Thursday, June 19, 2014

Author Vlogging How-To's

compiled by: Heather Day Gilbert

As an author, one excellent way you can connect with your readers is via vlog (video blog). Today, I've asked two fearless and effective vloggers to share tips on how to get the best vlog possible. These author/vloggers are Alton Gansky and Jessica R. Patch. I'll also post some summary observations of my own and a vlog from all three of us for you to watch! Thank you all for visiting today, and let's get right down to vloggy basics!


Vlogging Basics Q&A with Alton Gansky:



HG: Before you start to record, what are some basics you need to have in place? What do you need to watch out for? (ie: unstable camera, etc.)

AG: Nothing can ruin a video faster than a lack of planning. Ive made plenty of mistakes and have tried my best to learn from them. Heres what I check:

1.       Lighting. Most of use the cameras in our computers to record our video. Some high-end bloggers use professional lighting but most of us make do with a window. Does my image washout from too much light? Do I have a light source behind me silhouetting me? One mistake Ive made repeatedly is not allowing for the light coming from my monitor. I often dim my monitor.

2.       Noise. Is my cell phone muted? Is the land land unplugged? Have I turned off e-mail so the recording wont be filled with alert sounds? Is my door closed? Do other people on the house know Im recording?

3.       Camera angle. Ive seen many videos (done on laptops) that give a great view up the persons nose. Im thankful that I have nostrils but I have no desire to spend 15 to 30 minutes looking up someone elses nose. If you record on a laptop, set it on a box so its near eye level.

4.       Jostling. Another laptop problem. Recording with a laptop sitting on your, well, lap will make it look like your head is bouncing around in the frame. Put it on a solid surface.

5.       Audio. Am I getting good levels. I do interviews so I need to think not only about how I sound but the tone and volume of my guest. Sometimes thats beyond my control. I interview people who are thousands of miles away and that can lead to Internet issues.

HG: How do you fight off nervousness and keep that from leaching into your videos?

AG
1.       Preparation. The better prepared you are, the more comfortable you will be.
2.       Practice. The more video you make, the more comfortable you will become.
3.       You should be nervous (at least a little). It keeps you on your toes.

HG: What are ways you can keep your vlogging from becoming stale? (ie: changing location, etc.)

AG: Have good material, good subjects, learn to edit your video.

HG: What's the best way to upload vlogs to your blog? Do you need to have a Youtube channel?

AG: I use YouTube. After I record and edit my video, I upload it to YouTube. I, like thousands of others, have a channel. Ive been with them long enough that I can upload much longer videos. YouTube has an easy to use embed code. I use that to place the video my websites.

HG: How often would you recommend vlogging? Do you recommend running a series based around a specific topic?

AG: The depends on what the goal is. Writers Talk is weekly with the occasional longer break. Screencasts for Writers is intermittent. A series can be a good way to build an audience. Most viewers cant (or dont want to) watch more than 15 to 30 minutes of one topic. There are exceptions but the principle holds true for most of us. A topic spread out over several episodes can be a good idea.

HG: What would you say are the primary benefits of vlogging? If you're an unpublished author, is it worth it, would you say? And if you're published, how does vlogging build your brand?

AG: We are a visual people, used to receiving information over the television or movies. Our brains respond to video very well. Video makes the blogger more human and does so in a way that cant be achieved by words alone.

Netcasting (a term I prefer over vlogging) can create buzz for a published book or lay the foundation for a platform unpublished authors can use to build a following.

Alton Gansky is the author of forty-three books, fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing, co-writing, and editing, he hosts Writer’s Talk, an online program about and for writers (www.youtube.com/altongansky). He is also the director of Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference held each year near Asheville, NC.




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His latest book is 60 People Who Shaped the Church, a look at sinners, saints, rogues, and heroes who made the church what it is today (published by Baker Books).








Vlogging Basics Q&A with Jessica R. Patch




HG: Before you start to record, what are some basics you need to have in place? What do you need to watch out for? (ie: unstable camera, etc.)

      JP: 
·         Knowing my topic generally helps. *wink wink* But seriously, know what you want to talk about and the tone you want to set. For me, I do a series called Coffee with Jess, and I answer questions that are sent in via comments or email. People watching should get the flavor of your voice/personality, especially if it translates (which it should!) into your novels.

·         I use a generous stack of books to prop my laptop on. You don’t want to be looking down at the camera, neither do you want it way above your head. You’re talking to friends, so look into it straight on—just like you would if you were face to face.

·         Lighting can be an issue, and it’s not always the room’s fault. Sometimes it’s the quality of the camera on your computer. Do the best you can! *My computer had some lighting issues and it’s the quality.

·         Once I have these things in place, I’m ready to holler, “Action!”

HG: How do you fight off nervousness and keep that from leaching into your videos?

 JP: I never get nervous hanging out with my friends. And I see this the same way. Plus, you can take more than one taping, but I try not to because I want to sound natural—again—like chatting with friends. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You should enjoy what you’re doing. If you don’t enjoy it, don’t do it.

HG: What are ways you can keep your vlogging from becoming stale? (ie: changing location, etc.)

