Friday, June 13, 2014

Promoting Yourself with an Author Video

So, you’re interested in promoting your writing? Well, I had an opportunity to shoot one recently with Earl Harris of Motivational Media and he was good enough to answer a few questions about the process. One of the hardest things for most writers is getting the word out about your writing. Stephen King, R. R. Martin, and Nora Roberts have literary agents and publishing companies falling over one another for the privilege of promoting and publishing their latest work, but for those of us trying to break into the business the act of getting the word out can feel a lot like yelling down a well and waiting for an answer. In the end you've got to figure out ways to get your name out and get readers interested in your work. I wish I could say that to be successful as an author, all you have to do is offer good, compelling prose that draws your readers into the world you create and keeps them there through the end of the story you’re telling. As if that’s not hard enough, there’s another aspect that you should consider. Being successful also involves yourself as an author and that means introducing yourself to your audience, letting them into your writing world, and getting them interested in the person behind the writing.

Let me be clear about this – I’m not saying you should write an expose, share your phone number, or all your deep, dark secrets with your readers. You’re not giving them the key to your diary; you’re letting them in on a small (and carefully controlled) slice of your life - the part that involves writing. Think of the “about the author” information you find inside the cover of your favorite book. This written bio talks a little about who the author is and their bibliography, it's a quick look at who the author is without giving much background. If you've published a novel, you might have written something like this for your publisher. It's a good tool for telling readers who you are, but there’s another step you can take, something any writer can do to get their name out in front of more potential readers.

What I’m talking about is creating an author’s biographical video. This is a short video that’s conducted as an interview with you, the author. Recently I did one of these and had an opportunity to work with a good producer who gave me the following pointers.

Let's start with a definition. A producer is the main player in a video production, they oversee the project from beginning to end and are involved in every stage of the production. You can think of them as the leader of the team that will be creating your video.

When you choose a producer you should ask yourself exactly what you want from your video. What are your goals, what style do you want reflected in the video, what is the outlet for your video (broadcast TV, web, or as a part of a larger DVD)? Knowing these things will make it easier it will be to hire a producer who can deliver on your expectations. Check out video production services online and you'll get a feel for what's available in your area.

When you've narrowed down your choice of potential producers you should take a look at their portfolios. Remember, the video you're hiring might be your first and only chance to make a good impression on new readers, agents, or publishers so you need to make sure the quality of their work meets your standards and will put your proverbial best foot forward.

When you've narrowed your search to two or three producers you're confident will do a great job on your video, request proposals/quotes. You'll need to provide the potential production companies with detailed information on your project so that they understand your project and can accurately quote a price. You'll want to speak with the production company and get a detailed document showing all costs associated with the project.

When you have selected your producer, meet with them to finalize production details and ask questions.  Some potential questions are:

  • Is the proposed cost fixed? 
  • Is there anything that can cause pricing to increase? 
  • Will there be additional costs for re-edits? 
  • Can the producer complete the project by your deadline? 
  • What is the review process? 
  • What is the format in which the production company provide the final project? 
  • Will you have complete ownership of the finished project?

When you're confident and comfortable with the producer's answers, you can hire/contract the producer for your project. Now that you've put in all this work, you can actually start working on the video itself!

Every project is a little different, but the basic stages of the production of a Marketing/Information video can essentially be broken down into five stages:

Stage 1: Video Strategy: This is where you and the producer define the story that your video will convey and the basic strategy for making sure this story reaches the audience. Much of this comes from the steps you've gone through to select a producer. It includes a creative brief, story outline, goals, genre, budget, desired audience, script, storyboard, etc.

Stage 2: Pre-Production. This stage involves planning the technical aspects involved in making the video.

Stage 3: Production. This is where you put the hard work under the lights. The video will be shot by the producer and their team.

Stage 4: Post-Production: Once all of the raw footage has been recorded it must be edited and fine tuned. Sound and video will be perfected and the video will take its final form.

Stage 5 - Distribution: Now that your video is finished it's time to distribute, promote, and market it to your audience. Since we're talking about a promotional author's video, this probably means posting it to your website, blog, Facebook fan page, Twitter feed, and any other outlet where your readers can view it and then letting the public know that it's available.

Now, if you're like me you're thinking this all sounds expensive, and it can be. But you can also apply the technology you've got on your PC to the problem and produce a passable author's video using a web cam and a video editing suite. If you can afford it, though, I'd recommend going to a professional. I had the pleasure of working with Motivational Media and it was a great and very educational experience.

Remember, having an author's video isn't a guarantee you'll start racking up New York Times best-seller numbers. It's just a tool to get you out there in front of the public and from one beginning author to another, anything that gets more eyeballs can't be all bad.

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