Wednesday, May 27, 2015

About Book Trailers...

Are video trailers for books worthwhile? Do they sell more books? Do they increase interest?
Fellow author Christopher Lynch believes a trailer can make all the difference. He made a professional trailer (at no small cost) for his first book One Eyed Jack. He credits the trailer for his getting a film deal.

But what about the rest of us with limited budgets? Do we need video trailers to call attention to our books? Probably not, but I make them for all of our books. I create them ‘quick-and-dirty’ by using PowerPoint and Microsoft Movie, two programs already on my computer. So can you. How?
Make a PowerPoint Presentation
Years ago when I got my first copy of PowerPoint, I asked my goddaughter to teach me to use it. She said, “It’s the easiest program in the world. Just start using it. You’ll figure it out.” She was right. It is one of the easiest programs to use. If you can’t figure it out, ask a ten-year-old to show you how or watch one of the many free tutorials online.
Choose Your Images
The first, of course is the book cover. If you are using a cover provided by your publisher, you might want to get their permission to use the image. But most publishers realize the trailer may bring additional attention to the book, and therefore, more sales.
 Ghost Writer VideoWhat other images would help tell the story? Make sure you have the right to use the images before you include them. Most of ours include photos we took ourselves or drawings we created or free images. (You can find these online.) The number of images I use depends on the story.
For Ghost Writer, I used quite a few. The story involved a black-and-white Shih Tsu who goes from pampered pooch to ragamuffin during the story. I asked a friend who owns a gorgeous little dog who was the inspiration for the one in the story if I could use pictures of Casey in the trailer. She agreed.
Then another friend walked a scruffy one for the elderly owner. We took Precious down to the beach for a run and took lots of photos of her. They became the images on the video. I found most of the other images free online.
 Book 1 Video Video Book 2

However for Larry’s sci-fi books in The McGregor Chronicles series, I only used the cover, some of his sketches (included in the back material in the books) and NASA star field images. These are in the public domain.
Choose Your Words
I usually use the back cover description. This is often the same as the description for the book listing on Amazon. I sometimes have to elaborate on this in order to have enough words to create a long enough trailer. You can also create a PowerPoint with only images and narrate it. This entails an additional step, and I’m basically lazy, so I don’t do it.
Assemble the PowerPoint
Intersperse the images with words. Make sure you have at least 18 slides, but more will work. At the end, be sure to repeat the book title, and credit the author, editor, publisher, etc.
When it is complete, save the file as a PowerPoint and then Save As a JPG file. You will be prompted to save one image or every slide. Choose every slide. They will be stored in a separate folder on your computer. I save the PowerPoint and slide file in the same folder as my book files. With so many different books, it’s the only way I can keep track of them.
Create the Movie
Import Images
Open Microsoft Movie and select Add Videos and Photos. Browse to the folder with all the JPG images. Highlight all of them and import them. If any of the slides has many words, copy it and place it next to the duplicate. This will cause the slide to run longer so the words can be read.
Choose Music
This step may be the most challenging. If you publish a video using copyrighted material, YouTube may remove it. We have over 12,000 songs in our iTunes library, most from old CDs and converted from cassette tapes. We also have some from Japan, which are not available for purchase in the US. You can also find free music online. Just make sure to use a clip around two minutes or less, or one you can cut to that length.
Click the little note Add Music and insert the clip. (If you are taking the clip from iTunes, right click the song and select Show in Widows Explorer. Follow the path to browse to the correct song.) Edit the clip to the place where you want it to end and cut it, if necessary.
Click the Project Tab and select Fit to Music. The slides will automatically fit themselves to the music you have chosen.
Preview Your Video
Play the video to make sure everything works as it should. You may need to change the music, add or delete slides, or make other adjustments. When you are satisfied with your result, Save it. Then Save Movie for Computer. This file will be converted to an actual video file and saved to your My Videos folder. Last, Publish your video to YouTube.
When the video is available on YouTube, you will receive an email notice. Share the video on social media, and embed it on your website.
To see all of ours, go to our website and click the link for each book. The video will appear on the book’s page.
Think you may try your hand at creating your own videos? If the task seems too daunting, companies exist who will create them for you.
I come back to the original question: do they increase sales? The jury is still out on that one. Do they increase visibility? Maybe. Once you’ve done a couple they are fun to make, and that’s why I keep doing them.

