Many of us think in words. Authors are like that. Our thoughts take on a distinct inner voice — dependent on mood, muse and cups of coffee.
So when we’re faced with the option of building a book trailer, with words and pictures and animations… well, it’s daunting.
With an NYU Film School education and several years of playing the Hollywood game, I’ve set out to craft a trailer for my upcoming series, The Camelot Kids. I’m delighted with it so far, so I thought I’d share some basic rules that have helped me focus.
Here are my impressions of what works, what doesn’t and how to avoid the common mistakes I spot in book trailers every day.
Here are some resources for you to dig into:
Tools for book trailer creation
Adobe Voice for iPad
A spectacular tool. I don’t use that word lightly. That’s the term I save in my quiver for special occasions.
The app on the iPad does everything and does it well. You can make a slick presentation within minutes. If you want to make a fast, elegant trailer that focuses on your writing style, character voices or humor then Adobe Voice can help you. Oh, and they have tens of thousands of stock images for free. The app adds the correct credit to the end of the video so you’re pretty safe.
I can’t recommend this app enough.
Some quality book trailers have been done with Prezi tools. Like Adobe Voice, the service will help you look slick. But unlike Adobe Voice, you don’t have simple and searchable access to free, accredited images.
Graphicstock and BigStock are (as of this writing) offering a free one week trial to their library of images. You need to give a credit card to get access, but you can cancel if you don’t think the service gives you enough value.
If you decide that voice is a critical component of your trailer, then you really can’t go wrong with Blue’s Yeti mic. It looks great and sounds even better. While the sensitivity can be high it’s nothing that can’t be adjusted for with a little distance from the mic.
Book trailers that work
Fantastic book trailers and the reasons they’re so good
7 Brilliant Book Trailers
A funny piece in The New Yorker about book trailers
Have you made a book trailer? What do you think of book trailers? Let us know in the comments!
By Ben Zackheim
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How to write an author bio that sells books
Choose the best genre for your book on Amazon
Welcome to the first in a series of video tutorials!
The series will cover best practices for today’s author. I don’t want the information to be useful to one type of writer or another. I don’t care if you’re self-published, small press-backed, big publisher-backed… good info is good info. Authors are in this thing together. The more we share our common experiences, the better we’ll steer our own boats.
Let me know what you think in the comments!
Cheat sheet. Use it once you’ve read the rest of this post!
In my last post, I covered the general rules of choosing the right genre for your book. I spoke briefly about Amazon’s categories. I’ll go into more details now.
The ground rules for Amazon categories are simple:
Every genre on Amazon gets to have its own tidy list of popular titles.
Each of these lists is often visited by fans of those genres.
Amazon scours their popularity lists for books to promote.
So how do you show up on a popular Amazon list?
Choose the right genre when you publish your book on Amazon.
Once you’ve identified which genres you belong in, you need to decide which genre is easiest for you to get in the Top 20. We’re shooting for the Top 20 because that means your book would show up on the first page of that genre’s Amazon page.
Good place to be…
After we find the easiest genre to place in, we’ll shoot for a tougher genre. Just to keep things interesting!
How to choose the right genre for your book on Amazon
Okay, let’s say we write a Mystery ebook for kids with a female detective (like oh, say, Shirley Link). Here are some of the possible categories on Amazon. I dug these up by rummaging through Amazon’s genre lists (seen on the left hand side of this page)
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Action & Adventure
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Beginner Readers
Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Chapter Books
Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Women Sleuths
Any of these genres would work for the book. So how do we choose which genre we can get to #20 in?
Using Theresa Ragan’s sales estimator, I get a ballpark idea of how many books I’d need to sell to crack the top 20 of each possible genre.
So the #20 book in Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives is Nancy Drew & The Bungalow Mystery.
But, more important to us is the book’s overall Kindle rank of 39,589 (see image below).
Checking Theresa’s sales estimator, this means the book sells between 3-15 copies per day.
Nancy Drew: The Bungalow Mystery sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:
On the other hand, Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives is a tough one. The 20th ranked book has an overall Kindle sales rank of 3,239. This means the book sells between 30-50 books per day.
