Published author and multimedia editor Tracy Buchanan on getting to grips with video…

Tracy Buchanan is a published author and by day she works in The Open University’s Open Media Unit. Here she talks to Journo Nest about how video helped promote her debut novel and offers some tips on editing and filming…

You may think getting a book deal is the icing on the cake, the reward for months or maybe years of hard work. But for many it’s just the beginning, the start of revisions, re-writes and endless editing as well as building a personal profile and helping to promote yourself and your work as an author. Tracy Buchanan, whose debut novel Shimmer (that’s the English translation) was published in Germany last year and she used video to help promote her own profile, and her book.

“Video trailers and promotions are almost expected nowadays from authors, especially if aiming your novel at teens who are used to a multi-media experience. In fact, books are almost treated in a similar way to films in terms of promotion by some publishers with some wonderfully produced trailers out there.

“For my debut teen novel, which was published in Germany, I first did a straight down-the-line video where I talked to camera about my novel and interspersed it with clips I got from a video clippings service.

I used this to promote my novel on Amazon, YouTube, the publisher website and via my website. I wanted people to ‘meet the author’ and bring the description to life so it wasn’t just text on screen.

Tracy introduces herself and her book to camera, as well as a snapshot of her life – her home and her dog Archie make an appearance and a video ‘hello’ offers a more engaging introduction than words on a web page.

“Then, when my novel published, I commissioned an animated video trailer depicting a scene from my novel with the aim of encouraging people to send it around virally (see which was good fun!”

Isn’t this great! Using animation to tell a short story works well and captures the key themes of the book, without giving anything away, and without fear of it turning into a full blown movie. Note that both of Tracy’s videos are on YouTube to allow for easy embedding/linking and so aiding distribution of her content.

By day Tracy works at The Open University’s Open Media Unit, based in Milton Keynes, and part of her role includes editing ‘extras’ that come in from BBC/ Open University co-productions. Her weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and she attended a two-day course to hone her skills when she started the job.

Here are her tips for getting to grips with video…

“First, I’d recommend training yourself up if you haven’t already in both the filming side and the editing side. It isn’t just a case of picking a camera up and pointing. If you have a job at the moment where you can justify asking for training like this, go for it. Or you can search for reasonable training days on the internet.

“Second, I’d definitely say practice in your spare time to hone your craft. So film and edit some fun videos from your holidays or an event.

“Third, keep an eye on how other people are doing it to keep abreast of the latest techniques. So find websites focused on the topics you hope to work in and search for the videos on there, or check out the blogs of journalists working in your specialist area.”

Tracy comes from a print journalism and PR background and relished the new challenges multimedia posed. She now produces and commissions and range of multimedia and interative content and has learned through experience.  So what’s a common mistake to try and avoid?

“I think the most common mistake is not understanding your message, audience and aims. Would the message you’re trying to deliver, and target market, better suit a professionally edited video produced to a high quality? If so, have you got all the skills and experience to do this? It might be better for you to source a freelance multimedia journalist.

“Or maybe your message would be better suited to a quick, informal video, in which you can probably to it yourself. Though a slick video can sometimes seem the best option, sometimes they can come across as being a bit too formal. A rough and ready video might be better, especially if needing to react quickly to news.”

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