The Future of Book Signings

Yesterday I did a book signing at a local Barnes & Noble with seven other authors. They table I was sitting at was set across from the section where people could look at and examine Nooks. It was interesting to watch how busy the Nook stations were for the three hours we were there—especially the Kid’s Nook station. Parents and their kids would walk in and instead of heading to the kid’s section in the back, they’d run straight to the (kid) Nooks. I saw many Nooks get sold, half of which by my estimation were bought for the kids.

My first book came out before eReaders were popular. The biggest difference I’ve noticed between book signings then and now is that at least half the people who stop by the table ask if the books are available in eBook format. (Earlier this hummer I had a lady pull her Kindle out of her purse and download one of my books instead of buying a paper copy.) It got me thinking if the popularity of eBooks will have an adverse effect on author signings.

Here’s what I predict: In the next two or three years the number of author book signings will plummet. Mostly this will be because more bookstores will close and those that do remain will have less foot traffic than they do now. The other part for this decline will be that authors without a large readership or those just starting out will find book signings to be less and less productive way to spend their time and will find other ways (mostly online) to grow their readership and fans.

That’s not to say book signings will completely go away –just transform. Instead of walking into your local bookstore and seeing an author sitting behind a table with copies of his or her books, book signings will become more like social events. They’ll become a great way for readers to meet their favorite author in person. (You’re starting to see more ticketed events when a big name author releases a book. Usually a hardback version of their book is included in the price of the ticket.) They’re could be music, food, and all the trappings of a party. And if you add a limited number of tickets to an event for the bigger name authors, you build up hype and it quickly becomes a must attend event. This change will be great for well-known authors with a large fan base but a problem for new and midlist authors or those with small number of readers. That means the authors who know how to market themselves and their work will be the ones who reap the biggest benefit from this shift.

This change will be good for both authors and bookstores. Those who are good at selling themselves and their books will see more signings and bookstores will be able to stay afloat in part from the profits of these events. Those who aren’t as adept at this won’t find themselves behind tables at bookstores anymore. That means instead of sitting behind a table they can spend their time working on their latest book or find other (read: more productive) ways to build their audience.

Dating a Widower Book Cover Concepts

For the last couple weeks I've been working with a book cover designer for the upcoming Dating a Widower book. After a couple weeks of back and forth I've narrowed the concepts I like down to two. Since my target audience spends a lot of time on this blog, I thought I'd solicit your feedback and see which one you like better. Right now I'm mainly looking for feedback on the concepts--the wedding ring "O" or the couple walking. If there are reasons you like one over the other, feel free to elaborate. If you have comments on the font, colors, etc. that's fine too but that's not something I want to spend too much time on right now. Once I narrow it down to one concept, I'll worry about those other details. And, yes, I have a favorite and no I'm not telling you what it is--at least not right now.

Leave a comment below or send me an email with your thoughts.

Update: Welcome all those who are visiting from The Passive Voice Blog. You can read more about my decision to turn down a publishing contract for this book and go indie with this book here and here.

Concept 1

Concept 2

Where I'm At: Write Here in Ephraim

Write Here in Ephraim 2011

On Saturday I'll be teaching a memoir writing workshop at the Write Here in Ephraim event in Ephraim, Utah. The event is sponsored by the Ephraim Library and is free and open to the public. It will be held at the old South Ward Chruch at 105 E 200 S. The doors to the event open at 8:30. Workshops start at 9:00 a.m and will run until 5:00 p.m. My workshop, Memoirs: How to Tell Your Story, will start at 9:15 a.m. and run until 10:00 a.m. I'll be showing ways to bring personal stories to life as well as covering the dos and don'ts of memoir writing. I'll also be on an author panel at 3:15 about the path to publication.

Even if you don't want to see me, there are other great authors who will be giving writing tips including Julie Coulter Bellon, Rachelle Christensen, Michael Young, Jewel Adams, Tristi Pinkston, Gregg Luke, Clint Johnson, and more.

