences here. Note: I’m not much of a techie, but I’m willing to try new things. This post is more of a starting point than a tutorial.

Here we go:

(Click on any image to enlarge.)

From your KDP Dashboard, click the “Marketing” tab at the top.Amazon A PlusScroll down to the A+ Content section, and click the down arrow for marketplace. I stuck with Amazon.com for starters, but if you don’t choose one, you can’t move on. (You have to do this every time you come back to work on a project.)
Amazon A PlusThen, click the Manage A+ Content button right below the marketplace.

On the next screen, at the far right, there’s a “Start creating A+ content” button on the right. After trying other options, such as searching for an ASIN, or even plugging in an ASIN, I found this to be the most efficient.

Amazon A PlusAfter that, you assign your content a name. It doesn’t show anywhere; it’s so you can keep track. I used the name of the book I was creating the content for. Duh.

I suggest studying their module examples. They’re not completely user-friendly, but they are a good starting point for how each module works. Just beware. Every module has its own set of rules as to what you can add and where it has to go. Their suggestions aren’t always the best for what you want to do. I’ll go into this in more detail later in this post.

Then, you click the “Add Module” and the fun begins. For starters, it’s best to stick to no more than three. For “branding” purposes, I am using my website header from the “Standard Company Logo” Module for all the content I create, although I had to resize it to the required 600×180.

Some Examples

My advice is to start with something simple. I chose two of my stand alone books, Heather’s Chase, and What’s in a Name? to practice on.

For Heather’s Chase, I used the standard company Logo, the Standard Single Left Image, and the Standard Multiple Image Module A.

What I learned. The multiples images in the last image don’t show up all at once. To see the text for each, the reader has to hover the cursor or tap.

Amazon A PlusFor What’s in a Name? I used the Standard Company Logo, the “Standard Image & Dark Text Overlay, the Standard Single Left Image, and the Standard Single Right Image modules.

Amazon A PlusHow it works

When you click the “Add Module” button, you’ll see a bunch of choices, all about dogs. Not much help for genre fiction writers. Also, each module has an image size “recommendation” which means, “this is the size we accept.” Trouble is, except for the standard logo module, you don’t see sizes until you select the module. There’s not a lot of flexibility here, at least not that I found, so my advice is to use a photo editing program to size your images to the same dimensions each module allows. I use Canva or Photoshop, depending on the image I’m starting with. The aspect ratios of book covers mean you’ll have to get creative.

Using Canva, I create a template of the acceptable dimensions and work from there. This is what I did for Heather’s Chase, where the image size was 300×300. The cover image alone wouldn’t have worked, so I added the background.

Amazon A PlusAfter having my two stand alone projects approved, I decided to move on to a series. I tried to use the Amazon-suggested module for a series, thinking I’d use it on one of my box set pages. My plan was to have it show on the box set book detail page, with images and short tag lines for each of the 3 books in the set, so readers would know what was included.

My troubles: The image size template is 150×300, which creates a tall, skinny book. Since the entire book shows, I thought I could deal with it. Because I was required to include the ASIN for each image, the finished product would show up on the book detail pages for the box set AND the three novels it includes, which I didn’t want. After much discussion with KDP reps (who are still learning how all this works), I ended up abandoning that project. This is what it would have looked like, had I been able to convince the program I only wanted it to show on the box set page.

Amazon A PlusI moved on to a different module for general information about my Mapleton mystery series, something that I could use on all the books in that series.

I chose the Standard Single Image & Sidebar module. There are two places for images in that module. One was 300×400, and the other 350×175. Again, I went to Canva for a quick way to create images with the book covers that fit those dimensions. Then, it’s a matter of plugging things in and filling the blanks.

Amazon A+Other Tips

ASINs: Although the field says “search” it’s much more efficient to copy your ASIN into that box and hit “Enter.” It should bring up the book, and it’ll tell you if it’s eligible. It should be, so you click the “Assign” button.

Once you’ve done this, you can still go back and edit, but you’ll have to hit the “Assign” button again every time you want to move forward. The program remembers the ASIN, but it’s not intuitive that you need to click that button every time you want to make forward progress. You can’t jump around in the steps.

I was satisfied with my Mapleton Mystery results, and this one was approved quickly, so—what the heck?—I created one for my Triple-D Ranch series using the same format. I’m working on book 4 now, so I figured it couldn’t hurt to have something more detailed on the pages for the first 3. When Book 4 comes out, I’ll go back and edit.

