Episode 109B – David Kelly – Book Covers and Trailers

Overview

David is unique among authors in that he not only has book trailers, but he creates them himself. We discuss how to do this and problems you need to be aware of.

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Transcript

[00:00:49] Stephen: authors. This episode is usually meant for you. It’s not about the book. It’s about writing an author stuff. So. I don’t usually say too much before these episodes, [00:01:00] but I wanted to let everybody listening. Know if you haven’t heard about the career author life summit. I apologize. The name has changed several times and I think things are changing.

Um, but it’s run by J thorn and Zach Bohannan. There’s a lot of great guests coming, uh, including mark Leslie Lefebvre, who, if you’re an author, you probably recognize the name, uh, along with several other great. Uh, people doing talks and some great sessions. Uh, I went to their summit last year and it was absolutely the best one I’ve been to.

And the minute they tickets were available, I snatched one up and I just went. People who listen to this podcast, know if you’re interested, go get tickets because there aren’t a lot it’s being kept small. It’s not one of those conferences where there’s a thousand people. This is going to be like 40 or 50 people.

You can talk to everybody, get to know everyone. It’s much more [00:02:00] intimate and still big name, uh, speakers with lots of good things to say. So I will put links in the show notes. Uh, so please. Yeah, stop the, the pause, the podcast, go check it out and definitely, uh, sign up. It’s going to be well worth it. Trust me.

All right, so let’s talk some author stuff and, uh, we’ve got a great topic for people today. Um, uh, before we get to that, uh, let me ask you a couple of other questions. Uh, so you’ve written. Uh, like five books you’re working on a six one. What are you doing different now than you did clear at the beginning when you started writing?

[00:02:43] David: Oh, everything. Um, my, my process of writing a book is actually constantly evolving. It’s it’s changed that we do every book I’ve written so far. [00:03:00] One of the things that took me a long time during the stands and the very early days was that, um, editing is actually critical to the process. I kind of like always had this bizarre idea that people just were books.

And once they finished writing them, that was, it was done, you know, and I couldn’t do it. I, you know, I did, when I tried to do that, I wrote books, but they, but terrible at the end. And it like took me kind of like a while to understand that the reason why, you know, books are as good as they are, is because there’s a lot of work after the initial waiting.

Um, and so I kind of got to a point where I now have a kind of love, hate relationship with. Yeah. It’s like, I understand it’s vital. I don’t like doing it particularly, but I know that I need to. [00:04:00] Um, other than that, um, I’m constantly examining the process of how I go about writing the books, the stages that I go through from beginning with manuscript, to them working through and refining it until I’ve got the finished article.

[00:04:22] : And, uh, each

[00:04:25] David: time I do want, it gets kind of more streamlined, but each time I do want to also get more details because, you know, you kind of constantly looking to improve, right. Every little thing and every little detail. So it becomes more involved, but also smoother. Um, which seems a bit of a contradiction.

You know, that’s kind of like how it seems to work. At least for me, I mean, everybody’s different. I mean, I’m sure there are some officers who can literally sit down, write a book and [00:05:00] that’s it, you know, they, they don’t have anything else, you know, they, they just cannot do it and it’s fantastic, but I’m not one of those, you know, I have to work at.

[00:05:10] Stephen: Right. Gotcha. And that’s good improvement seeing that improvement. Um, I I’ve noticed it myself. Uh, And I, I don’t know if there’s a lot of authors that would get to five or six books that haven’t improved. I mean, you have to try really hard, not to want to get better and then to get better when you’re writing, uh, in my opinion.

So, uh, I think that’s important for people to keep in mind, but you will get better, uh, keep improving each time.

[00:05:42] David: Absolutely. I think it’s, it’s one of the things I think people who try to wait. Often sort like don’t realize at the beginning, it’s like, you don’t have to be the world’s best writer to begin, um, because you will improve through [00:06:00] time just by doing the actual task of Whiting.

And, uh, so, you know, just because you kind of like produce something like that. I mean, I worked two and a half books and the terrible, um, But that doesn’t mean to say that you will stay at that fair, you know, the more you do it, the more you will learn,

[00:06:20] Stephen: right? Yep. So what software or services do you use when you’re writing?

Uh, cause you said you, you were riding on a train on the way to work and now you’re writing full time. So what do you use to write,

[00:06:35] David: um, or you use the Scrivener, uh, as my base editor, um, I use, um, word, basically not really very much, but from some former thing to, to make the ebook, um,

[00:06:57] : I

[00:06:57] David: use, um, I use a piece of [00:07:00] software called smart edit, which, um, is a kind of glorified spellchecker com grammar Jacko, which can elect, captures a lot of.

