Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spending Wisely on Book Promotion - series - Machima Book Trailers

(c) by Rhonda Kay

A hot topic for discussion in the writing community these days is marketing and promotion, and what the best options are for drawing attention to one's novel. I’m sure everyone agrees that the publishing industry has changed radically in the past few years. Ebooks are outselling print copy, and more people than ever have chosen to self-publish or become affiliated with a small, independent press.

I won't argue the pros and cons of these choices here; literally thousands of blog posts about this topic are disseminated across the Web. I can’t add a thing to that particular discussion. What I can tell you is that my experiments with a new form of promotional tool have been extremely promising. Book trailers aren’t unheard of—they’ve been around for a while. Most are slide shows set to music or amateur live action footage.

But what if a cast of virtual actors could give you the same kind of exposure that movie studios have employed for years? Real trailers with real action, your characters “alive” on the screen, speaking the lines you wrote for them in your novel.

I just finished producing my first "official" book trailer commissioned at an author's request. It's for Amanda Borenstadt's urban fantasy novel Syzygy. For this book, machinima animation was the perfect choice. For some novels it would never be. Anyone who hasn’t heard of machinima may need a moment to become familiar.

It is not Pixar-type animation. Nor is it produced using hand-drawn images and celluloid, where each frame is rendered independently, giving ultimate control over the images onscreen. Machinima is derived from video game technology and is traditionally filmed using game engines like Halo and Sims 2.

However, certain enterprising individuals have recognized the commercial potential of machinima and designed software with no other purpose but filmmaking. The platforms they created have no copyright stipulations, are one hundred percent royalty free, and any workproduct derived from them belongs entirely to the individual creator.

Some examples of this software are:

My personal choice is iClone because it incorporates keyframe technology as well as motion capture, with optional physics properties simulated in a 3D environment. More in depth explanations of machinima can be found here at Wikipedia and here.

Recently, some interesting new developments have emerged in the world of machinima. First, Google purchased a prominent machinima commodity. Then, Lord Of The Rings star Elijah Wood accepted a voice acting role in a machinima project.

It’s safe to say that machinima is gaining a very respectable audience.

Would a machinima trailer be right for your novel?
One factor worth considering is that, by its very nature and origins in the gaming community, machinima is “generationally weighted” toward a younger market. This does not mean only YA novels would benefit. It means that anyone who enjoyed and could relate to Twilight, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, The Hunger Games, and Avatar will probably be hooked by a good machinima trailer regardless of their age. Anyone alienated by those themes or the imagery they conjure will probably not respond well to machinima.

So that leaves us with one burning question: how much of an advantage would a trailer actually give your novel in today's market?

The answer is ... I just don't know. I think trailers will become a hot ticket item, and I think they will sell books - especially ebooks -­ but it’s an untested theory.

At this point, people aren't accustomed to the idea of book trailers, don't seek them out, and may not be influenced to buy a novel because they watch them. Then again, book trailers might become the next viral sensation.

I think that ultimately it will be up to each author to decide if a trailer can reach their target audience and factor into their promotional strategy. This is true for all types of book trailers, not just machinima.

Amanda’s trailer for Syzygy is available to watch here at a nice, clear resolution. However, this video will not load for some people and has a lengthy buffering time for others. We’re not sure why yet (waiting on response from the hosting site’s tech support) but if you’re able to watch it, this is the better option. If not, the video is also on YouTube.

Rhonda is a member of Internet Writing Workshop.

"The Workshop is open to all styles and genres of writing: literary fiction, genre fiction, poetry, children's writing, essays, newspaper articles, scripts, you name it. Members do not need to be published writers, only to be serious about writing and about wanting to improve."
IWW also includes Writing, the list where members of all the above lists touch base to discuss writing-related subjects, and post "Yahoos."

Friday, June 22, 2012

Cindy Dwyer Speaks to Spending Your Book Promotion Wisely

Cindy Dwyer - Promotion Ideas For New Authors

I follow an agent who once confessed on her blog that each time she opens a query letter, she hopes just as strongly as the aspiring author does that it contains the next bestseller.