Amazon A PlusThings to note

When you add an image, you have to assign keywords. If you remove the image for any reason, the keywords disappear, too, so it’s a good idea to have them written somewhere you can copy and paste instead of retyping.

You can create the modules in any order and then use the up and down arrows to move them around.

Amazon has to approve all content, and it can take a week.

The content appears on the page under “From the Publisher” so readers have to scroll down a bit to see it, but at least it’s not the last item on the page. It should show up right after the “Also Bought” carousel.

If you want to see how it looks “in action”, you can find one here.

Overall, the editing process is cumbersome. I don’t think there’s anything I can say here that will eliminate trial and error if you want to give the content creation a go.

Once you’re satisfied, you click Review and Submit, and then wait for Amazon to give the thumbs up or thumbs down. So far, all of mine have been accepted.

Has anyone else here used A+? Have you found an easier way to do it?

To those of you observing Yom Kippur, G’mar chatima tova. And may you have an easy fast.

Book Blurbs and Pets

Book Blurbs and Pets
Terry Odell

Book Blurbs and Pets

Image by Pexels from Pixabay

I’ve been with my current editor since my first Blackthorne, Inc. novel (2007), with only a couple of exceptions. She now has her own small publishing company, but has been kind enough to keep me on in a freelance basis. She asked if I would read one of her debut author’s upcoming releases and provide a one-or-two-sentence “blurb.” She said it was a romantic suspense, which is a genre I’m familiar and comfortable with.

Now, I don’t put much stock in author recommendations. I had to grovel for them for that first Blackthorne book, and dreaded doing it. I was an unknown with a couple of books out from a digital-first publisher. (No Amazon yet.) Who’d want to spend time on me? But grovel I did.

One author acquaintance said, “Sure. Send me three quotes and I’ll cobble something together.” Never even asked to read the book. Another said she’d read just enough to see that I knew what I was doing.

Nevertheless, because saying “No” has always been a monumental task for me, I agreed to go along with my editor’s request.

I was reading along, some hiccups due to my internal editor refusing to shut up, but overall, the writing was clean and easy to read. It was a little slow-moving for my taste, as the suspense element wasn’t brought in until later than I would have expected, but then … about ¾ of the way through the book …

The protagonist, who by now had received threatening emails and phone calls, came home to find a box on her doorstep. Upon opening it, she discovered the mutilated body of a cat. Not just any cat, but a stray she’d semi-adopted.

Mind you, this was not a serial killer, dark mystery/thriller type book. This was, overall, a romance with some suspense elements. And a mutilated cat.

Very early in my writing career (2004 according to my files), I attended my first writer’s conference. At a workshop given by the late Barbara Parker, she said she’d made the unforgivable mistake of having a mutilated cat show up in a box on the doorstep at the protagonist’s house. And, even worse, the protagonist had a young daughter. Parker said readers sent hate mail, and warned that killing a pet was an absolute no-no. Her book was a legal mystery, so her audience wasn’t romance-oriented, yet they still screamed.

I told her my manuscript for the as of then unpublished Finding Sarah included a character with 2 cats, and I had poisoned them (you’ll never know the delight you can light up in someone’s eyes until you holler between your office and the Hubster’s and say, “I need a way to poison a cat.”) My plan was to have one survive. The incident would 1) force my character to deal with emotions he’d denied; and 2) provide a critical clue for solving the overall mystery.

She gave me an emphatic “NO.” — Spoiler Alert— So, in the final version, both cats survived.

I passed this information on to my editor, who said she was warned against harming children or dogs, but nobody’d ever mentioned cats, and that she would bring it up with the author. Whether there are any changes remains to be seen.

At this point, I asked a couple of my best-selling authors of romance and romantic suspense friends what they thought. I knew my editor wanted my quote to appear in the soon-to-be-published book, but I was very uncomfortable putting my name on a book that would likely anger readers.

One said she refuses to blurb books anymore, saying there’s nothing to gain. (She also suggested I have my assistant be the one to tell my editor, but my dog can’t type.) The other author said “never recommend a book that you don’t love madly.” Until the cat incident, the book was good, but I wasn’t madly in love with it.

Ultimately, I told my editor I wasn’t comfortable putting my name on the book, and she said she understood, and another author she’d asked to read it said something similar.

All right, TKZers. Floor is open for discussion, either on the harming pets topic or book blurbs in general. I know of numerous authors, who when asked, “What do you read?” will say, “About all I get to read these days are books my publisher sends for blurbs.” Are their recommendations enough to sway you to buy books? Or do you think they’re writing what their publishers want to hear? If you were asked to blurb a book, where would you draw the line?


