Sunday, 30 September 2012

The book trailer phenomenon

Everyone at work is going mad for videos at the moment.  They're the latest thing in our slightly behind the times, politics led sector.  At first our small digital team were very excited to be able to express themselves so creatively in something new with so many technical skills to be learnt.  The exicitement has been dampened slightly by the huge demand and the reality of creating of videos.

Videos seem to be the latest thing.  Traditionally published and self published authors are now making book trailers.  It makes sense, it is an easy and attractive way to virally market their work.  On the other hand, a bad trailer can make a book look cheap and an amateur video can show up an amateur writer.

I find the idea of book trailers a little strange.  I always found television adverts for book weird enough.  It is essentially someone reading out the blurb.  It has never made me want to read a book.  I don't know why this is, it doesn't make sense.  Movie trailers can capture the imagination and lead me off to new worlds and interesting characters.  Why shouldn't a book trailer be able to do the same?

The real question is whether a video works to sell a book.  This relies on many factors including your target audience (and possibly your genre) and your budget.  A trailer may be an excellent way to sell a fantasy or science fiction book (just imagine it!).  You wouldn't even necessarily need the large budget as long as you had the atmospherics or a good sense of humour.  Other genres may be a little tricky as the audience becomes less loyal to their favoured genre and authors - no one can say fantasy and science fiction readers are not loyal.  Although other genres may be easier to film, and perhaps slightly less fun.

Intruiged, I decided to have a look at some trailers...

Dodger by Terry Pratchett

 Above is an example of a book trailer from a top publisher.  I did find an example of a poorly constructed book trailer but felt it was wrong to share in this context.  It was amongst some of the trailers I found when searching for self published authors' trailers.

Book trailers can be placed on the writer's YouTube channel and promoted through social media, their blog and website, making it easy to share and sending it viral.

You don't need money, but you do need to;
  • check your grammar (you're a writer, after all), 
  • ensure consistency (capital letters, fonts, etc),
  • choose appropriate music,
  • make sure that it actually makes sense,
  •  and, most importantly, make it exciting!
There is so much you can do yourself these days.  As book trailers become more mainstream, more and more companies will offer the service.  If you do want to make one yourself then find some friends who want to try out acting and download or buy some free/cheap editing software.

Trailers can be made by anyone and is something that could, and maybe should, be considered by self publishing authors in their marketing plans.  However, I would want evidence that the book trailer can create awareness and increase sales before parting with any money or spending any length of time on such a project. 

The movie trailer - Looper

What do you think of the book trailer?

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A preferable point of view

I keep thinking about my Novel-Previously-Known-As-Silver.  I’ve decided that it needs a lot of work and have spent the last four or five months thinking about how to do this.
At first I was considering simply rearranging the plot a little, and changing the structure of the novel.  Copy that piece, paste it and then make sure it runs seamlessly.  I’ve since come to the decision that it needs a lot more work than that.

I began to think about the characters and my future plans for them.  With the change of structure planned, I wondered if my all of my characters are well developed and not just the main character.

The novel follows Emily through her work and tribulations as a werewolf hunter and is written in the first person from Emily’s point of view.  I originally wanted to write her in the first person because I wanted a real connection between her and the reader.  I wanted the reader to be in her head.

Just to clarify, first person is from the character's point of veiw (I said) and third person is from the storytellers point of view (he said, she said, Gordie said, Eve said, they said).

While visiting writing forums I have gained the distinct impression that the first person in novels is heavily frowned upon.  The first person cannot be done well in a novel length piece of fiction until the character is perfect and the voice is pure rather than that of the writers.  It means that restrictions are put on the story teller, who cannot give any other pov, and therefore the plot becomes restricted.


Before I came across the forum posts about this subject (which all seem very divided), I was already mulling over rewriting the novel in the third person simply because it would make my future ideas easier and possibly better.  It seems that most first novels are written in the first person which would explain why some people might look down on it.  However, I am stubborn.  These forum people say it can’t be done and I immediately think, rubbish!  Of course it can!  And I then set about trying to find a good novel written in the first person.

There are lots!  How about Rebecca by Daphne De Maurier?  Or Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters?  Or Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh.
Actually two of my favourite books are written in the first person.  I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan and The Body by Stephen King.  I, Lucifer, as the title suggests, is written in the first person from Lucifer’s pov and this works really well, it allows the reader into the mind of a character who should be pure evil but is actually full of doubt.  It makes him likeable.
On the other hand, The Body is written in the first person from Gordie Lachance’s point of view but is actually a story about his best friend, Chris Chambers.  

So what about bestselling fantasy books?  A few are written in first person, including the bestsellers Twilight and The Hunger Games.  
So the first person point of view can’t be all bad, can it?  Apparently the general public are happy to part with their cash for it.

