Thursday, April 28, 2011

Everything I know About Marketing, I learned From Tina Turner

“What’s love got to do with it?” asked Tina Turner in the sixties. 

Today, they’re still asking the same old question and I’m sure it’s a question we’ll be asking for generations to come. “What’s love, but a second hand emotion,” is the answer.

Ahh, emotion. What would the world be without it? How can you distill that emotion, bottle it up and cork it tightly? And when you’re ready to play, pop the cork, and unleash the genie inside. But what really are the bottle’s magical contents? What exactly evokes all those emotions? What inspires people to stop, watch and listen to your book trailer? More importantly, what motivates them to click and buy? Meaningful stories, filled with conflict. 

Problems, problems, problems. In real life, we try to avoid problems at all costs, but in literature, problems, better known as conflicts, are front and center stage at all times. Without conflict, there are no meaningful stories to tell. But how much should you tell? How much of the story do you give away in your book trailer?

The case for making long book trailers revolves around this idea, “The more you tell, the more you sell" mentalityBased on a tried and true advertising model, particularly ideal in the seventies and eighties, but not as relevant or as effective today, at least not on the internet.  Remember, the internet is quite unlike print publications. The internet is limitless and forever growing and expanding like some kind of universe―super fast and far-reaching. It demands speed even as it instills a speedy, almost anxious mindset on its users. Click, scan, click, from here to infinity.

This is not your Daddy's Internet:
The days of slow modems are long gone. Today, most people have high-speed fiber optic connections that are always on and lightning fast. Page loading times are virtually no longer an issue. When you click on a link, there it is, in a flash. For the most part, as long as your computer isn’t bogged down by registry errors, bloated browser caches or software-developer’s anti-virus, viruses, (hint, clue, wink) your pages load almost instantly.

Readers see the internet as a prime source of an immediate, speedy way of getting relevant information. Today’s readers and web surfers (largely, a younger generation) search for and consume huge amounts of digital information, seemingly as fast as it loads, and just as fast, they move on to something else.

This sense of immediacy and instant gratification has bred a whole new generation of web surfers that not only rely on high-speed internet access , but they thrive on its ability to deliver information faster than they can process it. In turn, that prompts them to stop only when something is meaningful enough to get their attention. And that means attention spans are cut drastically, to mere seconds per page sometimes. 

With billions of pages at their fingertips, it’s no wonder users are so finicky about what they read. So the obvious question is: What stops readers dead in their tracks? What keeps them riveted and glued to a particular page?

What's the Answer?
The answer is simple: An emotional connection. A speed bump on the lightning fast information super highway. Period. End of story. There’s no other reason because emotion is the only reason. What kind of emotion? How about curiosity? What about fear, anger, or longing? Do you think the search for love can stop a person dead in their tracks? Love of what? Love of a particular thing, a certain subject matter, a kind of personality or a particular image that speaks volumes to them. Anything that tells a meaningful story, in a flash.

Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been searching for happiness through love and relationships, through friendships, through an understanding of something else. Anything that promises or suggests meaning. People are forever curious and searching for happiness or anything that even looks like the semblance of a good time. Something that really matters to them.

"Good ole emotion, folks. Take it or leave it,  it’s here to stay—forever and ever."

So what does emotion have to do with book teasers? Everything, of course. Problem is, most people don’t realize that emotion makes the world go round and round, and even more people don’t know how to define or present an emotional story on video. Wow. Houston, we definitely have a problem.

Luckily, I know a little about emotion. After all, I died once for 45 minutes, and then I died again when I got divorced after 13 years of an impossible marriage. (Yes, that’s precisely when I regretted not dying for an eternity the first time.) But that’s just the tip of the emotional iceberg, folks. Can you feel my pain? “Right, we’ve got it,” they said.

Forget you!
But what about book teasers? What’s up with that? Why is 30 seconds so much better than a long, 2 minute trailer? You’re right about one thing. Thirty seconds is not long enough. Whaat?

That’s the whole point, my friend. If a short 30 second book teaser doesn’t show enough, that means the viewer is left wanting more, and that’s exactly what you want. Long trailers tell way too much of the story and leave very little to the imagination, draining the story of its very essence―its mystery. If you seemingly tell everything, then there’s no reason for the viewer to search for more. You’ve given away too much, and possibly the best parts of your story.

That’s where the 30 second teaser works its magic. A very short story that engages the viewer in a meaningful way, but piques their curiosity to the point where they must click to find out more about the book and how your story ends.

Piece of cake, folks. All you have to do is find the emotional thread that drives your story. But that’s only half the job. You’ll then have to write the emotional words, find the right images and the heartfelt soundtrack, and then put that all together into an intense 30 second video presentation. Nothing to it.