Trusting Uncertainty by Terry OdellAvailable Now

Trusting Uncertainty, Book 10 in the Blackthorne, Inc. series.
You can’t go back and fix the past. Moving on means moving forward.

Terry 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.

Video Marketing and Social Media Tips

Videos make a lasting impression. We live in a visual, media-rich world. Marketing via video continues to rise. Experts say 86% of all content will be in video format by 2022. Let’s look at current trends first, then move on to how writers can dip their toes into video marketing without suffering a panic attack. BTW, if you missed John’s clear and concise post about Zoom, be sure to check it out.

Video Trends

Instagram and Facebook Stories allow users to share short-form, vertical videos that disappear after 24 hours. Instagram Stories have 500 million active daily users. I know! That number shocked me, too.

Stories should be informal, relaxed, and allow viewers a quick snapshot of your day or a behind-the-scenes glimpse of your world.

Optimize for Mobile Users

There’s a higher demand for vertical videos that fit on mobile screens. Why? Because 75% of users watch videos on their phones and vertical fits better than horizontal.

Length

Try to keep marketing videos to under two minutes. The shorter the video the greater chance of viewers watching till the end. This “rule” can change according to platform. On Facebook, if you run over, I wouldn’t worry about too much unless it’s an ad. Ads should be kept as short as possible. On Twitter and Instagram, keep it bite-sized.

Live Video

Eighty percent (80%) of shoppers say they’d rather watch a live video than read a blog post. Shoppers age 18-34 watch live content daily.

Optimize for Hearing Impaired

Add captions for the hearing impaired. This tip will also add clarity if the speaker has an accent. Plus, some viewers prefer to watch video with the sound off.

YouTube

As far as SEO — Search Engine Optimization — goes, YouTube tops the list. To give you some idea of why, YouTube is the world’s second-largest search engine. With this in mind, I created a nonfiction book trailer, uploaded it to YouTube, and shared the video across social media.

As you can see, I didn’t include captions like I should have. Yet, after I posted this video, the book rose to #1 New Release, proving (at least, to me) we can veer away from these “rules” and still be effective.

Writers & Social Media

Whether we like it or not, social media is a must for writers. With fewer book retailers, the discoverability of books depends on the author’s online footprint. Regardless of genre, it’s a fact that social media buzz directly impacts sales. More than 40% of book recommendations come from word-of-mouth, which often originates online.

Whenever a fellow writer asks me for help with social media, my top tip is to be yourself. Be genuine. Social media should be fun. If you’re not enjoying yourself, people will notice.

Always conduct yourself as a professional, but don’t hide the real you while doing it. There’s so much garbage and negativity on social media. As writers, we need to rise above it and not get swept up in a pissing match over political views or coronavirus facts vs. misinformation. If we’re not careful, our opinions on certain subject matters can and will hurt our writing career. Non-writers view us as neutral, and we need to live up to that standard.

You might say: Gee, we’re not even allowed to have an opinion? Of course, we are. What we don’t need to do is broadcast it all over social media. Same goes for complaining about rejection letters, querying, writing, marketing, books we didn’t enjoy, critiques, fellow writers, etc., etc., etc. Use social media as if the whole world is watching, because the whole world IS watching.

The follow-up question I most often receive is, “Be genuine, got it. But how do I let readers know the real me?”

The answer is simple. Share your joys, your passion, your excitement. For example, I recently shared a video of my first reaction to opening the box of PRETTY EVIL NEW ENGLAND paperbacks. I broke almost all the “rules” stated above here, too, but my Facebook audience didn’t care. They loved being included.

Your turn, TKZers! What are some ways you’ve used video marketing?

Join the giveaway for a chance to win the paperback of Pretty Evil New England: True Stories of Violent Vixens and Murderous Matriarchs. Winner will be notified via email and announced in my November 2, 2020 post. Good luck!

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The Opening as Part of the Closing … of the Deal

by James Scott Bell
@jamesscottbell

It’s no secret we live in the age of the declining attention span.

How ’bout those Dodgers?

Where was I? Oh yes, attention spans. Declining.

We all know the causes. Phones, tablets, the infinite galaxy known as the internet, 24/7 social media, apps, games, noise, news, and the dopamine effect that comes from escaping reality in the blink of an eye or the texting of the thumbs. These multiform avenues of distraction come in small bites, too, like a bottomless bowl of Skittles. You’ve all been there. You’re chewing a red, it’s not even down the hatch yet, and you’re already reaching for the next one, or a handful of next ones.

