Building Your Brand: Create a YouTube Trailer

On Monday night, in a lesson about marketing, I was discussing with my continuing ed. class at Hofstra the various social media networks out there and how to maximize them when promoting your brand and your work. When I clicked onto my YouTube page, it suddenly seemed so uninviting and, well, unhelpful when compared to my other social media pages. While I’m not a big fan of book trailers, specifically, I do believe videos — of author events, appearances, interviews — can help build a platform. YouTube is kind enough to give you space on your landing page to upload a channel trailer, and it’s a good idea for authors to take advantage of this facet of the page to give viewers a quick glimpse of who they are and what they do. Last night, when I should have been writing — or sleeping — I composed this one-minute video on Animoto that I think does the trick for my needs, at least for now:

Although anything goes with this kind of thing, my advice is to keep your trailer lively, keep it short, preferably under a minute, and keep it professional, showcasing high-quality photos, videos or commentary. You only have a few moments to capture a viewer’s attention, so put your best foot forward.

Do you have a YouTube trailer? If so, post it or the link in the comments. I’d love to see it!


Writing Tip #113: Strive for Believable

I was recently chatting with a fellow thriller writer who admitted he did hardly any research for his books — a fact that he rarely discussed with readers. (“That’s not what they want to hear,” he told me.)

I, however, tell readers all the time that I’m not really a research-hound when it comes to my novels. Maybe it’s because I’m a trained journalist and my day job is spent worrying about the facts, and being accurate, and getting it right, that when I write fiction I just want to let my mind wander into new and interesting places. I mean, that IS the fun of novel-writing, isn’t it?

That is not to say, however, that I DON’T do research. I do. I actually do CONSTANT research, but in very small doses. If I’m writing a scene about, say, Bryant Park in Manhattan, I’ll scoot over to the Bryant Park website to do a quick read on the latest news, and then continue on with my scene. If I decide that my character, Bob, is going to buy a Brooks Brothers suit, I’ll go to the Brooks Brothers website to look at the kinds of suits they’ve got. Hey, in May 2010, I even traveled to Albany, New York, to get a feel for the city, since it is the primary setting for Baby Grand. It’s not that I’m averse to research, but I’m not a stickler for it. I look at novel-writing as playtime, where I can mix fact and fiction.

In my opinion, novels simply need to be believable. As long as readers think that, sure, this could happen, I’m happy. (A recent blog post on Writer Unboxed discussed how thinking too much about the Reality Police will actually derail your writing. Sometimes writers get too caught up these tiny details of whether or not something is true, whether or not they’ll receive hate mail from readers about how they screwed something up, that they can’t manage to write a word.)

Most of the time I go by my own reality compass. Do I think this is credible? real? believable enough for readers to keep reading? I’m sure I don’t get EVERYTHING right, but I’m okay with that as long as I TRY to.

Recently, at a book club appearance, the discussion turned to a scene in Baby Grand where a visitor who has clearly had a few drinks goes to see a death row inmate. One of the ladies in the group said, “There’s no way that guy would be allowed to go in there drunk.”

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Meet Julia Munroe Martin

Today’s Debut Author Q&A features a very special writer to me and to this blog. Julia Munroe Martin has been a supporter of Baby Grand and Making ‘Baby Grand’ for as long as I can remember. It is a privilege and an honor to have her here today to talk about her debut novel, Desired to Death. Her answers to my questions made me think about my own fiction journey – our paths are very similar, our ideas for our novels formed many years ago. So without further ado, I bring you the world’s newest mystery writer.

