Thursday, May 03, 2012

Elaine Viets: Creating Your Own Focus Group

I wanted a book trailer for “Final Sail,” my new Dead-End Job mystery. All the cool kids have one. Book trailers are good selling tools. Bookstores post them on their Websites or use them in e-newletters. TV and radio stations use them on their sites, too.

Kelly Nichols at LookABook created my trailer. Kelly is one half of the award-winning P.J. Parrish. For “Pumped for Murder,” my tenth Dead-End Job mystery, Kelly made a book trailer that was a 1:50 seconds.

For “Final Sail,” author James Swain suggested I try a shorter trailer. Thanks to Twitter, readers are getting used shorter messages.

My new “Final Sail”  trailer would be only 45 seconds. Since I host a radio talk show for Radio Ear Network, I voiced it.

Kelly worked with this synopsis: Private eye Helen tries to catch an emerald smuggler on a luxury yacht, while she works undercover as a stewardess, serving snobs, scrubbing floors, and cleaning up after a pampered poodle. Meanwhile, Phil investigates a sexy gold digger, Blossom Zerling, who may have murdered her rich old husband.

Kelly put together two sample videos with music. I chose the version I liked. But I figured  I was too close to the subject. The Penguin publicist gave this useful advice: Leave the “call to action” – the Website address and “available in e-book and hardcover” information –  up longer.

Next, I asked for focus group volunteers on various mystery lists. Seven women between the ages of 30 and 50 – my prime readership – volunteered.

The focus group saw things I didn’t.

Helen scrubs toilets as yacht stewardess. My sample trailer had video of a brush scrubbing a toilet. The focus group resounding nixed it. “Makes me want to hurl,” said one woman.

 I flushed the toilet.

Several wondered why the Zerling mansion looked spooky, and asked why a skeleton was stalking the grounds. The Zerlings were given a conventional Florida mansion, and we buried the skeleton.

The sample video had a captain in a pirate uniform. He was cute, but the focus group wondered why he was there. The captain was deep-sixed, along with a hard-to-make-out horde   of emeralds. They were replaced with two rotating emeralds.

Kelly included all ten Dead-End Job covers. “I would like to see your book titles a little slower,” one woman said. “You never know when someone will walk into a B & N and spy a title and remember that it's you.”

Here’s the final version of the “Final Sail” book trailer. Like the song says, I get by with a little help from my friends.  

What do you think?

 Have you ever put together your own focus group?

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