Impatience has replaced contemplation. Annoyance erupts the moment the old lady in front of you in the grocery store line mutters, “Let me see, I think I have change in here somewhere.”

We’ve done a number of first page critiques here at TKZ, because everyone knows how important it is. Because of decreasing attention spans and the “need for speed” in everything we do, those first pages are crucial because they are one of the biggest influences on a browser’s buying decision.

I recall hearing about a study years ago of bookstore browsing habits. The typical sequence: a cover captured attention; the browser picks it up and reads the dust-jacket copy, sees who the author is, then opens to the first page. If it captivates them they are within striking distance of a buying decision.

It’s the same today online. A reader on Amazon is shown other thumbnail book covers that an algorithm has determined they might be interested in. A cover attracts, you click on it, get taken to the sales page where you can look at the description (cover copy). The page offers you a “Look inside” peek. You can also download a sample.

And there we are again, at the opening pages.

For years I’ve taught that the opening page and, indeed, the opening paragraph (and even further, if you can do it, the opening line) should be about a disturbance to that character’s ordinary world. Why? Because the reader doesn’t know who the character is yet. So what’s the quickest way to get them interested? Trouble.

We all respond to someone else in trouble. Even a total stranger. It’s our human condition. And most readers are still human.

Now, every so often I’ll read a blog post that takes umbrage (when was the last time you had a good old dose of umbrage?) at the idea of having to “open with a bang” or “some kind of action.” They’ll usually start off with some form of restatement of the sentiment There are no rules! And then go on to describe that this is their story, and they will open it up they way they see fit (which always strikes me as a bit odd, because they are not the ones plunking down the money for the story, so isn’t it also a story for the readers? Just asking.)

What I would say in answer is simply this: do you want people to buy your books or not?

Okay, then let me suggest you alter your opening page so there is something disturbing happening from the jump. After the reader buys your book you can entrance them with your style all you like. But if you don’t engage their attention-challenged sensibilities immediately, you may not get the chance.

Have a look at this opening:

The day was sunny and breezy, if cool––the first semi-decent weather after a long, hard, bitter winter––and Kate didn’t actually mind an excuse to get out in the world. She wouldn’t take the cat, though; she would walk.

She stepped out the front door, shutting it extra hard behind her because it irked her that Bunny was sleeping so late. The ground cover along the front walk had a twiggy, littered look, and she made a mental note to spruce it up after she finished with the hellebores.

Swinging the lunch bag by its twist-tied neck, she passed the Mintzes’ house and the Gordons’ house––stately brick center-hall Colonials like the Battistas’ own, although better maintained––and turned the corner. Mrs. Gordon was kneeling among her azalea bushes, spreading mulch around their roots.

If I were doing the critique here at TKZ, I’d start off by quoting one agent who was asked what she disliked in an opening. “Slow writing with a lot of description will put me off very quickly,” she said. Most readers would agree.

The above clip is actually a slight adaptation of a section from Chapter 1 of Anne Tyler’s novel Vinegar Girl. But it’s a later section, not the actual opening. This is the first page:

Kate Battista was gardening out back when she heard the telephone ring in the kitchen. She straightened up and listened. Her sister was in the house, although she might not be awake yet. But then there was another ring, and two more after that, and when she finally heard her sister’s voice it was only the announcement on the answering machine. “Hi-yee! It’s us? We’re not home, looks like? So leave a––”

By that time Kate was striding toward the back steps, tossing her hair off her shoulders with an exasperated “Tcch!” She wiped her hands on her jeans and yanked the screen door open. “Kate,” her father was saying, “pick up.”

She lifted the receiver. “What,” she said.

“I forgot my lunch.”

Which leads to a short, disturbing conversation and then Kate’s reflection on why it’s disturbing. The other part, walking in the neighborhood, doesn’t come until after. (Note that a disturbance doesn’t have to be “big” like a car chase, ghost, or awakening in a hospital room. Just something that causes at least a ripple of portent in the character’s life.)

My point is that for any genre (including literary), beginning with a disturbance is actually part of a well-rounded marketing strategy––because it helps to close the deal by incentivizing a purchase.

This is not a compromise of your artistic vision! You have a whole novel for your artistic vision.

But if you want the readers to experience it, they have to want to buy the book. Don’t give them a reason to pass.

What about you? Do you read the “Look inside” sample on Amazon before you buy? Are you less patient with books these days?

How about less patient in general?

