The Impact Of Using Video For Your Book. Dear Codebreaker Case Study.

Recently I posted an article about using your research to connect with your potential readers.

dear codebreakerKerry Howard’s video about her book Dear Codebreaker is a stunning example of how to use your passion to communicate to an audience. In this article, Kerry explains how she learned new skills to produce the video as well as how it produced an exciting opportunity.

The first video I made is less than 3 minutes long, yet it tells my audience more about me, my passion for research and showcases my material with greater impact than any number of articles on the same subject.

Watch the video below or here on YouTube.

Why use video?

Recent statistics from illustrate the growing importance of using video content on our blogs/websites. During September 2013 a staggering 188.7 million Americans watched 46 billion online content videos and 22.8 billion video ads. Gulp!

Based on those figures, I feel very pleased that my short video got noticed in a seemingly endless sea of online content. I’d like to tell you that my decision to make videos was part of a grand strategic plan, but my motivation is much simpler. I just want to enhance the reading pleasure of my book, Dear Codebreaker by sharing my research in a more multi-media way.

This is part of my plan to develop a ‘style’ and ‘formula’ where my readers know that with each non-fiction book they will have access to a supporting website with extended material that would not make it into the book at the time of publication. In this rapidly changing world there are more interviews to be gathered, and new material to share.

bletchley park

Bletchley park

Books no longer need to remain static text but can evolve and grow over time. There is no need for a book to be finished by the reader, shelved and forgotten. By updating and expanding material the book and writer stays in the forefront of the reader’s mind until the next book, creating a link and the process starts again.

Investing in my creative self

The three minutes of my video actually represents many days of work where I had to learn, make, scrap, curse, try again and again until I understood how to make a video that could showcase my historical research in an appealing way.

The days of frustrating and fun effort could easily have been weeks of effort if I had not invested in my creative self. For me that investment came in the From Ideas to Cash course delivered by Joanna Penn and Julie Hall, who share their own experiences and knowledge in producing multi-media products.

Although the course is primarily focused on producing online courses with multimedia content, I found the know-how and key resources equally enlightening for my own goal of producing media to compliment my book. It took time to give myself permission to buy my first course. When I first signed up to Ideas into Cash it felt like a real luxury. I felt guilty about spending this money on myself.

That guilt stems from the belief that I can, and should, do it all myself. Sometimes we need to recognize when to purchase a product to learn from someone else, when to ask for help and when to do it ourselves.

Paying for courses and attending webinars

As a researcher I am very happy to spend hours looking for information. Most information can be found online for free and webinars are a great way to get a detailed overview of a subject. However, this can be a very time expensive exercise, especially when a course full of quality and relevant information can be more beneficial in time, knowledge and money in the long run. It can also be a good way to get support from tutors and other course participants in the first steps of turning knowledge into action.

Since doing From Ideas into Cash I have developed a real interest in developing my skills through online courses and attending webinars. Signing up is now easy but it is always a considered decision based on whether the cost will truly benefit my learning and business needs.

DIY plus the benefits of asking for help

Adobe’s Creative Cloud provides the vast suite of software I use for producing my creative content. I started with learning InDesign for book layouts and Photoshop for image editing. Adobe software comes with a steep learning curve but as I am ‘renting’ the software through a monthly subscription, I was determined to use Premiere Pro video editing for producing my first video.

My learning was done through the act of ‘doing’ (thanks Adobe TV and YouTube) and overall I managed very well. Then I got stuck. I had absolutely no idea how to do the text animation for the Dear Codebreaker introduction so I turned to a creative friend for help. Fantasy Artist Jon Cape produced the first 15 second introduction in less than an hour whereas it would have taken me an age to learn and execute. His 15 seconds of the video went on to influence the entire look and feel of the book.

The ‘geek’ in me loves to learn and try new things. It is also financially important that I do all I can myself. However, it is also important to know when you need to call in the experts, which I did when it came to the eBook version of Dear Codebreaker.

Using Adobe’s Dreamweaver software I managed to format most of the book. I had to tackle it as the eBook conversion software I tried failed to correctly format the letters of correspondence contained in the book. As the book is mostly letters, this was a critical problem. My attempt looked good on Kindle but totally rubbish on the IPad Kindle app.

By accepting the limit of my capabilities and as well as the limits of my time I had no problem reaching out to a professional formatter to finish the job. Matt at did a fabulous job and guided me through the mistakes I had made. An added bonus is that I have a contact I trust for formatting the backlist of World War 2 codebreaking books I produce for other writers.