JP: Oh, I definitely change my location. You know, from my desk all the way to the kitchen table. Dramatic environment change. J I don’t vlog on a schedule which takes a lot of pressure off. I choose to vlog on Fridays, but not every Friday.

HG: What's the best way to upload vlogs to your blog? Do you need to have a Youtube channel?

JP: A YouTube channel is smart, and it’s how I upload. I’m not tech-savvy so when I say it’s easy, you can trust me. Driving traffic to your channel early on is also smart. Eventually, you’ll post book trailers and bonus features. The possibilities are endless.

HG:  How often would you recommend vlogging? Do you recommend running a series based around a specific topic?

JP: Depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. If you write non-fiction and you want to speak on the topic of your book to build platform, then yes, I’d be specific. If you write historical, maybe you want to do a series of vlogs on location, etiquette of that time, etc…or you choose a series title like mine, Coffee with Jess, and you can vlog on a variety of topics or just chat because when you have coffee with a friend. Anything goes!

HG: What would you say are the primary benefits of vlogging? If you're an unpublished author, is it worth it, would you say? And if you're published, how does vlogging build your brand?

JP: Refer back to earlier comments on building platform and voice.

Showing up on-screen is like being in person and another great way to connect. Readers are curious about you “live.” My very first vlog had the most hits. People are curious about what you really look like (live) and how you sound. My introductory vlog proved that, even with poor quality lighting.


Jessica R. Patch writes inspirational contemporary romance with plenty of mystery and suspense. A passion to draw women into intimacy with God keeps her motivated, along with heaping cups of caffeine in the form of coffee. When she's not hunched over her laptop or teaching the new & growing believer's class at her church, you can find her sneaking off to movies with her husband, embarrassing her daughter in unique ways, dominating her son at board games, and collecting recipes she'll probably never cook. She is represented by Rachel Kent at Books & Such Literary Agency.


A Few Final Vloggy Thoughts by Heather Day Gilbert



Both Alton and Jessica have offered some great insights here! I just wanted to add a few of my to-dos for vlogging (learned this stuff the hard way, people! Ha).

  • Always make sure your camera/laptop is on a stable surface. Yes, I've offered some vlogs where it's moving all around on my lap...not great protocol as the viewer gets dizzy!
  • If you live in the country like I do, you may want to shut windows pre-vlog. Otherwise the loud tweets of birds or deep bark of your dog will definitely distract from what you're trying to say. Although I don't mind a little ambient cricket noise in summer...
  • Just like Jessica said, pretend you're talking to a friend. If it helps you to use notes, do so. I usually do a couple "practice" posts, but for me I like talking off the top of my head on points I know I need to cover. The vlog I'm posting above was done on the first try, and it actually received the most hits and compliments. I think it's because it was about something I was very passionate about: my choice to self-publish.
  • Something I've also learned--a good quality video camera is worth it. I thought my new laptop camera would replace my old one that fit on top of the computer--but it gave very poor quality and even some lag time when I was speaking. 
  • Finally, I've read somewhere that 5-8 minutes is a good length for a personal vlogpost. Otherwise people lose attention. I know I've gone over that sometimes, and those posts don't get as many hits. I figure people might look at the time and feel they don't have time to watch the whole thing at once.

Heather Day Gilbert enjoys writing stories about authentic, believable marriages. Seventeen years of marriage to her sweet Yankee husband have given her some perspective, as well as eleven years spent homeschooling. You can find Heather at her website, Heather Day Gilbert--Author, and at her Facebook Author Page, as well as Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, and Goodreads. Her Viking novel, God's Daughter, is an Amazon bestseller. You can find it on Amazon and Audible.com. Her Appalachian mystery, Miranda Warning, releases June 20th. 

Click for Goodreads link
Child of the Appalachian mountains, Tess Spencer has experienced more than her share of heartache. The Glock-wielding, knife-carrying housewife knows how to survive whatever life throws at her.

But when an anonymous warning note shows up in her best friend Miranda’s mailbox—a note written in a dead woman’s handwriting—Tess quickly discovers that ghosts are alive and well in Buckneck, West Virginia. Hot on a cold trail, she must use limited clues and her keen insight into human nature to unmask the killer...or the next victim might be Tess herself.

Tinged with the supernatural and overshadowed by the mountains' lush, protective presence, this twisting psychological mystery is the first in A Murder in the Mountains series.

***Hope this helps as you all go out and bring a little slice of who you are to your readers/followers! Please share any additional vlogging observations below!***




2 comments:

Michael Ehret said...

Wow ... great tips! I've wondered about trying this myself, but I can't quite think of a good reason why at this point. Still, it could be fun.

Have you seen anyone who uses short, I'd call them "micro-vlogs," as a way to intro their written blog for the day? That's something I've toyed with mentally.

Heather Day Gilbert said...

Michael, I know Michelle Griep has been vlogging for some time along with her blogposts, and hers are always fun and exciting. I don't know HOW she keeps them so exciting (she's just an exciting gal)! But they're always just the right length. Another example of a vlogger doing it right!