How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (2)


screen-shot-2017-01-11-at-4-39-55-pmIntroduction, Part II

Why You Should Exploit Amazon – Even If You Don’t Like the Company

Throughout this guide, many of my suggestions for book marketing and promotion will assume that your book is for sale on Amazon. For most of you, this will be an obvious premise, a given. However, for some – including a number of writers I have known and admired for a long time – this assumption will create a problem: because they are boycotting Amazon.

There are valid reasons to boycott Amazon, the primary one being that it is a megacorp that is taking over the world, destroying everything in its path – from publishers to bookstores and beyond. On the basis of news stories, many consider the company to have behaved unethically towards its employees – rebuttals notwithstanding.

I respect anyone’s decision to boycott Amazon if that is what they have decided to do. Even if they have, they will find a host of useful strategies in this guide to help them market their books; I will include a range of tips and suggestions that have nothing to do with Amazon.

However, before we start, I feel the need to point out that writers who choose to boycott the Amazon sales platform are shooting themselves in the feet. Both feet. And in the head as well.

Because Amazon is a megacorp that is taking over the world and chewing up everything in sight, it is the one place where – if you can get noticed – you are going to sell a lot of books. Statistics (now three years old, but I couldn’t find any more recent ones) estimated that 41% of all new book purchases were Amazon purchases – and we’re not just talking about online new book purchases, but about all new book purchases. (For online purchases, the number was 65%.)

Humans are more often lazy than they are principled. Even if everyone in the world felt that Amazon was the most despicable company on the planet, most of them would still shop there – because it is so easy, and because, unlike my local bookstore, which happens to be Indigo – another big company – it always has the book I want, at a low price, and will get it to me tomorrow. I want my books to be available on a platform where people can make impulse book purchases from the comfort of their couches, as I do.

Amazon is not only friendly to buyers. It is also friendly to writers. It offers incomparable royalties to those who publish with it, and it makes it easy for Amazon authors to promote their books. For those who publish with traditional presses, as I will explain in later installments, there are still many opportunities for authors to use Amazon to serve their own purposes.

Not selling on Amazon makes as much sense to me as not driving anywhere because cars pollute the environment. In other words, it makes sense, but I am not going there. I have done so many principled things in my life that have got me absolutely nowhere, that nowadays I am being very careful about who I boycott. (I am not justifying this behaviour, just telling you where I stand.) To salve my conscience perhaps, I think of myself as exploiting Amazon. This guide will explain how you can do that, too.

In the next installment of this series, I will talk about the Four Stages of Book Promotion – and then, in installment 4, we will get started.

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Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

How to Sell Your Book, No Matter Who Published It (1)

Introduction, Part I

Like It or Not, You Are Probably Your Own Best Book Promoter

We’d all love to find someone who knows everything there is to know about book promotion and also happens to love our books – preferably even more than we do. Unfortunately, not even publishers offer that kind of service to most of their authors any more, if they ever did: their promotions departments get solidly behind a few books and authors every season, and the rest fall through the cracks.

On the other hand, the Internet is overrun with individuals and companies that want to charge us money to sell our books. They all claim to be experts in social media and every other form of book promotion known to humankind, and if we will just pay them [insert sliding scale] they will tweet and plug and splash and hype the daylights out of our books for [insert number of days or weeks], mostly on Twitter and Facebook. (See my post entitled “Promoting Your Book on Twitter and Facebook is a Waste of Time.“)

Odd One Out 14Since most writers know nothing about book promotion and the very words “social media” strike fear into their hearts, such online offers are tempting. If you are so tempted, I urge you to resist. The very nature of these book promotion companies is a “one size fits all” approach. How many of them are offering to actually read your book, and saying that they will promote it only if they really, really love it? None that I’ve seen.*  And since none of their services are custom-tailored, but are instead intended for the masses, how can they possibly sell your book?

I am amazed that people offer promotion services to authors without any intention whatsoever of actually reading their books. I am almost as surprised that people take them up on such offers. Unless the marketing company not only has some massive, unique experience with online sales that demonstrates impressive results for books like yours, and/or you are doing a blast of some sort and are simply using the company to get the word out, paying them money to do what you can do yourself makes little sense.