This simple but profound concept changed the way I viewed not just querying, but promotion as well. Before this epiphany, I didn’t quite grasp the concept of authors, agents and publishers all being full emotional partners in the process of transforming a writer’s dream into a successful, published reality.

Recently, I received my first request for a full manuscript and book proposal. I’m convinced having to write this proposal was karma’s revenge on me for selecting an MBA program that allowed the option of taking three additional business classes instead of writing a thesis. But, I approached the promotion section with a different attitude than I might have before reading this agent’s blog.

While it’s true no one has a more vested interest in promoting your book than you do, there are many organizations that do have a keen desire to promote timely, well-written books in general. When you pursue promotion opportunities, you’re not asking for a one-sided favor. You’re looking to partner with organizations that are looking to promote authors, often at a very reasonable rate, if not for free.

What’s in it for them? In one capacity or another, they exist to promote books. With that as a big part of their mission, they’ll benefit from awareness and sales of your work.

Here are just a few suggestions of where new authors can find inexpensive promotional opportunities:

Local, Independent Booksellers
There’s a locally well-known independent bookstore in my area that hosts over 200 book events per year. Yes, many of these events are for best sellers, but they do offer opportunities to new, local authors as well. In this case, traditionally published and self-published authors can apply. When a book is accepted, the bookseller will organize a book signing by combining three new authors to bring in a wider audience.

The $125 fee covers the following:
  • Press release sent to all local TV, print, and radio media. They will help coordinate an interview if any media is interested.
  • E-mail calendar notices to their customers (this bookstore has a mailing list of over 11,000 people).
  • In-store advertising and event table display.
  • On-line advertising on their website and Facebook page.
  • Staffing and venue for the event.

Join and Participate in Your State’s Authors and Publishers Association
These associations exist for the sole purpose of bringing together people who want to discuss writing, publishing and marketing books for networking and event opportunities. Many offer free limited membership and full membership for a nominal charge (I joined for less than $50 per year).

The benefits aren’t just limited to monthly meetings and newsletters. The association in my state staffs a bookstore at the annual Eastern States Exposition, or Big E as it’s commonly called. This multi-state fair runs for seventeen days. For a fee of only $25, members can display their books for sale during the entire duration of the Big E. For additional fees of $25-$50 authors can also hold book signings.

Community Newspapers
If you perform a quick on-line search, you may be surprised by the circulation size of your community newspaper. And the best part? The editors are looking to cover items of community interest such as the high school sports teams and local people who are doing interesting things, like writing books. Not only would an interview and review of your book be free, but the publicity might be picked up by larger newspapers as well.

Just Ask
Whenever you meet anyone in the writing business – from authors to librarians to book sellers – inquire about promotional ideas and advice. This is not the same thing as asking them to promote your book for you. Instead, they likely will provide a wealth of ideas about how you can promote your book through existing outlets such as reading groups, websites and author events.

Some of these venues might be small, but it's safe to assume many of the people that attend these types of events intend to buy a book. Those are better odds than what you face when you bombard the same Facebook and Twitter followers with reminders of your recently published work.

Organizations like these are out there right now, searching for an author with a compelling book. It just might be your story they promote next.
Cindy Dwyer is currently seeking representation for her manuscript My Roots Are Showing. These narrative nonfiction humor essays explore the quirks of her family and portray her acceptance of the fact that she is turning into her parents. The only thing left to do is to prepare her husband for the inevitable.

You can follow Cindy on her website or on Twitter @CindyDwyerWords.

Cindy is also a member of Internet Writing Workshop, 

"The Workshop is open to all styles and genres of writing: literary fiction, genre fiction, poetry, children's writing, essays, newspaper articles, scripts, you name it. Members do not need to be published writers, only to be serious about writing and about wanting to improve."
IWW also includes Writing, the list where members of all the above lists touch base to discuss writing-related subjects, and post "Yahoos."

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Are You Spending Your Money Wisely on Book Promotion?

