Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey


Music and videos

How To Make Your YouTube Channel Brilliant

Have you ever uploaded a video to YouTube? Do you have your own channel yet? I’m sure you’ve watched a few videos by now, even if it was only to catch up on those Strictly dances … like that amazing Jay and Aliona jive? YouTube is growing all the time, with many authors using it to grow and improve their platforms and reach. Here are some tips to help you do the same.

What’s great about video is its immediacy. Readers love to see a different side of their favourite authors, and via video you can connect in a way you can’t manage with the written word. Likewise, video is a fantastic medium for sharing your thoughts and feelings with that all-important personal touch. You can ‘show’ not ‘tell’ – taking readers on a tour of locations in your books, for example, or showing them where you work. And video can also be utilized for more practical purposes – like using screen capture software to produce ‘How To’ tutorials. More on that in a minute …

Youtube thumbnail

I’ve spent a bit of time updating my YouTube channel recently, primarily by adding custom thumbnails (like the one above) to most of my existing content. This helps with branding, making your videos stand out in the other video listings and giving potential viewers an idea of what you’re all about. You can have a look at the rest of my videos on my channel here. Incidentally, I made the thumbnail image, along with my YouTube artwork and all the new artwork and graphics on the blog with Canva – and I’ll be posting a short How To video on YouTube soon explaining exactly how you can use Canva to do all this kind of stuff. You can subscribe to the channel if you don’t want to miss that, or just watch out on here for the link.

Other tips for making your YouTube channel brilliant include:

  • Upload your own cover art, making sure that the key images will show on all the various devices. YouTube gives you chance to check this when you upload.
  • Add tags, which work like keywords, but remember they don’t only affect where you show up in searches – they also affect which other videos are ‘attached’ to yours. For example, one of my vlogs relates to me having a haircut, and this was listed in the tags. Linked to my video was loads of how to videos for clippering 😉 Not exactly relevant content …
  • Make your thumbnail striking to look at, but also think about how it will work with your title. You could give each video a similar thumbnail for continuity and branding, or a distinctly different one that works with the title of the video to entice viewers.

Something I really enjoyed about going back though all my old content on YouTube was watching the videos going way back to September 2012, when I filmed my very first vlog post! That’s three and a half years ago! It made me feel very old :/ I watched them all, trying to pick my favourite to share on here with you today. There are four ‘Excited author opens a new box of books’ videos, a number of vlog posts, a reading of The Family Trap, and even a video of me signing along to Jolene. (Oh, dear!) But, after much consideration, here is my personal favourite from my new, rebranded YouTube channel.

Four boxes! It made me smile, watching this again, because that was June 2014 and I’ve only just offloaded the very last of those books! I ordered too many, needless to say 😉

I couldn’t leave you without going back to that YouTube classic – Jay and Aliona. Come on, YouTube is wonderful for promoting our books, and sharing How To videos, and watching clips of cute kittens and whatever else floats your boat, but this is the stuff that keeps me hooked. Take it away, Jay …

Music Monday – Some Personal Reflections

Music. It’s such an intensely personal thing. I was chatting with my friend Bev the other day, and I remembered a moment in time when two of my most powerful musical influences collided – it got me thinking about how songs from your past can reconnect you with all sorts of emotions you’ve forgotten you ever had.

Okay, so let’s go all the way back to 1986. I’m living in a bedsit in Chichester Street – it’s the grottiest place you could possibly imagine – and I spend a lot of my time listening to music on my old record player (yes, the type where the records go round and round). Someone has given me a copy of a Blue Oyster Cult album, and during this fairly bleak period in my life I am listening to this track, over and over and over …

Now, fast forward to the year 2000. These days my musical tastes are a little more conventional, and I’m a massive fan of The Beautiful South. Paul Heaton’s voice is oddly comforting, and I have a tape (yes, a tape!!) that I pay in my car all the time. It is, as a matter of fact, another pretty bleak period. From time to time I visit my dad in Market Harborough for a bit of respite and a lot of wine. On this particular evening, Dad puts a CD on to listen to while we eat. The music starts. I have this moment where I can’t quite figure out what’s going on. The song is from my past – far, far into my past, and the emotions it brings up are wild and confusing – but the voice is the same one I’ve been listening to for weeks …

Blithely, my dad informs me it’s The Beautiful South’s new album of covers – isn’t it great, he says? I’m in shock for most of the meal, because there is something really, really weird going on. How does it feel when your favourite band right now sing your favourite song from back then? A song your sixteen-year-old self cried to, the way only sixteen-year-olds can. It feels like you’ve been slugged in the heart and had your rawest emotions laid out on the table for everyone to stare at. It feels terrible and incredible and awesome.

This is still one of my favourite songs of all time, and if I put the two versions together they tell a story of two periods of my life that wouldn’t be linked if not for music. But here is the interesting part – in a way they already were linked. At times of great emotional intensity, there is so much comfort in the right song, the right piece of music. And as a way of reconnecting you with emotions, music cannot be beaten. As writers, we often need to dwell in emotions we are not currently feeling – we need to be able to imagine what it feels like, to make the emotions real.