Many thousands of readers have downloaded my books for free or have purchased them, thanks to my initiatives alone. You can trust me when I say that anything book promotions outlets and promotions departments can do for your book, you can do better. You know your book more intimately than anyone else ever will. And while all of us wish that someone with a strong background in book promotion who has read our book and loves it would appear out of nowhere and offer their services to us, that isn’t going to happen. Fortunately, doing it ourselves is not that difficult or painful: we just have to suck it up and do it.

I’m going to help you by demystifying the process as I walk you through my strategies step by step. The most important thing you need to do first, in order to make my suggestions succeed for you, is to accept – on a very basic level – that in this new world of writing and publishing, no matter whether your book is a Simon & Schuster release or is coming out on Smashwords thanks to your own efforts, book marketing and promotion is part of your job. Unless your name is already famous for some other reason, or you have connections that most of us don’t have, or you are unusually lucky, the chances of your book being discovered by anyone beyond your immediate circle are less than miniscule. Even “luck” usually needs a nudge from us.

Throughout this series, I encourage you to share your own experiences and knowledge about book promotion through the comments section below. If your comment isn’t posted immediately, be patient. I review them first, to avoid spammers, and (believe it or not) I’m not always online.

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*If you or your company does this, please let us know in the comments section.

How to sell your book!

You Wrote It? You Sell It!

Announcing my new series!

Ta Dah! 

I have been learning about promoting, marketing and selling books for more than thirty years. And I have learned a lot. I’ve learned a lot about selling traditionally published books (I was editor in chief of a publishing company and have had four books published traditionally) and I’ve learned a lot about selling self-published books (I’ve published three books myself and helped several clients to publish theirs. More than 10,000 copies of my newest novel, Rita Just Wants to Be Thin are in the hands of readers, and that book has about 50 reviews on Amazon. [Happily, at the moment, quite a few of them are positive]). I know ebooks and I know print books. I know fiction and non-fiction.

And now I am writing a book about what I have learned. Whether you are published by a traditional publishing house – major or minor – or are publishing your own book, I have advice for you. Whether you are a well known writer or a neophyte, the tips I am going to offer will contribute to your bottom line.

I am not guaranteeing to turn you into a bestseller (although I can show you how to get onto best-seller lists for a day or two so you can call yourself one), but if you don’t increase your sales based on what is in my upcoming posts, I’ll eat this computer. Virtually. I promise.

You wrote it? You sell it! 

As if we have any choice: even if we’re published by traditional presses, they want us to sell our own books. And if we are self-published, we have no support network at all: we have to do it ourselves, or watch our precious words slide off into obscurity. We may not like it, but we have to do it.

But aside from the fact that we writers are mostly quiet, sometimes even shy individuals who hate making a fuss in public – especially about ourselves –and prefer to stay home where it’s quiet, why not sell our own books? No one knows them as well as we do.

You wrote it? You sell it!  is the title of the series. It will eventually turn into a book by the same name, but you can get the first draft free right here, as I create it. Some of the info I will be sharing with you,  you may have already read in earlier versions on The Militant Writer. But most of the posts are new. And the information is all organized in a new, more accessible way (What to do before you start to sell your book; Creating an online presence; Sales initiatives that cost no money; Sales initiatives that do cost money – what they cost, and whether they are worth it; How to get into bookstores and libraries; Cross-selling; What works and what does not. Etc etc etc. I am leaving no book-promotion stone unturned.)

If I know anything about my Militant Writer readers, you will also find valuable advice in the comments section as well as in the posts.

So stand by. If you don’t already subscribe to this blog, do it now –  look waay up to the top of the right-hand column, and you will see where you can sign up safely and securely – so you’ll get the first installment of the series, and every one after that, on the day it is published.

The first post will appear very early in 2017. In the mean time, stop worrying about promotion and go write.

Happy New Year to one and all!

 

BookBub and Me: 20,000 Downloads, 50 Reviews, and a Month (so far) of Daily Sales

I even made it onto three Amazon e-book bestseller lists

BookBubI’ve never figured that paying a promotions company to market my book was a worthwhile investment of my money, but in the past month I’ve discovered – yet again – that when it comes to promoting books, I’m a neophyte.

After a few writer friends experienced success with a site called BookBub, I decided a few weeks ago that I’d give the company a try with Rita Just Wants to Be Thin. At the time, Rita was languishing at an average of about zero sales per week.