Spirit Animals Book 1 sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:
I think I can manage to sell 3-15 books per day, but 30-50 will take some ingenuity. If I can find a way to crack the tough Action & Adventure Top 20 list then that will mean much more exposure to more people. I’m willing to claw my way up that genre’s listings over the long haul. One good sales day could be a game changer.
It’s fine to choose low-popularity genres for your picks. You’re more likely to be seen by fans of those genres if you rank high! But don’t be afraid to experiment if you’re not happy with sales. Yes, it’s possible to lose sales because you’ve changed genres, but if you do it with a marketing plan to back it up then you can gain crucial customer knowledge.
If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. Don’t forget to use the cheat sheet above. And pass it on to a writer friend.
Thanks for reading!
By Ben Zackheim
Helpful tool: Sign up for EBookTracker to get details on any book’s ranking over time. The tool won’t help you see actual sales, but it will give you insights around your favorite genre’s movers and shakers.
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Amazon has a bridge to sell ya!
The $1.1 Million question: Is KDP Select worth it?
Isn’t it fun to write about yourself? Wouldn’t you love to make a career out of coming up with new ways to talk about how interesting you are? Me neither.
Can author bios sell books? If you believe that a great cover, glowing reviews and a spot-on book description can sell books, then you’ll believe me when I say yes. The author bio is a featured data point all over the web. If a reader loves your bio, then imagine what they can get out of an entire book! Yeah, author bios sell books.
The fact is, author bios are the best way to make yourself compelling to a complete stranger who’s thinking about buying your book. Very few authors over the years have enjoyed crafting bios. But we still need them.
And we need to write more of them! For example, you need to tailor unique bios for your marketing efforts. Blogs, newsletters, deal sites, listings… many of them want a unique bio and book description when you submit. It’s frustrating but it makes sense. They don’t want their audience (or Google) to see them as redundant.
So here are some best practices that I’ve discovered on my journey. They’ve saved me time. They’ve made promotion just a tad bit easier just when I needed it most. And they’ve sold a few books!
Author bio tip 1. Your bio isn’t about you. It’s about your audience. Okay, technically that’s not true, but think about it. You’ve caught someone’s attention! That’s a big win! Don’t lose it by taking your eyes off of your goal here.
So make the bio appeal to your target audience. If that means showing off your snappy, friendly and entertaining self to sell your kids book, then cool. If you’re going for insightful, deep and intelligent for your paranormal romance then let it fly.
But please, whatever you do, don’t neglect your bio. It’s not below you. Some readers consider it a key part of their decision to buy, so treat your bio with the respect it deserves.
While all five of these tips will help you make a better bio, tips 2 and 3 are the best advice for how to write an author bio that sells books.
Author bio tip 2. Write the bio for the site where it will live, and mention your reading interests. As I’ve advised before, you should dig into the online store that you’re selling on. Even a smattering of research can yield insights that will help focus your bio.
What kind of books do you enjoy? Mystery? On Amazon you get the following drop-down results when you type that term in the search window:
My advice for this genre is to mention you like “mystery series” on your B&N bio. Mention you enjoy “mystery books” or “mystery and thriller” on your Amazon bio.
See what I’m doing there? I’m leveraging the site’s search engine to tell me what customers search for. All the terms that you see in the drop-down are arranged by popularity, so it’s great info that you can use to connect with readers.
I’ve written on this method of finding your target audience before, so I won’t belabor the point.
But one last thing, don’t get bogged down on this step. Really, what you should do is…
Author bio tip 3. Be passionate. When you write about your passions, your writing gets better. So mention your passions — hobbies, family, travel stories. It will help you connect with the reader.
Author bio tip 4. When you do finally get in the mood to hammer your way through your author bio, don’t just write one! Hey, you’re on a roll, so take advantage. Write five to ten quick and dirty bios that you can adjust later. Keep it in one file, somewhere safe. Then when you run into one of those sites that requires you to give them a unique author bio, you’ll have some fresh ones to choose from. Tighten it up and you’re done.
