Image: Matthew Loffhagen
They say the movie is never better than the book it’s based on.
Whether or not that’s true, there’s no denying the power of videos on the internet, especially when it comes to promoting yourself online.
A good vlog (or video blog for the uninitiated) can go a long way to building your profile as an author, bring in new readers, and help your existing followers care more about your upcoming projects.
If cameras intimidate you, don’t worry – vlogging is not an exact science and you’re allowed to make a few mistakes along the way. Here are a few basic starting points and examples as you find your own voice for your videos.
As with many online marketing tools, there’s no magic formula to vlogging: you simply set up your camera and start talking to it. Whatever makes you the most comfortable is the best way to do it.
Vlogging is not too different from writing
In many ways, vlogging is not too different from writing. You can’t get very far by copying somebody else, but you can borrow from other creators to find your own distinct voice.
That said, inspiration is not hard to find, as there are some amazing examples online of writers who’ve made a name for themselves through videos.
One particularly unique vlogging team are writing couple Ransom Riggs and Tahereh Mafi, who use their vlog to promote their writing. Some of their videos are utterly bizarre – one particularly popular one stars Tahereh as a muppet.
Ransom and Tahereh’s online videos succeed because they are honest – they present their relationship on screen to allow viewers a glimpse into a marriage between two writers. Those who haven’t read their books become interested to know more about their work, while their existing readers develop a more personal connection with the two of them.
Find your unique vlogging voice
A unique voice or a quirky trademark can go a long way to set you apart from other writers. Famous authors such as Neil Gaiman, George RR Martin and the late Terry Pratchett were all known as much for their eccentric hair and grooming decisions. Finding something in your own appearance that you can play on will help, even if it’s as simple as wearing the same outfit in your videos.
Many authors use their videos to give their followers insight into the writing process, or the experience of being a writer. Kaleb Nation, regular YouTuber and author, uses his videos to discuss with viewers the challenges that he faces when writing. His video, ‘Writers are Crazy Creatures’, is an excellent example of poking fun at his own experiences, while helping viewers to connect with him as a person.
Videos give you an excellent opportunity to show your fans the world you live in. Many authors like to film themselves at their writing desk or against their bookshelf, showing the physical space that they use to create their stories.
Record your author vlog in front of your bookcase
A backdrop of books can be a powerful way of communicating to your audience without having to say a word – your viewers will be able to learn about you from the books on your shelves, and will be thrilled should they see something they recognize or that they’ve read.
Author Jackson Pearce, who often vlogs in front of her bookcase, uses her videos to help her viewers feel included. Her video ‘Stuff Non-Writers Say’ pokes fun at the people she meets in her daily life, and helps her audience to understand a little more about her. Writers who’ve experienced similar conversations are also able to laugh and feel included in Jackson’s tight circle of followers.
In spite of a reputation for horribly negative and offensive comments on YouTube, many creators who use the site enjoy a warm and loyal community that develops around their videos. Singer Peter Hollens refers to his YouTube followers as members of the ‘Hollens family’, a small act which helps his viewers feel more included, and which expresses his appreciation to them for their support and kindness.
The Hollens family is very large by this point, as Peter has over a million subscribers, but his messages of appreciation help to give the community an intimate feel.
Vlogs don’t need a particularly high production value. The more relaxed and personal you can make your videos feel, the more your audience will want to connect with them. While puppets, clever editing and good window dressing may help draw in viewers, what matters more than anything is that you engage your fans in a friendly and inviting way.
If your viewers can see your love for them, they’ll automatically want to share love back with you.
These are just a few examples of author vlogs and ideas for how to make videos that attract fans. Do you know of any excellent videos by authors? Have you had experience vlogging yourself? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.