Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Question Ate My Brain, Then My Free Time

The prospect of doing a writing-related post this week is pretty low because The Project is making a concerted effort to eat my brain.

The Project, however, is writing-related itself, so guess what! You get to hear about it before I've finished it.

Over on Lynnette Labelle's blog, she recently had an interesting discussion about the question: Do Book Trailers Sell Books?

I said there that what bugs me is no one knows the answer to that question, not even publishing professionals. There's no hard data. And yet making a book trailer is one of the many things new authors are pressured to do.

I've heard it said that if you're a first time author, you should spend your entire advance on marketing and publicity for your new book. You're trying to launch a career, after all; you can defer the prospect of actually making a living off your writing for a bit longer.

Making a book trailer could conceivably eat up a lot of that advance unless you earmark it as a DYI project. And although we are all storytellers, how many of us really know how to tell a story well with images? To sell the interest-factor of that story using images? Sure, we've seen examples of this on television for years, but we've also been reading books for years, and yet it still took most of us a lot of time and effort to learn how to tell an effective story with words.

The point I'm flailing around for is that I don't think it's a good idea to suggest new writers embark on something that will either be very expensive or very labour-intensive (and probably inadequate) just to create something that may give them no return on the investment. We need data.

Which is what The Project is about.

The Book Trailer Project will be a website that allows people to view either a trailer for a book, or an image of that book's cover plus a blurb for it, and will then prompt them a month later to come back and say whether they bought any of the books whose material they viewed.

If I get enough response (and that involves getting published writers to allow me to show their trailers, etc, in the first place, of course), then I can assemble statistics on whether people who have seen a book trailer, as opposed to a traditional advertisement, are more likely to buy that book. The results will be made public from the beginning.

The Project gets those capital letters out of my terrorized respect, because it's proving huge. I've got some free time right now, and have been spending passion-fueled fifteen-hour days for the past week working on this behemoth.

It won't even be a very big or complex site; it's just that I've had to learn PHP and MySQL to do it (not quite from scratch; I know a bit of C++, so PHP's syntax is a snap, and I've created databases using MS Access before, so I at least know what a query is, etc.)

Is this a reasonable use of my time? I think so, if only because I'm learning skills that will help me create a better author website (for cheap) in the future, and I'm also providing a service to writers while learning something I want the answer to as well.

Plus, this is the best way to take a break before I start writing my next novel; I'm getting so fried doing The Project I will be delighted to begin typing the book. Take that, procrastination! Oh, right, The Project is a form of procrastination... Never mind.

When I finally get the site running, I will announce it here, and then begin the process of simpering at people to (a) volunteer to put their book's promotional materials up, and (b) come by and browse for books they might be interested in reading.

And I hope I can count on all of you to spread the word too. *simper, simper; bats eyelashes*

Scratch that! Whether you spread the word depends on what you think of the site itself, and it's presumptuous for me to try to horn-swaggle you into anything.

What I'd really like is for all of you to help me test a beta version of the site, and that could be fun! (I'll make up funny fake books and link to random amusing YouTube videos.) Who's in?


Have you any thoughts about the matter you'd like to share? (Other than I've lost my mind, which I already know.) I would love to hear them, and now is the time to do it! I've still got the opportunity to implement your suggestions.


PS - I was really, really bad about answering comments on the last blog post, but I've done so now. Sorry for neglecting you all!

Author website: J. J. DeBenedictis

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