Here's a complete schedule:

8:30: Registration

9:00 A.M. WELCOME – PRIZE DRAWING

9:15 A.M.

E-Books - JEWEL ADAMS Welcome to the wonderful world of E-books! Got a great novel you want to publish but can’t find a publisher? Or would you like to have full control of your novel an make it available to purchase until you find a publisher? Or do you just plain not care about finding a publisher and want to fly solo? - E-books aren’t just the future of book reading or a temporary fad, they are here to stay. Learn why you should give publishing E-books a go and take advantage of the wide open market. Come to understand that an E-books isn’t “just an E-books,” they are just as important as traditionally published books. Get tips on how to market your E-books and learn about the numerous outlets in which to sell your books and share your work with the world.

Memoirs: How to Tell Your Story - ABEL KEOGH- Writing a memoir is a great way to share a personal experience. Learn how to bring your story to life in such a way that will wow readers and keep them engrossed from page one to the end. In addition we’ll cover the dos and don’ts of memoir writing as well as how to know whether you have a story that agents, publishers, and readers will want to read.

Fish Slap: What’s your writing motivation? - BRON AND SHIRLEY BAHLMANN Many people say they want to write a book but never follow through. Yet if, say, a fish slapped their face every time they missed a deadline, the result might be the opposite. In the absence of raw fish, what separates the sayers from the doers? A humorous and informative look at various motivational strategies for writing.

10:00 A.M.

"A Serious Look at Comedy" – BERIN STEPHENS

Essential Elements of Suspense – GREGG LUKE: A brief overview of each element and how each contributes to writing nail-biting suspense. Q&A to follow. Key Points covered: Characterization, Pacing, Anticipation, Detailing, Resolution.

Finding Time for our Talents– JULIE COULTER BELLON - Have you ever wished there were more hours in a day? Wondered how you can fit it all in? Is being a writer a dream you have yet to accomplish because you just don't have time? This class will give you some insight, tips, and inspiration on how to maintain that balance of developing your writing talent with the other demands on your time. Julie Coulter Bellon, the author of seven books, a mother of eight children, and a teacher at BYU, will share all her secrets for how to have it all.

10:45 A.M.

My Journey as a Writer and How I Got That Book Published – CHERI CHESLEY

Writing Mystery – JOAN SOWARDS - There is nothing more fun than losing yourself in a great mystery novel than writing one! Every story can have a touch of mystery. Learn the tools, terms, and how to diagram a story, along with basic plotting and good writing elements, no matter if your mystery is a cozy or hard-boiled.

Blog Tours and Book Promotions – It's a Piggyback Ride – RACHELLE CHRISTENSEN - Learn the secrets of effective Internet marketing for you and your products/books including author promotion, blog tours, blog hops, giveaways & more. How can you increase your blog readership and followers? Find out how Rachelle promoted her blog, increased her followers to over 500 in one year and got paid to do it.

11:30 A.M.

Author Panel – Habits of Published Authors –Heather Justesen, Berin Stephens, Rachelle Christensen, Tristi Pinkston, Clint Johnson, Karen Hoover

12:15 –MIX AND MINGLE with guests

1:45 P.M.

Story Construction 101- REBECCA TALLEY - A story needs a strong foundation and certain building blocks to be successful. Learn what you need to include in your blueprint to begin building your story. After we learn what essential materials we'll need, we'll use our tools to begin construction as a class. Come prepared to share your creative ingenuity.

Writing for the Peanut Butter Crowd: Essentials of Picture Book Writing – LINDA GARNER - In this Picture Book Primer you will learn that writing picture books is not necessarily kid stuff. All the rules for good writing apply to picture books but with less margin for error. If you’ve ever wanted to write a picture book, you’ll love this class. “You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children”. Madeleine ‘L Engle

The Long and Short of It: Writing and Selling Short Fiction – MICHAEL YOUNG - Writing and selling short stories is a fun and rewarding way to improve your writing and to gain a readership. Writing short stories, however, takes a different skill set than writing longer works and also are sold in a different way. Learn some of the techniques you'll need to craft quality short fiction and the ins and out of getting it in print.

