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Mea Culpa – Some Do’s & Don’ts of Promoting Books

If you’re not an author, you may not be aware that publishers expect authors to help promote their books. Many of us would prefer to spend all our time writing/illustrating, but that’s just the way the industry works. And as with most things, a balance must be struck. To paraphrase Goldilocks, one can promote too little, too much, or just right.

A kind friend pointed out to me recently that I’m promoting my books too much, which can lead to undesirable results. I thought hard about her feedback, and concluded she was right. I was guilty of over-promotion. I was annoying people I had no intention of annoying. Like Martha Stewart did, I needed to make amends. So, as my self-imposed penance and apology to anyone I have inadvertently offended, I thought it would be appropriate to blog about some do’s and don’ts of author self-promotion.

thumbsdown1a – DON’T SPAM

Spamming can take several forms, and be done via different media. So, while book promotion is an appropriate activity for authors, it should not be overdone, e.g., Tweeting about one’s latest book every hour, or making a Facebook comment on someone else’s feed that tries to shift the focus to your book. Standing on a virtual street corner yelling “Look at how awesome my book is!” is not going to work out well.

Spam

thumbsup1b – DO POST INTERESTING CONTENT

People who follow authors on social networks are interested in their books, but they are interested in other topics too. Below are some good examples of engaging with an audience without spamming them:

ohi

Sharing art: One of many clever food-based doodles by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

yoon
Posting pictures with author’s we admire: Salina Yoon with Eric Litwin

wessels
Sharing events: Marcie Wessels shared information about free museum admission

idle
Sharing work in progress: a Flora-related sketch from Molly Idle

underwood
Posting about craft (or humor): writing inspiration from Deborah Underwood

thumbsdown2a – DON’T ASK FOR BOOK BLURBS

A blurb is a one- or two-sentence positive statement about a book. Publishers use it to help promote the book, so it is natural that a publisher would want blurbs. That said, authors should typically not ask other authors directly for a blurb. It can make people uncomfortable. Perhaps they’re too busy to read your book. Perhaps they fear there’s a chance they won’t like your book, and then what do they say? Perhaps they’re concerned giving one person a blurb will open a floodgate of blurb requests.

blurb

thumbsup2b – DO HAVE YOUR AGENT OR EDITOR ASK FOR BLURBS

If your publisher wants some blurbs, it is far better to have your editor, publicist, or literary agent make the requests. That way, the author being asked should not feel pressured and should feel comfortable declining without consequence.

thumbsdown3a – DON’T BE MEAN OR OFF-PUTTING

This goes without saying, but is included here for completeness. Publishing is a small industry, and if you’re mean to others, you’re not helping them or yourself. Writing, like cooking, is a subjective art. Some people like vanilla and some people like chocolate. Don’t make public comments that could upset people. Avoid social media posts of a potentially controversial or off-putting nature: politics, religion, sexuality, etc.

thumbsup3b – DO SUPPORT OTHERS

As an author, I know first-hand how much love, sweat and tears goes into creating a book. We all like to be supported in our writing endeavors. So it is greatly appreciated when others help by:

  • Buying a book, reading it, and giving it a good rating on Amazon and Goodreads
    review
  • Retweeting other authors’ tweets
    retweet
  • Liking, sharing, and posting supportive comments on other authors’ Facebook pages
    share
  • Mentoring newer authors
    mentor
  • Blogging about other authors
    blog
  • Participating in groups that help others, like Tara Lazar’s PiBoIdMo
    piboidmo2015


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3 Free Apps for Making an Impressive Book Trailer

This is an article I wrote for TheWriteLife at http://thewritelife.com/free-apps-for-book-trailer

As any author can tell you, promoting your book is a challenge. In addition to standard marketing techniques, you must find new and innovative ways to engage with your readers. One way to do that is to create an animated book trailer.

While many people don’t know how to create animation from scratch, it can actually be quite simple to do it yourself. Luckily, there are a number of free and easy-to-use applications for creating book trailers.

To start, you’ll want some photos for your trailer; typically, these would be of you, your book cover, and your interior art. You don’t need high-res photos; 72 dpi is fine (640 px wide by 480 px high).

If you’re a Windows user, you can download Photo Story or Movie Maker from Microsoft. Mac computers come pre-loaded with iMovie software. If you have PowerPoint, you can add soundtracks, slide animations and slide transitions to presentations, and then export to video. All of these options produce a video file that must be hosted somewhere (eg. your website or YouTube).

Several newer apps combine trailer creation and hosting, including Animoto, Prezi, and PhotoShow. Let’s take a look at how they work.

Animoto

 The Lite version of Animoto is free and enables you to create 30-second animated trailers.

 Step 1. Select the animation style and soundtrack that best matches your book.

 Step 2. Outline the slides you’ll use in your animation. Each slide can either have text or an image. However, if you know how to use PhotoShop or another image editor, you can get the best of both worlds by adding text to your image files. If you’re technically savvy, you can substitute your own soundtrack too.

Step 3. Animoto assigns a length of time to each slide. When your total runtime reaches 30 seconds, you won’t be able to add any more slides. You can edit the slide contents and rearrange the slide order. Click the “Preview Video” button to see your trailer!

Step 4. Once you’re happy with your video, click the “Produce” button. Voila!

If you want to add to your trailer, you can also pay for additional options like a longer video, more animation choices and more customization of your animation. Here’s the trailer I made with Animoto.

Prezi

The Public version of Prezi is free. It enables you to create trailer-like presentations with richly animated slide transitions that your audience must click through manually.

Step 1. Sign up on Prezi.com. It will encourage you to download the desktop application, but you can also create your trailer completely online.

Step 2. Click on “New Prezi” and choose a template. Prezi is similar to PowerPoint and offers some snazzy animated slide transitions.

Step 3. Build your trailer “slides” one at a time by adding text and other content. Use the Insert button at the top center of the screen to add images, video and background music.

Step 4. To preview the trailer, click the blue “Present” button in the upper left of the screen. Hit “Escape” to leave presentation viewing. Click on the “Edit Path” button in the upper left to reorder or delete individual slides.

Step 5. Once you’re happy with the trailer, click the “Share” button in the upper right corner and select “Share Prezi”.

Prezi will reserve you a web address, and when you go to that address, click the “Embed” button. Click the radio button labelled “Constrain to simple back and forward steps” and you will see HTML. Copy and paste that HTML into your web page wherever you want to embed your trailer.

Here is my modest Twignibble trailer made with Prezi.

PhotoShow

The Free version of PhotoShow is easy to use and the features are pretty nice. Unfortunately, the trailers only persist for 30 days.

Step 1. Click “Make a PhotoShow.”

Step 2. Click “Add Photos” to import images to your trailer.

Step 3. Click “Personalize” to enter the trailer title and author. Then use the different tabs to select a style, insert captions, text bubbles and other features.

Step 4. The “Music & Photos” tab lets you reorder or delete images and control the audio. Click Done when you’re ready to see your video.

Step 5. Click on “Post to your web page or blog”. Copy and paste the HTML into your website to embed your trailer.

Since I don’t have a PhotoShow subscription, my trailer for How the Rhino Got His Skin is no longer publicly visible. However, if you enjoy using PhotoShow, an annual subscription for additional features and ongoing public access to trailers is only $39.

Having a book trailer can be a fun way to share your work with your audience. However, remember that it’s just one small part of your larger campaign to build an online platform for your book. Good luck!