Are you an author who has videos for your books? What is your take?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Adventures in Audiobooks

My first audiobook just came out this week, and I’m thrilled! ACX (now owned by Amazon) made it pretty easy to do at no up-front cost.

I first checked with my publisher about the project, and she was completely behind it. She said she’d wanted to see how the process worked. However, for several of our other books, the publisher owns the audio rights, so we are unable to create audiobooks for them.
ACX is like a dating service for authors (rights owners) and voice artists. Authors can choose to record their own books, but professional equipment is required. The final book is reviewed to make sure it meets ACX’s standards.
Here’s how it’s done:
1.   Create an account and add a book. Then designate how you want to record it.

2.   If you choose to use a vocal talent (producer), indicate your book is available for audition and upload a selection from the book.

3.   When you receive an audition, listen to it and decide if this is the right person to read it. We had three auditions for our three books. Two were fabulous, but the third wasn’t a good match. (Even she agreed.)

4.   Once the sample is approved, negotiate the payments. In the case of both our books, we chose to split the royalties, but it is also possible to agree on an up-front payment to the vocal talent. The royalties on the audiobook then belong to the author. (We agreed on a royalty split with both our producers.)

5.   Create a contract. This spells out when the first fifteen minutes of the book and the final book are due. Both parties must agree.

6.   Provide the manuscript to the producer. And wait.

7.   The producer creates the first fifteen minutes of the book for approval. The process is one of dialogue between the parties.

My book, Ghost Writer, is set in Laguna Beach, California and contains quite a few Spanish words. The ghost has a pronounced British accent. I had to correct the pronunciation of a couple of words, but her voicing of the ghost was spot-on.

The producer for The Memory Keeper had me on the third sentence with his pronunciation of San Juan Capistrano. He used just a hint of accent, and the correct pronunciation rolled off his tongue as if he had lived here at the time of the book. However, we threw him lots of Spanish and Acjachemen words as well. We located an expert on the Luiseno language, who recorded a guide for the producer to use. This book took longer, in part, because we have had to discuss how certain words are pronounced.

8.   After the first fifteen minutes are approved, the producer has time (usually several months) to complete the recording.

9.   Meanwhile, the cover art has to be addressed. ACX requires a square image, but it cannot have any colored borders or frame. The book cover is rectangular:

The CD cover must be square. So it took some work in Photoshop to create the one for the CD, and some of the cover art had to be eliminated:

     10.   Finally, the producer began to upload the chapters. I reviewed each of them and found a few minor issues. A flurry of correspondence took care of the problems.

11. At last, we both agreed on the final version. Then we waited while ACX reviewed the project.

12. After a couple of weeks, they approved the audiobook for sale, but it took another two weeks for it to appear on Amazon.

13. Now we wait to see how many copies we sell.
I’m excited because I have several friends with macular degeneration who have not been able to read our books. Now they can listen to them.
Ghost Writer is now available and The Memory Keeper should be finished in June.

Do you like listening to audiobooks? When and where do you listen to them? Please let me know if you have listened to the book and how you liked it.

Friday, May 15, 2015

End of an Era

I think my ‘career’ as a web designer is now officially over. I taught myself to do web design in Microsoft FrontPage when we took over the Universal Studios Japan Alumni site ( in 2001. We’ve maintained it ever since.

This was, without a doubt, the easiest software in the world to use. Everything was WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get). I didn’t have to learn HTML code, and I could preview exactly what the site would look like when it went live. I began building other sites, including our author site, using this tool. They weren’t fancy, but they were user-friendly and provided information.