2:30 P.M.

"Chuck the Junk - Self-Editing for Word Hoarders" – MICHAEL KNUDSEN - Most writers are terrified when they read through their first draft --it can be rough, ugly and bloated with excessive verbiage, lame adverbs, and entire scenes that go nowhere. But there's hope! We'll look at rough text at all levels and toss the dingy bathwater while keeping your baby!

Fragile--Handle With Care: Writing on a Sensitive Subject - LINDA GARNER- -Death, suicide, divorce, abuse, war, depression, drugs, pornography, religion, eating disorders, bullying, hate. Do you have an interest in a subject that is hard to talk about? Just because it’s a sensitive subject doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about it. The walls are coming down. Lots of people are talking about subjects that used to be taboo. You can write about anything, if you handle with care.

How to Become and Idea Factory- KAREN HOOVER

3:15 P.M.

Author Panel in the Big Room – The Path to Publication: Panelists – Carole Thayne Warburton, Mike Knudsen, Julie Bellon, Rebecca Talley, Abel Keogh, Gregg Luke, Cory Poulson

4:00 P.M.

Children's Literature Game Show – CLINT JOHNSON Simple, Strange, Sophisticated, and Stupid Questions for Smart Kids (and Kids at Heart)--The game show that teaches more than you ever wanted to know about writing and writers, some of which you will certainly regret later. Prove your superiority in a humorous and educational contest that explores the world of children's literature, from its comical quirks to personalities and events that profoundly shaped our world. Numerous participants of all ages are selected from the audience and given the chance to compete for fun and glory and prizes!

5:00 P.M. END

Hope to see you there.

People Do Judge Books by Their Covers

Bound on Earth by Angela HallstromFool me Twice by Stephanie BlackThe Hero of Ages (Mistborn, Book Three) by Brandon SandersonTraitor by Sandra GreySun and Moon, Ice and Snowby Jessica Day GeorgeSpare Change by Aubrey Mace

As I’m working on my Dating a Widower guide, I’ve been amazed how hard it is to find a good book cover designer. I posted an ad on Craigslist and so far have received about 50 emails—49 of which were deleted after seeing their online portfolio. Just because you know how to use Photoshop and/or Illustrator doesn’t make you a good designer. (I’ve made similar complaints about writers.)

To be fair, I’m probably hold designers to a higher standard than most people. Both my parents are artists. In addition, I’ve worked side-by-side with designers in corporate marketing environments for over a decade. During that time I’ve learned that finding someone who has a good eye for design—especially design that can help sell a product—is extremely difficult.

A book cover is a vital piece of marketing—especially for new or unknown authors. (Established, well-known authors can get away with an okay book cover because their name takes up half the cover space.) A good book cover should entice someone to pick it up and, at the very least, read the back jacket copy. Even with the growing popularity of e-books, an attractive cover can help make people take your book seriously.

Yet many authors and publishers put their heart and souls into making the inside of a book a well crafted while giving little or no thought to the cover. The result? The produce a product that people don’t want to be seen reading or assume is a self-published piece of garbage.

The books we read say a lot about who we are or who we think we are. If you’re embarrassed to be seen reading a book because of the cover, it doesn’t matter how good the content on the inside is, you won’t read it.

One example: Back in college I took a class where no one wanted to read one of the books on the syllabus because of the cover. Though the book was science fiction, the cover looked more like a Harlequin romance novel. And in a class that was 80 percent male, most didn’t want to be seen reading the book.

When it came time to discuss the book, the majority of the discussion revolved not around the book or the content but the different ways we had hid the cover while reading it. Some people made their own covers. Others would hide the book in another book so people would think they were reading that one. (I decided that hiding the cover was just too difficult. Instead I read it in my room late at night when no one would bother me.)