Routine kind of bowel.

[00:07:15] : Um, uh,

[00:07:19] David: cause we all have them. We all have words. We kind rely on too much. Um,

[00:07:26] : other than that for

[00:07:26] David: actual grazing, I don’t use too much, um, software. I actually kind of prefer not to use too much software. I mean, I can write in word pad or. Nope, Nope. Pad, anything like that? Often I’ll just write in a very simple text that is on my phone.

Um, and I liked the, kind of like the distraction-free element of that, you know, it’s like just the words, no offense kind of like thing you’d have to worry about, you know, kinda like fall last or [00:08:00] is this, you know, heading wan or. Yeah, et cetera. You know what function I choose? You know, there’s like actually, you know, just kind of like having distraction-free editing worked for me really well.

So I have a, an old laptop and I sometimes sit down on

that

[00:08:18] David: with nothing but the word bad. And I’ll just sit there and hammer out sort of two, 3000 words. It’s wonderful, you know? Yeah.

[00:08:31] Stephen: I know a lot of authors I’ve been seeing, they have various devices that essentially do that. Simplify, uh, you know, typewriter looking little devices, uh, like the old word processors where it’s one line at a time and it’s like, all you see.

And I know a lot of people are using that to help keep from getting distracted and Scribner has its own. Mode where it like graze everything out except what you’re writing the page right there. Yeah.

[00:08:59] David: When [00:09:00] I, when I started writing, um, like on that, on that commute, it’s like, I had one of the little Denado, um, handheld, and it was like a clamshell ham device.

And you just kinda like flip up. And you have a little tiny keyboard and like you just went in and you just thought, you know, sort of thing. And it was, it was wonderful because, you know, you could literally, you could ride anywhere because as the little keyboard, um, but it was completely distraction free.

There was nothing else, you know? I mean, it didn’t have like back then there was no kind of like internet available or anything like that, you know? So you couldn’t get distracted looking at the web. All these kind of fun things that we can do now. It was just literally just the device, you know?

[00:09:49] : Um,

[00:09:51] David: and it was marvelous, you know, it’s like, I, I, I really enjoyed that, you know?

[00:09:57] Stephen: Okay. So let’s talk about, uh, [00:10:00] the subject you brought up is doing your own book covers inter um, book trailers, which I think is great because a lot of people talk about that and most people are given the advice don’t. Get somebody that knows what they’re doing. Uh, but you do it and you do seem to do it well, in my opinion, why did you want to do your own book covers and trailers?

And tell us a little bit about your process?

[00:10:25] : Um,

[00:10:26] David: they, the whole thing within my book covers, um, initially came around just from the point of view of finances. Um, When I was looking at a cover from my, uh, my first release, I couldn’t afford, uh, like, uh, an actual custom cover by an office. I looked at the, kind of the pre-med options that were available, which, you know, are quite cheap and they’re not [00:11:00] kind of bad, but they kind of had a bit of a generic look to them, which I wasn’t too happy.

And uh, many, many years ago, uh, in my previous careers, I actually worked as a game developer. And, uh, so this was back in the days before again, development was going like huge and, you know, multi-billion dollar industries. And so when you worked in game development at that time, you kind of like picked up a bit of everything.

I mean, I was nominally a code. Um, but because we needed, you know, graphics doing and that kind of stuff, I kind of ended up working on, you know, terrible like graphics, you know? So from the days they weren’t very good, but I mean, it’s like I picked up, so the knowledge and so on. And then later on, um, I moved into doing more kind of like 3d games.

So I actually kinda like that. [00:12:00] Uh, some of the skills in terms of 3d modeling and that kind of thing. Um, so that kind of like was my background, which wasn’t in itself grit, but it gave me the idea that maybe I could try and do something myself that, you know, would at least kinda like be a more representative kind of reflection of my book.

Um, so. There’s some really good resources were out there now or open source software, um, for doing 3d. And, uh, so I grabbed some of that, uh, Hmong called blender 3d, which is an amazing package for, you know, consider that this is completely free. It’s amazing what kind of power you’ve got in there. And I started playing around with it and I felt well, I’ll see what I can do.

And if I can do something that I’m happy with. Great. If I can’t, I can always [00:13:00] go and get a pre-med cover, well considered, you know, can a second mortgage and getting a custom color, you know? So, uh, anyway, I did the, the first, the first cover for the first book and that’s why, and I was kind of like happy with it and I showed it to a few people and they thought it looked good.

And I thought, okay, I’ll go with that. We’ll see what happens. I wasn’t really planning on necessarily doing all of them, but I thought, you know, I’ll keep going until such time. I can’t do a cover that I’m happy with. You know? Um, I have to say I’m somewhat lucky in that my, my brother is actually a graphic designer and, um, being my brother, we refuse to help completely.

