January 28, 2009

Do Book Sites and Videos Really Help to Sell Your Book?

Truth be told, no one quite knows. Web presence seems to have taken the place of the book tour, especially in this tough economic environment. To see how that works, here are some examples:

"I Was Told There’d Be Cake"

Sloane Crosley's (herself a publicist at Vintage/Anchor) book, “I Was Told There’d Be Cake,” was released along with an accompanying Web site. It featured photographs of intricate dioramas, video and enough new material to fill a second book. Her observation: “I don’t know how well the success of book Web sites can be tracked, but they do get thrown into that priceless bucket of buzz.”

8 percent of book shoppers visit author Web sites

A survey released last June by the Codex Group, a research firm that monitors trends in book buying, found that 8 percent of book shoppers had visited author Web sites in a given week. It didn’t, however, say how many clicked on the “buy the book” link.

Some authors think the buzz is worth the expense

A sizable industry has sprung up around building book and author sites. AuthorBytes, a multimedia company started in 2003, has built sites for more than 200 clients, including Paul Krugman, Chris Bohjalian and Khaled Hosseini. They cost from $3,500 to $35,000 — with writers paying about 85 percent of the time. The staff of 20 even includes three employees whose entire job is updating.

“If an author is on the ‘Today’ show at 9 a.m., the clip will be up on her site within minutes,” says Steve Bennett, the company’s founder. “That’s a huge advantage, because fresh material is what keeps people coming back.”

“The Shock Doctrine” as viral video

Some authors try to ratchet up the wow factor by including a book video. Modeled on movie trailers, these videos have become increasingly popular since 2006, with the advent of YouTube and MySpace.

Many book videos are little better than home movies, painfully dull and almost laughably bad. But others are impressive, full-scale productions. Naomi Klein’s nearly seven-minute companion film to “The Shock Doctrine,” directed by Alfonso Cuarón with a full crew and shown at the 2007 Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals, has been downloaded more than a million times.

“The film was a thing unto itself; it didn’t feel like an advertisement,” Klein said in a telephone interview. “But it was part of a viral phenomenon that made the book a best seller.”

All right. I've been harping about the importance of web presence since 1999, when we started Newmedia Publishing. And the impact of Internet video since 2006. Heck, we even do what we preach: We have a web video production service and a site, MillionDollarWebTV. Call or write if you need help!