Which got me thinking about writing – about characters and their backgrounds, and about moments in time like this when experiences collide in unexpected ways. I can’t listen to music when I write, but I can see how a particular track could inspire a story, or the emotion behind a story. And this memory has rekindled the idea (yes, from the ideas folder I talked about on Saturday) behind one of the novels I’ve almost-finished-but-not-quite, currently titled, You Are Here. Watch out for that one later in the year!

So, over to you – what’s your favourite cover of a song, and why?

Inspirational Interview – Joanna Penn and Kerry Wilkinson

I’m starting off the week with an interview I listened to on Friday – it totally blew me away and I wanted to share it with you. Joanna Penn from The Creative Penn has about a hundred interviews on her YouTube channel – they are well worth checking out. I subscribe to her podcast, and I downloaded this interview and listened to it in the car. I was so impressed I had to check out the video too.

Kerry Wilkinson is an inspiration. Unassuming and not remotely gushing, his work ethic is astonishing and he’s really inspired me to take a look at how I get words on the page. Kerry is phenomenally successful, and yes – he started out as a self-published author but now has a fourteen book deal with Pan Macmillan AND is still self-publishing. And all this has happened in only a couple of years. Oh right, you’re thinking, we’ve heard these stories before. These types of people are content producers, not writers. They whip out any old drivel. Not in Kerry’s case. I’m reading the first in his Jessica Daniel crime series right now and it’s brilliant. Anyway, you don’t need me to paraphrase it for you – here is Kerry being expertly interviewed by the lovely Joanna Penn, telling it in his own words.

Pretty impressive, huh? By the way, podcasts like The Creative Penn are great for keeping up to date with what’s going on in the writing world. I download them to my phone then listen in the car or when I’m ironing – it’s a great use of ‘down time’.

So what about you? Do you have any recommendations for inspirational interviews with writers to share this week? Do you listen to podcasts or subscribe to any other feeds we should know about? Share in the comments 🙂

Book Trailers – How To Make Them and Why You Should

Today I’m delighted to welcome Maria Savva to the blog to talk about book trailers. This is an area I’m really interested in, so I invited Maria to talk us through the why and how of a book promotion tool many successful authors are using. Take it away Maria …

Maria Savva

Book Trailers – why I like them, and some tips if you want to make your own

When I started seeing book trailers appearing on YouTube a few years ago I wondered why people bothered. I could understand film trailers, because you’re seeing clips from a film that you can choose to watch if you enjoy the trailer. But a book trailer? I couldn’t really get my head around the concept. I mean, books are words, not pictures or moving pictures.

Then, I started to quite like the idea. People were saying it’s a good promotional tool, you can use it to get more exposure for your book. It tells people what the book’s about and someone might watch the trailer, enjoy it, find it intriguing, and decide to buy the book.

I was inspired to try to make my own book trailer after seeing other authors make their own.

I had no idea where to start, but I had iMovie on my old computer and decided to give it a go. I’d already discovered a wonderful website where you can get royalty free photos to use for creative projects, so I used that site to get my photos. If you’re thinking of making a trailer, be careful to check the terms of the licence for use whenever you choose photos from royalty free sites because some of the photographers will require that you add their name or website details to your book trailer. There are also sites where you can pay a one-off fee to use a photo for a specific project. I’ve always used morgueFile for my photos and have found all the pictures I need there.

iMovie is very easy to use and if you get stuck there are always tutorial videos on YouTube that will tell you how to do something. I used one of those instructional videos to teach me how to upload to YouTube. The updated version of iMovie that I have on my new computer makes it easier to upload; it’s just a matter of clicking a couple of buttons.

To make the video (if you’re using iMovie), you just drag your photos to the position you want them, then you can add words, and even various different transitions between the frames e.g. fading out and fading in.

I have a lot of fun making my book trailers and am learning something new about how to fine-tune them every time I make a new one.

Book trailer for 3

If you want music for your book trailer, there are (like the photo sites) lots of royalty-free sites where you can download free songs. Most websites will require that you at least add a link to the site in your trailer if you’re using content from that site. Many of the artists will also require that you credit them in the book trailer.

For some of my book trailers, I’ve used music by independent artists that I’ve met online: Jason Achilles Mezilis, Matt Keil, and WVM. Most indie musicians will be happy to have their music used for such a project as it gives an extra bit if promotion for their work; but make sure you ask them for the right to use the music. If you find a tune that you really like it’s definitely worth asking the musician if you can use it. Some of them will charge a fee for use of the tune.

