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April 2007 - Article: Book Video – The Evolution of a Marketing Tool - By Sheila Clover English - CEO, Circle of Seven Productions

Evolution or Gimmick?

What determines the difference between evolution or gimmick is often hindsight. Much like MTV, which in the beginning, no one thought would work, book video offers a way for a commercial to be entertaining. Currently it is one of hottest promotional ideas in the industry.

Book Video Utilization

Book videos have taken the publishing industry by storm and by surprise. They have become an increasingly versatile marketing tool. They can be used as announcements in emails, viral marketing on the internet, television commercials and Movie Theater commercials. They can be put on DVDs and sent out to booksellers, sales teams, the media and readers. They can be used to expand your demographic, highlight cross-genres and help with name-branding. They can be shown on your website, online social networks, online specialty sites, online bookstores, online magazines, played in bookstores and used as b-roll for television appearances.

If your book video isn’t doing any more than sitting on your website entertaining people who will, most likely, already buy your book, you’ve wasted your time, effort and money.

If you’re going to have a video, use it to its fullest potential.

Book Video – What should it look like?

There are several different types of book video available. Book Trailers® look like movie trailers, but are for books. There are other types of video that utilize still photos, stock footage, music and text and/or narration. Some video utilizes the book cover only, trying to create recognition so that readers recall the book when they see it in the store.

A book video should be a representation of both the book and the author.

There is a very detailed process that should be followed in creating a book video. Book video production starts with asking the right questions. The first question I ask a client isn’t, “What’s your book about?” My first question is, “What do you want to do with your career?” The questions I ask help me determine what the book video will look like. Clients who request a consultation prior to having a video made should be prepared for a 1 to 1 ½ hour session. About 20 minutes of that will be used to discuss the book.

There’s no doubt that a really good book with a really good hook will capture the attention of readers. It is important to identify some of the key elements unique to a story so that they can be highlighted in the video. The video script should not be a reiteration of the back copy of the book. It should be an enhancement of it. Most readers will watch the video and, if intrigued, go to the author’s site to read the excerpts, back copy and/or first chapter.

Technically, videos shouldn’t be more than 2 minutes long. Less is more. At 2 minutes, you’re really pushing it with download times. People with dial up may get discouraged. Keep it to 60 seconds or less and more people will get to see it.

Also, the format you choose will be important. We offer both Quicktime and Windows Media Player formats. Then, we upload to a site like YouTube, and then we have a Flash version as well.

Too much text and too many pictures make for a bad video. They start to compete against each other for the viewer’s attention. Keep it simple. If you have a really long line of text, it should fade up a little at a time. This makes it much easier for the viewer to both follow and understand what they’re reading.

A book video should be as personalized as possible. Though many books may share common themes, they aren’t exactly alike. A story carries with it the imagination and style of its creator. Book videos are the same way. Regardless of the similarities of an overall theme, there should be something unique about it.

Who Will Watch a Book Video?

There seems to be two main groups of people. Not so much those who like book videos and those who do not, but, more so, those who are traditional readers and those who are not.

Traditional readers are the ones most likely to use the back cover blurb, an excerpt or reviews to choose a book. They are established readers. They don’t need a video to get them to pick up a book. Although, many will watch them to see what’s coming up. And, to them, some videos are really just announcements that the book is out. The reader will buy it regardless.

Non-traditional readers are those who usually watch TV, go to the movies, play video games and spend far too much time downloading to their iPod.

You have to really reel them in to get them to pick up a book.

With more and more competition for the entertainment dollar, the publishing industry must expand their thinking beyond traditional advertising and marketing. The main focus of industry marketing needs to be expanded to encompass more than just a limited set of known factors (i.e. traditional readers). As an industry, we must reach beyond what is our known demographic and into the unknown. We must evolve to create and nurture new readers.

Get them while they’re young! But, in order to do so, you must speak to them via a medium to which they have grown accustomed. That medium is a visual one. Games, movies, and special effects are all becoming bigger and better with each passing year across every segment of the entertainment industry. How is the publishing industry supposed to compete with that?

Now, there is a tool that utilizes this, the most popular medium, and it is being used to sell books.

Whether or not you like them, or even use them, if book videos bring in more new readers, aren’t they a wonderful tool?

Of course, there will always be those of us who love to go to our local bookstore, touch the pages, read the back copy, and enjoy the unique smell of coffee and books.

Are They Effective?

Increased web traffic, name recognition, book recognition, back list sales, rising book sales, and better placement on important bestseller lists are all possible.

Book videos are a tool like any other promotional tool. They work, if you know what to do with them.

They should be well researched, well produced, and well placed. They should be as engaging and entertaining as the book itself.

Christine Feehan, the first author to utilize a Book Trailer®, has seen a 600% increase in traffic to her website since she started using video. One large retail bookseller told us that their traffic increased by 50% when they put up a Book Trailer®.

A study was done in 2006 to check the overall effectiveness of using book videos to advertise on television. A Book Trailer® created for an e-book was chosen for the study. No other advertising or marketing was used during the study period. The video was played on television for one week and the website traffic was monitored. The first day the video was played there was an increase of 20%. By the third day, traffic had increased by 90%. We are now waiting for the publisher to supply us with sales figures for that week and for the subsequent week. The results of that study will be released in a White Paper during BEA this year, along with other studies and statistics.

Authors using book video have reported higher ranking on important lists such as New York Times, USA Today, and many of the bookseller’s lists such as Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble.

This marketing concept has cumulative effects. The longer it is out there the more the public will see and accept it, not only as a form of advertisement, but also as a form of entertainment itself, much like movie trailers. With the evolution of technology making online marketing a fast growing opportunity, it makes sense for the book industry to utilize its potential.

The bottom line is that book videos are not, merely, a passing trend. They are an evolution in marketing for the publishing industry.


The number one question associated with book video is- “How much does it cost?” Authors, contrary to public belief, are not living in mansions and making millions. Yes, there are those few who have achieved, but that is not the norm.

The old adage “You get what you pay for.” holds true with any product. You can make your own video. Pay for editing software, or even use Windows Movie Maker. You may have a natural ability for such creative endeavors. But, even then, what will you do with it after it is made? If you have a marketing and distribution plan, then give it a try. Make your own! I’ve seen some that were pretty good. Of course, an individual often has limited resources to get the video played or picked up by the media. But, it isn’t impossible.

There are many book video makers out there: Circle of Seven (COS) Productions, VidLit, Expanded Books, ScrapFaries (BookPeeks), and more. Each offers something unique. But, distribution, marketing assistance, and media connections are important as well. You need to know what to do with your product once you have it.

COS Productions’ videos range from $250 to upwards of $5000. All products come with distribution. You can have something simple, or you can have a full television commercial shot on film.

Book Video in Review

The evolution of marketing has brought book video to the publishing industry. Much like the music industry of old, video seems an odd fit. But, used correctly, it can be a valuable tool that can bring in potential readers that you couldn’t reach before.

And do they work? Yes. Yes, they do.

Kensington’s Editorial Director, Kate Duffy said of JoAnn Ross’ Bad Boys Southern Style video, “I would run, not walk, to the bookstore after seeing this. Beyond superb!”

Welcome to the evolution.


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