by | Aug 22, 2022 | Lisa Black, The Writer's Life | 5 comments

by Lisa Black

I created a television commercial for my current release, Red Flags, and aired it on local channels twenty times in five days. The cost to me? A whopping—and deductible—$289. I should add that I know nothing about film composition, video technology, or advertising.

We’ve all become aware that book trailers are fabulous promotional items for posting on our websites, Facebook, Instagram Reels, and so on—always available and better yet, free. But doing a James Patterson and jumping to the big screen? Impossible for a little mid-lister like me.

Child and TV

Well, yes and no.

Here’s the story: My husband is a television addict. The TV goes on before breakfast and doesn’t go off until we go to bed. All day, every day. I swear it’s a childhood security thing that maybe an expensive shrink could figure out. On top of that he works from home as a field engineer for an elevator company and his office is our living room. I work a rotating shift so that I’m home some weekdays and can’t avoid it.

He likes the stuff he watched when he was a kid: Green Acres, MASH, black and white movies, sitcoms that were already in reruns before he was even born. Where we live, it’s all on a channel called MeTV. Its sister channel H&I (Heroes & Icons) has things like Monk, McGyver, JAG, and House.

I noticed that some local companies, especially this electrician (“Mr. Sparky”) would have not just one but two commercials every break—annoying as all get-out, but it made me wonder: How could small businesses like Mr. Sparky or a dinner venue or an eye doctor afford such pervasive advertising? So when I noticed the channels on in places like doctor’s offices—captive audience!!—I emailed the broadcasting company.

A friendly marketing person sent me rate sheets. To run a 30 second spot would be $5-10 apiece, depending on the show. 15 seconds, even cheaper.

I couldn’t summarize every aspect the book in 30 seconds, of course. I had to pick out the most important dramatic hook of the story and show it in a way to make viewers desperate to know how it turns out.

The TV station would do this for me…for between $400-1000, prompting me to Google ‘free video maker.’ Too often the ‘free’ part was ignored or fudged but I did find WeVideo and FlexClip. With WeVideo I searched and used their videos and photos but also free ones from Unsplash. I added music, clipping it so that the musical drama would build right where the video drama did. If you have never worked with any kind of video software, this will take a bit of a learning curve but not a steep one.

I did have to upgrade to the paid version ($14/month) to get rid of the watermark and be able to save the video in the required resolution. To my surprise it looks good even on my husband’s new 81” HD screen. The friendly marketing person sent me a link to upload the video to their site and I ordered one spot in 4 shows for 5 consecutive days. Needless to say, I chose shows in line with the book’s subject matter, such as Monk and Perry Mason.

The funny thing is we’ve seen it during shows I didn’t buy. I assume that when they have an unbought spot, they throw anything in there. Like, maybe, Mr. Sparky.

The entire process was completed online, at my leisure and for a total cost of $289 + $14.50—and of course I’m free to reuse the trailer on my website, YouTube, and all social media. How much did this bump my sales? Difficult to tell, as the newspaper also did a large article on me in the same week, and let’s hope that affects sales as well.

But it seems to have worked for Mr. Sparky. He just moved his spots uptown to CBS.

Want to see the result? Click here.

Now, have I given you some ideas? Any local TV channels you want to check out?

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  1. Karna Small Bodman

    What a great idea! I never considered creating TV commercials for my novels because, like you, I figured they would be way too expensive. However, you’ve given us all a terrific way to publicize our books on certain channels – not only on ME-TV (where we often watch some of the old shows too), but also perhaps on FETV, Ovation, E! or even the Hallmark Movies & Mysteries Channel. I loved the spot you created for your new novel, RED FLAGS. . . . Let us know how it increased your book sales. And thanks so much, Lisa, for this very thought-provoking blog!!

  2. Lisa Black

    Ooo, the Hallmark Mysteries channel would be perfect for thriller writers!

  3. Tracy Clark

    This is fantastic! Go, Lisa!!

  4. Jenny Milchman

    What a cool experiment–with obvs incredible results, Lisa!

  5. Wendy Dingwall

    Thanks for sharing, Lisa! Loved the idea and the trailer!