I was prepared to consider the $165 US or so that I thought a BookBub promo was going to cost me  (for “worldwide” distribution of a book in the Women’s Fiction category) as money down the drain, but aside from the money ( ! ? ), I had nothing much to lose. I was curious. I figured it would at the very least provide me with the fodder for a post on this blog. As it has. But I never expected that I’d be writing such an enthusiastic review.

How BookBub Works

Millions of readers from all over the world have signed up at BookBub, and every day those readers are sent an email notification of one-day-only deep discounts on e-books in genres that interest them. Typically, e-books from publishers such as Random House and Penguin that normally sell for $11.95 are offered on BookBub for anywhere from $1.95 to $3.95. The e-books may be available through Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, etc. (Please note that BookBub promotes only electronic books [e-books] – not print books.)

Although BookBub subscribers get one notification per day of books that may interest them, not all readers are sent notifications about all discounted e-books. Notices go out only to those who are interested in that genre, and only to those in the geographic areas selected by the publisher. Books are individually approved by BookBub’s editorial committee before they are scheduled for promotion. Once your book is accepted, you are able to set up your author profile.

The cost to the publisher (me, in this case) of the one-day promotion of a book depends on its genre and the geographic area(s) selected, the choices being 1) USA, 2) International or 3) All. Every few months, BookBub adjusts its prices depending on the popularity of various categories, and on recent sales figures in different regions. There is a list of prices – and typical revenues – on the BookBub’s “partner” site.

Bestseller July 8 amazon.ca

For a few days, I was on Amazon bestseller lists in Canada, the US and Great Britain

(I just checked how much it would have cost to list Rita in the women’s fiction category for All regions today, and the price might have scared me off. It has gone up considerably since I started my BookBub adventure. So if the cost for your book’s category seems too high, wait: maybe it will come down again in a month or so.)

Why I Set My Price at Zero

Since the regular price of the e-book version of Rita is $2.99, and since Amazon won’t let me drop the price below $1.99 without my giving up the benefits of being in the Kindle Select program (which I don’t want to do), and since giving a book away for free on BookBub costs a whole lot less than selling it, I decided that I would offer my book as a giveaway. Amazon allows Kindle Select participants to give their books away for a maximum of five days every quarter.

I was pleased that my book was approved by BookBub right away. I was also pleased that they suggested a less expensive category (Chick Lit) than the one I’d chosen (Women’s Fiction). I don’t consider Rita to be chicklit, but I figured, what the hell: the cost savings was considerable.

I then stood back and waited to see what would happen.

Wow!

I was amazed.

On the day of the giveaway – July 5, 2016  ­­–  19,159 people downloaded Rita for free! The following day, 740 more downloaded it for free (probably an international dateline thing). But more amazingly, on the day after the giveaway, nearly thirty people bought the ebook at its regular price of $2.99. The next day I sold eight copies, and I figured my moment of glory was done. But the day after that, I sold fourteen copies, and the day after that, 18. I’ve been selling e-copies of Rita ever since… at least one or two almost every day, and sometimes more. In addition, hundreds of people have read the book in the Kindle Unlimited library, and I get paid for those readers too.

One of the best results of the BookBub promo is that, since July 5, I have had nearly fifty reviews – most of them positive – on amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, and amazon.ca. I even had one review on amazon.au (that reviewer hated the book, but I’m sure the next reader from Australia is going to love it, just to balance things out). I’ve also noticed an uptick on my reviews on GoodReads.

Next?


I was 
hoping to do a promotion of The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid on BookBub but my application was turned down. They say that sometimes they have too many books in a certain category already, and they invite publishers whose books are turned down to try again in four months. So I will do that.

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 9.01.27 PMIn the meantime, I’m going to try out a few other book-promotion platforms. Rita will be featured on StoryFinds on September 1, but without a price discount. I don’t expect anything like the BookBub response… but then, what do I know?

In the meantime, I highly recommend that both traditionally published and self-published authors check out BookBub. I’ve made my money back and more – and the reviews the promotion garnered were worth the investment all on their own.

While you’re at it, you might want to sign up at BookBub and StoryFinds to get some great deals on some great books.

_______________________

I invite you to share your thoughts on this or any other subject related to writing and publishing – either in the comments section below, or directly via email.

PLEASE NOTE: I will be away from email for one week (until August 24) so I will not be able to approve/post your comments until I return. 

 

Get with the times, Ros Barber: “Self-published” no longer means “inept.”

(A rant, and a challenge)

Yet again a major media outlet has granted space to a writer who wants to rail against self-publishing and to denigrate those who have chosen to pursue that route, particularly those who write fiction.