The novel I'm currently editing has also raised this issue. This novel is written in the third person and while originally there was supposed to be one main character, I’ve somehow ended up with four.  Well, you know how it is, you add a character, fall madly in love with them and have to have more of them!
After reading Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin and working my way lovingly through Joe Abercrombie’s The Heroes, I have begun to rethink the structure of this novel too.  I rather like the idea of each chapter being solely from one character’s point of view but I also wonder if I’m a little biased after reading two novels that follow this system.
Naturally this thinking does then filter through to Previously-Known-As-Silver, although I’m eager to keep the two projects separate.

Throughout all of this brain splurge, it must be remembered that all writing is subjective and to ultimately write whatever makes you happy, safely in the knowledge that there are enough people on this planet that at least one other person will love it too.  Experimentation is one of the fun aspects of writing!

But just because I’m curious, what is your preference between first and third person narrative?   

I’ve put a poll in the top right, have a click and let me know, or comment below or let me know on Facebook/Twitter.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

A year older and a new wave of inspiration

 Well, here I am.  A whole year older and feeling sick from too much birthday cake.  This year I decided I needed to get away from everything so I booked a long weekend in my most favouritist city in the whole, wide world.  Edinburgh.
I’ve done a post about how inspiring Edinburgh is already, so I won’t milk it.  What I will say, however, is that not an hour went past this weekend without inspiration knocking me on the head.

We arrived on the early evening of my birthday to a wet and gloomy Edinburgh.  It was beautiful.  The tourists were hiding, the residents were in work and me and the hubby grabbed our umbrellas and went for a walk down the Royal Mile.  We got drenched but along the way I saw wrought iron words, Medieval traces, dark green parks and a castle upon a hill, sheathed in mist.

For the rest of the weekend we were bathed in glorious, Scottish sunshine.  We visited the zoo and went to spy on the pandas.  Pandas are very strange animals, but incredible to watch.  If you’re visitng Edinburgh, I highly recommend taking a day to spend at the zoo.  Situated on a steep hill with views all the way up.
The top is particularly precious to me as this is where the hubby proposed to me, two years ago on a dark and damp day.  It was wonderful to go back in the sunshine and relive the moment beneath a blue sky.

This holiday was one of views.  I took countless photos of the castle and we discovered Arthurs Seat (although didn’t climb it this time) and Calton Hill (much less a climb with panoramic views).  It was also a holiday of culture.  Yes, we went to the zoo but we also visited the Scottish National Galleries and the National Museum of Scotland, and that’s not including all of the wonderful street performers that can be found between the park and Royal Mile.

The museum was full of Scottish history and thought provoking art, all of which serves for great inspiration.  An artist’s expression of time passing and the ills of the world and the haunting exhibition of an ancient Scottish forest filled with wolves and bears.

We arrived back in rainy Bristol on Sunday evening to a very big birthday cake, with blisters, bruises, sore legs and, personally, a limp.  I spent Monday lying on the sofa, far too tired to do anything but with my mind racing.
Unfortunately it was back to work today and I didn’t have a chance to think about either of my novels or short stories until I returned home.

We still haven’t done everything in Edinburgh.  I’m suffering from the holiday blues, thinking about walking through winding alleyways and wyds, listening for the voices of the dead and happening upon a band or dancers, dreaming of the highlands that exist beyond.  I hope to hold onto these feelings, at least until I’m able to convince my other half that we need to return to this beautiful city.

I highly recommend that you go, if you haven’t already.  There is so much to do and so much to see, even if you simply fancy a little walk before sitting before an incredible view.

Oh well, back to grindstone.

Ps. I wanted to share videos of the street performers with you but I'm having trouble uploading them.  However all of these photos were taken by us!  Yes, Edinburgh is that amazing!

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

This is a man's world. But it wouldn't be nothing, without a woman or a girl

I have just finished watching this week’s Great British Bake Off and was struck by something interesting.  It is a baking competition and there are three women left and four men.  It got me to thinking, not for the first time, about areas of life that are traditionally female orientated but are professionally dominated by men.

Take cooking for example.  Sure, there are a lot of women, Delia Smith and Nigella Lawson for example, but there are so many men.  Horses are seen as a girly thing but the horse world is dominated by men, although I was very pleased to see women winning the gold medals at the Olympics and Paralympics!  And what about fashion?  All those top fashion designers, something that is seen as a thing for women, and so many of the best fashion designers are men.

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
What about writing?  Now writing isn't typically predominated by men or women.  There are so many good female writers, and there always have been although not necessarily writing under their true, female names.  Some top female fantasy writers include Ursula LeGuin, Mary Shelley and Anne McCaffery.  Right now best selling, household author names are female; J K Rowling, E L James and Stephanie Meyer. 
Two of the bestsellers are in the fantasy genre.  Other fantasy writer names that trip off my tongue without thinking are Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, George R R Martin, Joe Abercrombie, Dan Abnett, Philip Pullman, all of whom are male.

