Action-Based Book Videos

Will They Help Sell Your Books?

by Susan Forest

The rise of independent publishing has spurred an explosion in innovative book promotions. YouTube provides a channel for creative people to reach audiences visually, so in the past few years, authors and publishers have experimented with book videos. Many of these show static photos of the cover or stock footage with narration, captions, or a few words from the author. Not highly engaging. So–looking for a way to make a small press novel stand out from the crowd–is it possible to create an entertaining promotional video, without breaking the bank?

As my publisher, Laksa Media Groups, is a small press, their budget for producing videos was virtually non-existent, but they were willing to support a series of action-adventure pieces by providing enthusiasm, research, and critique. In addition, they commissioned a song from a local song writer for the sound track. Armed with this, I called for help from family and friends. As of this writing, Laksa Media and I have produced three action-adventure videos and one Artist Response video, with a second Artist Response video planned for later in 2020.

We kept the videos short (2-2.5 minutes), not intending to capture the entire plot of my novel, like a movie trailer. Instead, they are in the style of music videos. Each video was story boarded with attention to actors, location, camera angles, and plot, to illustrate a narrative arc: sparking incident, complication, crisis, climax, and resolution. Of course, we took advantage of improvised moments as they occurred while shooting, as well.

As my novels are secondary-world fantasy, I needed primitive, wild, and castle-like settings. I planned three principal a shoots. My sister is a horsewoman, so we filmed on her acreage; a good friend let my use her stunning home for the palace scenes; and Calgary’s Edworthy Park has accessible cliffs.

Each video shoot needed several different set-ups (barn, garden, balcony, entryway). The actors could improvise their lines based on the idea of the scene, as there was no dialogue: all sound was stripped from the film, and the visuals put to music. We took a master shot of all the action first, followed by medium and close-up shots from different angles. It was amazing how we could capture the actors’ best moments (we had excellent amateur actors).

Using two cameras cut down on filming time but it was essential to take time to review footage after each take, as we had no way to assemble all elements again at a later date for re-takes. Each set-up took about 45 minutes to capture several minutes of usable film, which, once edited, was only seconds-long on screen.

The biggest challenge was the editing, but that was almost more inspiring than the filming, because of the creativity involved. Selecting certain cuts, altering elements of music, adjusting colour, and other techniques could strongly alter the final effect of the film. My daughter, who holds a BFA in Media Arts, has professional editing software which was user-friendly (drag-and-drop). Coordinating the action to the music meant cutting clips or stretching them to synchronize with the beat of the music. We rotated a horizontal shot, cropped clips to draw focus, made some clips partly transparent, and used special effects, such as rain. Titles and credits were easy to superimpose on the footage, and my daughter created the branding assets (brief animated logos) for the publisher and me.

Technically, the budget was $0. The publisher took care of the music and the musician. I bought two secure digital SD cards, material such as fabric, and lunch for the cast, bringing the “official” total to about $250. However, there was gas mileage for driving to my sister’s acreage, and I paid my daughter an honorarium, as the editing was time-consuming. We did not pay for costumes (donated), actors’ talent, location, cameras, or professional software.

Was it worth it? The actors, my daughter, and I enjoyed the process, particularly the discoveries inherent in the creative process. I learned much about filming videos so I’m confident I can create the next ones more efficiently. For example, I discovered it’s important to use a tripod, as shaky footage isn’t useable (though we did use a few follow-shots in the current video). As a director, I was busy with so many elements, I had to have confidence in the actors to jump in with little rehearsal or direction when the camera was rolling. When working with the larger cast, it was important to have someone serve as a gofer–gluing costumes and ensuring everyone had water.

Yes, it was worth it. I enjoyed creating work I’m proud of and sharing it, and I’ve enjoyed the positive feedback I’ve received on them. Did the videos sell books? Probably not. But they’re part of a larger promotional plan, (including my 2020 launch of Flights of Marigold, Book 2 of my Addicted to Heaven Series–quite a challenge during COVID) to build a brand over time by providing content to readers, even when a book is not pending. If people see one video, they might watch others, share them with friends, and watch for the next one coming out. Over time, I hope to build a following.

Interested in viewing the videos? Check them out (youtube.com/user/susanforest).”Like”and share generously!

Anathema: Spec from the Margins

SF Canada member Richard Graeme Cameron reviews Anathema: Spec from the Margins in his latest Amazing Stories column.

Anathema is a free, online tri-annual magazine publishing speculative fiction (SF/F/H, the weird, slipstream, surrealism, fabulism, and more) by queer PoC/Indigenous/Aboriginal creators on every range of the LGBTQIA spectrum. The editors are keenly aware of the structural and institutional racism that makes it hard for the work of marginalized writers to find a home.