Uh, but. He was willing to kind of like give me feedback on what I was doing. So I kind of like picked up more from, from, you know, kinda like [00:14:00] picking his brains and his knowledge as well. Um, and I’ve basically been doing them ever since. Um, and in a similar way to the Whiting, everyone, I do it more of a learning opportunity and every time they get a little bit more sophisticated, a little bit more refined and, um, And yeah, now I’m getting quite good at it.

Nice.

[00:14:27] Stephen: So what do people say about the covers? Do they say, oh wow. Those are great. Or do you hear? Yeah, that’s, you know, I don’t want to tell you, I don’t like it. Have you gotten any good, bad feedback?

[00:14:40] David: Uh, I’ve had some very good feedback. It’s like, uh, I think, uh, um, I’ve been lucky and I’ve been able to kind of like do some fairly good stuff, you know?

And, uh, most of the feedback I get is, you know, wow, I really love your coat covers. I can’t believe that you do them

[00:14:58] Stephen: yourself, you know, which [00:15:00] is very

[00:15:00] David: flattering. And, uh, I’ve got a friend who actually is a professional, um, book cover artist. Who’s worked for some big office then. He said to me a couple of times, your covers are really good though.

You know, he said like, you know, I think you, you do fantastic. You know, cause I actually kind of like was talking to him at one point of maybe doing a cover for me. And he said, I don’t think you need me, you know? So that was incredibly flattering.

[00:15:35] Stephen: So the, the book trailers, do you think that they’ve been gathering attention to your books and helping push the books?

Or is it just more for fun for you or, or what do you think of that? What makes them work or anything about that? Because I don’t know a lot of authors doing book trailers.

[00:15:55] : I think the, um,

[00:15:58] David: I think there’s a lot of hype about [00:16:00] book. Uh, in the industry, I think people get sold them a lot. And I don’t think quite honestly, frankly, that on a practical level, they do very much, I enjoy doing them.

I’ve enjoyed kinda like putting them together and some, but it really is a lot of work. Um, and I’m not sure that there’s a good payback for that, for that level of work, you know?

[00:16:26] : Um,

And, uh,

[00:16:36] David: I found them useful more at live event. Then I have, I think in terms of them actually kind of being helpful by posting them online. And so, um, what I usually do on a live event, if I can remember what a live event. Um, what I usually do is I’ll take a [00:17:00] laptop and then I’ll run the trailers on kind of like a repeating role.

So they’re just kind of like whirling there and, and they act as a good kind of like action element, you know, kind of thing to bring people over. They’ll come over, they’ll look at the trailer and they’ll ask like, what’s that, you know? Uh,

[00:17:18] : and,

[00:17:19] David: uh, you know, so it’s been good in that. I think in terms of like actually generating interest in the book from, you know, sharing these things online on.

So I don’t think it does a great deal. That’s my experience. Right. People may see things. Definitely.

[00:17:38] Stephen: Uh, I’m glad you said that because I’ve thought the same thing I thought, well, Put the trailer up on my website, but if they’re coming to my website, they’re probably already interested. Uh, you know, I could pass it and take talker Instagram, but you know, is it going to take fire or whatever?

But I thought the same thing, it’s like, oh, if I’m at an event and I have an author table, I could have a little [00:18:00] screen there running with the trailer. It doesn’t have to be super loud, but something movement and, you know, draws their attention. And even if they just walk by and glance at. They may not have glanced at just me there with a book.

So they see the moving video and they make lists and then it’s in their head. So as they come back around later, they see it again, you know, it’s that old marketing thing. You got to see something several times before you find out about it and then pick it up several times before you want to get it, you know, that type of, so I had the same thought.

So I’m glad you said that.

[00:18:30] David: Yeah. And I’ve actually kind of had it where I’m, because my books are. Because of the nature of that action packed. I mean, obviously, so the book trailers and, uh, so sometimes I I’ve had, for instance, the kids will see the, the, you know, the, the, the trailer and they’re kinda like drawn to it because of the fast action and the explosions and this kind of thing.

And so they’ll drag their parents. So. And then [00:19:00] like the parents will, oh, so what’s this about that? And you start talking to them and I I’ve actually had people buy my books as a result of that, you know? So it’s a nice attract. And if you kind of like a live event, I don’t think it does much beyond that though.

[00:19:14] Stephen: Okay. And, uh, book covers again. Do you look at other book covers and evaluate them and say, oh, that I really don’t like that. That’s probably not doing well, or this is great. I’m going to use that for my next one, et cetera. You do things like that.

