A few weeks ago, I was in a conversation with a group of authors and we were all discussing how we should vlog more.
On one side of the argument, people were saying, “Just start”—don’t worry about tools, form, or content presentation because those are all barriers to entry to you actually doing something. In other words, if you make it too hard, then you’ll end up producing nothing.
On the other side of the argument, more seasoned vloggers were saying, “Do a good job”—get a decent camera, buy or rent editing software, and watch a ton of YouTube to understand the common video structures because that’s the only way people will actually watch your videos. In other words, if you don’t put in a bit more effort, there’s kind of no point.
I was somewhere in the middle, seeing both points of view. Because, as far as vlogging is concerned, I do think you should give yourself permission to suck at first. Unless you have acting chops or video experience, you undoubtedly will. The skill set needed to do great videos is vast and ever-changing as we expect more and more from our content.
That said, I don’t think you should let yourself suck for too long. Maybe a few weeks, max. Because after you make a few videos, you’re going to quickly figure out what needs to change. I experienced this immediately when I was working on my vlog show late last year called Monica Today. I loved creating my videos, but I also knew the videos lacked production quality. The “just start” mantra allowed me to get my feet wet, which allowed me to identify 3-4 major challenges I would need to address before going all in.
I’m actively working through those challenges right now. In the meantime, I felt it best to put the channel on an indefinite hiatus because I wasn’t able to commit the time and attention needed to bring my vision for the show to fruition anytime soon. For now, I need to focus on creating and marketing my books.
This brings me to the larger issue I have with authors trying to promote their work. Stop looking at all these other content formats as ways to promote your books. That’s just not the way it works, yo.
If you are going to start a vlog, start a damn vlog. Give time and attention to your lighting, your frame, your audio, your content. Why? Because vlogging is not the best use of your time if your goal is solely to sell books. However, vlogging is a great use of your time if you are also interested in monetizing your vlog and getting some decent cross-promotion from viewers who might also be interested in reading your books.
If you are going to start a podcast, start a damn podcast. Give time and attention to your connectivity when you speak to guests, to your audio quality, to your content. Why? Because podcasting is not the best use of your time if your goal is solely to sell books. However, podcasting is a great use of your time if you are also interested in monetizing your podcast and getting some decent cross-promotion from viewers who might also be interested in reading your books.
If you are going to start a blog, start a damn blog. Give time and attention to your images, your headlines, your SEO-optimized keywords and your pithiness in under 800 words. Why? Because blogging is not the best use of your time if your goal is solely to sell books. However, blogging is a great use of your time if you are also interested in monetizing your blog and getting some decent cross-promotion from viewers who might also be interested in reading your books.
My biggest beef with authors on these platforms is that these additional streams of value are not marketing strategies for your book—and you’re better off if you don’t treat them as such.
Let’s look at another scenario to illustrate this. What if your friend, who is primarily a vlogger, podcaster, or blogger, decided he was going to write a book for promotional purposes. But instead of actually, you know, creating a good book, he thought, “Well, I’m just going to take some transcripts of my content, bundle it together, add my logo or avatar as the cover and slap that file up on Amazon.”
As an author, you’d be screaming, “Noooooooo!” Because you know the truth. You know that this so-called “book” is going to get terrible reviews and die a horrible death in “sales rank over a million” territory.
Well, when you the author think, “I’m just going to slap together a video of me using my built-in web cam and mic—no need to script this first or anything, I only have five minutes—and throw it up on YouTube and then have a huge call-to-action to buy my book at the end”—what exactly do you think or hope might happen?
Any vlogger could tell you in about five seconds that it’s likely a waste of time and could even be damaging to your brand.
Why? Because you aren’t respecting the craft.
The same authors who know that a great book requires fantastic cover design, editing, storytelling chops, and launch/marketing content are not willing to spend $80 for a decent microphone.
So, yes, suck for a little bit just to get your feet wet and figure out what it would really take to produce content for a specific format, platform, or medium.
But then, after that, truly commit to delivering the best content you possibly can on your vlog, podcast, or blog. Learn the rules of the format, the platform, the medium. If your goal is income, realize that you are starting at the beginning again and figure out how to monetize that specific content. (Obviously, books are one option, so you have a leg up on your peers. But realize that they are only one of dozens of options.)
I’m not saying your content needs to be perfect by any means. But make a concerted effort to improve as you go. Build your audience not with the intention of converting them to readers, but with the intention of producing more of the content that they came for in the first place and making it better and better each time you publish.
OR, if all of that sounds like too much work, quit and put all your efforts into creating and selling books instead. This is a perfectly acceptable and reasonable choice too. It’s the choice I made, in fact, six months ago when I quit vlogging indefinitely.
Now, when I pick it back up (hopefully in the next few months), you can bet that I have no intention of slapping anything together haphazardly. If I’m going to spend any time on it, I intend to give it my best effort and even look at ways other than my books to monetize it.
So, don’t add a bunch of random streams of value to your “author platform” for the sake of doing so. Not only are you likely to be disappointed with your results, but you’re also just kind of shitting on something that other people do for a living or as a serious hobby—and that they really, really care about.
(You know how you hate those scammy, half-assed books that clutter up Amazon and give indie authors a bad name? Yeah. Don’t be That Guy on someone else’s platform.)
You’re also shitting on your potential audience, who are looking for quality content in the format that they enjoy. We’ve all listened to that podcast that doesn’t try to improve or fix audio and connectivity issues, or read that blog that is fine just posting any old crap that clearly only benefits their pockets.
People forgive experimentation, but want to see progress. Make sure you’re respecting their time and attention, or don’t bother. There are plenty of book readers out there who are happy to try your book instead.
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