The Hard Truth:
It’s a lot like watching someone play Mozart on piano. Looks like nothing more than someone hitting a bunch of keys, big deal. Seemingly, anyone can do it. You have two hands and two feet, what more do you need? Right.

Listen, if you want a powerful book teaser that represents you and your books in a meaningful way, I can play the piano. Heck, I can especially play some Tina Turner. So, if you have something in mind for your first or your next book trailer, run the concept by me and I’ll be happy to take a look at it and offer you suggestions on how to make it even better. No strings; just solid advice on how to make your book trailer more than just catchy music―but an effective marketing and sales tool instead.

Email me today with any questions and if you missed any part of my 3-part Book Trailer Tutorial, check it out here from the beginning. It’s filled with eye-opening stuff you can use to design your next book trailer that will save you time, money, and plenty of headaches.

Learn more here:

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Book Trailer Tutorial Part III

Part Three:

If you just saw the Duma Key Teaser, you know how effective it is―all 32 seconds of it. 

Here's the article:

It’s all in the writing concept, the imagery and the music. In essence, the very short, short story, told with a twist that highlights the hook. They’ve left nothing to chance and made every second count. This is your goal, even if your book teaser turns out a little longer, the important thing is that you play up your hook but keep it as short as possible.

Notice the opening and the tag line in this teaser.

Opening: “Need to escape?”

End Tag: “Return trip, not guaranteed.”

This is more than just a clever play on words.  It’s powerful sales copy, designed to prompt you to take action. The reason you’ll click on this teaser link is because you need to find out more about this story. Remember the old saying? “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.”

How true that is, and more so in your marketing. Now here are the big secrets why you want to keep your book teaser so short.

1.     Brevity leaves your reader wanting more: By highlighting only the key points to your story and playing up your hook, readers have no choice but to seek more information, so they click for more.

2.     Brevity leaves a lot questions about your story, unanswered: Leaving holes in your presentation builds curiosity. This is priceless because no one can resist curiosity, so that propels readers to click for answers.

3.     Brevity creates a sense of incompletion, which in turn, motivates readers to click in search for a resolution: This is the best reason of all to keep your teaser short. With limited information, just enough to build curiosity, readers have no choice but to click because they need closure. You’ve created an open loop and readers need to tie all the loose ends together, so they click.

As you can see, there’s a lot of clicking going on here. When you work off a strong story concept, an unusual angle, a unique hook, you engage readers at a deep emotional level. You draw them in and the only way out is for them to click and find out how your story might end, at least in their own mind.

Should all book trailers be short teasers like this? Of course not, but the key here is brevity. Be succinct and don't linger. Get to the point as quickly as you can, without giving away too much. Build suspense and curiosity by focusing on your hook, until readers have no choice but to click for the rest.

Great, clicking is good. Your short book teaser has done its job. Clicking on your teaser link draws readers one step closer to buying your book. But what happens once they click? Where do readers, (potential buyers) go? Do they reach the outer limits of the unknown universe, or do they land somewhere important, like landing on your book planet?

Closing the sale is the subject of my next Post. Where and how do you close the sale? They’re called Landing Pages, and I’ll cover everything you need to know, how to design and put your Landing Page to work for you. In short, your Landing Page must convert interested shoppers into paying customers.

Find out how in my next Post:
Landing Pages 101 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book Trailers: More Than Just Promotional Tools

We already know that an effective book trailer can help you promote and sell your books. After all, it is first and foremost, a sales tool. Effective book trailers motivate readers to click and buy your book--that's the point. But aside from helping you promote your books 24/7, they also help give your books a unique voice by bringing them to life with the right soundtrack and special sound effects that help set the tone and mood of your particular book.

That's important because all readers know about your new book is what they can see--the title, its cover, the review blurbs. But the essence of your book. It's real voice is unheard until interested readers click the play button and hear that special piece of music or that spine-tingling drone that quickly instills fear and suspense. Now they really know what to expect.

Just like a movie teaser, your book's voice can set a specific mood and define what your story is all about. Get the sound wrong and it's all over in a flash. Instinctively, people know when you've got the right soundtrack because the music will draw attention to your story and engage them instantly with what's about to happen, and not focus on the music for the sake of beautiful sound.

The right soundtrack must be undetectable as mere sound and should play just beneath the imagery at a subconscious level under the text or any voice-overs. Ideally, text should also be kept at a minimum and voice-overs should be short and never state the obvious.

With a good ear and plenty of luck finding the best sound, plus using appropriate sound effects, when readers click, your book teaser should speak volumes.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Book Trailer Tutorial Part II

Last week I laid down a short spiel about the purpose of a book teaser and how to set one up effectively to perform like a perpetual marketing machine.

