Marketing with Book Videos – An Interview with Sheila Clover English

COS logoBook videos have generated a lot of excitement among authors, publishers and booksellers.  They represent a  powerful new way to visualize and conceptualize a title – much as the book cover did in the last century.  The aesthetics of book videos are still the subject of experimentation.  One of the pioneers in producing book videos is Circle of Seven Productions, which trademarked the term”book trailers.”  We contacted the company to find out more about how book videos are produced, what they cost and how authors, publishers and booksellers are using them. 

sheila clover englisWe interviewed Sheila Clover English, a publicist and the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions.  A five-year veteran as an Executive Producer of award winning book commercials,  she is best known for bringing book commercial distribution to movie theaters, television, cable and an online network of approximately 150 sites.  An author herself, Sheila strives to provide budget-conscious, high-profile marketing strategies to other authors and publishers.  She lives in Kentucky with her husband, daughter, son, and three dogs.

FPP:  Are there different types of book videos?  How is each type of book video used?

Sheila:  Circle of Seven (COS) offers several types of book video that can accommodate different budgets.  For example, below is a brief synopsis of our current products from least expensive to most expensive.  (Click on the links to see a sample of each type of book video.)


Cover Story Video
$ 250
Utilizes the book cover and, if you have it, the step-back. It includes music and text and comes with distribution of 10 online sites, submission to booksellers and book clubs, is featured on the COS MySpace page (which currently has over 8200 subscribers), our newsletter and placement on Reader’s Entertainment online television.
Fast Track Trailer
(summer special)
$ 390
Looks like a mini teaser with stock photos, text and music, but the author writes the script, chooses the photos and the music. The author does part of the work and gets a discount. They receive the same distribution as the Cover Story Video.
Mini Teaser Level 1
$ 750
COS finds the photos appropriate to the script that we write and submit to the client for approval. We find the music and submit it all. We do all of the research and creative for the client. The distribution package includes more online distribution at this level.
Mini Teaser Level 2
$ 1,500
These and the book trailers are the most popular with readers and booksellers. COS utilizes stock footage as well as stock photos. Clients get a script and music and a more dynamic video. The result is a video that looks somewhat like a book trailer, but much less expensive.
Author Interviews
$ 1,500
These bring authors “up close and personal” as they talk about their books. Great to give to booksellers.
Book Trailer Level 1
$ 4,000 – $ 9,000
These are full production videos. They have actors, locations and everything that goes with it. When you consider that a TV commercial can cost upwards of $100,000, this is a great deal. There is significantly more distribution at this level. Other options can be purchased at this level as well, such as behind the scenes articles, photography, etc. This is shot on digital video with professional cameras.
Book Trailer Level 2
$ 10,000 – $ 50,000 +
At this level we can do HD and Film, give you special effects, add more actors or locations and do a top quality commercial that looks like film.

COS also offers format and book media for both television and movie theaters.

FPP:  Are there certain genres or types of books that lend themselves better to book videos than others?

Sheila:  We recently asked that question in a survey. The majority of people felt that any genre would work, but many felt that romance and fantasy were the top genres that did well. I think that has to do with the incredible number of those genres making or having book trailers made.

FPP:  Many authors and small publishers have the perception that book videos are too expensive for them to consider. What is the cost range for Book videos and what are the tradeoffs a publisher has to consider when determining how much to spend on a book video?

Sheila:  The range, as listed above, is from $250 to $50,000+. You need to ask yourself who your target audience is. What will they want to see?  Will it play on television or in movie theaters?  Also you need to consider distribution. Booksellers prefer to see action in the videos, movement.

FPP:  How long does it typically take to produce a book video?

Sheila:  It depends on the complexity of the video.  A Cover Story Video can be done in 48 to 73 hours. A full production book trailer needs at least 2 or 3 months to put together as a rule. Other variables have to do with producer availability. We have a production partner network so that we can do several projects at a time.

It is best to book your spot on our production calendar as far in advance as possible. We have people booking for 2008 and 2009 already. If we know if advance that we’re going to be busy, we can bring in new team members to assist us in creating the videos and keeping to our timelines.

FPP:  How are publishers and authors using book videos to market their titles?

