Interview Part 2: Sheila Clover English, Circle of Seven Productions

Sheila Clover English is a bibliophile of the old school. “There will always be those of us who love to go to our local bookstore,” she admits, “touch the pages, read the back copy, and enjoy the unique smell of coffee and books.” Yet her company, Circle of Seven Productions, exists in new media territory requiring constant and not always cautious exploration.

As book publishers wrestle with the transition to electronic content distribution and rights management, book video trailers, which already inhabit the digital domain, could be inclined to converge with book content. When asked if she could foresee a day when ebooks opened with a few minutes of trailers for other titles, English laughed in dismay:

I can’t imagine readers putting up with forced commercials. Trailers are meant to tempt readers, not irritate them. So, let’s hope they never have ebooks open with book videos. Of course, I’m an avid reader, so my opinion may be biased.

Perhaps because English and her production crews focus intently on capturing the essence of a story and its characters for the fans of genre fiction, she sees video advertisements for books as an independent form of entertainment. Is it possible for book video trailers to provoke online discussions that once were fueled only by doughnuts, coffee, and rows of office cubicles or bottomless piles of laundry? English is counting on it:

Book videos give the publishing industry a medium in which they can connect with potential readers. In the past, only movies, TV, music and video games could reach people who like visual ads and entertainment. Now, books can compete with those other entertainment industries.

The internet has evolved so much in terms of technology and ease of use. More and more people turn on the computer instead of the TV anymore, and that trend is only going to increase. The importance of book video as a promotional tool will only grow as time goes on.

English believes book videos can convert viewers—even those who don’t typically buy books—into readers. “You have to really reel them in,” she argued, “to get them to pick up a book.” Those elusive readers are the customers she wants to help her clients win. According to English’s theory:

Traditional readers are the ones most likely to use the back cover blurb, an excerpt or reviews to choose a book. They are established readers. They don’t need a video to get them to pick up a book. Although, many will watch them to see what’s coming up. And, to them, some videos are really just announcements that the book is out. The reader will buy it regardless.

Non-traditional readers are those who usually watch TV, go to the movies, play video games and spend far too much time downloading to their iPod.

With more and more competition for the entertainment dollar, the publishing industry must expand their thinking beyond traditional advertising and marketing. The main focus of industry marketing needs to be expanded to encompass more than just a limited set of known factors (i.e., traditional readers). As an industry, we must reach beyond what is our known demographic and into the unknown. We must evolve to create and nurture new readers.

Get them while they’re young! But, in order to do so, you must speak to them via a medium to which they have grown accustomed. That medium is a visual one. Games, movies, and special effects are all becoming bigger and better with each passing year across every segment of the entertainment industry. How is the publishing industry supposed to compete with that?

Now, there is a tool that utilizes this, the most popular medium, and it is being used to sell books.

Whether or not you like them, or even use them, if book videos bring in more new readers, aren’t they a wonderful tool?

It’s a substantial question that can’t easily be answered. Authors develop ardent fans, but how many readers become passionate about book characters that have not first been brought to life in a visual medium?

When commissioning a COS Productions Book Trailer, authors sometimes choose the actors who portray the characters they created. “Often authors want to use cover models for their videos,” English explained, “so we accommodate that request.”

In some cases, COS provides an acting coach on set. Usually, the company relies on agencies and in-house talent when casting a video, said its CEO, adding:

COS is a network made up of production companies, online distribution specialists, and online marketing specialists. We often partner with agencies or companies if we feel they can enhance our client’s experience, offer discounts to our clients, allow for greater video utilization or help grow our outreach for marketing.

Betraying no superciliousness, the five-year veteran publicist announced, “We’re always open to suggestions and recommendations!”

Has COS Productions ever been asked to adapt an entire novella to video? Without a second thought, English replied, “No, but that would be fun!”

Tomorrow, as a guest blogger here at Treated & Released, Sheila Clover English will explain in greater detail why authors come to COS Productions for a form of publicity that increases their name recognition and their fan base.

Interview Part 1: Sheila Clover English, Circle of Seven Productions

11 Replies to “Interview Part 2: Sheila Clover English, Circle of Seven Productions”

  1. I am one of those readers Sheila, rarely think to pick up a book, and go for the visual entertainment first. The book trailers get me interested in the characters, and a taste of their world… it sets the mood. Some people like to imagine what the characters look like, but not me. Even when I’m reading the book, I refer to the cover image to help me see them!

  2. I am a twenty year veteran of producing commercials and music videos. Several years ago Sheila asked if I would produce and direct a book trailer for Heather Graham. I was blown away by the concept of book trailers and wondered why no one in my industry had ever thought about doing this type of advertising for authors until now!

