How Book Authors Use Web Video

By Greg Published on .

When Crown Publishing releases sci-fi author Scott Sigler’s novel “Infected” in April, the publisher will rely on traditional book marketing to get the word out, but Mr. Sigler plans to do his own Web-video book trailer.

He’s not the only author taking to the medium.

Canadian author Courtney Summers has also begun work on a book trailer that she’ll distribute on YouTube next year when St. Martin’s releases her young adult novel “Cracked Up to Be.”

Industry: Publishing

Video play: Authors and publishers create podcasts and videos for book promotion.

Strategy: Build an on line fan base that will translate to book sales.

Then there’s Charles Bock. When his novel “Beautiful Children” was released earlier this year, the work was featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review Mr. Bock also appeared on ManiaTV’s online show “Spread Entertainment,” hosted by former Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro, and on the Web show

Authors are beginning to embrace Web video as a means to promote their own books, while publishers are also starting to get hip to the word-of-mouth and buzz potential that lies in online video marketing. Not only did Mr. Bock embrace the Web, so did his publisher Random House. The publisher offered the book for free, online, for two days in February.

Their efforts represent a change in the notoriously slow publishing industry. As a printed medium, publishing has been slow to adapt to new media. Most publishers still lean on traditional book marketing for their titles, such as ads in the book-review sections of newspapers. But as consumers migrate to the Web, publishers are being forced to reconsider how they do business too.

Harper Perennial, Putnam and Random House Canada are among some of the early pioneers in testing Web video.

Harper Perennial first experimented with Web video last year for Chad Kultgen’s novel, “The Average American Male,” by posting videos on YouTube showing social situations from a guy’s perspective, in keeping with the book’s themes, said Carrie Kania, senior VP and publisher at Harper Perennial. She would not disclose sales for the book, but said the videos performed well and played a part in driving purchases.

So Harper tried again with Neil Strauss’ New York Times best-selling title, “Rules of the Game,” late last year. The publishing house created a Web series in tandem with MySpace that includes how-to information for successful dating. Both books were a good fit for online video since they target young men, the heaviest consumers of Web video. Mr. Strauss also appeared on Mr. Navarro’s Web show to talk about his book.

“Very high-end Pulitzer Prize winning literary novels are not necessarily the ones I would rush to do a video for, but if you have an author like Neil Strauss, then let’s try something,” Ms. Kania said.

GP Putnam’s partnered with Michael Eisner’s new-media studio Tornante Co. to create a Web series for the next Robin Cook novel, “Foreign Body.” The Web series will premiere in May and serve as a prequel to the book, which releases in August.

Ivan Held, president of GP Putnam’s, hopes the Web series will drive interest in the book and introduce Mr. Cook to a younger demographic online.

“If this takes off of course we want to do more,” Mr. Held said.

Authors also need to take matters into own hands because the upside of Web video is so tremendous and the costs are relatively low.

“The biggest bang for the buck is online,” said Mr. Sigler, who will use his own money to create his book trailer. “If I have a video that blows up on MySpace, I could have 100,000 people see that in four hours. There is no other format unless you get covered by network news or Oprah. You have to get out there and hustle to get your stuff in front of people.”
Book trailers are also easy to make, said Ms. Summers.

“Programs like Windows Movie Maker and iMovie make the process painless and sites like YouTube--which is where I plan to upload my trailer when the time comes--make it possible for anyone to embed and distribute your video on their Web sites and Myspace/Facebook profiles, if they find it compelling enough.”

Video is especially important for a young adult book because teens are so Web-savvy.
Video can also take the place of an author tour. When Random House of Canada released “The Gum Thief” last year, it created nine short videos to encapsulate the book’s story and posted them on YouTube. Mr. Coupland read passages from the book and also provided the voiceover for the videos, which replaced the traditional book tour.

The book was a bestseller in Canada, said Sharon Klein, deputy director of publicity at Random House of Canada. Costs for the video were minimal and the videos helped generate publicity for the book. They were covered in national papers and on Canadian TV, she said.

“A lot of people look at publishing as old fashioned and staid and we say how can we be relevant?” she said. is aiming to move book talk online. The site launched in early March and uses Viddler technology so viewers can watch an hour-long episode or skip to the section that interests them, said Daniel Menaker, the show’s host and a former Random House editor.

“We feel with all the potential for exchange online, and interactivity with downloading and podcasting a book, that a good interesting conversation show about books works especially because it can be chapterized,” Mr. Menaker said.

-Daisy Whitney
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