So, when we break it down those three minutes of video actually represent a lot in time, money and personal growth. It also shows that this digital landscape can throw open new unexpected opportunities when we show ourselves as authentic and passionate.

An unexpected result

My unexpected result was delivering my exciting keynote speech at a high profile event hosted at Bletchley Park by the Women’s Security Society, Cyber Security Challenge and Raytheon for women in intelligence and cyber security on 11 October 2013. Some of the high ranking women at the event feature in the media, including The Times and The Guardian, and I was mentioned in a separate article, which appeared in Infosecurity Magazine and The Guardian.

I will continue to add to and utilize the investment in my creative self to further enhance the reader experience on, on my blog and for every book I produce in the future.

How do you invest in your creative self? Please do leave a comment or any questions below.

Kerry HowardKerry Howard is a researcher, writer and independent publisher with a consuming interest in the history of Bletchley Park during World War 2.

You can buy Dear Codebreaker in Kindle or Print format here.


Writing Inspiration, Beating Blocks And How To Manage Your Time With K.M.Weiland

Wordplay is also one of the Top 10 Blogs for Writers and I’ve been following Katie for a while now. Her blog is fantastic, offering great tips for writers so I’m really pleased to speak to her in this interview.

In the video, you will learn:

  • How Katie started writing and how life is a story. We are surrounded by inspiration all the time. Writing is about celebrating life and about translating life lessons into words. Katie’s historical novel, A Man Called Outlaw was inspired by her love of the American West. It was an intense period of history with stark references so there is room for interpretation and stories around the themes. Her medieval epic, Behold the Dawn, was inspired by a children’s picture book about William Marshall, the greatest knight who ever lived, in the 12th century. He was a competitor in tourneys, the precursor to jousting. The juxtaposition of the battles and the Crusades where people were seeking redemption made for a fascinating backdrop. Katie is also inspired by a strong sense of character, setting and also by moral conundrums.
  • On conquering writer’s block and summoning inspiration. Writer’s block is not some insurmountable thing. Inspiration isn’t something that happens to us, it’s something we can go out and find. You need to nurture a lifestyle of creativity and inspiration. Quote from Peter de Vries “I believe I can’t write unless I’m inspired but I make sure I’m inspired every day at 9am”. Inspiration doesn’t need to be a mystical thing, it’s something we need to tap into based on a habit of writing. Katie has had periods of having trouble writing like all of us but it’s not Writer’s Block. It shouldn’t have capital letters – it’s just when we don’t know what to write. So bottom line, write and the inspiration will come.
  • On balancing writing and marketing. The self-promotion thing can become this monster and get out of control. So you need to maintain a sense of balance and remember why we’re doing it i.e. writing. It’s easy to let the promotion take over because of deadlines. Katie makes two hours of writing time every day sacrosanct. There’s no point in marketing unless you’re writing. This keeps her from feeling guilty as well because she has done the writing, so twitter and social media can be actioned as well, just later on. As authors we feel like we need to do everything, but you still have to put the writing first. Katie works part-time so she is able to spend two hours every day writing but there are many bestselling authors who have stories of working fulltime and writing so it can be done. It’s all about scheduling. Diarize your time for writing.
  • On why Katie does video blogging as well as text. Firstly, it’s another way to get yourself out there as an author. People have to see your name or brand 7 times before they make a connection with you so video is another way, particularly because YouTube is so popular. YouTube is also owned by Google so you get better search rankings. Katie also likes the interactivity of video where viewers can relate to body language and get a sense of the author as a person and connect more easily. A loyal audience will relate to a person they like as well. Many authors aren’t doing video right now because they are uncomfortable with their face or voice. We all feel this way, it’s petrifying but you get used to it! You have to put these issues aside if you want to be a successful author as you’re going to be in in the public eye. Video is a great way to get past those insecurities in preparation for the big moments that you never know might happen. It’s also a way to grow as a person and an author.

You can find Katie at her website or Wordplay – her blog for writers. You can also connect on twitter @kmweiland

What I Want In A Thriller Novel And How It Informs My Writing

To be a successful writer in a genre, you have to read a lot of books! Genre writing is quite specific in that people have expectations and if you don’t meet them, the reader is disappointed. I am currently writing a thriller and want to satisfy my potential readers by giving them what they want in the genre as well as interesting new writing. Therefore, I have identified what I like in a thriller and am aiming at providing that in my own books.

Incidentally, some of my favorite thriller writers include James Rollins, Matthew Reilly, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Steve Berry, and yes, I like the Dan Brown series! My own novel, Pentecost, is Lara Croft meets Robert Langdon in smackdown biblical action-thriller.