043013_Head-WUName: Julia Munroe Martin (writing as J.M. Maison)
Name of book: Desired to Death (Book 1 of The Empty Nest Can Be Murder mystery series)
Book genre: Mystery
Date published: April 29, 2013 (ebook); paperback in about 3 weeks
Where can we find your book: Amazon
What is your day job? This is it! I am a journalist by education, worked as a technical writer for about 10 years, then as a freelance writer. Now I focus almost exclusively on fiction.
What is your book about? This book answers the question: What am I going to do with the rest of my life? After her daughter leaves for college, former-SAHM Maggie True is faced with an empty nest and doesn’t know what to do with herself. Never in her wildest dreams does small-town Maggie imagine the answer will come in the form of a middle-of-the-night call for help from an estranged friend who has just been arrested for murder. But it does, and as Maggie solves the mystery of who killed A.J. Traverso, a sexy kickboxing instructor, she also solves the mystery of what to do for the rest of her life.
Why did you want to write this book? This idea came to me after my son left for college, when I wondered what the future held. It was a very tough transition for me, especially when a few years later my daughter left for college. Going through that transition, from stay home mom AND writer to “just” work at home writer, wasn’t easy. I’ve always been the kind of person who observes and watches everything and, clearly, makes up stories about it all. And my loose ends led me to ask the question “What if?” or maybe even “If only.”

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Meet Author Jessica McCann

Today’s featured debut author is Jessica McCann, a professional freelance writer and novelist who lives with her family in Phoenix, Arizona. Her debut historical novel, All Different Kinds of Free, was awarded the Freedom in Fiction Prize and is available in trade paperback, ebook and audiobook, which is what we chat about today.

040213_jessica_headshotName: Jessica McCann

Name of audiobook: All Different Kinds of Free

Audiobook genre: Historical fiction, literary fiction

Date published: Audio, June 2012; paperback/eBook, April 2011

What is your book about? The novel is inspired by the true story of Margaret Morgan, a free woman of color in 1830s Pennsylvania, who was kidnapped with her children and sold into slavery in the South. She fought hard to regain her freedom, and she endured tremendous loss and hardship. Her ordeal led to one of the most pivotal Supreme Court cases in America’s history, Prigg v. Pennsylvania. The history books will have you believe the story of Prigg v. Pennsylvania is important because it ended in controversy and fanned the early embers of the Civil War. This book will have you believe the story is important because it began with Margaret.

Why did you want to create an audiobook for your historical fiction? The novel had been well-received in trade paperback and ebook, and audio seemed like a logical next step. My publisher and I wanted to share Margaret’s  story with as wide an audience as possible.

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Anne Canadeo: ‘All Characters Are a Reflection of the Writer’

Last night, I attended the book signing of cozy mystery writer Anne Canadeo at Book Revue in Huntington, New York. Anne is the author of the Black Sheep knitting mystery series (she also wrote the popular Thomas Kinkade writing as Katherine Spencer) and was discussing The Silence of the Llamas, which is the latest book in the series. As often happens when I attend these appearances and the authors talk about their experiences while writing their books, I find myself nodding along. Here are nine things Anne said that I thought were pretty spot-on:

