Image credit: User TBIT on Pixabay
Image credit: User TBIT on Pixabay
Happy New Year from Findley Family Video Publications!
Welcome to our updated and upgraded blog. You will find some new images and videos. We also now have no ads and our own domain, elkjerkyforthesoul.com. A little less to type, or to copy and paste. A little more to make things simpler and clearer, we hope. We hope you like the changes, and that you’ll let us know how we can continue to make the blog a better experience for you.
May God bless you in this new year and help you to serve Him better and love Him more.
Lumen5 is an online video creation package we are currently subscribing to. For many years we hoped that we could quickly and easily create videos based on our blog and our books. We have purchased equipment and programs and tried free and paid services to do our video work. People often pay more attention to videos than the printed word. We wanted to reach as broad an audience as possible.
The problem was that “quickly and easily” part. We tried voice recordings. We tried live capture “talking head” videos. We tried greenscreening. (Yes, one wall of our garage is painted green.) We tried just capturing cooking adventures, backyard hummingbirds, and learning 3D programs. Every step of the way we hit snags and things took longer and longer while the message still wasn’t getting out.
That’s what we have always wanted, you see. To get the message of the truth of God’s Word out to as many people as possible. We have blog views from all over the world. People in maybe 20 countries have bought our books. But we want to get the message to more people, always.
Enter Lumen5. It’s a website where you can plug in the URL of a blog post or a few paragraphs of text, and the program will attempt to sort them into a maximum of about 40 screens of about 140 characters (roughly a 5 minute limit) each and pick out appropriate video and images. Its choices are sometimes downright weird but doing your own searches among their hefty collection of images and footage is easy and modifying the text position and style is also simple.
You can’t really create a video of substance in 5 minutes but you sure can in about an hour. All the visuals are public domain or Creative Commons licensed. You can add in your own visuals as long as they meet the specs.
– filetypes: mp4, mov, gif
– maximum duration: 20 seconds
– maximum filesize: 50 MB
– minimum resolution: 480px by 480px
– framerate: 24-30fps (we don’t currently support 60fps)
– preferred MP4 video codec: H.264
– preferred MP4 audio codec: AAC
Our system may support other codecs, but we recommend H.264 and AAC. H.264 supports 8bit color depth. We don’t support alpha channels, green screens/chromakey, or masks.
1920 x 1080px.
– filetypes: jpg, png, bmp, webp
– maximum filesize: 50 MB
– minimum resolution: 480px by 480px
Right now there are limits, like only about 5 fonts. But they have a facebook community page where they are very responsive to questions, complaints, and kudos. They are working to add more options.
The free version has reduced size videos but everything else seems to work. There is a $50 monthly subscription option for larger video dimensions that can be put up into subscription services.
I see this as a way to teach all kinds of skills, to create book trailers, to advertise pretty much anything. At this point we are happily seeing what we can do with the program. It looks good. Many people are already selling promos, including major companies. Others create cat advice videos, corporate training, and a little of everything. And people are paying for these videos. It’s exciting to think that soon they might be paying for ours.
We hope you like the redesign of our blog. Yes, in some ways it looks a lot like the old design. The header is the same. The books run down the sides. The blog posts run down the middle.
But, wait, the “tabs” are different, aren’t they? Instead of a long list of random features, we now have six topics you can click on. We hope these will help people find out about us and our books more easily.
We also made our book links smaller, those that run down the left and right sides of the blog, but you can still read a short description and go straight to Smashwords or Amazon. Besides that, we added the tab, “Books by Genre” which will take you to pages sorting our books into types and giving you more information about each title. Another new tab is called “reviews”, and you can go there to see what people are saying about the books, rather than just hearing what we have to say about them.
The tab that might be the most confusing is “COA”. That is our abbreviation for the Conflict of the Ages project. Click there and you’ll see our “magnum opus”, our attempt to create homeschool curriculum covering “the world and all that’s in it”. This is an ongoing project. It began with Antidisestablishmentarianism, which was supposed to be just an introduction, and has two modules finished so far. Number three, “They Deliberately Forgot: The Flood and the Ice Age”, is in the review process, and updates will be made there as time goes on.
If you’re less interested in the books and more interested in the blog itself, the list of all the blog posts is also still up there in the header. If you’d like to search for a post or a topic, we have added two new ways to do that. One is the “search the site” function on the left above the Smashwords book links. Type in “I hate religion” and you’ll get the post about Jefferson Bethke and his viral video. Type in secular humanism and … well … You’ll get a lot of posts, since that’s the main topic we talk about.
On the right side, above the Amazon links, you’ll see “Categories”. Here you can see how we’ve organized the posts in the blog based on the main subject a post was about. You can use this just to see what we wrote about in one of those categories, or to search for a post that you “kinda remember what it was about”, but can’t quite find it.
Please let us know what you think about these new features. We are anxious to help people find what they’re looking for and to make your visit to our blog a more pleasant and profitable time. We can’t guarantee you’ll like everything we say, but we do hope we’ve made it easier to make your way around.
A sweet blog reader was kind enough to say she’s been following us for some time now, and likes our writing and content, and also the way we promote our books. She asked about how we publish, and also how we promote, so here, I hope, is an answer to that question. I’m including links to other blog posts I’ve written about publishing where they apply.