I’m going to confess something now and I can’t express strongly enough how ashamed I am of this; I have not read one fantasy book by a female author that I have loved.
I have done some experimenting with this.  I have read non-fantasy fiction by women and loved them.  I have read fantasy novels without looking at the author and still I haven’t like those written by women, although I must point out that I also don’t like some books written by men.
I am fully aware that maybe I haven’t read enough fantasy books by female authors and so have tried shopping for purely female fantasy authors but the blurbs never sell the books to me, the covers always put me off and even when I overlook this, I still don’t enjoy the books.

Joe Abercrombie
This does not mean that women cannot write good fantasy.  I simply will not accept that.  Instead, I have either not been reading the right books or I have deep rooted issues.

So why do men prevail in everything?

While watching the Great British Bake Off, I noticed the three women working close to one another and interacting much more than the men.  Sarah Jane even passed on the secret of stretching pastry with Katherine, which resulted in Katherine launching her pastry across the marquee (leading to much laughter from our house and me nearly falling off the sofa).  The men watched one another, but did not share and did not chatter.
What did this tell me?  Men are competitive.  Women are as well, but I believe that women will often express their competitiveness differently to men. 

Men also seem to have a blind confidence.  When first researching self publishing I came across G P Taylor (another fantasy writer) who didn’t even try to submit his work to agents and publishers but was so certain of his own capabilities that he moved immediately into self publishing and was a great success.  

Confidence is the key.  Everyone suffers from insecurities but women seem to show these insecurities to the world easier than men.  Of course, we are the ‘gentler sex’ and men have to be big and strong with no weakness.  Unfortunately, this means that while a woman can have the greatest of confidence in herself, those little insecurities that she lets through results in the reader/viewer simply not believing in her.
So what have I learnt from this Tuesday’s Great British Bake Off?  Apart from to buy pudding for Tuesday nights, I have learnt that I must have confidence in myself, to strive to be the best and, more importantly, know that I can be the best.  And that is a great lesson for everyone, whether they are a writer or not.

On a side note, I am off to the glorious Edinburgh on Thursday so I apologise for the lack of posts for the rest of this week but also, hurray!  I’m going back to Scotland!

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Why write?

It’s been a strange week.  Work has been incredibly busy, I’ve been ill and then the hubby was ill and I was hit hard by the publishing world.

The publishing world is a harsh one.  One day you can have a high, maybe an agent or publishers requests your full manuscript, or your short story or article gets accepted.  Another day you have a low, full of rejections and constructive feedback with hard truths.  Most days are somewhere in-between and so are hardly noticeable but this last week has been a low.  I won’t go into why.

It got me to thinking why we write.  What makes a writer?

In Sister Act 2, Sister Mary Clarence tells Rita, ‘"Don't ask me about being a writer.  If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing then you're a writer."

A born writer has to write.  I once went about a month or two without writing (when I first started university) and pretty soon I was silently narrating my life to myself.  Then one day I snapped.  I was sat in a lecture when my brain switched off from reality, my stomach began churning and I had to start writing right then and there in order to calm my body down. 

However, being a writer does not mean that you should strive to be published.  Many people, including me, dream of it but it is not a necessity.

If you are part of the online writing world then you must have noticed the pressure the publishing industry puts all writers under.  To constantly improve, to write saleable words, to always strive to be better.
The majority of the writing world is friendly and helpful but we are also human and so every single one of us will have, at some time, written a post on a forum, or spoken in a conversation with a pretentious tone.  We want to help each other, but each of us also wants to be the best.

This underlying competition to be the better writer can be very damaging.  This week I was reminded that it is ok to not be a part of that community.  A writer is not a failure because they decide, either permanently or temporarily, that they no longer wish to be published (if they wanted to be published at all).  A writer is also not a failure if they choose to stop writing (although I would worry for their sanity).   

The universe is a harsh place and if a writer should find it difficult to survive in such a competitive and sometimes negative world, then they should be allowed to drop back and go back to basics without the tag of failure hanging over their heads.  I think it is very easy to get so involved in the world of writing and publishing that the basics and bliss of writing is forgotten.

The first rule of writing is to write for yourself.  First you write for yourself, then you write for money.  Money, however, is nothing compared to the joy of writing something you feel passionate about that you, and you alone, can reread over and over.

And now, a piece of micro fiction that cultivated and grew during a September evening walk...

Opposite Dog

“Oh look!  It’s opposite dog.”
“Wow!  An opposite dog.  Does it meow instead of woof?”
“It is not loyal?”
“It’s very loyal.”
“Does it not enjoy the company of humans?”
“Oh no, it loves its family.”
“Not a dog who doesn’t like walks?”
“It loves going for walks.”
“Could it be, is it a vegetarian?”
“Of course not!”
“Does it stand when told to sit?”
“No, it’s very obedient.”
“It has white fur, was it born with black?”
“No, it was a very white, fluffy puppy.”
“Then what on earth makes it an opposite dog?”
“It lives opposite me.”