Anne Canadeo

Anne Canadeo

  1. ‘All the characters in the book, including the villain, are a reflection of the writer.’ Whether consciously or unconsciously, I imbued practically all the characters in Baby Grand with elements of my personality or fragments of my thought process. A piece here. A piece there. What’s fun is when people who know me read the book and pick up on them.
  2. ‘Fun things happen by accident.’ All the time. I plan, plan, plan, but sometimes the characters have something else in mind. I was surprised by many of the twists and turns that occurred in Baby Grand as I was writing.
  3. ‘Even though I knew my ending as I was writing, I wasn’t sure  how I was going to get there.’ Imagine getting into your car and getting ready to drive to a destination that is familiar to you. Hmmm… let’s see, you can take the highway if you want to get there quickly, or perhaps the scenic route if you’re in the mood for pretty. There’s lots of ways to get to one place, and that’s part of the magic of storytelling.
  4. ‘I need an outline or else I find that I’m wandering aimlessly.’ I experience this as well. Although my process is to just jump in and start writing wildly, without an outline, I reach a point — probably about a hundred pages in — where I get that “wandering aimlessly” sensation. That is when I sit down and do a very, very basic outline that serves as a guideline to get me from chapter to chapter and eventually to the end of the book.
  5. ‘Sometimes writing is miserable, but you’re compelled to do it.’ As one of my graduate professors used to say, there are so many more exciting things we could be doing — spending time with our families, meeting friends for lunch, going to the movies. Why do we sit at that computer and suffer? Because, for some reason, we’re compelled to do so.
  6. ‘You can talk and talk about writing, but you really just have to sit down and do it.’ This is VERY true. Waiting for inspiration is a myth if you’re a working (or serious) novelist. Gotta just sit there and write. Now.
  7. ‘When I’m writing, I do not think about the reader.’ It sounds cruel, perhaps, but worrying about what readers will think about a book will keep me from writing anything at all. Everybody is different. We all find different things funny, scary, thought-provoking. I truly believe that if you just concentrate on writing what’s in your heart, readers will find you.
  8. ‘Being a writer is pretty lonely.’ When I’m writing, it’s just my computer and me. In the middle of the day or night. I wouldn’t quite call it lonely, although I am indeed alone. Writing is a solitary endeavor. Maybe that’s why I’m enjoying the marketing aspect of Baby Grand right now — interacting with readers at store appearances and book clubs. I get to share my characters with others who — thank goodness — seem to love them as much as I do.
  9. ‘The most fun is being done with a book.’ Amen.

Meet Victor Giannini

Today’s featured debut author is Victor Giannini. His novel, Scott Too—which was inspired by events from Victor’s own life—was published in December and is available in paperback and as an eBook.

012913_VG headshot 2Name: Victor Giannini

Name of book: Scott Too

Book genre: Magical realism or speculative fiction, depending on your cup of tea.

Date published: December 2012

Publisher: Silverthought Press

What is your day job? The last few years, I’ve been teaching with YAWP, The Young American Writer’s Project.  They send me into schools, grade 7-12, to teach playwriting or creative writing for a semester.

What is your book about? Being in direct conflict with yourself. Being forced to look at your own lackluster life and take responsibility for it. Thirty is the new 20, and this odd decade of extended teenage years can be a curse, so what do you do when it goes wrong?  What do you do when another creature steals your life and lives it the way you wished you could?

Why did you want to write this book? I wanted to write a dark comedy for a novella class I was taking at the Stony Brook Southampton MFA in Writing and Literature. What started as a “multiplicity style wacky sitcom” with super violent jokes and gore quickly turned into an absolutely different project. I saw my generation around me, where our twenties are different than previous generations’. Scott Alvin became a representative for this new generation. So I pit him against himself, a more aggressive, bitter, unrestricted self, to see what would happen. I wasn’t sure, I wanted to find out. And I did! And in all honesty, as I got inside Scott’s head, it was not what I expected at all …

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Writing Tip #108

Always remember why you became a writer. Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to prospective MFA students at Hofstra University about my experiences in grad school there and about publishing as a career. I got to see old professors and old friends, but perhaps the most exciting aspect of the afternoon was the opportunity to hear current Hofstra students perform readings of their work. How inspiring it was to see these students recite their poetry, their creative nonfiction and fiction. How proud I could tell they were to have been asked to showcase their stuff. You could see it in their eyes, hear it in their voices. It’s been, gosh, almost four years since I graduated from Hofstra, and I had forgotten how exciting it was to be in a place where the written word was cultivated and so valued. (Can you tell I miss being there?) As I struggled with my current work-in-progress this morning, I thought about the faces of those students I saw yesterday who didn’t seem worried about agents and publishers and readers and sales. They just seemed to be enjoying the moment, the opportunity to share their thoughts with others. That’s why most of us have become writers, isn’t it? Because we thought we had something to say, stories to tell. Good. Bad. Long. Short. Funny. Sad. Whatever it is that we’re struggling to say, we have to always remember that it deserves to be written.