Marketing Audiobooks Through Product Photography

A while back, I admitted that I’ve starting playing around with Instagram. It started off as a collection of random photos of my life, that then incorporated a handwriting challenge (I think mine’s gotten worse. Oops.), and has stretched to incorporate favorite quotes and shots of the outdoors to help break up all of the handwriting posts.

In between, however, I’ve started creating pictures featuring my voiceover work that I like to call “Audio Fiction in the Wild“. (Pinterest board. Also available on deviantArt.)

Among the Instagram accounts I like to spy on, there are a fair number of publishers, book nerds, and tea houses. I followed them in part because their pictures are cool, but I also followed them to see how they use Instagram to promote their own (or favorite) products. What I noticed was that they promote their wares with a photo that features the product in an attractive setting.

And I became curious. Could I do the same thing for my audio fiction projects?

I’ve been working on the Audio Fiction in the Wild project for a couple of months now, and the short answer is, “Yes.” Not enough to fill up an Instagram account frequently enough to be interesting. (See my other account for proof of this.) But people who see the photos do seem to like them, and I have seen the smallest shift in how well my audiobooks are doing. (It is a very tiny shift, and it mostly centers around books that don’t have their own In the Wild shot.)

So, let’s get into how I’m doing things for the moment (because this is a work in progress). While I’m working on a project, I make notes on aspects of my character or the story that might make for an interesting shot. Once I have the cover art (which is fairly early on for my own projects, but has to wait until release day for projects I work on for other people), I download it to my phone and plug in my headphones. Then, I take my notes and build a scene around my phone (displaying the cover art on the screen), and shoot several pictures (because I’m compulsive like that).

When the project is released (-ish, depending on how long it took me to get everything together), I upload the picture and caption it, complete with hashtags, to Instagram, Pinterest, goodreads, and deviantArt.

As I said, I don’t know that these pictures are having a direct influence on my sales. I don’t have access to those numbers. But I do know I’ve seen the tiniest increase in audiobook sales, and more importantly, I know that none of the publishers I work for have given me the boot over these photos. So, I’d like to think they’re serving some purpose beyond really fun photography practice.

One of the best benefits of working on this project is that I’m gaining practical experience in product photography – thinking about staging and context. And I think that’s a pretty big benefit.

Anyway, that’s how Audio Fiction in the Wild got started, and why I will probably continue working on it as long as my schedule allows.

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Friday Five: Copyright Edition

So, it turns out a lot of us have copyright education on the brain right now. I have my Copyright Primer series going, and other sites are exploring their own favorite topics. But we’ll start with the one that’s probably the most confusing.

1. James Bond is in the Public Domain…sort of. And that “sort of” is a doozy. When we get to Public Domain in the Primer, you’ll see just how thorny an issue Public Domain really is, but James Bond is one of those particularly treacherous copyright minefields because it not only addresses the books, but also movies, games, and any other tie-in materials that have been licensed. When we say James Bond is in the Public Domain, it’s only the Ian Fleming books that are in the Public Domain. Everything else is still under copyright protection. The other part of that “sort of” is that the Ian Fleming-written James Bond books are not in the Public Domain across the globe. They’re only in the Public Domain for those countries that signed the Berne Convention without modification. Here in the United States, Bond is under copyright protection across the board. (This is a really great case study for how Public Domain works across political and media borders.)

2. During the Primer, I’ll keep coming back to the idea that digital media is changing our relationship with and understanding of copyright, but digital technology is also forcing us to rethink the purpose of certain copyright protections. As the world changes in terms of media creation and distribution, copyright laws have to evolve to reflect the current state of things.

3. Copyright and IP protection laws are difficult to understand and apply, even for the most well-meaning. But certain myths keep persisting. (If Gawker is more your speed, io9 did a great job discussing these earlier this week.) The moral of the story here is that you should treat any statement about copyright the same way you should treat alarmist claims on Facebook: Go find a reputable source and check it out.

4. One of the myths that persists that really isn’t covered in either list is the concept of the “poor man’s copyright“. This is the idea that mailing something to yourself and then not opening it unless your copyright is challenged will provide proof of your copyright. The idea extends into digital fields, assuming that a timestamp will protect you if a copyright claim surfaces against you. There are a lot of problems with this myth, not the least of which is the fact that multiple people can legitimately come up with similar products without ever seeing or hearing about the other products. (Reseach can only do so much in some situations.) If you’re really that worried about it, registration is fairly inexpensive.

