Posted On November 18, 2010 by Print This Post

Going Pro: When To Let the Professionals Step In

Good morning and welcome to our special feature with Jeannie Ruesch of Will Design for Chocolate.  This month Jeannie goes back to tips on going to the pros with your book videos and other marketing needs.

Take it away, Jeannie!

Welcome back to the social media series at RU.  Today’s post is a continuation of our discussion on book videos and a further step into choosing professionals for your marketing efforts.

In my last article, I shared with you the things to focus on when you’re waffling over the option of a book trailer® as part of your marketing plan, whether to try it on your own and some of the tools to use if that’s the route you want to go.  We also touched on when it’s time to call in the professionals.  The initial intent for this column was to focus solely on professional book video makers and what they bring to the table, but I realized this is a big question.  When do you call in the pros? When can you justify the expense of it?  Do you have to be published? Do you have to have a certain amount of sales?

Unless you have unlimited funds and the ability to spend them willy-nilly on whatever meets your fancy, your dollars need to be accounted for and spending large amounts to promote your book may not even be possible.  There are plenty of things you can do yourself as an author looking to build your career. With the help of your publisher, your agent and your ability to do some basic market research on your own, you can easily form a marketing plan, create a budget and research the best places to spend that budget.  Depending on your strengths, you can blog, you can advertise, you can network and tweet to your heart’s content.

Often, the items in your marketing plan you consider doing yourself are the ones with a higher financial stake. Websites, designed printed collateral, and book trailers® are among the top three pieces I see home-grown. (Sometimes to the author’s detriment.)  That isn’t to say you should never tackle these on your own, but before doing so, be aware of the costs, some of which are often unrealized.  Whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, either way, you’re looking at a high cost: in dollars if you pay the pro versus time spent if you do it yourself.  The unrealized costs lie in the unknown factor that could help or hurt you: what does the effort do to your brand as an author?

Be Frank About Your Own Capabilities

In a previous column, I discussed an author’s brand and likened the accessories of your brand much like the accessories you would use to enhance and add personality to the little black dress.  These elements, the website, the book trailers, and any other materials that touch your potential reader’s hands are the accessories of your brand and they tell as much about you as an author as anything else.  They set a tone.  They set an expectation.

If someone walks into a room wearing a whiff of Chanel No. 5, with a Gucci purse and Manolo Blahnik strappy shoes adding bling to their feet, what would your impression be? And if that same person walked in wearing a home-sewn dress in paisley print with a matching handbag and Mary Janes, you would form an opinion.  It’s inevitable, we’re human and it’s what we do.

This isn’t to say that every author’s attempts at marketing are akin to the paisley-print dress.  Not at all.  But you do need to have a strong understanding of your own strengths and whether or not your efforts put forth the impression you want.  For example, I can’t sew worth a damn, so even if I managed to sew some sort of little black dress together, chances are it would fall off halfway through the night.

I’d be creating an entirely different impression than intended.  So I buy the clothes I want to represent who I am and (thankfully) leave the sewing to someone else.  As an author judging the value of your dollars versus time and brand impact, be frank about your skill set.  Are you capable of something to meet the quality to represent your brand? Or just dressing up in a paisley printed dress?

What Will the Professionals Do for Me?

But back to the details.  What do you get with the professionals? Why is that money justified?  Since we discussed book trailers® first, let’s bring that to table to discuss and there isn’t a way of discussing book trailer® pros without focusing on the company that built the genre, COS Productions.

In an interview, Sheila Clover English of COS Productions said, “COS Productions doesn’t just do videos. We format them. We help the client get them out to as many users as possible, but we also do things like create press releases and send them out to online magazines and television websites.”

And let’s take a closer look at one of their offerings:  The mini Teaser 1 is listed on their site as the most commonly seen book videos online.  This includes stock photography, sound effects, music and the pros (in this case a professional editor and a script writer) to create something entertaining and unique.  The cost is $800.00.