To some extent art is a matter of taste. You’re never going to produce a cover (or a novel) that everyone is going to like. But it is possible to create book covers that 95 percent of the general public will find repulsive.

So the search for a graphic designer continues. When I do find one, I hope most of you like what he or she will produce.

Looking for Beta Readers

As you know, there’s little useful information out there about Dating a Widower. As a result, I’ve been writing a Dating A Widower book. It’s a short (approximately 10,000 word) guide that talks about the ins and outs of dating a widower. The guide is based on my own experience, emails I’ve received from women dating widowers over the last 5 years, and insights gleaned on this board. Right now I’m looking for 15-20 beta readers who are willing to read the book and give me some objective feedback on the content. If you’re selected to be a beta reader, I’ll give you a free hard or e-copy after the book has gone to press. I’d also like 2-3 widowers to read the book as well.

If you’re interested in being a beta reader, send me an email letting me know your interest along with your email address so I can email you a draft. The draft will be sent sometime next week. You’ll have two weeks to review the manuscript.

UPDATE:I want to give everyone a big THANK YOU for everyone who expressed interest in becoming a beta reader for my Dating a Widower book. Afer I posted the request on the Dating A Widower Facebook group I had over 100 responses from those expressing interest in becoming beta readers. I only expected 20-30. The amount of interest tells me there’s huge, untapped demand for this kind of information. I hope my book can provide the information about dating a widower that can help you with the common relationship issues that arise.

As much as I would like to get everyone’s feedback, I don’t have the bandwidth to read over 100 critiques of the manuscript. As of now I’m limiting the number of GOW/WOW readers to 20 and widowers to 5.

I’m still wading through all the messages and trying to fill the remaining spots. You’ll get a message from me if you’re selected. If you don’t receive a message from me, please don’t take it personally. I still want your input. After the first round of critiques, I plan on posting a couple of chapters on this board for further review. I’ll send out a general email when those are ready to go.

Thanks again for your overwhelming responses. And please feel free to post any issues you have on this Facebook board or email me your questions.

The World’s Worst Book Covers

Shatner Quake: A Horrible Book Cover

While looking for a book cover for my post on self publishing, I stumbled across a blog run by a former librarian dedicated to “truly hideous” book covers. Then again, the subject matter of some of these books derserve awful covers. (William Shatner? Shattner Quake? What the...?)

Unless you’re self publishing, the cover is one of the few things out of the writer’s control of the final product. Bad covers can make a good book unappealing. That’s why any publisher will contract with or employ talented graphic designers to make their books pop off the shelves. Whoever did the covers on these blogs should be fired.

Just a few bad book covers you can find at that blog are the following.

Awful book cover

Bad book cover

Crappy book cover

You can see more bad covers here. Happy looking (or not).

Judging a Book by Its Cover

The Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article on how ebooks and other book-publishing technology are shaking up the business model traditional book publishers.

Amazon has taken an early lead, providing service tools for authors to self publish and creating an imprint last year to publish promising authors in print and online.

This month, Amazon is upping the ante, increasing the amount it pays authors to 70% of revenue, from 35%, for e-books priced from $2.99 to $9.99. A self-published author whose e-book lists for $9.99 on Amazon's Kindle e-bookstore will receive about $6.99 for each book sold. The author would net $1.75 on a similar new e-book sale by most major publishers.

The new formula makes digital self-publishing more lucrative for authors. "Some people will be tempted by the 70% royalty at Amazon," [Richard] Nash says. "If they already have a loyal fan base, will they want 70% of $100,000 or 15% of $200,000 for a hardcover?"

Digital self-publishing, or "vanity" publishing, is creating a powerful new niche in books. WSJ's Geoffrey Fowler joins the Digits show to discuss how this is threatening the traditional book industry.

