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Musings February 2007

February 2007Musings Column


Promote Like a Parrot (Part One)


If you want to be a successful writer, promote like a parrot.


Writers should promote like parrots? To discover why, let’s look at what we know about these colourful birds.


All parrots are zygodactyl, which means they have two toes at the front of each foot and two at the back. They use their toes to cling to a perch. Like parrots, writers need to cling – to the craft of writing. Shake a tail feather, dig in and never give up.


Parrots are among the most intelligent of birds. Writers must be smart, too. Promotion is an integral part of the publication process. Smart writers know that, and involve themselves in self-promotion as soon as possible.


Parrots use tools to solve puzzles. Technology can help writers unravel the mysteries of promotion, work out how to get their books into the public eye.


What, above all, are parrots best known for? They talk. They squawk. They tell it to the world. Admittedly, this is an embarrassment when the vicar comes to call. But the metaphor still applies to writers.


If we promote like parrots, we keep plugging away at promotion. We don’t hide our light under a bush(el). We take advantage of every opportunity to get our name as a writer out to others. We make sure people find out about what we’ve written. We present it in the best possible light and then it’s up to readers whether they purchase our product or not. We talk it. We squawk it. We tell it to the world.


Video is one exciting form of marketing for writers. With sites like YouTube, Google and Yahoo rapidly growing in popularity, savvy writers are using multimedia technology as yet another promotional tool. Sound effects plus some form of animation or video are used to give an impression, communicate the essence of a book, without telling the story.

Author of the Daradawn series and Museitup member, Barbara M. Hodges, ( ) had a video trailer made for her novel, The Blue Flame. Julie D’Arcy made the short video which you can see here:  Barbara sees this extra marketing effort as very cost effective (Julie charges under $30 ) and was pleased when her trailer had over 100 hits in the first week it was up at YouTube.


Here’s a link to author Deborah Abela’s video, about Max Remy Super Spy. Deborah is using the YouTube video to promote her book before it’s released in the US, under the title, Spy Force. She does her own script narration and uses illustrations from the book to build a buzz about it. There’s a link to her own website at the end of the short video.


This is a great way for Deborah to reach readers on the other side of the world from her home. It uses grassroots, word-of-mouth promotion. The technology is not beyond the reach of most writers, although admittedly, money and available equipment make a difference to the quality of the final product.

Vid Lit is a company which specializes in producing videos to promote books. I asked Liz Dubelman, from Vid Lit, ( ) to tell Musings readers about the company - in particular, how much it costs to get a professionally created video from them.


Liz: We usually work with publishers who have marketing dollars, but since you asked:  Here’s the short answer on price:  The rule of thumb is $4000/minute, which is all-inclusive (animation, original score, sound effects and distribution).  The only possible additional cost I can alert you to without really knowing your project is the studio cost of recording and voice over talent.  We strongly recommend you read your own work and that eliminates that charge.  Studio fees range from $0 - $300.


In addition to their use as entertainment/marketing to consumers (not just on our site, but also on Amazon), VidLits have appeared on TV, and on radio (obviously, just the audio).  They've also been used as a selling tool for the publisher's sales force, as well as opening an author's event or reading.  They've been sent out to reviewers, and can also be used for mobile devices. We just converted all of the Vidlits for the video iPod.


We currently distribute in two ways and we are developing more ways all the time.  First, we keep the VidLit on our site and send just the link out.  We send it out to our list of about 10,000 they include: CLipBlast,, AlbinoBlackSheep, Wildform,  Metafilters as well as individuals.  The advantage of this is that we can look at all the data and know if users are clicking to buy.  KidVidLit has a Click to Buy of almost a full 50%.  The disadvantage is we can't guarantee that the keepers of these sites will send it out to their list, although usually they do. 


The second wave of distribution is we upload the file to places like ifilmcom,,, The advantage of this method of distribution is the VidLit gets out to a lot more people.  These people are more likely to buy in brick and mortar stores, as well as, online.


We do encourage publishers (or authors) to use all their resources to get the VidLit out too, because it's a dazzling tool.  Toward that end, we will convert the file into many formats including, DVD, broadcast quality for television, video iPod, quicktime, just audio Mp3, and other mobile formats.


If you go to the Vid Lit site, link to the Naked Author segments.  ( ) According to Liz, these cost about $1000 to produce. Bill Bryson’s latest book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, is another example worth checking out. ( ) Once the video has been made, authors can store it on their own website, as well as at the Vid Lit site, and Vid Lit distribute it through many channels.