For other trailers, I’ve used royalty-free music from the following sites:

Some tips for good book trailers that I have picked up over the years:

1. Tell a story with the words that you use in the trailer, try to keep the reader interested
2. Try to find pictures that say something about your book; images that evoke something from the story
3. Use instrumental music rather than music with words, unless you have only pictures in your video with no writing
4. Keep it brief. Try to make it under 2 minutes. I think the best time to aim for is 1- 1.5 minutes.
5. In my most recent trailer I’ve used short excerpts from the book. I read this tip somewhere recently, and thought it would be a nice idea. It gives the viewer a taster of your writing style
6. Include your website name in the trailer so interested viewers can look you up.
7. In the ‘About’ section, just under the video, add a couple of paragraphs about the video. I usually put the book blurb there. Also in this section, add links to where people can buy the book—that’s good for the impulse buyers.

If you’re not confident enough to make your own trailers, there are many services out there offering professionally made trailers. Check out their YouTube channels to see whether you like the trailers they make before you part with any cash.

One that I can recommend is Black Wolf Books, which is author Magnolia Belle’s website: This trailer tells you more about the service and how you can get in touch.

She’s made a few nice book trailers to help promote the BestsellerBound Anthologies, which are short story collections from various authors from (I’m an administrator on that writers’ forum along with Darcia Helle and Stacy Juba). Here’s the latest trailer she made for us:

I thought it would be nice to showcase here some of the best book trailers I’ve seen, and these will also give you ideas as to what makes a good trailer.

13 – by Julie Elizabeth Powell
What I love about this one is that Julie has used her own designs and created something very original. It makes me want to read this story.

Oblivious – by Neil Schiller
Neil has used actual excerpts from the book, and has chosen the sound of a typewriter in the background, rather than music. Again, original, and something that gives the viewer a real feel for the book. This is longer than the average book trailer, but because there is a lot to read, it doesn’t seem that long when you’re watching it.

33 Days – Bill See
This one uses original music which is relevant to the book, as it’s a memoir about a touring band. The author also speaks on this trailer, which adds something to the personal aspect of the story. It brings the book alive showing photos of events that are written about in the book.

Musical Chairs – by Jen Knox
This is one of the trailers I’ve watched that made me buy the book. This is also a memoir. The author reads excerpts from the book.

The Kiwi Series – by Vickie Johnstone
I’m posting this one because it made me buy the first book in the series. It gives a good idea what the story is about. I would say this one is a bit too long; I didn’t actually watch it to the end, but what I did watch was enough to make me want to buy it. I suppose the length of book trailers is a matter of taste. But ideally you want to aim to make it shorter so that people watch to the end because that makes your ‘views’ figure goes up on YouTube and the video is probably promoted more by the site then.

Here’s my own YouTube channel where you can find all my book trailers:

Book trailers are definitely here to stay and are getting better and better. One professional book trailer company I found out about recently, Red 14 Films, makes cinematic book trailers. They’re quite expensive, so probably not within the budget of the average indie author, but I love their videos. They offer a very polished product. The idea is innovative. They use actors to create almost a mini-movie from the books they promote. Take a look at some of the trailers on their site:

It’s definitely worth having a book trailer, whether you’re making it yourself, or hiring someone else to do it for you. You can post it to Amazon Author Central, Goodreads, your website/blog. The ‘share’ options on YouTube have expanded so you can now very easily share your trailer to many different websites in just a few seconds. I think it’s also a reader-friendly way to promote your work. You’re offering them something to look at, a bit of entertainment, as well as telling them a bit more about your book instead of constantly sending out links to your book and asking them to buy it.

A few years ago I was cynical about whether anyone would buy a book after watching a book trailer. Now, though, I’ve bought books after watching a trailer, so I know it can be an effective marketing tool. I enjoy making my own trailers, and would encourage other writers to have a go.


Wow, thanks so much, Maria! I’ve always fancied having a go at making a trailer, and now I’m full of ideas for one for Murder at the Maples. You can find out more about Maria below, and take a look at her books on Amazon here.

File created with CoreGraphics

Author Bio:
Maria is a writer of short stories and novels. She has always been a storyteller, and an avid reader, and is now having a lot of fun in her adventure with the creative art of writing. She has published 5 novels, including a psychological thriller, a family saga, and a fantasy/paranormal/time travel book. She also has 5 collections of short stories, the latest “3” has been described as an “Innovative showcase” of her short stories. If you like stories that will take you deep inside the characters’ hearts and minds, and you like twists in the tale, you will probably want to try these stories.

As well as writing, Maria is a lawyer (not currently practising law). During her career, she worked in family law, criminal law, immigration, residential property law, and wills & probate, among other things. Many of her stories are inspired from her own experiences and the experiences of those she knows or has known. Chances are, if you get to know this author it won’t be long before you are changed forever into a fictional character and appear in one of her books. If she likes you, you may become a romantic hero/heroine; if she doesn’t… well, she writes a good thriller I hear.

Maria currently divides her time between working as an administrator in a university, and writing/reading/editing/blogging. She maintains the BestsellerBound Recommends blog helping to promote fellow indie authors. She’s also a music blogger for UK Arts Directory where she helps promote independent musicians.

Connect with Maria:
Official website:
Goodreads Blog:
BestsellerBound Recommends:
UK Arts Directory Blog:

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