[00:19:30] David: I do. Yeah. I mean, I, when I’m looking at, uh, doing a COVID for myself, it’s like, I’ll do a lot of investigation as to what kind of like out there, what look is kind of current.

Um, I look up a lot of just general kind of like graphic things around the theme. The book that I’m doing to get kind of like ideas, see what other people are doing. Um, so yeah, it’s, it’s, you have to kind of like keep aware of what’s out there.

[00:19:56] : Um, [00:20:00] and,

[00:20:00] David: uh, you know, you have to keep up with the times, you know, things change.

There are always things, you know, feeling like new trends and stuff. I like to try and make mine kind of personal, how I would like them. I went through them all in 3d. They’re all kind of like random. I don’t actually like necessarily the hyper realism of 3d renderings. So I do a lot of filtering after the initial rendering to of like, make them look more kind of natural as if the mean that I like more painted.

Um, but that’s just the style I like, you know, um, I think some of the, I think really rendering can look a little bit Staten island. Which may be something you enter. I mean, in terms of, um, some of the things that I see, it’s like, I mean, well, yeah, I mean, there are certain elements in, unfortunately they’re good, but you see them so many [00:21:00] times on different books and you kind of like you’re looking at on your own.

My goodness, not that they ship again. And it’s. That’s one of the good things about being able to do my own, you know, I can make them like unique to my books. So, you know, kind of like have the same flavor because you’ve got to kind of sit within the acceptive flavor of what makes a book in your genre, but it’s like, I could ma I can make it so that they’re actually unique.

My book, you know, which is me, is like, you

[00:21:35] Stephen: know, Okay. And would you recommend to other authors to do their own covers? Or would you say most authors should probably get somebody else to do them?

[00:21:49] David: I think if you’ve got, um, some kind of a creative background, uh, and you’ve maybe had some exposure to doing that kind of stuff.

I don’t think that there’s [00:22:00] any reason why you shouldn’t try it at least. If you haven’t, it’s a big learning curve to get to that point. And so you probably better off investing your time and just writing more and turning out more books because I mean, yeah, I mean, it doesn’t cost me in terms of money, but I mean, obviously it does cost in terms of time.

And, you know, if you, if you can like investing a lot of time into making a. You know, I mean, that’s all the time away from, from actually waiting, which, you know, you might be better suited. Um, I just happened to be fortunate in that I’ve been able to pull it off, you know, but even for me, it’s like, I’m in, I’m in the first kind of like few colors.

I, I did. I mean, that took a long, long time because I didn’t really know what I was doing, you know? So. [00:23:00] No. I mean, if you cannot okay. With investing that time, grit, if you’re not, you know, it’s maybe bad to kind of like, just let somebody else do that work, you know? Right. Um, but it’s a, it’s a very personal choice.

No,

[00:23:14] Stephen: and you’re right. It is a balance you gotta really think about, you know, if it’s going to take you 57 hours of work to get one book cover made, you know, how many words could you have written in that time or edited finishing a book or. You know the same with, uh, the money aspect people. I know people say, oh, I don’t want to spend a couple hundred dollars on book cover.

But if you do a really bad book cover, uh, you spend time on it, but no money, you did a bad one. You only sell 10 copies. It might’ve been worth it to spend three or $400 on the book cover and then sell a thousand copies because the book cover does make a difference. It does matter today. People look at it.

Judge, whether they’re going to look further into the book too. That’s a hard [00:24:00] lesson. It’s a one that I think some people’s still don’t believe, I guess.

[00:24:08] David: Yeah. I mean, there’s this the old thing, you know what I mean? Don’t judge a book by its cover, but the truth is, is that we all do, you know, and it’s like, I mean, when you see a book on a bookshelf or, you know, you see it like on Amazon, I mean, the first thing that hits you is.

So if the cover is not good, it’s like people I’m going to be put off. That’s the realism of, of the situation. You know, you can’t ignore that and pretend that it doesn’t happen. Right. And I mean, to be honest, there are so many kind of like good pre-med book, cover sources now, um, at reasonable prices, you know, there’s, there’s no reason to kind of like, have a really kind of like dodgy looking cover, you know, you’d might as well.

Ben a few dollars and get something that looks pretty good. Um, you’ve gotta be a little [00:25:00] bit kind of obsessive. I think if you want to do those kinds of things yourself.

[00:25:04] Stephen: Yes. Yeah. You got to have some skill. I don’t think I would be comfortable doing my own cover at all. And I’m not graphically inclined to any degree.

I have a hard time with Crayola is in a coloring book. So. Um, so obviously the, the book trailers are part of your marketing scheme. What else are you doing to market your books?