None of the arguments Ros Barber sets out in her recent article in The Guardian  is new. In fact, they are all so old that they have begun to smell – or, at the very least, to bore writer-readers who are not already members of the choir half to death. (Writers who are in Barber’s corner love to read the list of self-publishers’ shortcomings over and over again. They will never tire of it –until they become one of us, or die, whichever comes first. Despite the fact that it would force her to rethink her views, I wish upon Ms. Barber no novel that fails to sell to her publisher’s expectations, thereby banishing her from the traditional publishing firmament forever.)

I am not going to waste space taking Ms. Barber’s arguments apart. I’ve been taking the same ones apart for years, as have dozen of other respected and respectable writers on blogs and in numerous other venues. What she (and, it seems, the team of editors in the Books section at The Guardian) takes as cutting-edge insights are merely misguided opinions that have already been widely and frequently debunked.

What bothers me are not the points she makes, but the tone in which she makes them – and specifically, the utter lack of writerly fellowship that her article betrays. Such supercilious opinions as “good writers become good because they undertake an apprenticeship,” which suggests that those who self-publish do not know how to write, are utterly insulting to the innumerable writers who have completed agonizingly long “apprenticeships,” but whose writing is deemed by agents and/or commercial and/or financially hard-pressed (!) literary houses to be too offbeat or too marginal or too kinky or too similar to something that came out last year to be worthy of their imprint. Barber’s success in attracting even a £5000 advance for her most recent novel speaks more to blind luck or favourable industry connections than it does to talent.

The one point on which Ms. Barber almost indicates a passing knowledge of what she speaks is the one in which she says that self-published authors must invest 9/10 of their efforts in marketing, leaving only ten percent of their time for writing. (Although I do argue with her numbers: she has failed to consider the time it takes for any writer to earn a living while building up a readership.) However, as I’m sure she knows, it is fallacious to use the marketing imperative as an argument against self-publishing. If Barber’s publisher does not require her to spend a good deal of her time promoting her book, she’s not having the experience of most of my traditionally published colleagues. (I think she does know: anyone who can get an article into the Guardian is no slouch in the marketing department.)

I am sick and tired of finding it necessary to apologize not for the quality of my two most recent novels (for one should never attempt to defend what one has written), but for the way in which they were published. Who the hell cares how books reach the market? Readers certainly don’t. Nowadays, only small-minded, defensive writers seem intent on railing against those of us who have chosen to take our fates into our own hands.

The challenge: I invite Ms. Barber (and anyone else who wishes to do so) to request a complimentary copy of either of my self-published novels (Rita and Don , to read at least a decent chunk of it, and then to point out either publicly or in private the precise locations where the novel displays either a lack of publishing quality or dearth of literary talent. But people like Ms. Barber won’t do that: they’ve made up their minds ahead of time.

Ros Barber, please do not tar everyone with the same brush. You may have chosen to publish traditionally, but increasing numbers of us are choosing to do otherwise. Canada’s primary organization of creative writers, The Writers Union of Canada, now admits self-published authors whose books have been approved by its membership committee. Granting agencies and awards programs everywhere are going to need to consider how to manage the books by many younger writers who (like young musicians and film-makers) are choosing to go indie from the outset.

We are all in this together. We are writers. Some of us write better than do others, but increasingly this has nothing to do with how our writing reaches readers. A traditional publisher is no longer the only imprimatur of quality, if it ever was. The opinions in your article show you to be as disdainful as you are out of touch. I hope your fiction, notwithstanding its apparently historical nature, is more current.

I Create my First Video Book Trailer (and Other Book Promo News)

Rita TrailerFirst, an update for those who have been wondering what happened to my call in July for a book “publicist, but not just any publicist.” I am very happy to report that I have found a person who perfectly fits the bill. Her name is Chelsea. In a future post I will explain how we connected, how we are working together, and what we are doing to promote my books.

In the meantime, I have already started to enjoy the benefits of having someone else on board who also has an interest in testing some of the book promotion ideas I’ve been accumulating. As I’ve mentioned on this blog before, I find it difficult to do direct self-promotion and, as as a result, I’d been avoiding doing the groundwork that was necessary for any real promotion to happen. Once I’d started talking with Chelsea about what we should do first, I needed to get moving on that groundwork… and I did.