If you had to spend money to promote your book, what do you think is the best way to spend it in terms of getting people to buy your book?

Authors have differing opinions and advice, naturally. Robin Cain and Cindy Dwyer are members of Internet Writing Workshop, the premier writing list. Based solidly on experience, their viewpoints are worth considering, given the current book marketplace.

Robin Cain said, "Reviews by bloggers, giveaways, Goodreads, guest blogs, your own blog, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Yahoo book review groups - they're all free. And, yes, a quality author website with sample chapters, links to buy, book trailer, etc. is a must in today's world. That's one investment you can't cheap out on."

Robin's latest book, When Dreams Bleed examines temptation and the ensuing consequences in a contemporary world. It’s no secret that dreams come at a price, but what happens When Dreams Bleed?

Robin lives in Scottsdale, Arizona with her husband, two dogs, three horses and donkey. As a novelist and regular contributing writer for an online publication, she spends her days searching for the perfect words to amuse.

Coming soon - advice from Cindy Dwyer.

Internet Writing Workshop, IWW also includes Writing, the list where members of all the above lists touch base to discuss writing-related subjects, and post "Yahoos."
"The Workshop is open to all styles and genres of writing: literary fiction, genre fiction, poetry, children's writing, essays, newspaper articles, scripts, you name it. Members do not need to be published writers, only to be serious about writing and about wanting to improve."

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Tiger Hunting (and other adventures) On Christ's Mission in Old India

Senior citizen, Joyce Coupal proves you're never too old to write and publish a remarkable story. She's an author extraordinaire!

The memories of Reverend Herman and Mildred Reynolds, Tiger Hunting (and other adventures) On Christ's Mission in Old India, by Frank & Joyce Coupal is hot off the press, and it's a great example of a dedicated writer who hasn't let age be a deterrent to reaching her goal.

I first heard Joyce's written stories when we attended an Adult-Ed Creative Writing class. We often drove the five miles to the local school, in Noxon, Montana, which provides a range of evening classes to lure local residents to come together for camaraderie and learning during wintertime, when frequent and heavy snowfalls tend to make one stay close by the fire.

Her stories fascinated me, for while I was growing up in the United States, Joyce was growing up in India, where her parents were missionaries.

Joyce has a natural 'writing voice' and is not only never without words (verbally) but is equally entertaining when writing.

Fascinated by the life her writing revealed about her childhood in a small jungle community called Kotmi, in a hilly area of central India, I urged my friend to write a book.

Shortly before her 16th birthday she was put aboard a troop ship by her parents and sent to the United States, because of WWII and the dangers it entailed.

So far, I'm still waiting to read about Joyce's life, because since those classes seven or eight years ago, she set to work to honor her parents by writing about their life -- and it's plain to see from Tiger Hunting (and other adventures) On Christ's Mission in Old India, Reverend Herman and Mildred Coupal set admirable examples for their children.

Tiger Hunting (and other adventures) On Christ's Mission in Old India, is a great 175-page book. With minimal author intrusion, the book expertly weaves together letters and diaries written by Joyce's parents, during the time they served as missionaries, arriving in 1928, to show life in the jungle in India, until their retirement and return to the United States.

The Gonds of old India were considered "untouchable" by the Hindus at that time, and were animists and believed in evil spirits when the Reynolds served among them.

The book contains a number of historical photographs, and should interest a broad spectrum of readers, pre-teens - adults. ISBN: 978-1-886591-10-3; LCCN: 2012934804. $14.95, available from: Blue Creek Press, P.O. Box 110, Heron, MT 5844.

I haven't given up hope that Joyce (with her husband, Frank's help and support) will yet write her fascinating life story: Wife of a geologist always on the move, mother of five, RN, and NREMT.

I'm proud that Joyce added "author" to the long list of hats she's worn successfully, and reached her goal: Tiger Hunting (and other adventures) On Christ's Mission in Old India is a fine addition to the history of India, and the field of missionary work nearly three-quarters of a century ago.