[00:25:28] David: Um, I use, uh, Amazon ads, um, that kind of mix, you know, it’s kind of like the sort of, they bring some attention, but, uh, a lot of what I seem to be getting, it seems to be through word of mouth.

I’m not being able to track it back to kind of like ad impressions and so on. I,

[00:25:51] : uh,

[00:25:53] David: I do a lot of, uh, I’m trying to do more of these kind of shows like with you here, um, you know, to [00:26:00] try and spread the word and get my name out there. The biggest thing, biggest challenge, I think these days for any kind of author is just actually being.

And getting known because you know, there are now so many books coming out every day. I can’t remember the exact figure, but it’s kinda like, like hundreds of thousands of books, uh, published every day. So just being seen as kind of like really the biggest challenge that authors have.

[00:26:30] : Um,

[00:26:32] David: so, you know, that’s kind of like part of it.

I, I publish, I mean, I, um, posting on social media, it’s like, I share a lot of, uh, science kind of, um, stories and so on, on social media, I think, you know, most people who are into science fiction kind of have some interest in science and technology. Um, and then I have my own, my own blog, [00:27:00] uh, where I kind of like posts about things again, related to science, science fiction, waiting,

[00:27:07] : uh,

[00:27:09] David: And I’m also a, co-host on a, uh, streaming video show where once a week we, uh, basically me and, uh, a friend of mine, we talked to authors and talk to them about their book, their process and so on.

And, uh, and then like once a month we have a live read where we get several offers in and we kinda like do a live. Each of them books where the, uh, the various panelists kind of playing the different characters in the book, which usually is quite a lot of fun. It’s

[00:27:47] Stephen: very silly. What’s the title of that

[00:27:50] David: podcast.

It’s called looking for legends.

[00:27:54] Stephen: Okay. I’ll have to make sure and put links into that. Do you feel some of these extra activities, [00:28:00] like the podcast draw attention to your book or is it more. Just something you do to help contribute to the community.

[00:28:10] David: I started to do it, um, more to kind of like help, um, the community and kinda like help showcase, you know, other office.

But I think it does almost kinda like as a side benefit, draw more attention to you and what you’re doing as well, because you know, you end up meeting more people and. They’re obviously kind of like sharing things on their network of, of people. Uh, so I think it kind of works both ways. I think it’s a mutually beneficial kind of arrangement.

[00:28:42] : Uh, I’m not sure

[00:28:47] David: how much of a benefit is in terms of promotion, sheer promotion. I think it’s maybe probably a little bit limited in that, but it’s always nice to be able to help. Um, [00:29:00] other people, you know, if you’ve been through something and you can let have a knowledge about it, you know, because a lot of the, the, the kind of like things that we ended up going through his office, you know, I mean, they don’t really compare to anything else that you probably have done in your life.

And so, you know, it’s, it’s very easy, especially early on to kind of like, feel very, very lost,

[00:29:25] : you know,

[00:29:26] Stephen: um, Sorry. Sorry.

[00:29:31] : Um,

[00:29:32] Stephen: okay. Sorry. I got distracted. I apologize. Um, so David, before we go, um, can you give any last minute advice for new authors?

[00:29:45] David: I would say, um, for anybody who wants to write, you know, we read a lot, read everything. You can make us that’s it. And when. When I say read, I mean, actually we need a physical book or an [00:30:00] e-book, but not audio books.

It’s like, because it’s a very different experiences and audio book. I’m not saying that there’s no value to them, but if you want to write, you need to read because that’s how you actually, your brain learns what goes into a book, you know? Um, and. And the other thing is, is the kind of like, you know, cut yourself some slack, you know what I mean?

Don’t expect to necessarily be kind of like, you know, the next kind of Stephen King or something like that, you know, you know, as soon as you finish your first book, because you know, it’s not going to happen. It’s a long, it’s a long process and it takes a long time until you can like build up your audience before.

You know, just, you know, kind of style of advising, we all have different styles. Don’t, you know, you see all this advice about, you know, oh, well you should do this. You should do that. It’s like, well maybe, maybe not. [00:31:00] You have to discover what do I do and what works for you? Because literally everybody is individual.

So, you know, kinda like just be patient with yourself.

[00:31:10] Stephen: Nice. Okay. Yeah, I agree. All right. Well, David, thank you for taking some time for chatting with me today about your books and giving us some great advice on book trailers and covers. Uh, I wish you luck and I’ll let you know when this goes live.

[00:31:24] David: Thanks, Steven.

Really appreciate the opportunity.

[00:31:27] Stephen: Thank you.

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