The Website

The first thing I needed to do was to revisit my website. Previously, I had different websites for different books, each containing the kinds of materials that would have gone out in a “media package” in a previous era: a profile of the author, an introduction to the book, reviews of the book and of my previous books, photos, etc. Having so many websites was expensive so, when two of the sites came up for renewal, I didn’t renew them. Instead, I amalgamated them into my main website at marywwalters.com. Now, the background info about Rita Just Wants to Be Thin and The Adventures of Don Valiente and the Apache Canyon Kid are sub-pages on my main site that are clickable from the Fiction/Books page.

While I was at it, I asked Chelsea’s opinion of my existing website and, using her input and my own thoughts, I revised and re-energized the entire site. There are still a few pages I want to add or reactivate, but for now I’m happy with what I have.

I think it’s worthwhile to revisit websites every year or so, not just to update them but to rethink them and to re-examine what purposes they serve. The previous incarnation of my website was directed at, among others, prospective clients who might need my editorial services. I am now focusing on my writing, and on getting my books to pay the bills at least in part, so the new version of the website has a different slant.

The Book Trailer

The other thing I’ve been meaning to do for quite a while is to make video trailers to promote my books. I’ve been talking about my options with several experienced video people for several years, and I had the names of some who I thought could do a good job. But then I also needed a video for another initiative I am working on — it’s called Success After 60 — and for that venture, I’m going to be making videos every week or so. I wasn’t going to be able to afford the money – or, even more importantly, the time – to deal with a professional for what were essentially going to be regular video blog posts, or “vlog posts”— most just a few minutes long on a single topic. Besides, I wanted both the trailer and the vlogs to to look amateurish rather than highly professional, because I think they’re more intimate that way.

So since I was making my “Success After 60” video myself, I decided to try making one for Rita Just Wants to be Thin at the same time.

It took me two months to make those two videos. I learned a lot. I hope to be able to make the next one in a day or two, but the whole experience was not only educational. It was also a pain in the ass.

From the faint hope that it may benefit someone else who decides to attempt what I have done, here’s what I learned. (Note: If you find yourself tempted to watch either the Success After 60 video OR the Rita trailer,  and if you find them at all interesting, or learn anything from this blog post, I would be most grateful if you’d “like” them):

The script is key. You want to develop something short and interesting.

My first several attempts at the Rita trailer consisted of my introducing the novel, then reading a passage from it, then encouraging readers to check it out online or buy it from their independent bookseller. The trailer ended up being about 7 to 8 minutes long, and even while I was creating it, I realized that it was boring.

Listening to an author reading from her novel is one thing — I enjoy going to literary readings (I especially enjoy them if the material is interesting and the writer reads well, which isn’t always the case). But unless you are a performance poet, and you have a self-contained passage that only takes a minute to read and doesn’t need to be set up first, save it for those who are already committed to you and your writing.

For most of us, reading from our books is not a good way to promote them on video.

I sent the (boring) video I’d made to Chelsea for her input, and she said a brilliant thing. She said, “Maybe you could make it more like a movie trailer.” At first I was flummoxed. How do you make a book trailer like a movie trailer? – short of filming a scene from the novel, which I was not prepared to do. (Some authors, with deeper pockets than I, have done that — some to great effect.) I also wasn’t about to hire an artist to turn my trailer into a self-contained work of art by manipulating text and images, although I’ve seen some outstanding book trailers where that has been done, such as this one.*

So I thought, What is the underlying principle of movie trailers? I looked at a lot of them, and I realized that what they do is to run snippets of the movie together so you get a sense of the story from the trailer… and that is all they do. Look at any trailer on Rotten Tomatoes, such as this one, and you will see what I mean.

After several days of mulling over how in the world this could be applied to a novel, I finally had an idea while I was working out on the rowing machine (I get my best ideas while exercising). I would read only a sentence or two from various parts of the book, and that way I would give the reader a sense of what the book was like. And the structure I would use would be to introduce the characters and the central conflict of the novel. I’d explain that Rita has a lot of problems, and then tell readers what some of those problems are.

So I threw out the previous scripts and started over. And what you see is the result.

Attitude is also key.

During my first attempts at the book trailer, I looked apologetic. All of my reluctance to shill my own work was obvious in my face and in my voice and in my posture. Since I was feeling like the script I had developed was boring (introducing the book, reading from the book, asking viewers to check out the book), I also felt like viewers were doing me a favour by sticking with me through to the bitter end of the video: and that showed, too.