Breaking down that cost includes costs of the images used and the purchase of sound and music effects.  You’re also looking at a good amount of hours for production from storyboard to finished product.  In addition, the estimated percentage of overhead: from the software required to build these, upkeep of computers and their own continued education to help the professionals stay on top of their game. And you cannot forget the value of the expertise of the people working on your behalf.  They are experts in their field, with years of experience and knowledge behind them to help them build the trailer to the best it can be.  They know what the difference between 30 seconds and 1 minute means to a video viewer.  What and when a hook should be placed in the script.  How many seconds you have to engage the viewer before they click away. (Although, really, that one isn’t a huge secret. Test it yourself by going to YouTube, finding a few videos and counting until you’re ready to click.)

In addition, one thing that COS Productions offers that cannot be undervalued is their Distribution packages.  The Mini Teaser includes the Bronze package, which includes submissions of the video to 25 social media sites, 5 specialty sites, 300+ bookseller sites, 5000+ Libraries via OverDrive and 1 blog.  In that distribution alone, you’re maximizing the value of the cost.  For a person alone, this would take hundreds of hours to find, locate and submit to the areas that you could.  And beyond what a typical person could accomplish, a professional has spent the time, investment and years cultivating relationships and connections that reach even farther beyond.

I want an ROI, darnit! Where is that? (or, uhm, what is that?)

ROI= Return on investment, and generally before agreeing to spend money on something, folks want a guarantee of some sort of return for their bucks.  (How dare they! :))  With book sales, especially given the social media, video, and other outlets used to promote, it can be difficult to equate those efforts to hard facts.

While you can certainly say that four bazillion people watched your video, it’s not quite so easy to determine out of those four bazillion people, which ones were spurred to buy your book and if the video was the selling point.  And truth be told, sales like this are not likely due to one specific marketing promotion, they are likely due to ALL of them.   It’s the combination of “touches” (every time your brand touches your potential reader in some way) that moves someone to purchase.  This is why it’s important to establish an overall marketing plan that utilizes the best of what you’ve got to spend: dollars and time.  If a book video is something you see a ton of value in, then go for the best possible option you can afford — as long as if fits into your overall marketing plan.   This isn’t the time to steal from Peter to pay Paul.


RU Crew, what do you think?  Would you give creating your own video a try?  We’d love to hear from you.

Special thanks to Jeannie for being here.  Join us tomorrow for Theresa Stevens and her Ask an Editor column.
Jeannie’s Bio: It was a Saturday afternoon when Jeannie Ruesch gave up her illustrious, hours-long ambition of becoming a Dallas Cowboy Cheerleader (after seeing the made for TV movie).  That day, she sat to write her very first story and when she was finished, she knew that pen ..or rather, pencil and collegiate-lined paper was the path for her.  She was six.  She finished her first two books in 7th grade—handwritten on 150 legal size pages and complete with hearts dotting the I’s, of course.
As an adult, however, she discovered the need to…well, pay for things.  In her words, she “paid a lot of money to go to school, get a degree and go beg for work.”  She began her career in marketing and design and continues to this day, with her graphic design and marketing business, Will Design for Chocolate.  She considers herself fortunate that her passion of writing and her other love go hand in hand so nicely.

In 2008, she sold her first completed novel (as an adult and written on a computer this time) to The Wild Rose Press– a historical romance that has been a labor of love from the start.  “It’s been through four or five revisions, including one complete scrap-it-and-start-over, and has been a wonderful tool for learning how to be a better writer.”

She is also the creator of the WIP Notebook, a writer’s tool to help stay organized while you write.

Now with a few more tools in her author’s tool belt, her first published book, and a drawer full of emergency chocolate, she has a lot more stories to tell.  She lives in Northern California with her husband (who is likely tired of having his brain picked on the ‘male perspective’), their son and her brother, who she thanks every day (since he cooks and she hates to.)

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15 Responses to “Going Pro: When To Let the Professionals Step In”

  1. Hi Jeannie,

    Thanks for the fabulous post. Sheila Clover English and a few other media professionals presented a workshop at RWA this year. She knows her stuff.

    I created a book trailer for a short story several years ago. I had a super fun time designing the trailer, but it was a time-consuming process. I had time back then–not so much now.

    At this point in my career, I think I’d wait until my 3rd book in the series was about to be published before investing in a book trailer. I’d highlight the 3rd book and bring in the other two toward the end. More bang for the buck.