Sheila:  Book videos are tools like any other tool.  If it just sits on your website it’s a waste of money. You need to utilize it. Authors are putting it on websites, blogs and their MySpace pages. Their publishers are showing it to their sales team, sending it to booksellers or their marketing departments.  COS Productions uploads it to the internet, then does a big campaign on our MySpace during the first week the book is out.  We often format them and put them on television or in movie theaters.

COS Productions is constantly identifying new ways to utilize the videos so you get the use of this entertaining tool.  Usually, when an ARC goes out to booksellers and reviewers they list the marketing and promotion that will done with a book. It lets the bookseller know how much information about the book is getting to readers so they can order accordingly. It’s great to put “Extensive Online Marketing” and “Book Video” or even “Television Ads”. We can get TV ads with good spots for less than $2000. Sometimes just being able to say that it is playing on television will encourage someone to check out your book.

FPP:  How have booksellers responded to book videos? How are they using them to sell more books?

Sheila:  Yes, booksellers have responded to book video. Borders has been using COS videos since 2002. They currently take a large percentage of our videos as content for their site. They play it in their newsletter or on their Borders Media site.

Recently we were contacted by Barnes and Noble and we now supply them with our book video as well.  We’ve been thrilled with the number of independent booksellers who have contacted us to ask for video.  In addition many specialty sites ask for the videos as content because they are entertaining and readers like to watch them.

I see a trend toward having them on blogs to allow people to talk about the videos and be more interactive with them.  Douglas Clegg’s new book video is a wonderful example.  We did a campaign for him that included publicity and we did a big blog campaign. Within 24 hours of posting the video and instructions for bloggers on how to use the video and what to do with it we had over 20 people blogging about his video. Which means that over 20 people within 24 hours were promoting his book for him. We expect to see approximately 100 bloggers talking about this video by Saturday (5 days time).  We’re in touch with right now and they are also working on their technology so that they can easily offer book video.

FPP:  Do booksellers have any specific requirements for book videos submitted to them?

Sheila:  Yes. They don’t want them to be overly long.  They need to be tasteful (no nudity or overt violence).  We have a program in place for booksellers who use COS video that works very well. We actually send out book video in batches each week. Booksellers get a preview. We do accept feedback and have made changes to some videos if the booksellers ask for it and the client agrees to the changes. We supply the booksellers the videos in the format they require. We try to make it very easy for booksellers to take the videos so that more of them are utilized.

FPP:  Where should authors or publishers distribute and promote their book videos?

Sheila:  What good is a tool left in the shed?  Having the video created is only half the work. You need people to see it. You need a lot of people to see it. More importantly, you need the right people to see it.  We have a distribution department that not only distributes our videos, but they also do research on the various online social networks, specialty sites and other online opportunity sites out there.

The landscape of any social site can change. We make sure we monitor what’s going on, who is there and what they like on each site.  You can do that yourself. It just takes time. There are over 240 social sites on the internet that take user-generated video. That’s a lot of opportunity.

FPP:  Is there evidence to show that book videos lead to greater awareness of titles and more book sales? Are there ways for publishers to test the sales effectiveness of their book videos?

Sheila:  How are publishers testing the effectiveness of a print ad? And of course a print ad is gone in a week or a month. Book video is around until you take it off the internet.

We have worked with individuals who track their sales through the Amazon affiliate program. They put the Amazon “buy” button next their video to see how many people are buying after watching the video. Even this isn’t an exact science since some people will go to another vendor, or they don’t have the money to buy that day, etc. Two of our sources reported an average of 10% click through to buy after watching the video. That number continues to grow.

Over 75% of those polled in a recent survey of readers said that book video influenced their purchase of a book. The number of people being influenced to buy a book because of video continues to grow as more and more people turn to the internet for entertainment and information.

FPP:  How do you see the book video evolving over the next few years?

Sheila:  What did the music video do for CD sales?  More and more people will turn to book video because it is easier and more entertaining than going to a bookstore and looking at the intimidating number of books there that they will have to read the back cover copy of in order to make their buying decisions. Perhaps traditional readers will continue to shop this way, but the readers of the future are looking to video, just as they have learned to do for television, music, movies and games. We are now cultivating tomorrow’s readers today. We are now competing, not with each other, but with those other entertainment venues.

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