Wednesday, April 30, 2008

YouTube and Book Trailers: a Success Story


Yesterday, agent Lucienne Diver made a guest appearance on my friend Lee Lofland’s blog. Her topic was how writers can create buzz for their work and she brings up a lot of great ideas.

On the comment trail there was a question posed about book trailers and whether or not they were a valuable marketing tool for authors.

I replied to him, but thought this was a topic I could expand upon and make my own blog entry.

This past Sunday my writers club meeting had Kemble Scott as our guest speaker. He has the distinction of being the first author to use YouTube to launch a novel.

His novel SoMa is about the South of Market neighborhood in San Francisco and it has subject matter that is sexually explicit in nature. He knew that it was going to be near impossible for his book to be reviewed in mainstream publications and so he was casting about for ideas as to how to publicize his book. One of his neighbors worked for YouTube and suggested that he make some short films.

Scott has had a career as a television journalist for years, but he was initially stumped at the suggestion. She then challenged him that with all his TV experience, he should be able to come up with something.

He decided on a series of short promos showing some of the locations mentioned in his book. Along with showing the locales, he uses suggestive language to reference some of the unusual behavior in those places which are represented in his book.

At first he had a professional help him with the filming, but when he viewed it he thought it looked too slick for YouTube. So he bought a $600 video camera and handed it to someone with no experience. He also changed it to black and white to give those short videos a grittier feel to match the tone of the book.

The video clips preceded the publication of his book and his novel appeared on the San Francisco Chronicle’s best seller list the first week it was released.

You can see him talking at Google’s corporate headquarters in the Authors@Google series. This video is about 42 minutes in total length, but he credits YouTube for the successful launch of his book at about 29:40 and he includes one of his videos as part of a demonstration.

Those video clips didn’t generate a million hits like the Drama Squirrel video, but they did help generate word of mouth which translated into sales. And because he made a major newspaper’s best seller list, his book has been sold in places he would never have expected including an airport in Singapore.

I finished reading his book, it is laugh out loud funny in parts, but it is blue. Very blue. It is not for those who are easily offended.

Please tell me if you know of other authors who have successfully used video clips to promote their books. I would love to see more of them to get ideas for my own future reference.

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