Traditional book-industry players and tech companies are jumping on the digital self-publishing bandwagon. Apple last week announced a digital self-publishing program for its iPad giving 70% of revenue to authors, similar to Amazon's formula. Last month, Barnes & Noble also announced a service called PubIt!, allowing authors to post and sell e-books online.

While traditional publishers aren’t going the way of newspapers any time soon (though they’re slowly heading that direction), the shift to digital publishing is going to be a boon for talented writers. Published authors with an established fan base can sell their books for less than traditional publishers while making more money per book. New authors in the process build a fan base have another way to market manuscripts that aren’t under contract.

Talented unpublished authors can get around the often lengthy and cumbersome process of finding an agent and working with a publisher. If they have a compelling story to tell, they can immediately start selling books and building a fan base.

Of course not every self-published book will do well. As the WSJ article notes, self published books are generally poorly written and lack an editor’s touch. But in the new publishing paradigm, talented writers can hire editors to go over the book to improve the story and writing.

It’s also makes it easy for authors to overcome the second problem self-published books face: crappy covers. We’ve all be told never to judge a book by its cover, yet we do it all the time. If someone’s going to take a self-published book seriously, it needs a cover that’s going to make people want to pick it up or, with ebooks, at least read the first chapter or two. (And for those who say they never judge books by their covers, would you even consider reading a book with covers like these? Be honest!) Thankfully, there are plenty of talented graphic designers out there who can create a compelling cover for a couple hundred bucks. You have a professional look and copy and you’ve overcome two big obstacles that self published writer and books encounter.

Going the self-published route isn’t the best option for everyone right now. But it’s become a more viable business model for talented writers. That being said, I’ll be testing these new self publishing waters later this summer with a short, niche book of my own.

Stay tuned for details.

New Book Launch Party Date: July 6

Due to some production and publishing issues, the book launch party for The Third has been moved to July 6. You're still all invited to attend. Details as follows:

When: July 6, 2010 Where: Barnes & Noble, 6 Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City, Utah (Directions) Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. What to expect: Fun, food, and prizes.

For those who have pre-ordered copies, they'll be mailed as soon as the books are published. (If it makes you feel any better, I haven't seen any copies either.

Thankfully, all the issues seem to be resolved and we're on for a July 6th launch. If you have any questions, email me.

Save the Date: The Third Book Launch Party

The Third by Abel Keogh

It’s official. The book launch party for The Third is less than a month away. You're all invited to join the party.

When: June 1, 2010 Where: Barnes & Noble, 6 Rio Grande Street, Salt Lake City, Utah (Directions) Time: 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. What to expect: Fun, food, and prizes.

You'll also have the chance to meet Gordon Ryan, Jenni James who are launching their new novels (American Voices and Northanger Alibi) and Paul Skousen who's launching his late father's, W. Cleon Skousen, new book The Cleansing of America.

This is one book launch party you won't want to miss!

In addition a tentative book tour is being scheduled for the Utah area soon after and an East Coast book tour later in the summer. Keep your eye on my Sightings page for more details and other upcoming appearances.

A Worthwhile Writing Conference

I rarely endorse writing conferences because most of them tend to be (bad) clones of each other. They usually offer the same kind of writing classes and bring in an author or two who give the same general pep talk followed by the standard Q&A sessions. Rarely have I found them to be that helpful in my own writing efforts. One of rare exceptions is the annual Storymakers Conference. I attended last year and was blown away by the entire conference. The classes were fantastic and taught by published authors who really knew their stuff. A lot of what I learned helped me develop and polish The Third manuscript so that it was worthy of publication.

This year’s conference looks to be even better that last years. Just a few of the events include:

* A hands-on workshop with bestselling author and writing instructor Dave Wolverton. (Word on the street is that he’s taught such authors as Stephanie Meyer, Brandon Mull, and Brandon Asnderson.) I’m going to this. You won’t want to miss it. * Over 50 classes on writing and the industry from authors who really know their stuff. (Side note: I’ll be doing a presentation on creative copywriting. If you’re going to attend, come to my class!) * A chance to network with literary agents, publishers, editors, and authors. Trust me. Getting to know the right people can go a long way towards getting published. * An awesome first chapter contest with great prizes. Past winners have been asked by publishers in attendance to submit their manuscripts for consideration.

