Monday, April 6, 2015

A Festival of ... BOOKS!?!

First things first. I want to get a shameless plug out of the way. On Saturday, April 18th 2015, between 2:00 and 3:50, I will be selling and signing Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books in the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI – LA) booth 834. Please feel free to join my event on Facebook and if you're in the LA area then, come on over to get a book, an autograph, and pump me for information about your submission. Don't be disappointed if I'm vague about that last part.

There's another reason you should come to the Festival of Books, and it has to do with your movie.

Selling movies and selling books has become one and the same thing. If and when you get a distributor/publisher, they will put your movie/book up on Amazon, iTunes, Nook, and other platforms that are more for show than measurable income. Old-fashioned viewers/readers can order your DVD/Printed Book. The young-'ns can stream the movies/borrow the books from Amazon Prime, or download-to-own the files – movies and books.

Great, wonderful, there's your movie/book right next to movies/books you've loved and respected all of your life. You can and should be proud. Show it to all of your friends and family. Ten percent of them will buy a copy, and that will be the highest promotion-to-sales return you'll see. A word to the wise, don't get mad at your friends who don't buy your book. It gives you an out when they invite you to their play.

In the old days, your publisher/distributor would spend money on marketing your book/movie. They still do, but only for a select few authors/filmmakers. I emphasize few. You will not be one of the few. I know this because you're reading my blog. I doubt Steven Spielberg or Suzanne Collins are scouring the net looking for filmmaking or marketing tips.

That means, until the word-of-mouth pump is primed, you're going to have to sell every single DVD/POD and movie/e-book download yourself, one at a time. How many sales you need to prime the pump is hard to say, but think it terms of tens of thousands. I say that amount because it's a minimum number of book sales to show up as a blip on the radar of the major publishers according to an agent I spoke with from Andrea Brown.

Tens of thousands of sales, all done by you and you alone. You're going to need 100,000 Facebook friends to reach ten thousand sales if that's your only audience outreach. You're going to need a stack of reviews. For filmmakers, that's where festivals come in. For books, we do blog tours.

But the best results have always come from direct sales. That means you talking in person to a customer and selling them an autographed DVD/book. Don't have any idea how to do that? Come by the LA Times Festival of Books and watch authors who have years of experience doing just that. Learn from what the old-timers do right, and the mistakes of those new to the hustle. You'll never get a better education for a cheaper price (the Festival of Books is free!).

About last night's screening, I wrote down some quotes from my fellow screeners. I shouldn't admit this in public, but there are times when we talk during a movie. Usually, this is about the film we're watching, and always when it has lost our attention. Even so – unless the movie is just horrifically bad – our comments are blurted out wishes - wishes that our words could make the movie better.

The comment that got me on this train of thought was, "I'm going to yell at you until you get it!"

Too many times, directors let actors get into a shouting match, and too many times writers have characters say the same thing over-and-over again only louder. In both cases, the scenes hit just one note and stay there. Imagine a song that is nothing but one note played for the same duration and volume throughout. Boring, right? Right.

Another good quote. "Was that supposed to be funny?"

This is a bad thing for the audience to think regardless of what they're watching. Stage actors are well aware (or should be), that there is a thin line between a serious drama and uproarious comedy. Hopefully that line only gets crossed in rehearsal. In comedy, I've often talked about giving an audience "permission to laugh." That is to say, early in the story, let the audience know that you mean for them to laugh with your work – or even at it. Either way, it's fine with you. There are a million ways to do this, from a subtle laugh line in a slice-of-life story, to a pratfall in a broad farce. Without that permission to laugh, audiences will try to stay polite and not laugh at your work. Let them know it's okay.

The last quote I heard sent a chill down my spine as I was leaving. "We saw more good movies tonight than bad ones."

Our final selection process is coming soon. Every year we have more good movies than screening time to show them. Every year some of my favorite films don't get in. Every year it hurts. We did see more good movies than bad ones, but not all of them are going to get in.

I'll leave you with an on-line advertising trick I learned while promoting my book. Links at the top of an article always get the most clicks, but the second most come to links at the bottom.

I hope to see you at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

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