Today we’re going to talk about your all-important hook. Let me say this up front. If your book lacks a strong hook, you’re dead in the water already. Without a hook, a catch, a story question which propels the reader to seek answers out of curiosity, your story has little chance for commercial success. That’s the cold, hard truth, but a necessary component in all marketing and sales materials, regardless of the marketing media.

So, what’s a hook? It sounds like a self-explanatory word, and it is, but there’s more to it. A hook is more than just something you include or slug into your first chapter for a cool effect. It’s more than just a lure to attract readers. Your hook must be an inherent part of your premise and not just a clever occurrence that fades away into obscurity after the first chapter ends.

Having said that, many writers can open and get away with banal happenings but guess what? If by the end of your story your opening set-up doesn’t pay off in a big way, it will be a big disappointment to your readers. It certainly creates ill-will that won’t lead to positive word-of-mouth and repeat sales, which is what a superb hook will do for you. If you think your hook is weak, I suggest bolstering it and anchoring your premise to something more substantial so you can reap the rewards by the end of your story, plus a strong hook will instantly strengthen all your marketing.

Your hook should propel the story question and intrigue readers, leaving them wanting more. It’s the “what if” factor. For example: A scientist searching for a cancer cure is an ordinary story since many scientists are doing the same thing. But a story about a scientist who harvests aborted fetuses from unsuspecting cancer patients, that’s a unique hook. With that hook, that unusual and controversial angle, this is more than a story about a cure for cancer. It becomes a story with moral and ethical issues at its center.

I wish I could elaborate, but that’s an entirely different topic. I only bring it up because a strong hook is an essential component for writing your teaser concept. There’s simply no substitute. Okay, let’s assume you do have a killer hook, and I’m sure you do. You must use the hook for all its worth.

Just imagine what “The Hangover” story would be if their drinks hadn’t been spiked with Rufies? That’s the hook, hence, the story’s title. It might be an old Rufie joke, but they’ve elevated it to new heights by showing their moments of Rufie amnesia in flashbacks and surveillance camera playbacks. A brilliant concept that goes a long way.

The point is, your story must have a unique angle that you can play up. A hook that dramatically sets it apart from similar stories. It’s that kind of hook that publishers, editors and agents are looking for. Without it, your story will lack a flashpoint that helps set it off.

Everything hinges around the hook in your story. It’s the heart and soul of your story. It’s not only a major selling point, it’s an essential component―an important cog in the wheels of your marketing machine. You must use your hook to develop the concept in all your marketing materials, especially in your book teaser. Once you figure out how to play up your hook in 90 seconds or less, then you’re onto something. Let’s use our mad scientist as an example on how to develop your book teaser.

The hook is this: Mad scientist harvests sickly fetuses searching for cancer cure. Can you see the irony in this story? The scientist must sacrifice lives in order to save lives. Let’s mine for a story question to use in the opening of our teaser.

If we start by revealing the scientists shocking methods, we’ll give away all the suspense up front. Not what you want since building suspense is what we’re after. The way to build suspense and shock readers is to reveal his use of fetuses at the very end where it’s not expected.

So, lets begin by showing the scientist’s good intentions, his dedication and research to find a cure for cancer. The positive side of the story. “Dr. Blankenstein has a dream.” “To rid the world of deadly cancer.”  “But first, he must rid the world of angels.”

Okay, I know this is a far-fetched premise but the hook is there. Cancer patients in remission unknowingly donate their healthy fetuses to benefit scientific research. First we show all the good and proper research Dr. Blankenstein conducts in the public eye. Then about half way through (15 seconds, the music turns ominous and we expose Dr. Blankenstein’s dark side.

It’s all about misdirection. The teaser model is simple. We open with something positive but end with something evil and sinister. Check out Stephen King’s teaser for Duma Key, plus my play-by-play analysis of this masterful 32 second teaser.

Watch this teaser and see how it makes you feel. Notice how calmly it opens and then slowly escalates into the unthinkable. This is the effect you’re after if you’ve written a suspenseful thriller.

Bottom line is this: Search for something meaningful in your story. A strong hook, a unique angle,  and focus on that particular feeling to kick-start your teaser. Just as your book opens with a tease, so must your teaser. You must open your teaser with a question, but not just any question, your question must be filled with curiosity that speaks to the reader in a meaningful way, an emotional way.

Remember, emotion and story concepts are always at the center of all your marketing. Without these two vital components, your marketing will flatline and die before it even has a chance to breathe.

Don't miss Part III and the exciting conclusion to this mini Book Teaser Tutorial, next week, right here. Hope to see you then. Meanwhile, rethink your hook and build it up until you get it to a point where it's pure marketing gold.