Rob Preece, Museitup Club member, author and publisher at , used a game to create a trailer for his science fiction novel, Merchant Prince of Arcadia. You can see it here:

Rob explains the process:

“Making the movie:


I used The Movies by Activision to build the trailer. This movie has two modes, a sim-style studio game, and a 'sandlot' mode where you build movies. I picked the sandlot mode. The game comes complete with a number of "sets" and pre-set scenes. Sets can be "dressed" to give them the custom look you desire. Many of the scenes have slider bars that let you choose mood and reaction. And camera control can be customized using "The Movies: Stunts and Effects Expansion Pack." Characters can be dressed in costumes that can be fairly extensively customized. By carefully editing the scenes, it's possible to get something fairly close to the look and feel you want (for example, the stagecoach is not exactly the beer wagon I wanted, but I used the camera position to cut off the back of the stagecoach so it looked at least close. Similarly, the Granger were originally carrying submachine guns which I removed but the game did not allow me to replace the submachine guns with swords, which would have been nice). All of the tools to do this are included in the game, and the game itself is reasonably priced.


There is also an active community in the world of The Movies, which includes tutorials on doing things that are unusual, and some custom sets and props. You can also easily incorporate digital photography in backdrops, increasing the degree of customization without a lot of additional expense (assuming you already have a digital camera).


For the voice-over, my wife, Harlequin author Kara Lennox, and I talked along with the subtitles on a digital tape. I used the free program Audacity to turn the narration and dialogue into short snips. The game allows you to associate these snips with actors, which is where the lip sync comes from.


Editing, of both video and audio, is significantly more time-consuming than the actual creation--but as an author, I'm used to the idea that editing is how good books are transformed into excellent books and so I had no problems with that investment.


A lot of people have been doing book trailers lately, and some of them are excellent. But many resemble a Powerpoint slide show. I bought The Movies, and filmed this trailer, with the idea of showing action and dialogue rather than just a narration and a bunch of mood pictures.”


Some authors choose to pay for a professional video trailer for their book. Others try home-made, multi-media presentations. Some writers though, throw up their hands in horror and demand simpler forms of parrot promotion. If you belong to the latter flock, watch out for Musings in March, when the column will touch on promoting with podcasts, audio postcards, eBooks, and sig lines.


Meanwhile, talk it, squawk it and tell it to the world!




Have you been to these sites?


InnermoonLit Award for Best First Chapter of a Novel


Visit page to paste submission.

All entries must be original and previously unpublished.

Authors must be 18 years of age or older.

Entries must be sent anonymously, via email, no later than March 1, 2007, 11:59 p.m. EST. Entrants must specify that they are entering the Best First Chapter of a Novel Contest and must indicate the number of words in their submission (2,000 words maximum). No entry fee. Winning entries will not be published. Writers retain all rights to their submissions. Winners will be notified via email no later than June 1, 2007.



Short-Short Story Contest- GrizzlyBookz Publishing

(See page for more guidelines)



Submission dates: October 1st through 31st—April 1st through 30th. All submissions before and after these dates will be deleted.


Maximum word count of story text—500.


Send your story in the body of an email

Include your name—phone number—email address—word count of the text.

Story content will be the primary consideration to choose the winner, BUT good spelling and punctuation will help you win.


Byzarium Flash Fiction Contest


Wants: Fiction (up to 500 words) inspired by

picture (see site)

Prize: $5, publication


Deadline: ongoing, monthly is spinning off a planned bi-monthly E-zine
that will focus on articles/criticism, long reviews, and
establishing a new market for short fiction. Seeking fiction
under 4,000 words (firm.) Buys exclusive rights for 90 days, and
requests archival rights. Accepts e-subs.

Pays $80/nonfiction, $20/reviews, Fiction/5 cents/word (minimum
payment of $55). They're also seeking artwork.


Fast Ships, Black Sails
Submission Guidelines:
One-time print anthology (Night Shade Books) seeking stories
that contain pirates - any genre okay.
Word Count: 3,000-10,000
Payment: 5 cents US per word + 2 contributor copies

1 March 2007

Quote of the Month: If at first you don’t succeed, skydiving’s not for you.



Until next time, Write On!


Copyright 2007 by The Muse Marquee. All rights reserved. All authors hold individual ownership & copyrights of any material contributed. No unauthorized usage of any published material within the Muse Marquee unless permission is first granted by copyright owner of said material.