Author bio tip 5. First or third person? Great question. More independent authors are choosing first person. I think the reason for this is two-fold. One, it’s more comfy. Two, they want to convey their brand in a more casual way.
The counter argument is “first-person is amateurish and third person is professional.” The bios you read on books in the bookstore are rarely in first person, after all.
But I think most bios sound dull. And I’ll bet they’re dull because they’re written by authors who aren’t comfortable writing about themselves in the third person. Or they’re written by a hired hand who doesn’t know the author. Either way I lean toward first person myself because that’s what comes naturally.
How about you? Go ahead and paste your author bio in the comments section. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how to write an author bio that sells books!
By Ben Zackheim
You hear the one about the two authors who walk into a bar? One has a mailing list. The other one has zip. Nada.
Mailing List: “I saw that tweet about your book sale the other day.”
Zip Nada: “Yeah. I got two whole sales after a week of prep, a $50 ad spend on Goodreads and 28 tweets.”
Mailing List: “Wow. That sucks.”
Zip Nada: “Thanks. That’s really helpful. I got your newsletter about your book last month. Looked nice.”
Mailing List: “50 copies sold. Not too bad. Why don’t you use your email list to promote sales?”
Zip Nada: “I don’t have one.”
Mailing List: “Oh man! It took me seven years to build mine! You’d better get started, like yesterday!”
What’s the punchline of the joke? Zip Nada punches Mailing List in the face.
If a writer doesn’t have an email list, does he make a sound when he falls in the forest?
Many writers experience dismal sales from Twitter/Facebook/[enter social network name here]. A common complaint is, “My followers are family, friends or fellow writers who don’t buy other writer’s books.”
We’re told that we should have an email list. That way we can reach the highest quality, most targeted audience possible.
Uh. I’m afraid all the above is true.
Here’s some great (and little-discussed) news. If you use Twitter then you can reach your target audience. No matter what the “quality” is of your followers!
Twitter Analytics, is a spectacular tool for finding people to buy your book.
You could say, “but that assumes my social network followers care about my books and they demonstrably do not.” This is a big misconception,and probably one of the most damaging to authors who blog, tweet and share online. We’re told by a lot of smart people out there that people who follow us, Like our posts or share our tweets aren’t necessarily fans, or even readers.
That’s a glass half empty (and incomplete) perspective.
The Twitter connections we’ve made online with non-fans and even non-readers are valuable enough to sell books.
How can that be? Because Twitter has learned so much about them!
Here’s what I mean. This is a breakdown of my Twitter following.
Is that a marketer’s ten thousand dollar breakdown of potential audience?
No, it’s Twitter’s free report on my followers.
Yup. They actually tell me what interests my followers have, even broken down by favorite genres! So for all my Twitter struggles and misses and successes over the years, in the final analysis it was my mere presence that gave Twitter the data it needed to say, “Hey, good job reaching out. Here’s who you have. Now go have fun selling your book to them!”
How does this help you? If you look at your own follower breakdown you’ll spot interests and terms that you can tweet about. For instance, using the data above, I just brainstormed a new tweet that I’m going to try:
Tweet: How do teenagers learn #leadership skills? Shirley gets crash course in #mystery Shirley Link & The Treasure Chest http://ctt.ec/n4z2o+
In that book, my heroine (Shirley Link) gets a lesson in leadership when she tries to get her two best (and bickering) friends to work together. All while dragging her dad around so he can help with the case.
So I’ve used two terms that I know (from solid Twitter data) will resonate with a huge part of my Twitter following: “mystery” and “leadership”.
But it doesn’t end there. You could apply this data to find terms for your book description, your book metadata and even blog posts about your book. Then when your audience clicks on the tweet they’ll see their favorite subject brought up again and again as they decide if they want to buy or not.
Conclusion: Get signed up for Twitter Analytics to find your target audience
So the lesson here is, you might not have a big enough mailing list yet. But as you build that up, don’t fret. Use Twitter and some common sense and you’ll find your readers.
Sign up for Twitter analytics here.
by Ben Zackheim
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