Once I had developed a script I liked, I was enthusiastic about it, and all of my insecurity disappeared. The new script reminded me that I loved the novel and its characters, and that I thought readers would love them as well. Instead of trying to persuade viewers to hang in there for the video so that they would eventually see why they should buy the book, I was simply sharing my enthusiasm for the book itself. Instead of impersonating a used-car salesman, I was speaking from my heart.

Brevity is Key

The new video is 3.5 minutes long. That length made it easy to record again and again until I was happy with it. The first version had been 7 to 8 minutes. When I didn’t like the ending and the light in the house had changed, I had to start all over again: redo every single clip. Sometimes I had to wait until the next day because I didn’t have another hour to devote to it — which meant starting all over from scratch the next day or whenever I had enough time: showering and blowing my hair dry and putting on makeup and getting into half-decent clothes (rather than my usual “writing clothes”) before I could even start to record the video.

That is one main reason why it took me two months to create a video I liked: I kept having to do it over and over again. When you’re redoing a video, you want it to be short.

Recording the same video over and over again is ultimately a good thing

Despite how I whine about how often I had to re-record the Rita book trailer (and you cannot imagine how many clips I threw out that ended with swear words) due to bloopers, poor timing, the battery in the camera suddenly running out, etc., there were real benefits to being so particular about getting the video to the point where it was as good as I could make it. By the time I did the version you see posted online, I was totally relaxed in front of the camera. All of my apprehension, camera shyness and lack of confidence had gone away. I was me.

The “Technicalities” (for those who are interested)

I used the following apps and objects found around my house to make the video:

Recording the Video Clips

I did my first few attempts at the video just talking to the camera that is built into my MacBook Air (using OS X Yosemite), with the help of an app called Photo Booth. Using that program was fairly easy, but there were disadvantages: I couldn’t get my eyes to look directly at the viewer, which was what I wanted to do in order to make “eye contact.”  No matter what I tried, I appeared to be either looking down or up. Reading from a script made this problem worse, of course, because I had to look at the script and then back at the camera. Another program on my computer, iMovie, offers a teleprompter function, but that didn’t help either because I still had to look down at my computer.

Furthermore, the recording came out reversed even after I processed it (more on the processing below), which meant that when I held the book up, the title was backwards.

So for the next attempts to make the video, I used Arnie’s Canon camera on a tripod. He helped me set it up so that when I sat down in my armchair I was seated in the right place  — my face close enough to the lens to feel personal, but not too close. Then we left the camera and the armchair in the same place for a few days, and I kept making different recordings until I had the ones I was happy with. I would sit in the chair, gather my thoughts, then get up and push “record” on the camera. Then I would sit down and start talking. When I flubbed it, I would get up and stop the recording. Then I’d take a deep breath. Then I would start at the beginning of the sentence or the paragraph before the flub, where it seemed like there would be a good pause that would allow me to cut and patch the clips together later. I gradually learned to pause at the end of paragraphs  every time, and in other places, so that if I had to do a patch, I’d have some elbow room.

Again I had to keep an eye on the lighting and make sure it was consistent. If I needed six clips, and I made Clip 1 at 2 p.m. and Clip 2 at 2:15 p.m. and so on, and then after I finished Clip 6 and started working on them, I discovered I didn’t like Clip 2 and had to redo it,  by then it would be 4 p.m. or later. The sun would have moved across the sky or disappeared behind a cloud, and I’d have a continuity problem. (I preferred natural light to artificial, so I didn’t tape at night. Also, I have a shorter fuse at night, so it wouldn’t have worked anyway.) The longer the video is, the worse this clip-matching problem can become.

To hold the script, which I tried not to simply read but only to refer to, we put up a music stand behind the camera, printed out the script in large type, and clipped two pages to the stand at at a time. If you refer to the Success After 60 video, you will see me reading the script more than I do in the Rita video. I’ve decided there is no way around this — short of buying a real-live tv camera like my son Dan uses on Daily Planet, which has a teleprompter built right into it. Life is too short for some things, and memorizing scripts is one, so I’m living with the fact that you can see me reading the script in my videos. I did, however, read the scripts over many, many times before I felt and sounded natural reading them.