Unfortunately, in 2008, Microsoft in their (IMHO) questionable wisdom, decided to stop supporting the product. However, it kept on working, and I continued using it.
I built the site for our writing group (, the one for our friends Len and Luanna Rugh (, and the one for our artist friend, Bob Schwenck ( using it.
For quite a few years, we maintained our church website ( on it as well. Fortunately, a couple of years ago, the church hired a professional to redesign it, and we got out of the web site business—at least for that site.
We tested the website for our high school class on FrontPage, but a friend designed the final version in HTML code. ( I am very grateful, not only for her friendship but also for her considerable skill and talent!
I also built our original writing website on that platform (, but several years ago, our Japanese son twisted my arm to let him redesign it. Thank God he did, or it would be going the way of the dodo as well.
When I chose hosting for my sites, I picked GoDaddy. They were one of the few hosting sites to continue to support FrontPage extensions after Microsoft abandoned the program. They have continued to run my sites. That will stop next month for several of them (www.usjalumni,.com,,, We’ve been notified that they are shifting to a new hosting platform and will no longer support FrontPage. I don’t know whether this means they will all go away as of that date or some of their pages won’t look right or what.
I spent all morning (starting at three a.m.) exploring the alternatives, but none of the existing programs will allow for straight conversion from FrontPage, and all of them would require a substantial learning curve.

Six years ago, I took a class in Dreamweaver. I received an A, but discovered I loathed the program. It was much too complex for the kinds of sites I worked on. And it also would not allow for direct conversion.
I am now retired—at least I’m supposed to be—and I have no desire to take on mastering a new program. So I guess those sites will just go away unless I can find someone to take them over.
I won’t pay anyone to be webmaster for these. It's not worth it to me. Two belong to groups with numerous other members, and the other two belong to friends.

Does anyone have any suggestions for going forward? I’d still like to be able to tweak the group sites from time to time or at least make suggestions or contributions. Has anyone else faced this issue?

Friday, May 8, 2015

Sharing Memories

On Saturday, May second, thirty friends from three Alhambra grammar schools met at our house in Dana Point to renew old friendships and share memories, fifty-five years after we graduated from eighth grade together.
Not everyone who attended is shown in the photo. A couple arrived late, two left early, and a few others didn’t want to be in the picture.
I hadn’t seen one of the guys since sixth grade. He moved away in the seventh, but I was able to track him down. I’d stayed in touch with several over the years, and I’d found more of them last year when preparing for my high school fiftieth reunion. But this fellow wanted to reconnect with several of his friends—and he did.
One unexpected benefit was the mini-reunion of my husband and two of the guys he graduated from high school with. They were all two years ahead of the rest of us, but they competed in track and field together, so they had many shared memories and mutual friends. One was the older brother of an attendee, and the other was a husband.

Olamendi’s Mexican Restaurant in Capistrano Beach provided the fabulous food: pollo verde (chicken in green sauce), beef in red sauce, and fish in white sauce. I’m not a great fish fan, but this was incredible. Along with the meat, they brought tostada shells (bowls and flat), soft corn tortillas, beans, rice, shredded lettuce, shredded cheese, and (as if that weren’t enough), lots of fresh tortilla chips with huge bowls of fresh, hand-made guacamole and salsa. They als o sent their delicious dessert “Raquelitos”: flour tortilla pockets filled with pineapple, deep fried, and covered with cinnamon sugar. Yumm!
A couple of people brought additional salads, chips, drinks, and desserts. No one went home hungry! In fact, we packed large bags of food for several to take home. We took a few desserts to church the next day, and we still had far too much left. So we’ve invited friends for lunch nearly every day to use it up. The food was far too good to waste!
Some people live fairly close, but a few traveled long distances to attend—from Oregon, Northern California, Nevada, and Missouri!
Several of us shared our grammar school photos and compared how we looked as kids with how we look now. We’ve held up pretty well!
During the afternoon, laughter echoed through the yard as a few people (mostly the guys) told tall tales. As he left, one of them said, “It felt like we were right back in fifth grade again.”
Although the event ended far too soon, plans are already underfoot for the next get-together.
Some of us gals got together near the end for one last photo of our feet. Mine’s the bare ‘baby’ one on the left. The shot shows the diversity as well as the closeness we share. Amazing! After fifty-five years, friendships endure and memories remain fresh.

Have you ever attended a grammar school reunion? Did you recognize each other? What surprised you?