This year’s conference is April 23-24 at the Provo Marriot. You can get more details about the conference here.

Hope to see you all there!

I'd Open A Bookstore in Laredo, Texas

Laredo Texas Bookstore Closes

If I lived in Laredo, Texas, I’d quit my job and open a bookstore.

According to CNN, as of January 16, the town’s only bookstore closed on January 16th. That means a city with approximately 250,000 residents doesn’t have a store. The closest bookstore is 150 miles away, in San Antonio.

I see opportunity written all over the news of that closing. Especially when you learn that the B. Dalton store that was closed was making money.

Barnes & Noble says it closed the Laredo store as part of an overall strategy to shut down the chain of mall-based bookstores. Even though the Laredo store was profitable, the overall chain was losing money, according to company officials.

I’m not going to completely fault Barnes & Noble for their decision. Mall stores like B. Dalton are going the way of the Dodo bird. Bigger stores like Barnes & Noble and Borders offer more selection and a better shopping atmosphere.

But as the town’s only bookstore it was making a profit!

What businessperson in his or her right mind would close a profitable store—especially when you have a monopoly in your city?

Unless there are some plans by B&N or some other store to open a big store, I’m really scratching my head at this decision. (Are the demographics of Laredo such that they couldn’t support a bigger store? Maybe a Texas native like ChicagoJo could chime in.)

It’s not like Laredo residents won’t be able to buy books. (There’s always Amazon.com.) And instead of complaining about the store closing, I’d start finding investors that would be interested in opening a better bookstore—one that had so many books and was so fun to shop at that people would drive from San Antonio to buy their books. Local and national authors would be knocking down the doors to do book signings because of the store’s popularity.

Yeah, I’d do it.

If only I lived in Laredo.

5 Tips for Making a Good Book Trailer

Having worked in marketing for nearly a decade, it’s been interesting to watch people and companies jump on the “latest and greatest” way to improve their marketing ROI without taking the time to understand what they were getting into. Take blogging, for example. I started a personal blog in 2000. I blogged because I liked the idea of sharing my thoughts and ideas with friends and family members. When I told people what I was doing, most of them just raised their eyebrows and wondered why I was doing something like that. Quite by accident, I started getting a following and learned the ins and outs of what it took to attract and keep a following.

A few years later blogging become the thing to do. Not only was everyone encouraged to have a blog but businesses were told they needed to have a blog in order to attract new customers, and fill their sales pipeline.

So everyone started blogging without understanding or knowing what they needed to do to make their blog successful. They just started doing it. As a result people spend a lot of their time blogging only to give it up once they realized no one was reading it. On the business side of things, CEOs and VPs of marketing become frustrated because they weren’t seeing the magical results that all the business magazines and websites told them blogging would give them.

The problem was that both people and businesses started blogging without a rhyme or reason. Rarely did they have a target audience in mind, a focuses message, or a way to measure the success of their blogs. Instead they did it because everyone else was doing it.

So what does this have to do with book trailers?

In the book publishing world, book trailers are all the rage. Every publisher and author are creating them in hopes of propelling their book to the #1 spot on the New York Times bestseller list.

For those who haven’t seen one book trailers are like movie trailers in that the try to generate excitement for an upcoming book. Everyone is doing them but, like blogging became the rage years ago, no one has the slightest clue whether or not these trailers are successful at selling books. Still, that fact hasn’t stopped people from shelling hundreds or thousands of dollars to make one.

(Full disclosure: Yes, I want a book trailer for my upcoming novel. I wouldn’t even mind one for Room for Two. But I also don’t want to waste my money or my publisher’s money on one unless it we can have some way to measure how effective it is.)