    Thanks, Tracey

    Posted by TraceyDevlyn | November 18, 2010, 6:43 am
    • Hi Tracey! Sheila Clover English absolutely knows her stuff. Their company is tops in what they do, from design to distribution.

      As for the 3 book book trailer, I think it’s smart to use a trailer for focus on a series rather than an individual book. I think Allison Brennan did that for one of her trilogies or series and it was really effective. When it comes to something like that, the name of the game is high concept — that’s where to put the focus. Think of your book trailer as the elevator pitch in video form.:)

      And you’re right — the more books you write, the more that time comes at a premium. That alone can make the cost of a professional worth it.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | November 18, 2010, 11:15 pm
  2. Hi Jeannie. Welcome back! Great post. I’m wondering if book trailers are work better for a particular format (e-books vs. traditional print). Or doesn’t it matter?


    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | November 18, 2010, 8:16 am
    • You know, I’m not sure there’s been any analysis on that. In order to really judge that, you’d have to look at so many factors – home grown versus professional, distribution, time out, buzz, a number of different things.

      The funny thing is that you can’t PLAN what goes viral. (Unless you’re the Old Spice guy. LOL) Usually those things happen on their own.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | November 18, 2010, 11:17 pm
  3. I’m so pleased to have found this site today! I am newly contracted and just wading into the marketing waters. I honestly have no idea what I’m doing. My publisher is small, so I won’t have the benefits of a large house backing my novel, I’m pretty much on my own. I would love to get a book trailer made, but you are right, they ARE expensive. And I have no idea where to look. I did see COS yesterday, but to be honest the cost is a little concerning…yikes!

    Posted by Cathy West | November 18, 2010, 8:20 am
    • Hi Cathy! Congratulations on your new contract. Exciting times for you!

      Truthfully, I think for authors who are first time out and with a small press, your marketing dollars are probably better spent elsewhere. Trailers are not cheap and for them to really work well, they have to be seen. Sure it is a nice benefit, but you have to weigh the cost versus the reach. Where will it go? Where will it be seen?

      I tell most new authors that the absolutes they should have to start are 1. Website ( a must), 2. Business cards or bookmarks — something to hand over to people you meet.

      Beyond that, it’s really about judging what you can afford – money and time spent. You won’t have infinite amounts of both, so you’ll need to decide. If you have a tiny (or non-existent) budget, you’ll need to be prepared to spend the time getting your name out there, blogging, making connections, networking within the industry. If you do have the money to spend and time is a premium, consider doing some advertising at popular review sites, maybe in RT Book Reviews mag. Spend that money on conferences to attend. Whatever makes sense for you.

      It’s a big pool to wade in, but you’ll be swimming in no time. 🙂

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | November 18, 2010, 11:21 pm
  4. Hi Jeannie! Great article. I put together the book trailer for my first book. It was an eye-opening experience, exhausting and the most fun I’ve had in a long while. But the days I invested in putting it together was why the second book didn’t get one. I think having done that first one myself taught me to put more value on having a professional service. The money is a huge chunk for a small budget, but I know how much time I spent searching for pictures, finding the right music, adjusting the slides so they were uniform, scrolled through for the same amount of time, etc. Then I only knew enough to put it on my website and You Tube. Hence, I think saving for a professional to do one for a book release gives you a huge marketing advantage. Thanks for you thoughts!

    Posted by Patti Ann Colt | November 18, 2010, 10:42 am
    • Hi Patti Ann! Yes, I think it’s always beneficial for someone to see the other side of things. It helps to make sense of the time investment involved, especially in book videos. They are seemingly simple, but a lot of work goes into making them just right.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | November 18, 2010, 11:22 pm
  5. Hi, Jeannie!

    I know that old adage about half of what you do for promo works, but no one knows what half – LOL. Has anyone done studies on the impact of book trailers on sales? I love to watch them (when someone sends me something and says, “You have to watch this…”), but I don’t know that a trailer has ever caused me to buy a book.

    Thanks, as always, for your fantastic info!

