The Initial Inspiration
I’m a total junkie for sewing books. I love looking through them for inspiration and ideas. However, I make good use of the library, and I’m pretty selective about what I’ll buy. I was browsing Amazon one night, when I came across Anna Maria Horner’s video for Handmade Beginnings: 24 Sewing Projects To Welcome Baby. I watched her three-minute video, and immediately fell in love with the book and everything about her, her adorable family, and the great projects for mamas and babies. Approximately two seconds later, I clicked on “Add to Cart.” Maybe it’s because I’m expecting myself, but I had to have this book now! There is no doubt that the video sealed the deal for me.
This got me thinking: maybe there is something to this video thing after all. I know, as writers, being in front of the camera is the last thing most of us want to do. But at least for craft books, there is something extra special about the audio-visual dimension. Getting a quick snapshot of an author, seeing them talk about why they wrote the book, and then seeing some of the projects off the page and in real life grabs readers’ attention way more than a press release. Anna Maria Horner hooked me. Maybe I could use the same process to hook other people, I thought. Both my agent and publisher thought it was a great idea, too.
Through some local networking, I found a reasonable videographer, and started thinking about venue. I decided to shoot the video at my house, primarily in my office/sewing space. I wanted the right balance between homey and professional—I didn’t want it to look amateurish, but also, I didn’t want to be pretentious. After all, my sewing space is the place where I sew; it’s honest, and—along with my home in general—it says a lot about me and my retro tastes. Of course, I knew I’d have to clean, de-clutter, and style, but luckily these are things I’m pretty good at since I’ve produced dozens of home and garden stories for magazines.
Next, I wrote a script for myself. I tried to pretend like I was talking to friends over drinks: what would I want them to know about Sew Retro? I wanted the script to sound conversational, but still polished. It took several drafts to strike the appropriate tone, and I had to keep recording myself into a digital recorder and reviewing it until it felt like it had the right mix of breezy and smart. The final script was about 500 words, and took about three minutes to read. (Amazon suggests you keep videos between two and three minutes; five minutes is the cut-off.)
I also tried to practice being on camera, propping my cheap little digital camera on top of my printer and sitting there in my office chair talking (an extremely painful exercise, I admit). The hardest part about being on camera is trying to look and sound natural, when it feels anything but natural. Luckily, on the day of the shoot, my wonderful Web designer, Beth Kaiser, was on hand to art direct and help me relax in front of the camera. Also, I am a very unfussy person and wear only hints of makeup, but I knew that I’d come off pasty and uneven on camera without the right makeup. I’m very glad that I hired a makeup artist to get me camera-ready; it was well worth the $60.
My Camera Debut
The shoot itself took about half the day. I first read the script four or five times, with just the audio taping (for voice over). Then it was time to talk on camera, and we went through each paragraph about five times (just to make sure that we had enough usable takes that could be cut and pasted). We also got various shots of me sewing and/or working with fabric, as well as snapshots of my sewing space and the various projects scattered around the house and garden. I desperately wanted a shot of my two-year-old sitting calmly on the Groovy Patchwork Throw quilt outside, flipping through a book. But, of course, he had other ideas. (We were able to get about five seconds of footage of him before he had a meltdown.) So much for readers falling in love with my family! But I had to remind myself that the focus of my book was retro sewing and why we love retro, not the adorableness of my toddler (who, of course, is the cutest toddler ever in the history of toddlers).
A Good Promotional Tool
I’m really pleased with the final result, and feel like it was worth the $850 investment (honestly, I didn’t do any research on what videographers charge for this kind of thing, but the estimate seemed reasonable, so I just went with it). My publisher is still working on getting it up on Amazon (apparently, it's gotten a little more difficult to get videos up). I have it embedded in my site, and the publisher’s blog, and it's on YouTube as well. As craft bloggers interview me or mention Sew Retro, I’m hopeful they’ll do a link to the video, too.
I certainly hope the video will help sell more copies of Sew Retro (the anecdotal feedback I’ve gotten so far suggests that it could), but regardless, it gives me something I’ve never had before: an on-camera clip, which should come in handy as I try to book TV appearances. Doing the video pushed me way outside my comfort zone, but that’s good. As writers, most of us can spin out endless articles and copy without breaking a sweat. It’s good to do something that challenges you—and just might translate into more book royalties down the line.