    Sheila took an idea and has developed an industry that I believe will one day rival music videos; IF the publishing houses get on board as the record companies did back in the 1980’s. Music videos are now a must for an industry that at one time had nothing to do with visual content.

    In the very near future, consumers will come to expect book trailers just as they expect a music video when an artist comes out with a new album. BTW, music videos blew the lid off of the music industry, created mega-stars and artists as well as film director’s in a very short period of time.

  3. Book trailer is very powerful in catching people’s attention. It gives us some visual representation of the characters and storyline. They have enough story line to get you wondering what happened in the book. Quite often, I wish they made movies out of them. Majority of the people would like to see exactly how the authors visualize the characters since COS works closely with both the authors and actors. Im glad COS gives their authors the freedom to give their ideas and who they want for their heroes. Its the closest you can get to knowing what the author was thinking when they wrote the book. Book trailers really help the book industry to move forward and join the world of visual entertainment. I love watching their trailers. I bought books that I never thought to buy until I saw how cool it looked on their book trailers. Especially, the suspense ones. More power to the wonderful COS team. :)

  4. Diana, Brenda, Victoria, and Maida:

    All of your positive comments reinforce my reaction to book video trailers, which weren’t even on my radar until this year. The first time I saw one, I had the same response Victoria describes: Why didn’t someone think of this before? I must admit, I’m an avid reader of book reviews published on the Web, but I don’t think anyone would call me normal. (laughing)

    The other trend I’m noticing here in Columbus is a renewed interest in book clubs and book events. This weekend, I’ll be driving to Gambier, Ohio, for the first ever Kenyon Review Literary Festival. Two months ago, I attended the first annual Ohioana Book Festival. I don’t believe people are losing interest in books. I think the book industry is simply shifting. Some of us older folks suddenly have more time to devote to reading. Readers are sharing books and posting reviews of books on their blogs, authors are engaging readers on social networking sites and through videos and podcast interviews, and publishers are beginning to experiment with digital formats. There’s something for everyone.

  5. I love the book trailers that Sheila and COS make.

    I have been drawn to read books in genre I had not been intrested in before because of the videos. I have never been disappointed in the books, because Sheila always captures the authors true vision. The COS trailers are true to the book and much better than any adaption from Hollywood ever made. I wish that could make full lenth films.

  6. Mary, it’s interesting that you like trailers when they stay true to the book. Some people argue very strongly that the enactment of a scene from a book is detrimental to their reading experience, and they would prefer it were left entirely to their imagination.

    I found myself intrigued by the book Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel when I watched its video trailer, because the author, Mark Stuart Ellison, who appears in the video, looks so much like his father, around whom the wartime love story revolves.

  7. Robin, I think it’s great that you were interested in Dear Mom, Dad and Ethel! Stuart is so very interesting.
    But take a look at what’s happened.
    Not only did you find a book you otherwise would have never heard of.
    Not only did it intrigue you to consider buying the book.
    But, this is a video that is many months old. The importance of that is, this video is still selling books long after the initial distribution. If Stuart had spent his money on a print ad you’d have never heard of him.
    This is just one example of how these are effective and efficient tools.

  8. Robin, thank you for your kind words—and for linking to my video and website. Sheila informed me of your recent post about Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel. I hope you and your readers take a look at Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel. It covers important but rarely discussed aspects of World War II such as fighter control; the black market in Western Europe; the Allied evacuation of Verviers, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge; and a unique view of wartime romance.

    People often tell me that I look like my dad, and I always get a kick out of that. At my last book signing, I wore my father’s Eisenhower jacket. A lady looked at me, then at a wartime picture of my father I had on display, and, for a moment, she thought I WAS my dad!

    Thanks again, and Happy Thanksgiving.

  9. Stuart:

    The video trailer for Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel is a fine example of effective marketing to my demographic. Now that I see what a superb salesman you are, I understand why you published with iUniverse. Furthermore, you sold me. The deciding factor was when I saw the semicolons in your comment. (I’m laughing, but I’m not joking.)

    I ordered your book from this morning. The website for Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel has a feedback form for readers’ comments, so I’ll be sure to let you (as well as this blog’s readers) know what I think of it.

    By the way, Motts Military Museum is not far from my home. Over the past 20 years, I’ve watched it expand from its original location in Warren Motts’ home to its own building in Groveport, Ohio, a small town on the outskirts of Columbus.

    I’m very glad you took the time to join the discussion here, Stuart, and I’m looking forward to reading your novel.

  10. Thank you for your kind words, Robin, and I hope you enjoy Dear Mom, Dad & Ethel.

    I guess semicolons are in short supply today. I say that only half in jest. A few years ago, a specialist treating my father said that during a visit to a Washington museum, he saw letters written by enlisted men during World War II. The doctor was struck by how literate the writers were, especially considering that most of them were barely out of high school. The situation is a lot different in 2007.



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