    Posted by KelseyBrowning | November 18, 2010, 11:26 am
    • Kelsey, I can actually say that a book trailer tipped me to buy a book, one time in specific. The problem was that the trailer was REALLY funny. The book was not. It was an engaging idea, but the expectation it set up left me disappointed in the book I read. Not to say it wasn’t a good book, because it was. But it’s a catch –people often go for funny because it makes for entertaining video. But if that isn’t your voice, you’re essentially telling someone you’re a redhead and showing up to meet them a brunette.

      As for sales, it’s a really, really hard number to quantify. I’m sure people have tried, but it’s the same for a lot of marketing promotions. There’s only so far you can go on guessing the traffic, guessing the turnover. I think videos will give more information over a period of one’s career than one book. A video is a good hook to grab attention in other places, like YouTube and such, where you might find a new audience. But it has to measured from where you started in sales and promo efforts to any changes over time with the addition of video. If you start with video, it’s twice as hard to see if it works.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | November 18, 2010, 11:26 pm
  6. Hi Jeannie,

    Being on the Internet (Facebook, website, book trailer) gives the reader a first impression. Like a job interview, you have to put your best self forward. A professional’s help is the best way to make yourself stand above the rest.

    Mary Jo Burke

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | November 18, 2010, 2:30 pm
    • Hi Mary Jo! Absolutely. The first impression tells someone a lot — not just about you, but we’re human, we’ll judge. We’ll make assumptions about your writing. And it also tells us how serious the author is.

      I’ve been handed a home-printed and cut-with-scissors bookmark and I’ve been handed a professional one. My opinion will be different for each. It’s important to realize that the level of professionalism for authors has already been set — people expect to see that level in the authors they read.

      Posted by Jeannie Ruesch | November 18, 2010, 11:28 pm
  7. Great article, Jeannie! I hope you don’t mind me adding my own comments in reply to others here.
    I’ve been in the book trailer business longer than anyone and always with an eye toward utility and ROI. My company does monitor outcomes as far as we can and we do surveys for feedback from readers, booksellers, libraries and authors.

    As far as Adrienne’s great question about ebook vs. traditional when it comes to book video, our greatest known outcomes for sales is in traditional, but you have to keep in mind that those books are also getting a larger budget with an entire campaign surrounding the book release and sometimes even the trailer itself. We have a different strategy for ebook trailer distribution that is heavier in social media and I think anyone doing a trailer for an ebook should consider doing that. Interestingly, one of our most viral videos was this experiment in having the community help write the book. The book wasn’t even written yet and the trailer promoted the site. It was very fun!

    I think your advice to Cathy is perfect. If you’re new and don’t have much of a budget you need to really prioritize and a website and card should always be #1, with your time investment going to that second book. With that said, $350 to get your name out to hundreds of thousands of readers, thousands of librarians and hundreds of booksellers isn’t a bad ROI. How will you get people to come to your website? Facebook is great, but how do you get people to come to your Facebook in order to send them to your website?
    I’m not saying a trailer is the only other option, but as far as bang-for-your-buck it is a tool worth consideration.

    #1 question I hear is; do trailers sell books? Yes they do. I was just reading an article in PW yesterday where they were asking if a trailer made you buy a book and it was a resounding “yes”. But, for tracking how much sales it’s hard to say. That can be said about any promotional tool though.
    I have no way, myself, to track an author’s sales, but I have been given stats by several sources that have been over 10% of sales attributed to a trailer. That is going to vary though.

    A trailer helps with multiple goals though. Not just sales. It can help with driving traffic to your site, branding, cross promoting to multiple audiences, establishing a new series or change of genre, bestseller list promotion, etc. And, keep in mind that your video can be refreshed and repurposed to promote the next book in a series, an event or for use on any talk shows you might get on. It continues to be a tool for you for the life of that book.

    Jeannie, I’ve also purchased a book because of a trailer just to find that the trailer and book did not match. That can be dangerous and for those creating your own trailers I don’t recommend doing it. It can backfire on you and create a lack of trust from the reader. People want your promo to match what they get so they know they can trust your work. Promo you approve represents you.

    Thank you for such a great article!

    Posted by Sheila Clover English | November 22, 2010, 10:57 am


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