The things I want in a thriller novel include: a gripping story, a page turner, escapism and a way to get out of my life for a time, myth/religion/spirituality in theme, education of some sort e.g. new facts about a topic or a place, different locations and information about them, preferably exotic!, high body count and violence without being too graphic.

I download a lot of samples onto my Kindle and delete a whole load almost immediately if they don’t fit the bill. I am aiming that my novel fits my criteria.

So what do you like to read and is that reflected in what you are writing?


You can now get free chapters of Pentecost on the Facebook page by clicking here.


First Novel Update: Pentecost

Many of you are writing, or have written first novels, and others may want to write a novel but don’t know where to start. I started my first novel during NaNoWriMo last November, and have done sporadic videos keeping you updated. Click here to view the journey so far in chronological order.

See below for my latest update, and there are notes below for those that don’t like online video.

In the video I talk about:

  • It has been over 6 months of doing these updates, but I am now at 65,000 words…and counting…
  • I had a break through in terms of plotting in the last month. I crystallised the plot in my head, and wrote an outline that has given me the impetus to finish. I know what I have to write to finish the novel now. It took me about a day of thinking to rejig it, no writing, just thinking. This really helped. I also considered what I want in a thriller which is helping me focus my own writing.
  • The first draft is to get to the end, not to focus on great writing. I am slowly getting this into my brain!
  • Things came up as I wrote that were surprising to me – they came from my subconscious as I wrote, not as I planned. People talk about that, but it’s the first time it’s happened to me. It happened in the writing, not the thinking.
  • In researching locations, I found part of the plot that added depth and a cool scene as I researched. So be open to changing things if you find them as you research.
  • I’m aiming to write fast. Have finally understood that the first draft needs to be out of the way. I want to get into editing and enter the novel into Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. This has freed me and also given me a deadline of Jan 2011 for a fully edited, professional version of the novel.

Are you writing your first novel? How is it going so far? What have you learnt?


    You can now get free chapters of Pentecost on the Facebook page by clicking here.


    How To Prepare For Public Speaking

    One of my goals this year is to get my Membership of the National Speaker’s Association Australia which means I have to do a certain number of paid speaking events. Becoming an excellent speaker is a goal because professional authors who can speak make more money than those who don’t. (Check out the latest controversy over Neil Gaiman’s speaking fee). They are also valued highly for the Festival circuit (which I love!). The Sydney Morning Herald recently quoted a festival organiser,

    “Writers become festival fixtures because they can deliver. And yes, word does filter through the festival grapevine about who does. There are certainly writers who sell more books at festival time than they do the rest of the year because they are good performers. It’s become a skill that is useful for a writer.”

    So in my quest to become a (highly paid) professional speaker, I recently spoke at the Gold Coast Writer’s Association. It was a full day workshop with 17 people on Author Branding, Blogging and Marketing using the internet. In this short video taken before the event, I explain how I prepare for my public speaking because a lot of people have asked me about it.

    Text below the video for those who don’t like to watch!

    In this video, I explain:

    • Arriving early is great as it lowers stress, allows you time for a coffee and a read through of your notes as well as time to set up slowly and meet people
    • Be prepared. Have slides on your laptop, plus a USB key, plus on the internet plus on paper in case of technical problems
    • Research. I did questionnaire before hand asking people for specific questions and asking if I could use them as case studies to make the session more directed
    • Connection with people before the event can give you anecdotes to put in the session and lower anxiety by connecting you to individuals instead of being in a crowd
    • Bring products: Books, CDs to sell plus stuff to set up quickly as people do want to take you away with them
    • Video camera if you want to video, but get permission and also ignore it, as it doesn’t serve your audience
    • Personal appearance: I wear a certain outfit and jewelry that makes me feel professional. I also learned about makeup last year so I could do it properly for an event as I don’t usually wear it.
    • Take headache pill. This is my personal choice, not a recommendation! I enjoy speaking but it is stressful, plus the long drive and a full day ahead means I often get head pain. I take a pill beforehand so the day is fun for me too.
    • I have a coffee beforehand and water throughout the day, I eat lightly
    • Loud music. I listen to some loud music on the journey down to set my persona for the day. As an introvert I am not energised by people so I need to put on my performance self. This is not an act, but merely the side of me that does public appearances! Matt Church talked about this at the National Speaker’s Association conference so I’m not alone.
    • Write down intention for the day. I always write down what I want to achieve, and what I want people to get out of it. This sets my own expectations and allows for synchronicity to occur.

    Do you have any tips for preparing for public speaking?