Amazon Marketing Services Coming May 1 – Thoughts?

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

amazon-logo-15

Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) will launch May 1, 2016. What does this mean to you, authors? As an Advantage or CreateSpace publisher, you can sign up for AMS for an annual fee of $99.00. Word of caution, from what I’ve seen of the sign-up instructions, this is for Kindle Select books only. The annual fee is charged against your account as a deduction from your sales. No Paypal or credit card charge up front. Once you become a “member” of AMS, you gain access to marketing programs reserved for Amazon’s biggest vendors. Feel empowered yet?

Below are the programs available to members:

Advertising on Keywords/Tags – Pay Per Click

The right keywords and tags can help you with discoverability on your titles at Amazon while setting your own budget allowance for promotion. Popular keywords, phrases, and tags on a book can generate momentum on search pages to get a title noticed. You’d only pay when a reader clicks on your book ad. According to Amazon, a click budget can be as low at $100.00, capping off your cost at your option.

Enhanced “A+” Detail Pages

Sometimes bling is the thing to showcase a book. Amazon offers enticing content for an author’s book page for $600, such as videos, sample page shots, photos and other creative promotion ideas. The deluxe page content also features advanced formatting and rich media content to tease the readers to buy.

Price Discounts

This is a really great idea. Amazon now offers vendor-provided coupon links (offered on the product detail page) to give readers/customers immediate discounts off the Amazon sales price. This will allow you to offer true sales campaigns and promotions during a peak period, in a more nimble way than ever before. You can drive sales during a virtual tour event or for a given weekend or launch period with ease.

Dashboard Sales Analytics

Want to evaluate your promotion effectiveness with REAL sales data? Now you can with AMS. If you’d like to evaluate one campaign service provider or a blog tour or advertising on Facebook for example, now you can if you isolate the event and analyze the effectiveness through analytics offered on the AMS dashboard. You’ll be able to analyze your return on investment down to the title and event to fine tune your marketing strategies with real sales data.

Vine Reviews

Chasing reviews can be a challenge if you want exposure and honest reviews. The cost for promotion service providers to solicit readers for an honest review can take time to scrutinize the potential reader and the cost for such a service can vary. Amazon had its established Vine Reviewers program of pre-approved reviewers. This is a costly service, priced at $1500.00, but it allows you to access the entire Vine Reviewer list without taking the time to approach them one at a time. If you invest in this service, AMS handles the details.

How to sign up for AMS?
If you’re curious about this new Amazon program, here is the link for AMS – https://ams.amazon.com/  I have to admit that I thought this would be for ANY KDP author. That’s how it is presented under the instructions as you set up, but when you drill down into the instructions on page 2, it appears these services are only for Kindle Select books.

Or you can do what I tried to do, which is set up my corporation (or my publishing company name) under the Amazon Advantage program at this LINK. (I thought I could set up as a vendor.) But alas, I could not set up under the Advantage program as a vendor under my company name OR my brand name (author name). On the surface it would appear Amazon is forcing authors into their KDP SELECT program to become a member of AMS. If anyone knows any differently, or had another approach and was successful, please let me know.

I’ve read that if your book has an ISBN and you’re signed up through Createspace, this might get you into AMS, but after I explored Createspace, I did not find a way into AMS this way either.

Here’s link to an Amazon brochure on “Drive Sales with Amazon Marketing Services.”

Here is a FAQ link.

For Discussion:

1.) What do you think of the tools AMS makes available to all authors? Which service are you most interested in?

2.) Is anyone a member already? Have you encountered any problems?

3.) What do you think of the exclusivity of having this program only available to Kindle Select, meaning your book will only be sold on Amazon for a time under those rules?

Value of Listserves

I just learned this tip from one of my listserves: Bowker is running a 20% off discount in honor of family history month. The code is Family20 that you apply at checkout. I don’t know how long this discount lasts, so I jumped on it. It’s Sunday morning. I saved $59.00. While on site, I also saw you could buy 10 ISBNs and get a deal to purchase another 10 with it for 50% off the second batch.

This tip came from the Fantasy, Futuristic, & Paranormal Romance loop that I belong to with my RWA membership. I’m not too active there now since I am working only on my Bad Hair Day mysteries at this time, but gems like this one make it worthwhile to keep my membership.

A post on the FRW (Florida Romance Writers) listserve is how I learned about TweetJukebox (http://www.tweetjukebox.com/ ). This site has saved me a considerable amount of time.