Assembling the Video

After the recording was done, I imported the clips from the camera into PhotoShop on my MacBook Air, and then exported the ones I wanted to work with to a folder on my Desktop. I then opened them in QuickTime (it’s the default on my computer) and started trimming them, using the “View Clips” option and then “Split Clip” command. That way I eliminated the parts at the beginnings and ends of the clips where I had recorded myself sitting down (after starting the recording), and then standing up (to stop the recording). Where there was a flub, I cut that out too and then started the next clip in the appropriate place so that they would match. I didn’t worry about whether they matched exactly.

I didn’t do much editing in the middle of clips at this stage, either (taking out phrases or hesitations), because I found out the hard way that I could throw off the synchronization of sound and video if I did too much editing within clips. Cleaning up places where the sound doesn’t match the video is harder to do after the fact than it is to avoid it in the first place.

Then I uploaded the rough-cut clips to iMovie and followed the instructions (I watched several YouTube videos on how to use iMovie before I did it, and several more during the production process). I lined the clips up, did a bit more editing, added titles, and watched the whole thing in the iMovie library. When I was satisfied (several days after I had started), I uploaded the video from the iMovie Library to the iMovie Theater (this takes an hour or so). Then I uploaded it to YouTube (again, this takes a while. And btw, there is lots of info online about how to do this.) Then I watched it a few times, showed it to a few people, decided it wasn’t right, and started all over again: right from the getting-in-the-shower-and-blowing-my-hair-dry stage.

In all, for the two videos I ultimately created – the Rita book trailer, and the introduction video for Success After 60 – I probably recorded 50 to 75 clips. I threw out most of them. I made about five complete projects in iMovie before I had two I could live with.

I’ve learned a lot in the past two months, and I’m fairly proud of the results. I hope that it will go much faster next time, from scriptwriting to posting.

Going Public: YouTube and Facebook

I have now got two channels on YouTube in addition to my own: one for Mary W. Walters, Author, and one for Success After 60.  (Subscribe to one or both of these channels if you are interested in seeing other videos I’ll be creating in future.) Figuring out how to create channels, upload videos and manage the metadata on YouTube is fairly straightforward. The site is very user friendly. You can also edit the video some more from right inside YouTube.

I have learned that it is much better from a quality point of view to actually upload the videos to your Facebook pages than it is to just post the link to YouTube. (I found this article on the subject interesting.) But aside from Facebook, you don’t need to upload your video anywhere besides YouTube. YouTube gives you all kinds of link codes and one-click options for social media, as well as html text that allows you to embed a direct link to YouTube in your website.

So there you go. More than you wanted to know, I am sure. But maybe it will inspire you to get a video up as well. If I can do it, so can you. Just set aside six weeks.

If you have your own approach to creating and posting videos, please let us know below.

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* I found the examples of great (but expensive-looking) book trailers here.

Wattpad: Engaging Readers as You Write

Note: This article previously appeared in a slightly different form in Write, The Magazine of The Writers Union of Canada

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Confession: Sometimes I have trouble writing the next page of my new novel. WPNot because I am short of ideas, but because I have a lot of other urgent matters that demand my attention. I have often envied the writers whose editors or literary agents I imagine standing at their sides like midwives, encouraging them throughout their labour, reminding them of the rewards of manuscript delivery, telling them how much the world wants to see their next baby, and finally urging them to “push.”

When I heard about Wattpad, an Internet platform for readers and writers that attracts 27 million unique visitors per month, and 200,000 uploads of writing per day, I thought it might be part of the answer to my problem. And it has been. But it is also other things.

What It Is

Wattpad is a social storytelling platform where writers can register to post all kinds of work – poetry, drama, fiction and nonfiction – and where readers can read that work: all at no charge.

Most writers post short segments of their works in progress (1,000 to 2,000 words at a time, sometimes much less, sometimes much more), adding to it at regular (or irregular) intervals. Some writers are posting whole manuscripts in serial format that they have previously completed. Others (like me) are posting early drafts of longer works one section at a time. Still others slap up writing fragments like ill-mixed paint with hairs in it, and leave it there to dry — perhaps intending to come back and edit later, perhaps not.

Once the piece is up there, the effort to attract readers begins. You can contribute to this process (but probably only once) by emailing all of your friends and inviting them to check your story out, and by posting your Wattpad link to other social media sites (here’s mine). Of course, you also want to encourage visitors to your page whom you don’t already know, and you can do this indirectly by reading and commenting on the writing of others on the site, getting involved in the discussion forums, and entering the informal competitions Wattpad puts on from time to time. The goal is to get people to “follow” you so that they will be notified whenever you post a new installment or an update.

