Wednesday, August 15, 2012

How To Make An Author Video When You're Not A Techie

"We'd like you to make an author video." This was in an email my editor sent me a few weeks ago. And my response was a cheerful, "Sure!"

Of course, I wasn't all that sure. I mean, an author video--that meant I had to videotape myself. And to be honest, I'm the type of person who tries to avoid cameras at all cost. The isolation and ability to wear yoga pants all day are big perks to authorhood in my book.

Not that I couldn't have seen this coming--I mean, Harper had listed an author video as part of their marketing plan. Anyway, I made a quick video. Edited it on my basic editing software, the stuff that was already on my computer. Only it looked... Well, pretty terrible.

So I made a better video. And I thought I'd share with you what I learned, so you can be awesome right out the gate.

1. Yes, you need an author video

Maybe your publisher didn't ask you for it, but an author interview is a great tool in telling the world about the great book you wrote. If you're an indie writer: what a great tool to promote your work, right? Especially if you're a middle-grade writer, like me. Author videos allow librarians, teachers and parents to hear you talk about the story, and why kids should read it.

2. Watch some examples

The best way to decide what you want your video to look like is to watch other writers strut their stuff. Some look at the camera, some don't. Some look like they had a stylist, and some look like they just fell out of bed. Just search for 'author video' on Youtube, and it'll toss you examples. I've pasted mine below, but you can do much better.

3. State your talking points

What do you want to say about your book? If someone were to interview you, what do you wish they would ask? Unless you're Stephen King, try to find a good way to introduce yourself and the book. Keep it to the most important stuff. You really don't want your video to run much longer than three minutes.

4. Write a script

Think about how your video will play out. Imagine what slides you'll use (for questions), and what you'll say.

5. Buy some software, if you can afford it

I started my video on Moviemaker, but it's pretty limited in its templates. I tried freeware, and even considered (briefly, until I saw the pricetag) buying a Mac.

Bottom line: unless you're a techie, you want to buy some software with templates. This blog, my website, the video--they're all built with them. Templates are your friend--look for video editing software that gives you sound effects if possible. You'll want to be able to adjust the sound, so look for that function. I made my video with Pinnacle (which set me back $80), but there are several alternatives for about the same price.

6. Shoot lots of video

Unless you're Oprah, you probably need a little warm up time in front of the camera. Videotape yourself answering the same question five times--your software will allow you to edit it. You can use a basic camera; just make sure your sound quality holds up. Shooting outside may be a bit ambitious...

7. Get images and music

Make sure you own the rights to whatever images and music you use... Buy what you need, or ask friends (my Paris pictures were graciously donated by my sister).

8. Have fun

So maybe seeing yourself on video is not your favorite thing in the world. But enjoy the creative process! Play around with your slides, transitions, and other effects. Make sure they fit the mood/message of your book.

I hope this is helpful for you fellow authors! Here's my video; let me know when you make yours, and I'll post it here on the blog with your permission.


  1. I think you were very successful in conveying the story, being likable, being approachable. You seemed quite comfortable on camera.

  2. I shot probably half an hour's worth of footage, most of it of me messing up, or huffing because it was July :-) Editing software made this...

  3. What a great job you did on this video! I've just been debating on whether to put in the time and/or money to do a video for 2nd novel, coming in Oct - you may have pushed me over the "do it" edge. Not sure if I should thank you or curse you. :)

  4. Hehe, you'll curse me while doing it :-) It's hard for us introverted authors...

    But as an added note: I'm finding that a lot of accounts and profiles I have all over the web allow me to upload it (your Amazon author page, Goodreads, SCBWI speaker profile, etc.). So it's a pretty cheap tool, if you consider where all it can go and help you get the word out.

    Hope you'll let me know if you end up making one, Irene!

  5. This interview is just great, F.T! You seem so at ease. Just as if you're talking with Barbara Walters! Did you actually have a person there, off camera? Or your notes? I like the setting, in your home. You come across as a real person, someone who'd be easy to talk with. And you really shared what's great about the book, in such a natural way, without hard selling. I'll be sure to use your video as a model. Thanks for sharing all your tips on how to get it done. Best of luck with your series.

  6. Thanks so much for your kind words, Trish! It was kind of scary to make it, to be honest... So even though I look natural, that all took quite a few takes.

    And yes, it was just me and Barbara, hehe ;-)