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Over at Quillo:Torque, the talented Jeremy Gordon is hosting a discussion about the merits of book trailers for authors.

Creators of book trailers need to be careful to evoke the mood and themes of the literary work, without hamstringing the reader’s visual associations by defining the look of each character. Who needs imagination when the word-image connections have already been set?

It’s an interesting topic and one I’ve pondered as a tool for author promotion. Jeremy’s right to point out the high costs of production. Not only that, but in the rather crowded channel of online videos how does one stand out or attract page views? If you attract views will it boost sales of the book or, like quirky tv ads, will it become more notable for the popularity of the trailer than the product it’s promoting?

For my mind, it’s about finding interesting ways to tell a story. (That’s what is most likely to make an impression and create that sought-after viral distribution.) This might be achieved through a short video, but it might just as easily be achieved through cheaper and ultimately more effective means. For example, check out Miranda July’s clever HTML presentation to promote her short story collection No one belongs here more than you. This little site was linked to all over the blogosphere and helped July achieve real momentum behind her book. She has even been able to update it, presumably for as little investment as she made to create the first one. One wonders if she’d spent $3000 on a book trailer if she would have achieved a similar result?

//noonebelongsheremorethanyou.com/

I’ve had lots of conversations recently with emerging authors about promotion and marketing and how important it is to start building your platform within your communities of interest. Kassia Krozser over at  Booksquare says it much more eloquently than I could.

Here’s a quote:

All roles in entertainment media are changing, and authors, particularly, need to switch from a book-oriented focus to a career-oriented focus. This involves little things like updating your website betweenbooks (please, please, please don’t have two-year old content on your home page!). Blogging, if you’re so inclined. Writing articles that are read by your existing and future fan base. Using social media for good (as opposed to evil). Keeping your name in the game even when you’re not actively selling something, except your backlist.

This is the author as a business, as opposed to the writer as a creative being. Note the distinction. You’re wearing two hats. One might fit uncomfortably until you realize that marketing is your job. Marketing might be a distraction for a writer, but it’s essential if you’re an author.

Starting a blog is just a first step, and really if you’re not going to be committed to actually blogging, then there’s not much point in even doing that. What it’s really all about is immersing yourself in the overlapping social networks that swirl around your genre or chosen content or field of expertise. Thanks to the rise of online social media like Facebook, MySpace, wikis or, heck, even just ye olde message boards, this is both easy and cheap to do. What it requires is your time and interest in engaging with the people that are or will be your audience.

Richard Herley, in his first post on Teleread, is discussing why savvy literary agents will have new opportunities in the e-publishing market. It’s a fantastic post and you should read it and think about what he says.

However, one little aside he made caught my eye:

Let me digress a little. The reason that hardback houses hold such sway in the publishing world is that they largely control—or did control—the entry to the market. Of course, they also promote the books they publish, but, as any publisher will privately admit, even a big promotion budget is wasted on a third-rate book. Books succeed only if readers like them. Once readers know of its existence, a book is promoted principally by word of mouth.

One of the things I’m often telling emerging writers is to moderate their expectations of how many marketing dollars are invested by publishers in their books. New authors often have unrealistic ideas about how much promotional support they will receive, especially for a debut. They have visions of national publicity tours, signings, launches, displays and printed collateral. In reality, it’s more likely to be distribution of review copies, some targeted media releases and inclusion in the catalogue. Don’t get me wrong – done well, a thoughtful publicity campaign will yield just as much exposure for far smaller spend than a lavish marketing program.

But Richard’s observation has me wondering whether, secretly, one of the reasons publishers don’t bother to spend much on the marketing of (most) books is, not that they don’t have budget for it, but that they know it doesn’t really matter. In the end, reviews, interviews and ads don’t really prompt people to buy books and read them. People do. Friends and peers do. Social networks do.

Of course, if that were the case, I’d expect to see more effort (in Australia) in doing the things that might impact on word of mouth, rather than traditional above the line publicity and advertising? I’d expect to see every publisher pooling their marketing spend into building vibrant online communities. Some are – I think the social media components of HarperCollins Voyager Online have attract a really strong, if small, community. I guess I’m surprised not to see more of it, in a whole range of genres.

And since we were talking last week about authors promoting themselves better on the internet I was all geekgrrl delight when ReadWriteWeb alerted me to Traackr.

The nutshell version: Traackr is a service that enables you to keep track your content on the web and measure its popularity and influence. The platform gathers together your content living in other social media accounts including MySpace, Flickr, Last.fm, YouTube and more. It then provides graphs and stats about your content such as number of view, comments and ratings. It also has a Campaign tool which enables you to bundle up your content in different configurations.

I absolutely love this. My early professional experience was actually in marketing and I have a bit of an obsession with being able to track and measure campaign success. Since authors are distributing more and more content on the web, often not in a planned way, it would be an invaluable tool to be able to assess how it’s being received and used.

Imagine an author who has a new book out – the Campaign tool would be an invaluable way to package together content about the book and assess how web users are responding to it. Several authors I know, such as Ian Irvine and Marianne de Pierres are experimenting with their own book trailers, distributing them via YouTube. Traackr could give them a more complete picture about how the book trailer has been distributed and consumed, instead of only knowing how many views it has received on YouTube.

Traackr is still in beta version and has a few kinks to be ironed out. I haven’t finished playing with it yet, but I look forward to its evolution and more services just like it.

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