Web Video Has Gone…Well, Viral. What Does this Mean to Memoir Writers?

by Kendra Bonnett on June 19, 2010

Book Business PaperclipPost #42 – Women’s Memoirs, Book Business – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler

Video for Writers, Part 1

U.S. Internet users watched 30.3 billion videos in April. How many of those represent your share? Are you one of the 178 million U.S. viewers?video for writers

I am. I have a Netflix account and watch online. I gave up my satellite TV and now watch Burn Notice, Top Chef, Castle and Grey’s Anatomy on either IMDB or Hulu…for free. I watch videos on the news channels (again because I gave up my TV). And, yes, I watch a few YouTube videos every month.

I feel a bit as though I’m confessing while hiding in shame with a paper bag over my head for anonymity. Are writers allowed to love video? I certainly know my share of writers and avid readers who have a sort of love/hate relationship with television and video (although not so much with film). I even have a few friends who either don’t own a television set or still own a very small, black-and-white TV.

I never had a problem making room in my life (and mind) for both reading and video/TV. For me it’s been a matter of moderation.

I am of the television generation.

My parents bought their first set when I was an infant because they wanted to watch the Kefauver hearings. They put the TV in Daddy’s reception room. Our apartment was half living space and half doctor’s office until I was five. In retrospect, I have to think patients actually enjoyed coming to the office. How many doctors provided television in the early 50s?

My mother told me about the time I was in the reception room watching cartoons during patient hours. I guess I had gotten so engrossed that I wasn’t paying attention to where I sat. I was sitting on top of some man’s fedora. Crushed it flat. My mother discovered what I had done, tried to block the poor man’s hat back into shape by hand and whisked me out of the room before he discovered what I’d done.

It must have been around 1964 when we got a color TV. We weren’t the first on our street. In fact, my parents said they caved and bought the expensive set so that we kids would spend more time at home. What a novelty. Whenever the NBC peacock appeared, whomever was watching would shout, “The peacock’s on!” We’d all drop what we were doing and run to watch the brilliant feathers of the peacock unfold. Talk about a simpler time. Yes, we were pretty naive.

So yes, I am of the TV generation. But like a lot of you, I didn’t at first think I was part of the online video generation. That stuff was for kids…music videos…goofy stunts filmed and posted on YouTube…reality stuff. No, I was all about work online.

That has changed; 30.3 billion monthly views and 178 million viewers proves the point. And, yes, a lot of that is probably Lady Gaga, crazy singing cats, Samba-dancing Brazilian babies and some kid that skateboarded down the roof of his parents’ house and is now in the hospital recovering from two broken wrists. Even so, I think Web video has gone mainstream. And there is more and more worthwhile content available every day.

So in my headline, I asked: What does this mean to us as memoir writers…indeed any kind of writers? In a word, promotion. Book trailers and pre-launch video series, to name two. I feel that if our ultimate goal is communication, we shouldn’t be afraid to pull out all the stops and use all the media tools available to get our books noticed, bought and read.

Matilda and I are experimenting with the latter in our Writing in Five series. We’ve created our own YouTube channel for Women’s Memoirs, and we’ve started a second one for our upcoming book, Writing Alchemy. We decided to offer up the Writing in Five videos as a way to start building a platform and greater awareness for Writing Alchemy. We’re not burning up the ethersphere…yet. But we are getting out there. And we’re starting to learn how to use these videos to gain Google advantage.

In the weeks ahead, I’ll be using this venue to share our experiences, challenges and, generally, what we’re learning about online video. Here’s today’s lesson:

Keep Your Videos Short

This is harder than it seems. But video content creation follows the same rules as writing. Writing a short, powerful, focused essay may just be harder than writing a whole book on the same subject. It takes discipline to keep it short. And Matilda and I are still nipping at the heels of brevity. I have a new Writing in Five video that will go live on Monday, and I have vowed to keep it short(er) than any of our previous episodes.

But here’s why short is key: According to the video-tracking service TubeMogul, just 10 seconds into a video, more than 10 percent of viewers will have quit and moved on. And only about 10 percent of your audience will actually last 5 minutes. With this in mind (and knowing that I’m guilty of many 6, 7 and 8 minute productions) I decided to go in search of book trailers that run no more than 2 minutes. I’ll leave you with a few examples. Take a few minutes to watch these and then, please, leave a comment. Tell me what you think works or doesn’t work in these short pieces. We’ll pick this discussion up again next week.




Sue Silverman on Fearless Confessions:

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Marketing Memoir Through Video — Memoir Writing Blog
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Matilda Butler June 19, 2010 at


Thanks for putting these video book trailers together. There are lots of lessons in them for authors. Here’s my first quick response:

1. Music is important. I was especially struck how Leave the Light On’s music took me from a dark beginning to an ending that foreshadowed hope.

2. Engage the audience. I felt that the book trailers for both Leave the Light On and Fearless Confessions made an effort to involve me — to make me care.

3. Give the viewer enough hooks. Silencing Sam and Tweak were great videos — quite professional. But they came off as talking to me without considering my reaction. There weren’t enough hooks to engage me. This is probably a matter of amount of content and affect per minute.

I often learn as much (or perhaps more) from what doesn’t work as from what does. I can see there is much to be learned to create effective videos.


Jamuna Advani June 20, 2010 at

These video clips really capture my attention. Specially the last one fearless confession seems to draw my attention a lot.

Kendra Bonnett June 20, 2010 at


Sue Silverman’s book Fearless Confession is quite good. I think you might enjoy reading it.

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