In his review, Graeme notes that “the editors demand more than old-fashioned transparent window fiction, as illustrated by editor Michel Matheson’s capsule description”:  Issue 7 is focused on two of our core aesthetics, evincing a balance between burning mirrors allegorically reflecting the nightmare realities of our own world, and the terrible, beautiful possibilities of revelation in the face of found love, hidden histories, and resisting oppression. But overarchingly, Issue 7 is an issue of internal understandings—of gnosis and acceptance.

Graeme concludes with “All in all, Anathema certainly stands out from the crowd. A remarkable magazine. Definitely worth reading. ”

Issues can be read for free at Anathemamag.com. Why not support this worthy initiative by purchasing an ebook of issue #7 or a subscription today!

Short Fiction from Craig Russell

SF Canada member Craig Russell’s most recent short story appears in the Parallel Prairies anthology which is published under the Enfield & Wizenty imprint of Great Plains Publications Ltd. (edited by Darren Ridgley and Adam Petrash).

The Canadian prairie teems with life – not all of it of this world. The nineteen stories in Parallel Prairies allow the reader to get acquainted with baby dragons, killer insects, faery kings, infernal entities and more.

During the launch in October at the Brandon University library, Craig Russell spoke with a Brandon Sun reporter, commenting: “I think the landscape really does influence how you think about your writing.” His story is about a woman who grew up in Brandon, but goes to the University of Manitoba to complete the degree she started as a young woman. She encounters a mysterious document in the University of Manitoba library. “It leads her on an unexpected adventure into the Northern Canadian shield where her courage and her sanity is tested by something from another world,” Russell said.

Praise for Parallel Prairies:

“…a kaleidoscope of style and subject matter. Echoes of iconic storylines pulled from the annals of cult sci-fi, fantasy and suspense ring through Manitoba’s landscape.” — The Uniter

“So much fun! I’m loving this book … the stories take place in Manitoba, but they transcend.” — Joanne Kelly, CBC Manitoba

Craig Russell’s first novel, Black Bottle Man, won the 2011 American Moonbeam Award gold medal for Young Adult Fantasy. It was a finalist for the Prix Aurora Award for Best English Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel, as well as for two Manitoba Book Awards in the same year. His second novel, Fragment, was published by Thistledown Press in Oct. 2016. He’s a lawyer, supervising the land titles system in southwestern Manitoba. He lives in Brandon with his wife, where they’re restoring their 1906 Victorian heritage home.

Parallel Prairies can be purchased through Great Plains, McNally Robinson, Chapters, and Amazon.

Death Flight launched!

SF Canada member Melissa Yi’s latest Hope Sze crime Novel, Death Flight, is now available.

When Dr. Hope Sze flies to Los Angeles to reunite with her soul mate, she expects Botoxed blondes with Brazilian wax jobs, not terror at 35,000 feet in the air.

Yet on their way home, with 1000 miles to go and nowhere to land, she and Dr. John Tucker must strive to save one man’s life.

Hope and Tucker have no surgical equipment. No surgeon on board. And, as first year family medicine residents, almost no experience.

But right this second, they’ll try anything.

Especially Hope, because minutes before, she might have accidentally helped to kill the man spasming at her feet.

Find out where to get this exciting novel, and others, at Melissa’s blog.

New Release, Children of the Bloodlands

The second book in SF Canada member Samantha Beiko’s YA series The Realms of Ancient, Children of the Bloodlands, is now available through ECW Press, as well as wherever books are sold.

Three months after the battle of Zabor, the five friends that came together to defeat her have been separated. Burdened with the Calamity Stone she acquired in Scion of the Fox, Roan has gone to Scotland to retrace her grandmother’s steps in an attempt to stop further evil from entering the world.

Meanwhile, a wicked monster called Seela has risen from the ashy Bloodlands and is wreaking havoc on the world while children in Edinburgh are afflicted by a strange plague; Eli travels to Seoul to face judgment and is nearly murdered; Natti endures a taxing journey with two polar bears; Phae tries desperately to obtain the key to the Underworld; and Barton joins a Family-wide coalition as the last defense against an enemy that will stop at nothing to undo Ancient’s influence on Earth — before there is no longer an Earth to fight for.

Darkness, death, and the ancient powers that shape the world will collide as our heroes discover that some children collapse under their dark inheritance, and those who don’t are haunted by blood.

“The rewardingly complex mythology is deepened through parallel humanizing themes in the protagonists’ storylines, while game-changing action sequences unleash real consequences in the highly diverse world. A densely-packed, well-crafted sequel that will leave readers eager for the trilogy’s finale.” — Kirkus Reviews

For more information, and a list of cities in Samantha’s book tour this fall, visit her blog.

Happy Birthday, Dave Duncan!

The SF Canada board and membership would like to take a moment today to wish the happiest of birthdays to our own Dave Duncan. A little dragon told us that Dave turns 85 today and is just completing a new book. Just another way Dave is an inspiration to us all. 🙂