I've had a YouTube channel since 2008, but recently I've been paying a lot more attention to it – mainly because I've noticed that my own consumption preferences are changing.
I'm Gen X and I've been a hardcore reader for most of my life, but now the Millennials are the largest living generation and younger people watch even more. I want my words to get out into the world, I want to reach people regardless of format. So I am doing more video.
In today's article, Diana Wink gives some tips on how you can use video marketing.
We watch over 1 billion hours of YouTube videos a day.
YouTube, not Amazon, is the world’s second largest search engine. Video is the driving force of this century, especially for marketing.
Yet recently, a book trailer made sure I’d never read the book advertised.
The book might be a literary masterpiece. But I’ll never know.
Because the video looked boring, cheap and unprofessional.
True, I am a filmmaker and I have an eye for those things. But don’t be fooled –– nowadays, with Netflix, Amazon Prime and regular visits to the cinema, we all have developed this eye. Everybody can tell a cheap video production from a professional one because our eye is spoiled by the trends and film language now present on every corner.
The word “cheap” can be deceiving. You don’t have to spend a million for your video to look like a million. In fact, the technicalities are now widely accessible to everybody. There is no excuse. What we lack is knowledge. Everybody can point a camera. But only those who dive deeper will make their video stand out from the crowd.
Luckily, there are simple tricks and tools I put in your hands so that you can slay video marketing like a pro. But first, let’s have a look at all the possibilities film opens up before you as an author.
What can video do for your author marketing?
A book trailer is only the tip of the iceberg, and maybe the most challenging of the videos you can produce.
Start by filming yourself while you read the first chapter of your book, either in a Facebook live video or a YouTube video. It’s easier to click a play button than read a preview, and an amazing first chapter will suck your readers in instantly. Also, seeing the author’s face on video builds an instant connection.
You can document your book writing process, for example, create a travel video of your book research like I did with my novel.
It provides you with the opportunity to tease your book with quotes, place and character names and some plot information that occurs in those different places. But it also gives a taste of the atmosphere and connects your readers to your process while showing how much you invest in it.
You could also create a series of short videos with all different kinds of information –– introducing your characters, showing cover progress and talking about the creation of it.
If you write non-fiction, create short videos on the related topics, either as a tease or as a “dive deeper” episode, as Joanna does on The Creative Penn YouTube channel. Post short video interviews with professionals, ideally those you talked to as part of your book research. The sky’s the limit!
Now, let’s look at the tricks and tools that will make your videos look professional.
In Theatre, they say: “If it ain’t on the page, it ain’t on the stage.” The same goes for videos.
Want to create great videos? Make sure to write killer concepts first!
A high concept video has three essential ingredients
1. The idea is unique yet relatable
There are probably no new ideas on planet earth, it seems like everything has been done before. But what makes an idea unique is the combination of execution and ingredients that have never been executed.
On the other hand, it has to be something people are familiar with (this is the reason experimental films are not made for the wide audience) –– a structure they recognize, clues from film language they know and thus can subconsciously interpret.
The balancing act between innovation and recognition is a tough one. This is why you need to know what’s out there. What has been done successfully? What do the people like? “Steal like an artist”, which means: Take those ideas and add your personal and unique twist to them.
2. Everything works together to create an atmosphere
As to the craft of writing, there are also many different parts to the craft of filmmaking: storytelling, sound and music, colours, imagery – the list is endless. All those parts have to collaborate to create the atmosphere you want. They cannot be random and send mixed signals.
So when you write your concept, ask yourself:
- What do I want my viewers to feel and to experience?
- What expectations do I want to raise?
- Is the atmosphere dark and menacing, is it professional, is it fun and entertaining?
Then, make sure every single thing in your video works to support this atmosphere. Leave nothing to chance, because your audience will subconsciously interpret every single thing you give them.
3. The video is professional and up-to-date
This one is especially important when it comes to film, because trends and technology are constantly evolving, and so should your videos. This is also why it’s my recommendation to hire a professional, especially when it comes to things like book trailers.
In order to know what’s up to date, you have to know your way around the “film universe”. What a great excuse to binge Netflix, spend hours watching trailers and do some couch-surfing on YouTube and Vimeo!
The concept will help you get your vision down on paper, make changes, do research and communicate your idea to a professional if you hire one.
Good concepts always include imagery like screenshots or photography of the mood you want to convey, as a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
You can either write a rough concept in continuous text, but if you desire to go deeper, create two columns where on the right you write down the imagery while on the parallel left, you write down everything that goes on in your audio track.
Sound and music
Sound in film always works on a subconscious level. All sound designers know: The best sound is the one you never notice. Because once there is something off with it, it disturbs you even more than a bad image. This is why sound and music create most of your atmosphere.
There are many things to consider with sound:
- If someone is talking in the video, make sure that this audio recording is top-notch.
- Use directional microphones that filter out ambient noises.
- Make the hearing experience as flawless as possible.
- Use sound effects and ambience in a very goal-oriented way, f.e if there is a cut, a change of location or an animation.
As we are used to professional looking images, so are our ears used to good quality music. The quest for the right soundtrack takes up at least 50-60% of my editing time!
Never settle for a cheap background music or a soundtrack that does not fit your video perfectly. Also, always make sure you have a license! There are nowadays great ways to get amazing music licensed for an affordable price.