What is a listserve? (Note: The trademarked term is LISTSERV) It’s a group email list that you join, usually through yahoo groups. You can choose to receive individual emails or a Daily Digest. The latter allows you to scan the topics and jump to the ones that interest you by clicking on a link.

Much of what I’ve learned about self-publishing, promotion, and business of writing tips has come from the listserves where I belong. I mine them for jewels of information. When I see something relevant, even if it’s not info I need immediately, I copy and paste it into a file. Thus when I am ready to venture out—like into audio books through ACX—I have a complete file with tips and instructions I’ve gleaned from various listserves.

Some of these groups require you to be a member to join. Others are available to all writers. In my view, they might be time-consuming emails but they’re worth their weight in gold—or in this case, in dollars saved. It’s writers helping writers. or writers connecting with readers.

book club

So here are the listserves where I belong. I’ve included the link if it’s open to the public. DorothyL is the only one that is not a yahoo group.

Mystery
Cozy Armchair Group (Readers): cozyarmchairgroup@yahoogroups.com
Crime Scene Writer (Research Questions): crimescenewriter@yahoogroups.com
Dorothy L (Readers): Mystery Literature E-conference DOROTHYL@LISTSERV.KENT.EDU
International Thriller Writers (members only)
Murder Must Advertise (Writers on Marketing) MurderMustAdvertise@yahoogroups.com
Mystery Buffs (Writers & Readers) https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/mysterybuffs/info
Mystery Writers of America: (members only): EMWA, MWA-Breakout, MWA-Self-Publishing
Mystery Writers Promo (private group)
Sisters in Crime: (members only)
Sleuthmail: (Florida Chapter MWA members only)

Romance
Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal RWA chapter: (members only)
Florida Romance Writers: (members only)
Marketing for Romance Writers: MarketingForRomanceWriters@yahoogroups.com
Romance Writers of America: (members only) PAN, Tech, Industry, News
Southwest Florida Romance Writers: (members only)

Other
ELoop: Eloop@yahoogroups.com
Lifeboat Team: Private group – Booklover’s Bench writers
Novelists, Inc: (members only)
Self-Publish: selfpublish-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Publishers
Five Star: (FS authors only)
The Wild Rose Press: (WRP authors only)
The Wild Rose Press (readers) TheWildRosePress@yahoogroups.com

Do you have any other recommendations?

Paid Book Reviews

Nancy J. Cohen

There’s a disturbing trend toward paid reviews. Indie authors may have a difficult time getting their books reviewed, so this is an option for them. But it’s an issue for any traditionally published author who wishes to get more critical reviews for their new release, aside from the places where their publisher has sent advance reading copies. Here are some sites I’ve heard of but am by no means recommending. Do the research on your own.

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Kirkus Indie Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/author-services/indie/ costs $425. You can submit 2 print copies or a digital submission.

Publishers Weekly: At a site called Book Life, you can register your title and decide what services you want, i.e. getting your book reviewed or help with marketing. http://booklife.com/ It appears to be free, but marketing services are available. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/diy/index.html

RT Book Reviews: This magazine offers a paid service for $425 through RT Review Source: http://www.rtreviewsource.com/

Net Galley: $399 for a six month title listing, or $599 for a listing along with a spot in their newsletter. https://netgalley.uservoice.com/knowledgebase/articles/105722-do-you-work-with-individual-authors . Here your book might attract the attention of librarians, booksellers, reviewers and bloggers.

Edelweiss: If you’re traditionally published, ask if your book is listed at Edelweiss. This is where booksellers and librarians go to browse and place orders. Reviewers can request digital ARCs there too. Publishers pay for listings. The pricing for the catalog is based on the number of titles the publisher plans to feature in a year. An administrative fee is also charged annually for this service. In addition, there’s a digital review service that publishers can participate in either separately or along with the catalog listing. http://edelweiss.abovethetreeline.com/HomePage.aspx

Choosy Bookworm: http://authors.choosybookworm.com/book-reviews/ . For $99, they hint you might get 30 interested readers who will post reviews but no guarantees.

Nerdy Girls Book Reviews: http://nerdygirlbookreviews.com/authors/ Their basic package is $49 for 30-35 reader reviews.

Chanticleer Book Reviews cost $325: http://www.chantireviews.com/book-reviews/

Of course, you have many other options. Go on a blog tour where the hosts offer reviews. Do giveaways on Goodreads and LibraryThing and hope that the winners post their consumer reviews. Or buy inexpensive ads where a review might be part of the package. It’s not easy to attract the big guns but you can still get bloggers on your side.

How do you feel about paid reviews?