Every time someone takes a look at a segment you have posted, your “read” counter goes up. Readers can also vote for or post a comment on your work. The more reads and votes you get, the greater are your chances of being noticed by even more readers.

Some people use Wattpad as an end in itself – they are not interested in publishing elsewhere. Others are creating works ultimately intended for self- or traditional publication. Many writers have several projects on the go. Some ask for input and guidance from their readers; others just write.

Who’s on Wattpad?

The two Canadians who developed Wattpad (Allen Lau and Ivan Yuen) intended it for readers as much as writers, and Ashleigh Gardner, Head of Content: Publishing, says that “Ninety percent of Wattpad visitors are there to read and comment, not to post stories.”

She also says that regular visitors include publishers and agents who are looking for new talent.

“Some writers use Wattpad to promote their books to publishers,” she says. “Perhaps their novel was rejected when they submitted it directly, but now they can demonstrate that there is significant interest in their work.”

Gardner also tells me that the Wattpad app for smartphones and tablets is downloaded about 400,000 times a day. “Eighty-five percent of our visitors now reach us from mobile devices,” she says.

The advantage of Wattpad’s mobility component is clear: your work is accessible to readers no matter where they are, and your followers will receive “push” notifications whenever you post something new.

Copyright and Other Concerns

Gardner says that the site features a very sophisticated data-checking system that not only protects what is posted, but also works to prevent piracy. “All work on Wattpad of course remains copyright to the author,” she says. “Further, it cannot be copied and pasted, and readers can’t download it.”

A few people have told me they’re reluctant to sign on to Wattpad because they fear it will lead to spam, but so far Wattpad has attracted no more spam to me than have Twitter, Linked In, Goodreads or Facebook (which is, in my case, none).

Wattpad has had a reputation for being a place where teens post stories for one another, but if that were true at one point (and wouldn’t it be great to know that there are millions of teens who are interested in writing and reading?), the demographics are changing. “The majority of visitors are now between the ages of 18 and 30,” Gardner says, “and the subject matter of the content is changing as the average age goes up.”

Making Wattpad Work

The important part of making Wattpad work for you is to remember that it is a social media platform. If you don’t engage with it (read others’ works, respond to comments, participate in forum discussions), you will miss out on the very important reciprocation factor, and your work will languish. Further, thanks to algorithms, the more readers you attract, the more readers who will find you on their own.

Networking is not as painful as you might think. While it’s true that the Wattpad platform sports lots of dabblers and thousands of very bad writers, it doesn’t take long to sort the wheat from the chaff. And there are also some very good writers there, clearly intending to do as I am — get the work written and noticed by intelligent and discerning readers.

I’ve found a few manuscripts on Wattpad whose next installments I am genuinely eager to read and I’ve also found a few very careful and helpful readers who will probably help me get through Seeds and Secrets far more quickly than I would ever have done on my own. There is a definite motivation to keep going when readers start asking when you’re going to post the next installment. (As of Jan 1, 2015, Seeds and Secrets had received 1,500 “reads” and 121 votes. It stands about 450 from the top in the General Fiction category.)

In addition to pieces of my novel, I’ve put up a couple of works of short nonfiction on Wattpad – one previously published, one not yet – and received encouraging – and immediate – responses on them as well. I am also posting blog posts from my 2011 solo trip to India – Watch. Listen. Learn – which seems to be very popular. In fact, the response is making me seriously consider publishing it as a book, which I had not considered doing before.)

For me, Wattpad is like a humungous writing group where no one has to make coffee or serve beer, get dressed before offering feedback on other writers’ works, or pay any attention to comments from readers who don’t get what they’re doing.

Wattpad is not for everyone, of course, but if it sounds like a tool you could use to stimulate your writing and find new readers for your existing work, check it out. I’ll be happy to read the writing that you post – as long as you read mine. :)

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Update: You can check out Wattpad’s 2014 Year in Review here. According to Nazia Khan, Wattpad’s Director of Communications, the company has noted some interesting trends this year:

  • People are writing novels on their phones
  • Episodic/serial reading is back (Dickens would be so pleased)
  • Everyone is a fan of something as evidenced by the growing number of fanfiction stories
  • Teens are reading. Yes, really.