I've been running an experiment since January to see whether a book video would impact the sell through of one of my titles. The reason I ended up with a four month trial is that I forgot I was running it, so the numbers involved are large enough to offer some statistical significance. In brief, on January 21st, I began running the video embedded below on a dozen or so of my web pages related to the topic, including the order page for the book:
This "about the book" video has been viewed 22,953 times as of this morning, and the viewer attention span (as measured by YouTube) is decent, with the average viewer watching about half of the video. The video was made in a single take with my FlipCam, no script, and I never experimented with running different videos. If you sit through the video, you'll see it really is about the book, there's no "call to action", promise of enhanced performance, longer life, improved self esteem, or any of that good stuff. I don't have a same period last year to compare to as the book was only published last spring, so I'm comparing the last four months and ten days with four months and ten days immediately preceding.
Amazon Associates sell through:
Before book video - 8.39%
After book video - 9.54%
The Amazon Associates sell through increased 13.7% with the book video. Ebook sales are also 100% trackable through my site, and the sell through of my ebook licence agreement page was:
Before book video - 1.97%
After book video - 2.36%
The sell through of the ebooks directly through my site went up 19.8% after the book video was posted.
For the same period, book sales through stores that I don't have any way to track were also up, sales in the US rose 36% in the four months after the video was posted, sales overseas (printed by Lightning Source in the UK) rose 125%. But the untrackable sales increases could easily have been driven by the increasing visibility of the book online or by increasing word of mouth as the title became known in the relevant communities. And I should point out that total print sales for this book are still well short of 1,000 copies, it's just not a popular subject.
The trackable increases, the 14% rise in Amazon sell through and the 20% rise in eBook sell through, are adjusted for overall traffic to my website, so they represent real gains in sales. The questions I can't answer are:
#1 - Would the book video have driven much greater sales increases if the spokes model was (even) more attractive than myself?
#2 - Would the video have been more effective in driving sales if it took a hard-sell approach, with repeated calls-to-action - buy it or your house will catch fire!
#3 - Would the video have sold more books if it was professionally produced, rehersed, etc?
#4 - Would the existing video have had a greater impact on sales if my sales page contained a more aggressive sales pitch?
I've done a lot of experimenting over the years within the bounds of the soft-sell approach, changing the order links and location of book cover images on my web pages, etc, and I don't remember ever seeing a double digit increase in sell-through from any of those tweaks. I think that's largely because customers who respond to the passive sales approach based on content commit to the purchase at the time they decide to buy, so they will find the book even if it requires extra effort on their part. Publishers employing a aggressive sales tactics, on the other hand, may see significant increases through extensive A/B testing of the sales pitch, colors, pricing, etc.
Video production, whether you do it yourself or pay a professional, is not the real challenge here. Getting potential readers to view the video is the hard part. Note that 88% of the viewership for the book video in this example watched the video embedded in my web pages. Some publishers may harbor ambitions of producing viral book videos, with such great entertainment value that they garner a wide viewership through word of mouth and high visibility on YouTube. I'm sure that will work just great for one publisher in a thousand, or whatever the numbers work out to be, but it wouldn't be an efficient use of resources for most of us. If you think there's a one-size-fits-all answer for producing book videos, you may also benefit from my universal answer guide: