Book Trailers and Beyond: How Publishers Should Use Video Marketing

By Brandon Sanford

Portland State University

Abstract

Using video for marketing purposes is still a fairly new tactic in the publishing world, and book trailers don’t seem to optimize the capabilities of video as a medium. This essay seeks to outline ways in which book trailers don’t work, and other options for video marketing that might address some of the issues with book trailers. Looking into options for video marketing is inextricably tied to the marketing goals of publishing houses, which meant researching the role of publishers. This essay uses video marketing statistics from businesses that specialize in producing those kinds of reports, articles about the publishing industry, and references a variety of book trailers, marketing videos, and movie trailers hosted online. Research has shown that despite their bad reputation, book trailers are effective for certain types of books, and video marketing statistics show that more than half of viewers are likely to stay longer on a website and return to a website if video is present, as well as facilitating a higher conversion rate, anywhere from 16-80%. Video is not a medium that can or should replace other forms of marketing, but if used appropriately for an online platform and with its specific audience in mind, video marketing can be used successfully to draw traffic to a publisher’s site, increase publisher brand awareness, and help foster community.

Introduction

Book trailers, once expected to be the new wave of video marketing for publishers, have failed to produce the hoped for results. They have, instead, collected a bad reputation for poor quality, hokeyness, and opacity of message. Many book trailers never even find the audience. Their infamy has even led to the Moby Awards, run out of Melville House,[1] which highlighted both the best and the worst of book trailers, including such categories as Trailer Least Likely to Sell the Book, and Biggest Waste of Conglomerate Money. Even a book trailer that receives a lot of views might not translate into sales for the book, and a good book trailer will probably have higher costs. As book trailers have proven themselves an unreliable marketing tool, what are some ways publishers can better take advantage of video as a medium to promote books?

The Book Trailer Problem

The difficulties in producing a popular book trailer

Book trailers begin with a disadvantage: publishing, by and large, is a text-based market. Some genres lend themselves more to visual media than others—such as cookbooks or graphic novels—but for the majority of books there are no supplied images to draw from when creating a video. This requires the book trailer creator to use actors,[2] employ an animator,[3] or cut a series of stills together into something interesting.[4] As publishers have experience publishing books, as opposed to making movies, this will probably necessitate hiring outside help. In 2008, the Wall Street Journal put the average cost of producing a book trailer at about $2,000.[5] Considering that a book trailer would only be one small piece of a marketing plan, this amount is not insignificant, especially in an industry notorious for small profit margins.

These efforts may or may not pay off. A movie-trailer-quality book trailer might net anywhere from over a million views to only around two thousand.[6] The best performers with book trailers seem to be YA. Do a search on “book trailers” on YouTube, and the first three pages are almost entirely YA books. Other genres, such as nonfiction, average a few hundred views,[7] with only the rare book trailer breaking into the low thousands. On the Penguin Group YouTube page, only a handful of book trailers are uploaded, and only a few of those break into the thousands of views.[8]

YA book trailer popularity can probably be explained by the YA audience’s comfortableness with video, while in older generations the mixture of video and books can have a stigma. For some fiction readers, using book trailers is tantamount to heresy. Najafi on The Rumpus writes, “A trailer, in a way, violates a book’s very construction. We are taught from a young age that reading, unlike pretty much everything else, forces you to use your imagination. A trailer inherently removes an element of the imaginative process and potentially cheapens the medium by suggesting a sort of inadequacy.”[9] This prejudice is not solely on the part of the reader, either. Christopher Shea of the Wall Street Journal writes:

Is there anything that more pungently demonstrates the desperation and confusion within the publishing industry than book trailers? These short video previews of books, often featuring a chat with the author or a dramatic depiction of the plot, and typically posted on YouTube, are truly strange cultural artifacts: They’re painfully obvious attempts to adapt to technological change, but they’re just as obviously off-key, not quite in step with whatever they’re chasing.[10]

Shea goes on to suggest that the inconsistency with book trailer quality might be a result of publishers being uncomfortable with the medium they are trying to use. “The half-heartedness of most trailers suggests an unease with the endeavor: Few want to be caught trying too hard.”[11] Dennis Johnson, publisher of Melville House and founder of the Moby Awards, indicates this disquiet with video marketing when speaking about why he created the awards. “It just seemed like, you know, maybe book people should be worrying more about books than about movies.”[12] Authors, who oftentimes appear in these videos or provide voice-overs, are perhaps the most uncomfortable of all. Jonathan Franzen begins his promotional video stating, “Um, well this might be a good place for me to register my profound discomfort at having to make videos like this.”[13] Yet, even with resistance from readers and authors, publishers still hope that book trailers will help with book promotion. “I know a lot of old-school writers resent it,” says Paul Aiken, executive director of the Authors Guild. “But it might help sell books.”[14] The “might” is important, because it highlights another reason for the uneven effort behind book trailers. Book trailers are a guessing game, a shot in the dark.

Does even a popular book trailer produce sales?

Even if a book trailer is popular, that doesn’t necessarily mean that those views translate into sales. Unfortunately, proof for either argument is circumstantial at best. Some sites cite statistics such as, “Readers are 64% more likely to purchase your book if they see a book trailer that effectively promotes your book.”[15] Sources are generally provided for all the statistics, but many if not most of the sources don’t provide a link to the original document. The majority of sites that do link to an outside source, such as Virtuets Invodo Reports,[16] often reference another article citing the same information.[17] This trail of breadcrumbs rarely leads to an actual report, instead leading to a website landing page, or sometimes an error page. Searching for the information on the source website turns up no results. Many of these sites seem linked to video marketing services,[18] which casts some doubt as to the unbiased nature of these statistics.

On the other side of the argument, journalists, publishers, and authors indicate popular book trailers don’t necessarily correlate into sales. Lauren Mechling of the Wall Street Journal writes:

There is scant evidence, however, that the average book trailer actually has much impact on book sales. Despite Doubleday’s recent video upload for the self-help book “We Plan, God Laughs,” by Sherre Hirsch, the book has sold only about 3,000 copies, according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70% of U.S. book sales. And even though Jami Attenberg’s trailer for her novel “The Kept Man” is reminiscent of Miranda July’s short films, only 3,000 copies of Ms. Attenberg’s recent book have sold.[19]

In the same article, Mechling cites Carolyn K. Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, who says, “In some cases, we don’t even expect it [the book trailer] to increase sales at all. It’s almost a gift to the audience, and hopefully it makes them buy the next book.” This article was written in 2008, but contemporary authors are having the same experience. A 2013 article on authordiscovery.com recounts the writer’s personal experience with book trailers:

Unfortunately, the discussion we looked to generate with the trailer took a long time to manifest. And the viral sharing I expected never really manifested. Even though the trailer won a major book trailer competition and was raking up views in the several thousands on YouTube, there was absolutely no correlation I could draw to sales.[20]

The inability to connect sales to marketing efforts is an ongoing problem in the publishing industry. Most publishers are not the point of sale for their books, which means buyer data is often not made available to them. Book trailers have links to websites in the description, where someone interested could buy the book,[21] but at most the data would reveal the number of click-throughs to the third-party site, and not the number of people who bought the book because of the trailer. Once the viewer leaves the book trailer site, their data is lost in the cloud of other visitors to the third-party site.

Pros and Cons of Video Marketing

Why video marketing is appealing

While the benefits of book trailers may be ambiguous, the popularity of online video makes it understandable why publishers would want to tap into that medium. YouTube alone advertises some impressive statistics, such as having more than 1 billion users, and people watching hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube every day and generating billions of views.[22] Digital Book World named disappearing shelf space one of the biggest problems facing publishers today.[23] With shelf space at a premium, the hope of getting information about a book in front of that large of an audience has to be appealing. There is also data to show that video helps conversion rates, which refers to the percentage of unique visitors to a site who take a desired action, though the statistics vary wildly. Unbounce states video on a landing page has been “shown to improve conversion by up to 80%.”[24] Verizon’s experiments with video promotion yielded more modest results, showing a 16% conversion increase,[25] which is still a significant amount. Invodo shows about 50% or more of customers stay longer on a website with video and are more likely to return to a website that uses video.[26] While book trailers specifically may or may not increase sales, video promotion in general does seem to lead to more sales and more consumer interest.

Three problems with video marketing

One of the problems with these statistics and how publishers are currently using video is the digital noise that book trailers or other marketing videos have to pierce through. YouTube states that 300 hours of video are uploaded to its site every minute.[27] That’s a lot of competition, even with over a million viewers. While a reader may go searching for the book trailer of an author he or she already loves, that view isn’t exposing the book trailer to someone who wouldn’t already buy the book. So if a publisher wants to get its book trailer in front of new viewers, then the publisher needs to spend time and resources promoting the book trailer . . . which is supposed to be promoting the book.

Another problem is with video increasing conversion. Book trailers are rarely accompanied by buy buttons, because publishers don’t sell their own products. Once a reader clicks on a link to elsewhere, the publisher has to rely on the third party’s website to secure the conversion. In effect, the book trailer isn’t promoting book sales, but visits to a bookseller’s site. It is possible to put book trailers on Amazon, but it’s not easy and costs money. An author or publisher can create a book trailer through Amazon services, which will then be posted to the book details page, but this costs $1,199.[28] There are some larger publishers that work with Amazon’s merchandising department to post book trailers to their details page, but it is not available to everyone all the time.[29] Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is one title that will display a book trailer,[30] but it doesn’t always show up. Underneath the description is an advertisement bar: sometimes this links to a book trailer for the book, sometimes this shows unrelated advertisements. When the link is available, it doesn’t always work. It only seems to appear on the Kindle format’s detail page as well, not hardcover or paperback, which means that unless viewers are looking for Kindle editions specifically, they will not see the trailer.

The third problem with video marketing is the cost. As mentioned previously, the Wall Street Journal put the average cost of book trailers at $2,000 in 2008, but actual costs vary. The Los Angeles Times published an article in 2011 about The Other House, a boutique video production company that focuses on making commercials for books. The company includes among its clients Random House and St. Martin’s Press, and charges up to $50,000 per video.[31] By comparison, the cost to use Vimeo for marketing purposes is pretty inexpensive, at only $199 a year;[32] however, this is the cost for uploading the book trailer to only one site. If a publisher is considering which marketing efforts will yield the best results, the costs of other types of outreach may seem more reasonable. Cathy Yardley, an author and editor, has this perspective:

If you’re hiring out, then a trailer’s going to cost you $350 – $2,000 USD.  That’s a chunk of change for any author. If you’re getting 100 views, then you’re paying up to $20 just to have a set of eyeballs gazing at your visual.

Pay $400 for a 30 stop blog tour, and even if each stop only gets 50 views because they’re all little, new blogs… you’re still getting 1500 people, reading about you and your work. Which means you spent about $3.75 per impression.[33]

Of course, every book is special and requires its own marketing plan. Some books, such as YA books, or novels that seem written with the big screen in mind, like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer,[34] perform better with video marketing. Yet the size of the potential audience seems too big to ignore for any book. Given the difficulties in getting views, converting sales, and the availability of other options, what might make video marketing more effective?

The Role of Publishers

Public perception

In order to discuss other possible uses for video marketing, it is necessary to look at the role of publisher. After all, the first part of the question this essay hopes to answer, “What are some ways publishers can better take advantage of . . .” is equally as important as the second half of the question. Originally, publishers were needed because they controlled the means of publication; in other words, the printing presses. These days most publishers do not own their own printing presses. More and more work gets contracted out to freelancers, and more and more pressure is put on the author to market his or her own work. Tim O’Reilly, CEO of O’Reilly Media, says, “It’s authors showing the way far more than the publishers how readers discover new books. You should help them in any way you can and then take what they do that works and apply it to other authors.”[35] Publishers have assumed the role of movie producers, working as middlemen who facilitate interactions between skilled individuals and who coordinate financing. The issue is, while both movie producers and publishers play important roles in the creative process, their contributions are not readily apparent to consumers (or authors).

The worth of publishers comes down to perceived value. Customers are rarely aware of the actual manufacturing cost of the goods they buy. Customers instead set a mental price on what they want to buy based on their opinion of its worth. This may have very little to do with the actual cost of the product, or what would be fair retail price given the cost of production, but it nevertheless constrains the seller on what the good may be sold for. No matter what the cost is, if the perceived value isn’t high enough, the customer won’t buy it. Publishers have lost their perceived value; no matter what value they actually add to the publishing process, their efforts have become too opaque to the public, and so they are seen as extraneous.

This lack of perceived value has led to a negative perception of publishers by both media and authors. In the price wars between Amazon and the big publishing houses, journalists side with Amazon because publishers have lost connection with anyone outside the industry. Ben Florsheim of the Washington Monthly writes:

[The publishing industry] has effectively cartelized an art form, and in the process marginalized the contribution of authors while pocketing their income, screwed millions of readers out of money and content, and refused to adapt to the realities of the present decade or even the last few preceding ones.”[36]

This characterization is not limited to the large houses, because, in Florsheim’s eyes, independent houses can’t exist without the larger publishers. Independent publishing houses are, in his words, “direct beneficiaries of and contributors to a system which treats books not even like “widgets” or tools, but as moneymakers and nothing more.” He goes on to say that publishers “pass their own operating costs on to readers (high prices) and writers (small royalties and rapidly shrinking advance payments).” Of course, this is the perspective of someone from outside the industry. What matters is the perspective of the publishing industry’s allies, the authors. Unfortunately, authors are becoming disillusioned with the publishing industry as well.

Author and blogger Penelope Trunk wrote an article about her own experience with the publishing industry, an article which was then published by The Guardian. The article recounts how her book was bought by a mainstream publishing company and how they did such a terrible job marketing it that Trunk self-published the book anyway, two years later. Trunk writes, “Three months before the publication date, the PR department called me up to ‘coordinate our efforts.’ But really, their call was just about giving me a list of what I was going to do to publicize the book. I asked them what they were going to do. They had no idea. Seriously.”[37] Trunk may oversimplify the publisher’s lack of involvement here; it is impossible to know, without further details, if on that list of things Trunk was supposed to do were opportunities that only existed because of connections the publisher had. Regardless, when the publisher was pushed by Trunks to describe how they were going to market her book on their end, they said they would use newsgroups and promote the book on their fan page. While Trunks’s responses to both suggestions are equally derisive, her response to the fan page suggestion is important in the context of publishers’ perceived value. She writes, “There is no publishing industry fan page that is good enough to sell books. No one goes to fan pages for publishers because publishers are not household names. The authors are. That’s how publishing works.” Authors not only provide the source material, but, as O’Reilly also noted, are also providing the marketing. Publishers may facilitate author branding efforts, but this only furthers the problem of authors having all the apparent worth in the relationship.

While not all journalists, readers, or authors are this cynical about the publishing industry, many question the worth of publishers. Do a search for “Are publishers necessary?” and it is apparent how often this question is being asked. Author Anthony Horowitz asked his publisher this question, and received the response that he would miss out on promotion, marketing, editing, and the advance.[38] Horowitz points out that marketing and advances can be in short supply at the beginning of an author’s career, which is when they are really needed. He does acknowledge the importance of editing, but also mentions that one of the publishers he works with put out his recent book with “no fewer than 35 proof-reading errors.” Considering that there are plenty of freelance editors available now for authors to hire, publishers seem to be reduced to one role: providing the start-up cash for a new book, a role which is threatened by crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter and Pubslush. With so many options available for authors and readers to connect without the publisher’s involvement, having a bad reputation severely affects the publisher’s ability to sell books.

Author versus publisher discoverability

Publishers need to bring more apparent value to the publishing process. Publishers should certainly facilitate the creation of author brands, but they also need to establish their own brands, or, not only will be seen as not contributing anything to the publishing process, but they will also lose any influence they have left to promote books on their own, and will fully have to rely on authors.

Some publishers have sought to answer public skepticism by using video marketing. Simon & Schuster and Random House have both put out videos explaining what it is that publishers do.[39] Random House answers this question more directly, as their Inside Random House video series describes different technical processes that happen during publishing, such as the journey from manuscript to completed book, or offering an inside look at their audio studio.[40] These videos seem to be well-received, garnering several thousand to the tens of thousands of views. Simon & Schuster addresses the question somewhat more obliquely, though still too much on the nose, with their Behind the Book video series. These videos, rather than focus on the processes of Simon & Schuster in general, each provide background information on a different title from the perspective of Simon & Schuster employees, usually conveying what the company liked about the manuscript and decided to acquire it.[41] These videos are not as popular as the Inside Random House series, possibly because they come across more as advertising than educational. Both video series are a great start to giving the publishing houses personality, by presenting a human face to the outside world, and also answering the concerns of authors, readers, and the media about their importance. The videos fall short, though, in that they answer the question of the role of publishers too directly. In story terms, they are telling rather than showing the worth of publishers. This sort of direct response can seem defensive, as noted in a recent Forbes article where the writer characterized certain assertions by publishers about their worth as “aggressive statements.”[42] Also, neither video series establishes the publisher as the preeminent source of quality books in any field; rather, they describe general processes of the publishing industry.

The Possibilities of Video Marketing

The publisher brand

There seems to be a schism in the publishing industry for how publishing houses see themselves; on the one hand, you have non-profit publishers like McSweeney’s, where a book is a cultural artifact and putting out that book is an end to itself;[43] on the other hand you have Amazon, where producing books is about profits, cost to consumer, and metrics. Most other for-profit publishers seem lost somewhere in between. Books are not necessary for survival, but contain an importance that other entertainment goods don’t possess.

Coco Chanel characterized luxury as “a necessity that begins where necessity ends,”[44] a sentiment that reflects the dual nature of books. In The Road to Luxury, the authors describe luxury brand management as “a place where ancient founders, artisans, and youthful models meet and make mad magic together.” Books should be considered a luxury good, and publisher branding efforts should reflect this classification. The Road to Luxury lists some guidelines for what defines a luxury brand:

  • Branding: Luxury brands are all about the tradition and story behind the company. Inside Random House and Behind the Book video series provide education, but don’t provide the story of the company. If Random House were to use its promotional videos to position itself as the voice of classic literature, for example, and tap into its long history as a publisher, that would give readers a solid image of what Random House provides; by contrast, while not a luxury brand, everyone knows Amazon as “the everything store.”
  • Product: Luxury brands are never mass-produced. Rather, they are about craftsmanship, and reflecting the creator in the product, rather than chasing trends. Amazon has pursued and possibly cornered convenience as a bookseller and publishing entity. No matter how publishers actually produce the books, marketing videos should reflect a message of high-fidelty, selling not only the literal story of the book itself, but the story of how it’s made and the experience that books embody.
  • Place: Where the luxury goods are sold should be an experience, places where the brand image is controlled and communicated, and where customers can become participants, members of a select club. Publishers cannot currently effectively control their brand images, because they are not in control of how and where their books are sold.
  • People: Luxury brands are shaped by the people behind them, big personalities like Coco Chanel and Christian Dior. Publishing houses need their own personalities. Inside Random House and Behind the Book are great beginnings, because they give faces to the people who work at the respective companies, but do not go far enough. Chip Kidd is a colorful personality with a history of public engagement,[45] but the Penguin Random House website only lists him as an author, rather than using his videos as a promotional tool, and Chip Kidd’s own website, while it displays the Penguin Random House logo, does not feature interplay between the two sites or seem to really promote the publishing house.[46] This seems like a missed opportunity by Random House, and other publishing houses could find their own big personalities to give a human face to the company.

By successfully creating a brand, publishing houses not only invest themselves with authority, as the experts in their genre or field of publishing, but also create a pull effect. Readers will seek them out, because the publisher’s name becomes linked with the type of literature the reader wants to buy.

Everything is a branding opportunity

One of the great things about video marketing is that everything can further the establishment of a brand, and publishers have more control over how viewers receive the information. In many ways, book trailers copy the format of movie trailers, but with one major flaw. Movie trailers display the studios logo shortly after the intro. Compare the Divergent movie trailer to the book trailer. Nineteen seconds into the movie trailer the Summit logo takes over the screen.[47] First the trailer presents a hook to grab the viewer’s attention, and then the logo flashes by, long enough to be noticed, but too quick for the viewer to skip ahead before they’ve seen it. It ensures that the viewer will establish a connection between every advertised movie and its parent company. The Divergent book trailer, on the other hand, doesn’t display the publishing house’s logo till the end of the trailer, and then only as part of a busy screen, full of information, with the company’s logo in relatively small font.[48] Movie studios incorporate more involved logos in full movies, such as Marvel Studio’s flipbook logo,[49] which invokes the medium the movies come from. Publishing houses could easily incorporate short logos into every book trailer they put out, and introduce other video marketing efforts, such as author interviews or branding efforts such as Behind the Book, with longer logo segments meant to convey the philosophy behind the company. Inside Random House videos do begin with an animated logo,[50] but it doesn’t say much about the company’s philosophy, and Simon & Schuster’s Behind the Book videos have a logo designed for the series, in which the publishing house name is included but almost inconsequential.[51]

Increasing sales

If a book is considered a good candidate for a book trailer, there are ways to increase the likelihood of sales and views. The Other House, the previously mentioned boutique book trailer producer, airs the book trailers it produces on cable channels and online avenues such as Hulu and Google TV.[52] While expensive, book trailers The Other House releases do get high views. The trailer for Retribution has been viewed more than 125,000 times, and the trailer for The Guardian over 285,000 times. The nice thing about online media outlets is the immediate availability to click away to find the book, if the viewer finds the book trailer interesting. To use the Divergent film trailer as an example again,[53] an advertising bar pops up at the bottom of the screen proclaiming tickets are available if the viewer “clicks here.” Hulu offers similar clickability. While not everyone uses computers to access online media anymore, with game consoles like PlayStation also providing the service, as long as someone is watching on a computer there is an immediate ability to act on the impulse to buy. Ideally, this clickable link would lead to the publisher’s website for a controlled, branded experience, but even in the current bookselling system it offers a more targeted and assertive way of getting video marketing in front of the eyes of targeted audiences—rather than hoping people stumble on YouTube pages or relying on a scattershot approach like general press releases to bring attention to the book trailer. If the publishing house’s logo is used in the trailer, then even if the viewer doesn’t follow the link to buy, he or she is still being exposed to the branding message of the publishing house, which makes the possibly high ticket price seem a little more worthwhile.

Publisher landing pages

If videos increase the likelihood of people staying on a site longer and being more responsive to the company’s message, then every publishing house landing page should incorporate video. Unfortunately, many publishing sites do not feature video on their landing pages,[54] and some have it far enough down the page that it’s unlikely to catch the eye.[55] More than anything, these types of sites seem to evoke the feeling of a bookstore, showing off new releases and leaving the viewer to browse; however, web sites are not bookstores and cannot recreate the fidelity of that experience, and pretending that they do ignores the attributes of the online medium. Scholastic does a great job with its landing page,[56] featuring a big video at the top center. The video not only shows off Scholastic books, but gives faces to Scholastic readers, appeals emotionally to its audience, and effectively communicates Scholastic’s brand image.

Community involvement

While perhaps not seen as the biggest issue in the publishing industry today, fostering relationships is a focus of concern. After all, as several voices have pointed out, readers are the consumers of books, not booksellers.[57] This has led to crowdsourced publishing models,[58] interactive web sites such as Pottermore, and destination sites such as Tor.com. Tor.com is an example of content marketing as opposed to click marketing, where the object is not to get readers to click a link, but to stay on the page. Tor.com, according to its About page, “publishes original fiction, art, and commentary on science fiction and related subjects by a wide range of writers from all corners of the field; both professionals working in the genres and fans. Its aim is to provoke, encourage, and enable interesting and rewarding conversations with and between its readers.” While described as publisher neutral, meaning that it showcases and engages in books from all publishers, its very name promotes the Tor/Forge brand and facilitates a relationship between the publishers and the readers. Many of the staff work for Tor Books or Macmillan, Tor’s parent company. There is active commenting on most posts, and several blog entries are shared hundreds of times.

Then there are sites ostensibly for publisher/reader interaction, but really only exist as a marketing tool. Bookish is one such site that has been critiqued for contributing to a one-sided relationship.[59] This sort of one-way communication can also be seen in the Inside Random House and Behind the Book video series. While interesting, the videos only feature publishing employees. Information flows out; it is not a dialog. If these publishers wanted to engage their readers, they could easily have conducted these programs as luncheons with young writers, fan tours, or coffee talks. Even if only part of the video was dedicated to readers interacting with the publishing employee—asking questions or engaging in an activity—it would help the video seem more as documentation of a relationship than as a marketing tool.

By creating video of events, a publisher not only makes connections with readers, but also furthers its brand image by the types of events it participates in. Take for example Camp Half-Blood. Camp Half-Blood is a fictional place in Rick Riordan’s book series based on Greek mythology. It is also a summer camp in Austin, Texas, which recreates the setting in the books. It exists so that kids can live in the world of the books they love. Strangely, this camp was not founded by the publisher, but by Topher Bradfield, Children’s Outreach Coordinator and Camp Director for BookPeople, the largest independent bookstore in Texas.[60] While the site lists support from Rick Riordan and Disney/Hyperion, their involvement is not otherwise evident in the site, or on Rick Riordan’s site,[61] or on Riordan’s Disney site, readriordan.com. Disney could have co-sponsored the camp, even if just for one year, produced videos about the camp, filmed Riordan interacting with the kids and reading at the camp, and then posted those videos on Riordan’s site, the camp website, YouTube, and all of Disney’s websites. Not only would the videos have promoted the camp, they would have also promoted the books, shown Disney/Hyperion to be involved with their readers, and could have conveyed a brand message, such as supporting both literacy and kids being physically active (not that Disney needs branding). To use another example, Hawthorne Books used a lot of video marketing while promoting Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead.[62] Yet Hawthorne did not use these videos as an attempt to brand or to become involved in the community. Aside from the videos being on Hawthorne’s YouTube channel, there doesn’t seem to be anything to link the books to Hawthorne—not even links embedded in the description, let alone a logo incorporated into the video. Hawthorne Books could have produced a video with Frank Meeink, author of Autobiography of a Recovering Skinhead, introduced him, and spoke about why Frank’s tale is important. They could have positioned themselves as a publisher that doesn’t just produce literature, but a publisher that produces literature that matters and changes lives. Those sorts of distinctions help differentiate a publisher and its books from all the other publishers and their books. Such marketing events need to originate from genuine interest, or they will come across as contrived sales tactics, like Bookish; however, it’s just as important to capitalize on the events and video documentation available, or readers will be unaware of what a publisher believes in, and without that communication a relationship will be less likely to form. Flashy sales tactics might get a customer to buy a book once, but relationships will make a reader a life-long fan.

Conclusion

Video marketing should not be seen as some sort of arcane magic, or a heresy to a print-based industry, or as a golden promotional bullet. It is simply a tool, and should be used along with other tools to achieve a desired effect. Branding can be carried out whether it’s a logo in a video or a mission statement included in the front matter of a book. Publishers don’t need to use either A or B, but should use both, and probably some C too, and fit all marketing media to its platform and its intended consumer.

[1] Dennis Johnson. “The Moby Awards for the Best & Worst Book Trailers: And the winners are . . .” May 20, 2010. http://www.mhpbooks.com/the-moby-awards-for-the-best-worst-book-trailers-and-the-winners-are/and-the-winners-are/

[2] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOXDD3atWco

[3] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x4BK_2VULCU#t=19

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ROtW75HNAiw&feature=plcp

[5] Lauren Mechling. “Watch This Book.” June 7, 2008. http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121278684291753001

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3btem4fmeHA&list=PLIPjGVUO3OF-o0GzrLvOxGuAPxwKHUuim&index=6

[7] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT30BSgxyFo&index=10&list=PL3TzEiC9vhne1rLvie3JqiXgBEEWisTxc

[8] https://www.youtube.com/user/PenguinGroupUSA

[9] Shirin Najafi. “Fantastic Book Trailers and the Reasons They’re So Good.” June 27, 2013. http://therumpus.net/2013/06/fantastic-book-trailers-and-the-reasons-theyre-so-good/

[10] Christopher Shea. “The Insane World of Book Trailers.” June 3, 2011. http://blogs.wsj.com/ideas-market/2011/06/03/the-insane-world-of-book-trailers/

[11] “The Insane World of Book Trailers.”

[12] “The Insane World of Book Trailers.”

[13] “The Insane World of Book Trailers.”

[14] “Watch This Book.”

[15] Joanna Penn. “Book Trailers and Using Video for Book Marketing.” March 2, 2015. http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2015/03/02/book-trailers/

[16] http://www.virtuets.com/45-video-marketing-statistics/

[17] https://www.internetretailer.com/2012/04/05/online-videos-help-build-confidence-purchases

[18] “Book Trailers and Using Video for Book Marketing.”

[19] http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB121278684291753001

[20] http://authordiscovery.com/2013/04/24/book-trailers-dont-increase-book-sales-but-done-right-they-may-boost-book-discoverability/

[21] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UbsNfwkZwk

[22] http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html

[23] DBW. “Biggest Problems Facing Publishing: Disappearing Shelf Space, Discovery, Pace of Change.” January 14, 2014. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/biggest-problems-facing-publishing-disappearing-shelf-space-discovery-pace-of-change/

[24] “Landing Page Best Practices” Accessed July 20, 2015. http://unbounce.com/landing-page-articles/landing-page-best-practices/

[25] “Verizon Wireless, enabling better communications.” May 2014. http://www.adobe.com/content/dam/Adobe/en/customer-success/pdfs/verizon-case-study.pdf

[26] “How Consumers Shop with Video—And How to Sell to Them.” March 2013. http://www.e-tailing.com/content/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/118invodowebinardeck_Final.pdf

[27] http://www.youtube.com/yt/press/statistics.html

[28] https://www.createspace.com/en/community/message/165846

[29] http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/243690-book-videos-on-amazon

[30] http://www.amazon.com/Miss-Peregrines-Home-Peculiar-Children-ebook/dp/B004FGMDOQ/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&sr=1-1-fkmr0&qid=1437255061

[31] Richard Verrier. “On Location: Book publishers borrowing a page from Hollywood.” November 9, 2011.

http://articles.latimes.com/2011/nov/09/business/la-fi-ct-onlocation-20111109

[32] https://vimeo.com/pro

[33] http://www.rockyourwriting.com/2011/08/do-book-trailers-work/

[34] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X58RPS665V0

[35] “Biggest Problems Facing Publishing.”

[36] Ben Florsheim. “The Problems With the Publishing Industry.” August 2, 2013. http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/ten-miles-square/2013/08/the_problems_with_the_publishi046183.php

[37] Penelope Trunk. July 13, 2012. “From PR to profits: the problems with publishing.”

