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Feast Your Eyes On This: Using Video to Promote Your Book by Robin Facer

After Google, the 2ndLargest search engine is . . .

YouTube. That’s right—YouTube processes over 3 billion searches a month. Right this second, even as you read this blog, 1 out of every two users on the internet is watching YouTube.

Surprised? I was, although I shouldn’t have been. I’ve been working with visual storytelling for more than twenty years, so I’m well aware of the power of video content. It makes us laugh; it makes us cry. It’s a teaching tool, a method of communication, and a source of entertainment. According to Forbes magazine, video accounted for 73% of internet traffic in a 2016 study.

All of this is good news for authors who know how to apply their existing storytelling skills to video content, allowing them to harness the power of the second-largest search engine to market their work. But getting started can be intimidating. Let’s explore some common forms of video content the writing world uses to grow audiences and increase book sales—and some easy lessons you can apply when creating your own.


Book Trailers

Book trailers are probably what comes to mind first when you think of using video marketing to promote books. They’re essentially the same as movie trailers, and their purpose is identical: to expose new readers to a book in a way that makes them instantly want to read it.

The goal of a good trailer is to capture the genre, tone, style, and feeling of a book—all in under a minute. If that sounds like a challenge, consider this: unlike a written ad or a blog post (something that combines words with static images) video contains extra layers to help create the desired effect. Music is a powerful medium for driving emotion. Moving images offer depth and motion and make it easy to increase tension. Fonts, graphics, and sound effects all contribute to getting twice the information across in half the time.

The best trailers have all the pull of a back cover blurb plus an added emotional punch. They’re also easily shareable which means their reach can grow exponentially.

You can hire someone to build a compelling book trailer, or you can take a stab at DIY-ing it. If you decide to go it alone, check out the following resources:

  • Websites like Shutterstock and Stocksy offer stock photography and, increasingly, stock video you can purchase for a onetime fee.
  • You can download royalty-free music from places like Premium Beat or Pond5.
  • Tools like Adobe Spark, or iMovie (for Mac) or Movie Maker (for PC) help you edit it all together

The best part of learning how to create your own book trailers is taking the skills you already have—engaging readers, building tension, crafting a compelling narrative—and using them in a whole new way. Chances are, putting together a trailer will also help you look at your book with fresh eyes. And that’s a win-win!


Beyond the Book Trailer

Other forms of content are even easier for authors to create themselves. Video podcasts, live cover reveals, and videotaped Q&A sessions are all compelling ways to draw readers in. You can even set up interview swaps with authors who share similar audiences.

All you need for this type of video work is a computer with a webcam or a mobile phone with good camera resolution, some quality lighting, an external microphone, and a little trial and error.


Doing Video Right

Video production is one of those things that looks easy—until you try it. Before you go live, consider the following:

  • Good lighting and high-quality sound are more important than you might think. There are 11-year-old YouTubers whose basement videos rival the production quality of many local newscasts—so viewers today are savvy, and they won’t spend long with video that’s hard to see or hear. Spend time exploring YouTube and examining what the most successful content creators put onscreen.
    • To make sure your video and audio quality is up to par:
      • Avoid backlighting by putting the brightest light in the room in front of you, not behind you.
      • Look directly into the webcam or mobile camera lens to give the illusion of eye contact with viewers. (You can even tape a photo of a friend or pet right next to the camera, so you’ll have a friendly face to speak to!)
      • Use an external microphone if you can afford it
      • Be aware of ambient noise when you’re recording. Our brains are wired to tune out the background noises we’re exposed to every day—but other folks won’t be immune to the sound of your kitchen vent fan or your friendly neighborhood leaf blower.
  • Less is more and shorter is better. No exceptions. Remember the first time you tried to write a one-page synopsis—and hours (or days) into the struggle became convinced it simply couldn’t be done? Then eventually, despite your doubts, you found a way to reduce your brilliant 100,000-word novel into a tightly drafted 250 words. The same process applies to video. Reducing your book to its essence makes your pitch much more powerful and editing is always your friend. If one minute is good, thirty seconds is better.
  • Keep elements from fighting each other. Black, white, or gray lettering that’s written in a classic font is a good bet. Text elements that are simple and elegant won’t distract viewers from what’s important—the story you’re telling.
  • Keep the big picture in mind. All the elements should work together to create a whole that seems cohesive and coordinated—the effect your video has on viewers should be greater than the sum of its parts.
  • Whether it’s a book trailer, a podcast, or a cover reveal, the most effective video is the one that leaves viewers feeling Consider what you want your viewers to feel at the end of your video and work backward from there.


Beta readers? Try beta viewers.

Here’s another similarity between book building and video creation—you need fresh eyes to make your work the best it can be.

Once you come up with a “first draft” video, show it to some friends, both the writerly kind and non-author readers. Just as with critique partners, it’s hard to hear feedback that’s anything other than glowing. But heeding input and making changes based on audience reaction is a tried-and-true method of turning good videos into great ones.


Channel Your Inner Marketing Genius

Once you have some video content to share, it’s easy to set up your own YouTube channel. The process is straightforward, and YouTube offers instructions and tutorials to walk you through it.

Think of your YouTube channel as an extension of your website and keep the branding consistent. Any video you make can (and should!) be shared across all your social media channels, as well as posted to your author website.

Investing the time and energy to become a capable visual storyteller is a great marketing move for authors—one that pays off in greater audience engagement, additional book/brand awareness, and increased comfort with creating the kind of content people enjoy most.


My background is in visual storytelling for television. As a director, writer, and editor, I helped create several landmark television series—includ...