Monday, December 26, 2011

My favorite holiday movie: Hugo and the Creation of a Fantastic Story World

I don’t know how many of you have seen the fantastic new movie “Hugo,” currently out in theatres. But we could learn a lot from the movie in terms of creating a fantastic story world, one that hooks you in and won’t let go.

Without giving away too much, Hugo is a little boy who lives in a giant clock in a railroad station just after World War I. His father dies and he is forced to live with his uncle (a very mean drunkard—shades of Charles Dickens.) When his uncle dies, he lives in fear of the evil train station security guard, who will whisk him off to an orphanage if he learns Hugo has lost all of his relatives. The boy finds a fabulous mechanical man, called an automaton, and tries to get him to work using his father’s special tools. (His father was an expert at fixing things). The automaton does give him a message which leads him to a fascinating old man who works at the train station selling toys, from whom he has originally stolen the mysterious metal figure. This man has a connection to the early days of moviemaking and to his father.

The story is set in a miraculous fantasy world and is shot in the best 3D I’ve ever seen. The pictures literally leap off the page. Can you make your settings and characters do that? Can you create a fantasy world that mesmerizes and amazes? Will your readers get lost in the story because of it?

Whether you’re writing a fantasy or not, you still need to create that kind of world. A special world that your characters inhabit, where evil lurks and love triumphs. One that’s above reality, one that’s special. It’s hard to do, but using our imagination can work wonders. And, of course, like Hugo’s world, there must be hope and there must be a happy ending.

What’s your favorite book or movie whose setting literally swept you away to another world—Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Twilight saga—or? Let me know!

Next week: What makes a successful blog and what’s the best day to blog?

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Do Book Trailers Really Help Sell Books?

Last week, I blogged about how to create a book trailer the easy way and I often wonder do these things help sell books? They may be a quick YouTube production or a more detailed and expensively produced one, but does it make a difference? Do they sell your books? I’m more apt to read a blurb than I am to watch a trailer, maybe because they’re still a new promo option to me. And if you go to the Wild Rose Press, Amazon or to Smashwords, potential buyers are more apt to read a description of your book and its reviews rather than watch a trailer, which is often only posted at your website.

It’s funny, we watch movie trailers all the time because it’s such a common thing and usually the main way we hear about new movies. While watching TV, a movie trailer will often pop up or we see them in the theatre (for about fifteen minutes before the actual movie we’ve paid for starts). Sometimes I even get bored with them, like enough already, let’s just start the movie. There aren’t as many for books that I’ve seen, though occasionally I do see a book ad on TV or hear one on the radio (usually for some mega best-selling author like James Patterson).

Like paid advertising, the jury’s still out on the value of book trailers, though they seem to be a necessity these days like everything else in the book marketing world. I still think the best promotional tool is the books themselves, how many you’ve written and the fan base you’ve developed over the years. That’s how I buy books. When I hear a new book is out by an author I’ve enjoyed, I rush to buy it (at a discount, of course).

What do you think?

Next week: My favorite holiday movie: Hugo and the Creation of a Fantastic Story World

Sunday, December 11, 2011

How to Make a Cheap Book Trailer Yourself

While on a recent Caribbean cruise, my boyfriend and I shot additional footage of Belize with his video camera as a promotion for my latest book, “The Montezuma Secret,” which is set in Belize. He filmed me explaining the plot of the book, and I began by saying: “Here I am, in beautiful Belize.” He also shot footage of me doing an interview with a local TV reporter and camera crew. It’s set to appear as a book trailer on my website.

So whenever you travel, either cross-country or abroad, take your video camera! It doesn’t have to be expensive to shoot a book trailer promo. You can do it yourself! Use backgrounds that look similar to your book’s setting, even while at home. It doesn’t have to be the real thing. Go to the zoo. Shoot pictures of exotic animals and call it the jungle. Go to a nearby lake, pretend it’s the ocean. Visit a forest or national park. Go to the airport, film planes taking off. Shoot a train or sailboat in miniature. Film the sky, a sunset, a rainstorm, a blizzard. And don’t forget to include a picture of your book’s cover! Movies are all about imagination. You’ve heard the term “movie magic.” That’s what it is! Get friends and family in on the act. And use your own voice to promote the book. Read your blurb. Read an excerpt. Be dramatic. Let the actor or actress in you take over. You’re an artist too, a very special one. An author. So sell it! Post it on YouTube, your website and blog. People love video. A picture speaks a thousand words!

Any video camera will do. And if you don’t have one, buy one! Cheap video flip cameras abound, all for less than $100. Even your phone has a camera option. You don’t have to have a professional videographer and expensive camera crew. So the next time you think, I’d love to do a book trailer, but I just don’t know how, think again. Keep it simple and see what you can come up with! It’s a lot of fun to star in pictures!

What is your experience with making book trailers?

Next week: Do Book Trailers Sell Books?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to Creatively Promote while on Vacation and During the Holidays

How Just a Little Initiative Can Make Things Happen

Case Study #1: While on a Caribbean cruise two weeks ago, we stopped at Belize, which just happens to be the site of my latest book “The Montezuma Secret.” When we went ashore, we stopped at an art gallery where a TV camera crew was filming award-winning paintings for that evening’s newscast. My boyfriend went up to the reporter and said “She wrote a book about Belize.” The reporter’s interest perked up and he came over and talked to me where I explained about how “The Montezuma Secret” had been set in Belize, was available on and and how it had received Five Star Reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. His interest perked up further. He congratulated me on giving him a new angle for the story and agreed to interview me. We went outside, where there was a lovely backdrop of the river and sailboats behind me and he asked me about how I decided to set the book in Belize. I explained that it was a beautiful exotic place that I always wanted to visit and how I wished I had more time to stay in the country other than the short cruise ship stop. I also explained that “The Montezuma Secret” was about a search for Montezuma’s lost gold which has never been found, although rumors abounded that the gold might have been moved to neighboring Guatemala. I added that I fictionalized moving the gold to Belize because I had wanted to set a story there. The interview was set to air that night on local TV. Moral of the story: You never know when a good promotional opportunity will come along so keep your eyes open, be gutsy and be prepared!

Case Study #2: I live in a small quaint village in Wisconsin, just south of Milwaukee, which celebrates every holiday with verve and panache—thousands of tiny lights, hay rides, craft fairs, horse-drawn sleigh rides at Christmas, you name it, they’ve thought of it. All of these events are very well attended, drawing thousands of people from Milwaukee and the surrounding suburbs as well as neighboring Illinois. While visiting the downtown area this past October, I happened to notice a poster on one of the charming little shops promoting someone’s book for the upcoming annual “Hay Days” celebration. I went inside and talked to the clerk, who told me it was her book and said the owner had graciously agreed to let her promote it inside her shop during “Hay Days.” I asked her how I could participate in future events. She told me to contact the village and noted that everyone had been very helpful to local vendors, artists, and authors. I contacted the village via their website, but heard nothing back. (There were several different websites, one for the shops and business, one for the village itself and I wasn’t sure which one was the correct venue.) After two attempts and still hearing nothing back, I contacted the mayor directly. He was kind enough to give me a return phone call and advised me to contact the manager of all the local businesses, which I did. The manager told me to contact one of the shop owners to act as a sponsor for a future event: “Dickens of a Christmas,” “Valentine’s Day,” etc. I am in the process of doing that and hope to be a participant in the next Valentine’s Day event as a great tie-in for a local romance author. Moral of the story: If at first you don’t’ succeed, try, try again!
What’s your favorite promotional story?
Next week: How to Make a Cheap, Quick and Easy Book Trailer