We have been writing for over 30 years, but publishing about 4. So our publishing experience is not vast. But we do everything ourselves at this point, from writing, to editing, to formatting and cover design and actual uploading to publishing sites. Here’s a post on the mechanics of preparing and publishing an ebook. Part Two: Make It Clean, Get It Out
We use Amazon and Smashwords for the ebooks and Createspace for the print books. So far we only have a few print books but we will be doing more soon. Our philosophy of publishing is to make our works available as inexpensively as possible and that’s why we started with ebooks. Here’s a post I wrote on our philosophy of e-publishing. The Hows (And Whys) of E-Books
I was an editor for a publishing company and feel confident about my self-editing at this point. Here’s a blog post I wrote about things to look for when editing. Righting Sew Reel Ayes Reed Passed Yore Tie Till We also have worked as videographers and have graphic design experience, so I make our covers. The program I use for that is Photo Impact from Corel. Here’s a post on book covers Part 2 1/2: Cover It Beautifully .That has been a journey, and you can see how my skills have progressed at our Findley Family Video Facebook page, under the photos section, where our stages of cover design are stored. https://www.facebook.com/pages/Findley-Family-Video/149992491693629?sk=photos_stream I also have illustrated versions of some of our books. Here is a blog post I wrote about a site where all the images are offered free by the photographer, and about our latest cover redesign. Dressing up for the Holidays: Free Images to Help You Make Ebook Covers
We write and format our books in Microsoft Word, following the Smashwords Style Guide for ebooks, which is free on their site and on Amazon. Other writers have suggested using writing and book design programs but we are keeping it simple for now. Here’s another post on ebook creation and publishing. Part Three: Your Book, Where It Should Go, How It Will Look
Now for the hard part — Promoting. I have a Goodreads and a Library Thing account. I have two Twitter accounts, a Google + account, and between us we have 3 facebook pages and two personal pages, plus I have a Pinterest account. I spend a fair bit of time networking with other authors on facebook. I try to share and tweet and promote their works as much as I can. I belong to several author groups on facebook and we exchange advice and promotions. We also have this blog, which has all our books linked to Amazon and Smashwords.
The blog posts get tweeted automatically when we publish, and most of our blog followers have come from Twitter. Some also come from facebook. Some come from search engines. I always include tags when I post a blog, subjects the blog is about, and we get a lot of blog hits on our Bible-related posts. One of the things people have said they like about us and our blog is that it’s not always about writing. Sometimes we post guest blogs and book reviews and talk about our books, but that’s not the focus of the blog. But the books are linked there for people to see and click on if they wish. We also have short descriptions of all our books at the end of most titles, and a link to our blog so readers can connect with us and check out our other titles. Here’s a post about being a blogging writer. Stuff Blogging Writers Need to Know: Part One
We have tried paid advertising or free trials of advertising that would be paid, several different online sites, and honestly, the results have been pretty much zero sales or responses. I participate in author groups where we all post tweets and retweet each other, and, as difficult as it is to be consistent and keep doing that daily, that seems to be very effective. I’m going to treat myself to a paid version of a tweet scheduling program very soon, because right now I do it all manually and it’s driving me crazy. Here’s a post about Twitter. Curiouser and Curiouser … An Author’s Adventures in Twitterland
One thing that has helped us get some notice is offering samplers of our full-length books for 99 cents. Some of our 99 cent books are complete short stories or novellas and some are three-chapter excerpts. We have also tried pricing a couple of full-length books at 99 cents, and even tried Amazon’s KDP select program for one book. The results for Select were pretty disappointing, though we did get some notice and a few reviews. Smashwords has a distribution network to iTunes, Sony, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and others, and we are beginning to see regular sales there.
We have a wide variety of genres — Issues non-fiction, Homeschool Curriculum, Historical Adventures and Romances, and Science Fiction. We have something for most ages and tastes. We are not bestselling authors by any definition I can figure out, but our sales have grown a bit almost every month. It’s interesting to note that people are buying from all the kinds of books we have.
So my conclusions about marketing, so far in our journey, anyway, are as follows:
Having a good, clear, relatively simple, striking, easy-to-read and understand cover is a good thing. Having a link in the books is a good thing. Tweeting is a very good thing. Having a blog is a good thing, but probably not one that’s just about writing. Pinterest is something I’m still thinking about. It seems to have good points, such as the ability to display your books with prices and links to Amazon all in one place. If you can join some groups with readers in them, this may be a very good thing. But I see a lot of lookers on Pinterest, not a lot of buyers. Many people are there to ooh and ahh and get lost in pretty pictures, not to click a sales link and go read an ebook. Here’s a post about my pinterest experience. Pinterest Is My New Interest
I didn’t say much about Goodreads, but finding readers there and talking to them about other people’s books makes them think you are a nice person. Talking to them about your own books is not always a good idea, but they will check out that nice person’s books and blog sometimes. Having your books available in as many places a possible (not just on Amazon) is a good thing. Smashwords also deserves praise for upgrading their response time and technical support recently.
Pricing some books at 99 cents is a good thing. Having multiple titles and a variety of kinds of books seems to be a good thing. I have been told repeatedly that having a series is a good thing, so I’m trying that next.
Let me close this by saying that the mainstream, traditionally minded publishers and many traditionally-published authors are not there to help those who want to be indie authors. They consider you the competition. Many of them are getting on the bandwagon of independent publishing, or say they are. Some want you to pay them for advice and claim to be able to help you succeed. But the key to successful indie publishing, once you have made your book as good as you can, is marketing. And few, if any, of these people want to help you market. There’s a lot of talk about “platform” nowadays. That means having an audience who will buy your books. And these people know you have to have one, but they won’t help you get one. Odds are they won’t even take you on as a client or pay any attention to you unless you are already successful at doing your own marketing. And if you keep at it, finding things that work to get yourself known, you will be successful without their “help”.