After having watched hundreds of book trailers over the last couple months, I’ve noticed some good, bad, and downright ugly ones and have compiled a list of 5 tips for publishers and authors should follow when they decide to make a book trailer.

1. Don’t Make A Mini Movie

It’s one thing when Hollywood takes a book and adapts it to the big screen. It’s something else when a publishing or marketing company tried to sell a book by making a mini movie from a scene. Because reading a book is an intensely personal experience, readers have their own ideas about what the characters look like. When you try to reenact a scene from a book, it’s doesn’t work. I almost cried when I saw the following book trailer for Michael Connelly’s novel The Brass Verdict.

That wasn’t the what I pictured the characters at all. Not only that, but the whole thing seemed poorly produced – something you wouldn’t expect considering they were promoting one of best active writers and storytellers.

If you want to see the book on the big screen, then option the rights to Hollywood. Don’t try to make mini movies from the book you’re trying to promote. It’s generally doesn’t work.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not saying don’t use video. I’m just saying don’t reenact scenes from books. To their credit, I think the trailer from The Brass Verdict where the narrator reads the opening chapter of the book works since it’s not action or character driven. It helps set the tone for the book and doesn’t concentrate on what the narrator actually looks like.

2. Make them short and to the point.

Most commercials run 30 seconds or less. A good radio ad can get its point across in about the same time. Most of the best book trailers I’ve seen run 60 seconds or less. Check out the one below for Wake by Lisa McMann. At 61 seconds I think it does a decent job of generating interest book.

Here’s one for Behold the Dawn by K. M. Weiland. It runs a little over two minutes. The production values are good but the middle half drags. Could have cut 45 seconds out of it and made it even better.

3. Always have a call to action

The purpose of a book trailer is to generate excitement for a book and get people to either buy it or want to learn more about it. About 70% of the book trailers I’ve seen don’t have a call to action. At the very least they should tell the viewer where they can go to by the book and a URL to the author’s or publisher’s website where you can read the first three or four chapters of the book. Even better if they can provide a direct link to a website to take the next step.

Here’s the trailer for Skinned by Robin Wasserman. Pretty decent trailer in that it’s under a minute, does a good job of generating interest in the book and even gets third party validation on why it’s a good book. However, note the lack of call to action at the end.

Sadly most book trailers are this way. In fact I struggled to find one with a good call to action. That doesn’t mean it’s not out there. Leave a comment below if you find one and I’ll post it!

4. Use Analytics to Get Data

Okay, this one’s for marketing geeks. Data rules the marketing world. As an author or publisher, wouldn’t it be nice to know how many people watched the whole trailer or many of them stopped watching halfway through? Would it help you to know many of them links to buy the book or downloaded the first couple of chapters? This information is not only vital from an ROI standpoint but can help you make future trailers better.

And don’t tell me it’s not impossible to get analytics information from Flash or video. It’s not. The company I work for has the technology to do it if it’s hosted on a website you control. Successful marketing is always about learning what works and what doesn’t. Book trailers are new enough that no one had an exact handle on the best way to make one. Good analytics can help improve the process.

5. Sell the story, not the author

Unless your Stephen King or JK Rowling or another author with a dedicated following your name and/or face isn’t enough to make books fly off the shelves. Therefore you need to sell the story and make it tantalizing enough that people want to at least pick up the book. That means no pointless interviewing or face shots of the author in the book trailer. It has to be about the story!

Take Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes. Not only is it too long, she interjects herself about 35 seconds in and interrupts what is, up to that point, a decent beginning to a book trailer. (See also narrates it which, in my opinion, in generally a mistake.)

The creative team behind Stephen’s King’s Duma Key book trailer concentrated more on the story than King’s name. The result? A great book trailer that’s only 32 seconds long!

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not against post interviews with authors and putting them on the web. For the fans, those are great ways to keep them active and interested in the author and his or her work. As promo pieces, however, they fall flat.

So there you go – 5 tips to making good book trailers. If any of you have book trailers your particularly fond of, drop me an email or link to them in the comment section below.