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2012/jul/13/the-problems-with-publishing

[38] Anthony Horowitz. “Do We Still Need Publishers?” February 27, 2012. http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2012/feb/27/anthony-horowitz-do-we-still-need-publishers

[39] Jeremy Greenfield. “Simon & Schuster Moves to Build Publisher Brand With ‘Behind the Book’ Videos.” August 4, 2014. http://www.digitalbookworld.com/2014/simon-schuster-moves-to-build-publisher-brand-with-behind-the-book-videos/

[40] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FlnAFH4HV4

[41] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mmrRuCHmb0&list=PL-71r3OWGsTFAuIhFiHX6MW1WlcItzQ02&index=5

[42] Jeremy Greenfield. “What Publishing Companies Do in a World Where Anyone Can Publish a Book.” June 27, 2012.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield/2012/06/27/what-publishing-companies-do-in-a-world-where-anyone-can-publish-a-book/

[43] John McMurtie. “McSweeney’s to become nonprofit publishing house.” October 16, 2014.

http://blog.sfgate.com/bookmarks/2014/10/16/mcsweeneys-to-become-a-nonprofit-publishing-house/

[44] Som, Ashok and Christian Blanckeart. “Branding,” in The Road to Luxury (Singapore: John Wiley & Sons, 2015), 89-132.

[45] https://www.ted.com/speakers/chip_kidd

[46] http://chipkidd.com/home/

[47] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sutgWjz10sM

[48] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu5Erw-posg

[49] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OCavo3KeCDs

[50] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l2Z86L25v30

[51] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ke9O4hC8AVM

[52] “How to Make a Book Trailer for $50,000.” November 10, 2011. http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2011/11/how-to-make-a-book-trailer-for-50000.html

[53] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sutgWjz10sM

[54] http://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/

[55] http://www.simonandschuster.com/

[56] http://www.scholastic.com/home/

[57] Suw Charman-Anderson. “Publishers, Readers And The End Of Booksellers.” September 21, 2013. http://www.forbes.com/sites/suwcharmananderson/2013/09/21/publishers-readers-and-the-end-of-booksellers/

[58] Sally Lodge. “Swoon Reads Introduces Crowdsourced Publishing Model.” December 20, 2012. http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/55210-swoon-reads-introduces-crowdsourced-publishing-model.html

[59] http://the-digital-reader.com/2013/03/30/theres-a-reason-that-no-one-in-publishing-bought-goodreads/

[60] https://bookpeoplecamphalfblood.wordpress.com/about/

[61] http://www.rickriordan.com/home

[62] https://www.youtube.com/user/HawthorneBooks/videos

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Homebrewed Design

I enjoy roleplaying. As a kid, my friends and I pretended we were heroes: fighting imaginary bad-guys, playing multiple good-guys, or switching back and forth between sides to add more interaction. Our imagination was the limit, which meant that we were swordsmen, robots, catmen, rubber wizards, and wielded candy cane swords. We campaigned across the playground at school, and called the game, aptly, “Adventure.” A couple times one of my friends and I played some roleplaying games with his dad, who owned a game store: once D&D, and once Star Wars. Both were a ton of fun.

Unfortunately, both my friends’ parents divorced, which meant both friends moved away. Going into middle school I had to start over, after five years of playing with the same two people. I tried to find people to play with – even made my mom play with me once – but I didn’t have a lot of luck finding friends in middle school.

Fast forward to today. I’ve finally found people to play with again – in fact, I usually have too many people wanting to play in my campaigns, and am looking to have two going  simultaneously, while I play a character in a Mutant Year Zero campaign that a friend is running. I like DMing as much as I like playing a character. DMing lets me have a lot of creativity with the setting and the story, which calls to my writer side; however, having tried out D&D 3.5, 4th, 5th, and looked at Pathfinder, I haven’t found a fantasy roleplaying system that I love. For my two new campaigns I’m trying a little homebrew, mixing elements of Pathfinder and 5th edition, while tweaking it with my own ideas. As part of that, I designed my own character sheets, which you can see below:

charactersheet

Each page has its own subject: provided character sheets always seemed jumbled to me, which what information went where. First page is practical game information, second page is character description and background, third page is equipment, and fourth page is magic and companions. I got to add in my own attributes and customize which skills were available, and I’m trying out a different style of weight system – we’ll see how it works. So far, character generation has gone well, and I’m enjoying the flexibility homebrewing is providing. Somehow, when I grew up, I started getting really bogged down by rules: I’m hoping this process lets my imagination once again roam free.