Here are some recommendations:
- https://artlist.io – This is a subscription model if you produce videos on a regular basis. They have great quality music of all genres!
The shorter your video is, the greater the chances that it will be viewed until the very end, where you will probably want to refer to your book, blog or product. Do your viewers and yourself a favour and go for quality rather than quantity, which means: shorter videos that are produced professionally.
Because believe me when I say: You always underestimate the time needed to film and edit your video! The better you want it to be, the more time you’ll need to invest.
If it comes to trailers, there is a rule of thumb: Never exceed a length of 60 seconds!
Animation and Titles
These are your secret weapon when it comes to video, yet titles and typography is a highly complicated topic. Luckily, there are many great tutorials on YouTube of how to use text in videos in the program you are editing in.
But first, let me give you some typography rules of thumb:
- Avoid goofy fonts, monospaced fonts, and system fonts, especially times new roman and Arial.
- Use bold or italic as little as possible.
- Use these font recommendations.
- Use colours sparingly, in a very subtle way, and stick to those colours throughout your video
- Small, centred text that leaves a lot of screen space makes your titles look cinematic
For a great video, use the combination of live footage and animated titles to bring in variety and deliver a message. Just have a look at the Dan Brown’s “Origin” book trailer.
In a clever way, atmospheric music, simple title animation and stock footage were combined to create an easy yet powerful trailer. Have you noticed the subtle sound effects? The use of a slight sepia colour tone before jumping to a fast sequence of cities, accumulating to the slogan that is used throughout the book?
This trailer originates from a high concept and was made with several simple steps that are easy to implement and to produce. This is how production value works without spending millions.
We will have a look at more complicated animations in the book trailer section, but first, let me give you some camera tricks if you want to work with original footage.
The camera functions with light, just like our eyes do. This is why you need to get a feeling for how light operates, how it works and which light sources to use. Spoiler alert: daylight is always your best option.
Here are some basic setup tricks which you can deepen in tutorials and further research:
When buying a camera, the lens is more important than the camera itself.
What to look out for in a lens? Buy a lens with fixed focal length and high light intensity rather than a zoom lens with F4 aperture or worse. A great lens can make any camera look good, because it’s the lens that decides how much light enters the digital chip. The lens also determines the sharpness of your image and the colors of the overall look.
Depth of Field
Depth of field makes an image looks professional. The reverse would be a flat image that looks cheap and out of date. There are several factors that influence depth of field. This is where aperture again comes into play.
If you have a F1.4 lens, there is a crazy depth of field you can get out of it if the aperture is wide open. Not so much with an F4.
If it’s too bright outside, use neutral density filters on your lens rather than closing down the aperture. This will maintain your depth of field.
The focal length is also a major influencer. The higher the millimetre rate, the higher the depth of field. Still, I’d recommend going with a 50mm or 85mm lens for starters for YouTube videos, as you’ll need a very spacious area if you want to go higher.
Framing is not self-evident. Position your object of interest either in the centre or use the rule of thirds, where you divide the picture into nine equal parts and use the points where the lines meet.
Make sure there is nothing distracting in the background that might divert the attention, like brightly colored objects or distracting light sources.
Let’s close with some suggestions on book trailers. They are a great way to tease your book and convert potential readers into fans in less than 60 seconds. But they also require a great deal of work.
My advice: Use sound as your weapon number one. Find an amazing piece of music, maybe use voice over and some effects. In terms of imagery, you have several ways to go.
1. Combine title animation as stock footage
Dan Brown is a great example here. A combination of stock footage and title animation is easy to get right once you’ve established a high concept, and it won’t require any creation of new original footage.
2. Use animation only
For this one, you’ll need to hire a skilled professional who knows his way around animation and maybe even illustration. The outcome can be quite fascinating like in the example below.
This kind of trailer is especially great for genres like YA and children’s books as it has a “fairytale” atmosphere to it.
3. Shoot a video from scratch
This option is a video production scenario, and unlike in example #2, you’ll need a whole cast and crew for that. Unless you hire a director, or yourself are a film expert, I would not recommend embarking on this journey. When I shot my book trailer it was a costly and tiring experience of three whole days with a team of 25 people, and although the result was worth the pain, this option is for geeks and crazy people only.
When you plan your author marketing (and you should), always include video. It’s a true blessing that nowadays, YouTube provides us with countless tutorials on how to shoot footage, how to edit and do postproduction. It’s time extensive in the beginning, but absolutely worth it in the end.
And, what’s even more important: it’s fun! After a while, the technicalities become a self-evident side effect while you can concentrate on the creative side of video production and create beauty and inspiration.
Don’t limit your videos to “talking heads”. There is so much more to this! Be brave and try out everything that is out there for you to experiment with.
Have you considered video as part of your book marketing strategy? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
D. Wink is a mountain child from the depths of middle Asia, striving to kidnap her readers into make-believe worlds, blend the borders between past and future, and master her own curiosity.
In her spare time, she directs movies and rewatches Christopher Nolan films, empowers creatives to tell stories themselves on storyartist.me and explores theatres, cities and wilderness with her bearded dancer husband. She recently wrote the first book of the Prometheus Dystopian Trilogy “Prometheus Rising”.