5. I recently learned that you can tell Google Images to search only for images that fit certain copyright and Creative Commons criteria. Type in your search term, and on the results page find “Search tools” at the top. When you click on it, a menu opens. Clicking on “Usage rights” brings up a selection of options including the most common Creative Commons combinations. It can be incredibly helpful when trying to find images for audiobook and e-book covers, but always check out the image thoroughly because the tool isn’t foolproof.

There you go. Five links/tips to augment the copyright primer, and to help you navigate those copy waters a bit better armed. Check back next week, when I will share five links and tips on whatever I find.

Find Five Friday: Cross Media Edition

This week’s post is going to be a little unconventional. Instead of posting five links to things I’ve found interesting or learned from this week, I’m going to share what I believe to be my first crossmedia project (since I don’t recall the Future of Storytelling class actually having us make one).

If you’ve been following along on the blog this week, you know DigiWriMo’s writing prompt this week was to tell in a story in three media. It took me until I stumbled across my magnetic poetry Tuesday night while looking for some way to make the visual component of my story that I finally found a story to tell. Here goes:

Step 1: Start the story in your primary medium.

Well, my primary medium is text. Writing, more specifically. So I wrote a story. I was going to use the magnetic poetry to spell it out, and then realized that would be blending media, and that wasn’t the point of this assignment. Instead, I posted the story to Twitter around noon Wednesday.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsStep 2: Continue the story in another medium.

This was a little bit trickier. I knew I could just tell a story about this guy who has discovered taking selfies, but how was I going to create a video for it? (This was what led to the half dozen rewrites of yesterday’s post.) I soon realized I didn’t have to take a video. I just had to create a visual of this selfie n00b. And what better way to do it than to create his selfie? (One small problem: Small art mannequins don’t have as much mobility as would be helpful sometimes.) I posted this to Instagram Wednesday afternoon.

Tell the truth. Does this selfie make me look brooding and complex? #digiwrimo #crossmedia

A photo posted by Rebecca Thomas (@kirylin) on Nov 5, 2014 at 2:04pm PST

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.js

Step 3: Continue the story in the medium you haven’t worked in yet.

This one was simpler…sort of… All I had to do was write a quick story and record it. I have experience doing both, so it should have been relatively easy. Except it was pouring Wednesday morning, and I had to wait for it to let up enough to not be heard in my recording space. (I learned this lesson the hard way in Seattle.) Originally, I had thought to just tell a larger story about this character, but then I thought it might be fun to have an outside voice share their feelings on watching this character’s descent into selfie lunacy. I posted this to SoundCloud Wednesday evening. (Hopefully, this will post correctly. The preview’s not working.)

And there you have it, a brief story about a character discovering selfies and the friend who just wants to help, told across three platforms. Ta-da! I hope you enjoyed it.//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

Types of Media: Well, Would You Look At That!

The last type of media we’re going to look at in this brief overview of what I personally know about text, audio, and video is the one that scares me for no good reason: visual. Unlike its friends, visual can really be broken into two varieties: still and motion. What’s funny is that I have taken pictures most of my life, but when the conversation rolls around to visual media, my mind always goes to video, which I have limited experience with. So this could get rewritten a dozen times while I straighten out my own relationship with visual media.

Let’s start with still visuals. Pictures that, unless they are somewhere in JK Rowling’s wizarding world, have no motion to them. We’re talking about photographs and drawings, even holograms like those stickers we all used to love getting. They may be two-dimensional. They may have some sort of built-out elements. They may have some sort of perception or visual illusion layered in to make us feel like we are looking at something deeper than a piece of paper. They capture a moment in time; a group of them may capture several moments in time, telling a story of a significant event or a happy day or a butterfly’s first visit to a garden. They’re an expression of a moment, trapped in whatever medium we chose at that moment.

Then there are moving visuals, becoming more and more common as portable media gains more and more capabilities. There was a time, only a hundred years ago, when moving pictures were difficult to produce, requiring all kinds of specialized equipment and training. More, if the moving picture you wanted to create involved drawings rather than a kind of rapid serial photography. Because that’s really what moving visuals are – a series of changing still visuals delivered at a rate that allows a visual illusion called “persistence of vision” to take over and fill in the gaps in your mind. It’s really quite amazing. As a result, these moving visuals can be created on the frame-by-frame film reels, or an animated slide deck, or even just a stack of paper flicked rapidly to produce the illusion of moving images.

So, there you go. Three major types of media: text, audio, visual. Each with its own breakdown of ways you can work with it. Chances are, you have the ability to create with all three with nothing more than your phone. Not bad for a hundred years’ progress, yes?