Book Publishers Wake Up! The Future of Reading Is Digital!

The Future of Reading is Digital

In the latest issues of Wired, Clive Thompson writes:

Books are the last bastion of the old business model—the only major medium that still hasn't embraced the digital age. Publishers and author advocates have generally refused to put books online for fear the content will be Napsterized. And you can understand their terror, because the publishing industry is in big financial trouble, rife with layoffs and restructurings. Literary pundits are fretting: Can books survive in this Facebooked, ADD, multichannel universe?

To which I reply: Sure they can. But only if publishers adopt Wark's perspective and provide new ways for people to encounter the written word. We need to stop thinking about the future of publishing and think instead about the future of reading.

Every other form of media that's gone digital has been transformed by its audience. Whenever a newspaper story or TV clip or blog post or white paper goes online, readers and viewers begin commenting about it on blogs, snipping their favorite sections, passing them along. The only reason the same thing doesn't happen to books is that they're locked into ink on paper.

Release them, and you release the crowd.

I hope every publisher in the world reads Thompson’s article and breaks out of the old, archaic ways of publishing and marketing books.

Most publishers still don’t get it. Sure, they’ll publish a chapter or two online. Maybe even make slick trailers to get some hype. But only one publisher that I’m aware of allows the entire content of their books to be published online. Publishing entire novels online and giving people a chance to share that content or hype it on social networking sites is, as far as I know, unheard of.

Yet there’s never been a better way to market books to people then the Internet. Posting an entire book online and providing a way for others to share or highlight portions of that content on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, GoodReads, Shelfari, and other sites is a great way to build an audience and SELL books.

In an industry that suffering from cutbacks and lagging book sales, publishers worry about losing books sales if they post the content online.

Guess what? They won’t.

They’ll actually sell more books because more people will be exposed to it. I’m willing to bet they’ll even find a market for some of their books that they didn’t know existed before.

Writes Thompson:

You're far more likely to hear about a book if a friend has highlighted a couple brilliant sentences in a Facebook update—and if you hear about it, you're far more likely to buy it in print. Yes, in print: The few authors who have experimented with giving away digital copies (mostly in sci-fi) have found that they end up selling more print copies, because their books are discovered by more people.

Still publishers wring their hands when they think about posting the entire conents of their books online. "What about Napster?” they say. “It almost bankrupted the record industry.”

Here’s the dirty little secret of the free online music days: CD sales actually rose during the heyday of free digital music. That’s right. People bought more music because they had a chance to sample it first. Musicians who would have languished in obscurity suddenly found an audience because more people heard about it.

Instead of embracing the new technology and trying to find a way to share music and make money from it (like creating slick online stores where people could by songs and albums), the record companies sued the hell out of everyone they could think of. Instead Apple came in and filled the gap and turned their company around. Now Apple is raking in billions of dollars that could have gone straight to the record companies and musicians if they had embraced technology instead of fought it.

Right now publishers are in a unique position to develop technology that allows people to read books, share portions of the content on their websites or social networking sites, allow readers comments and feedback, and link to places where their books can be bought. Something akin to Google books, only on steroids.

And for the record, I have no problem taking my just completed novel and working with a publisher to post the entire contents online for people to read. As far as far as I’m concerned, it will not only help me sell more print copies but give me a chance to see who the book really resonates with. My guess is that, like my memoir, Room for Two, I’ll discover a completely underserved market that is hungry for its contents.

The challenge is finding a publisher who’s willing to be the vanguard and embrace the digital revolution that has consumed the rest of the world.

Michael Connelly's Online Video: The Brass Verdict

Online videos are quickly becoming an effective way for authors to promote their books. Best-selling author Michael Connelly has just posted a video on his website that depicts two scenes in his upcoming book The Brass Verdict. The next video will be released next month. You can watch the video below. It gave me all sorts of ideas for making a video for Room for Two and my forthcoming novel.