YouTube Channel Branding

With Facebook branded, the next step was to brand our channel on YouTube. I’ve blogged in the past about setting up a channel on YouTube that gives you the degree of design control I will focus on now, so I won’t reiterate that part.   But basically, YouTube provides much more control over the look and feel of your “page” than Facebook does. You can alter the background color, the background graphic, and even the transparency of the “borders” of your channel lay-out. 

For Outskirts Press, our focus was the “” graphic and tagline I mentioned last time in relation to branding Facebook. Now, rather than being limited to the small, 180 pixel-wide graphic imposed by Facebook, we had the freedom to upload a graphic as wide as a computer monitor.  There are two tricks to doing this correctly:

1) You have to account for different monitor resolutions.  Wikipedia suggests that 76% of Internet users view at a resolution higher than 1024 x 768 and 20% see at a resolution of 1024 x 768.  So by designing your YouTube background graphic (or your website, for that matter) at a resolution optimal for 1024 x 768 you are optimizing the experience for 96% of Internet users.  Granted, this statistic probably doesn’t involve the growing trend of viewing websites like YouTube on mobile devices, which shoot the computer monitor trends out the window, but that’s a topic for a different day.

In our case, we created a graphic that looked good at 1024 x 768 as well as higher resolutions and then used a “gradient” to bleed out to a solid background color at the sides and bottom.  That way, even if someone was looking at the background at a very, very high resolution, the graphic wouldn’t just end abruptly or, (even worse) repeat in an unaesthetic way.

2) The second concern is coping with the content.  Since the background is fixed-center (unlike Twitter, which is fixed-left, and we’ll talk about that next), the YouTube background needs to be designed in three parts — the left, the right, and the top — and then “combined” together around the content table.  This is because the background or “banner” portion of the background is visible above the YouTube channel content.  This banner needs to be 960 pixels wide and designed to exactly match the edges of the left and right portions where it they all touch each other.  

Our first design of the banner involved an animating .gif that alternated between “write anything,” “publish everything,” and “market everywhere.” Unfortunately, the banner cannot be an animating .gif image (come on, YouTube, why not?).    Therefore, only the first frame of the animating graphic displayed.  I briefly toyed with the idea of alternating the three “key frames” of the animating graphic every week or so, but instead opted for the shorter version of our tagline: “” and that’s the banner you see below, on our new YouTube channel, revealed here for the first time:

It carries over the branding message and repeats the characters of the Facebook graphic, and those from our website index page, while also taking advantage of the greater design controls afforded by YouTube. 

Maybe in time Facebook will offer this degree of freedom, although perhaps not; one reason MySpace is so terrifying to visit is due to the design freedom is affords.   Many MySpace pages are just plain fugly, which reminds us all that just because someone “can” do something themselves, doesn’t mean it is being done correctly, professionally, or aesthetically.

Hey, what do you know– that’s what we often say about self-publishing. Sometimes, it’s better to let the experts handle it.

“How-To” Videos on YouTube for Self Publishing Authors

Over the past several posts I’ve been discussing different methods a writer — or anybody, really — can use to add video content to a YouTube channel for the purposes of self promotion, book promotion, company promotion, and/or search engine optimization. We have already discussed television commercials, book videos, book teasers, and platform videos.

The final method I’m going to discuss is the creation of “how-to” videos. These are typically low-budget, self-made, videos you shoot in the comfort of your own home using a home video camera, such as the affordable $200 “flip camera.”   Set-up the camera on a mini-tripod aiming at your mug, add a main light source and a secondary light source (so both sides of your face are illuminated), and then record away.

So then the question becomes, what do you record?  It depends upon the content of your book, or the purpose of your video channel.  Non-fiction authors have an advantage here, since the content of their books are more conducive to “how-to” videos.  But even fiction and poetry authors can create how-to videos by drawing a connection between the content in their books and a self-help concept. For example, an author of romantic fiction or poetry could record a series of “how-to” videos about how to behave on a first date, or how to dress for a fancy dinner, etc.

The point is, how-to videos are relatively popular on YouTube and do not need to feature expensive production values. In other words, the value is high in relation to the entry-barrier, which is low.  Another good idea is to feature the work or ideas of someone else, and then provide the appropriate attribution. This serves two purposes: 1) it gives your videos some credibility and 2) it may even persuade that other individual or company to promote your video to THEIR marketing lists, increasing your video exposure tremendously.

Lisa Orrell, a marketing coach, did just that with her “how-to” video that discusses methods for increasing book sales on Amazon.  Her video highlights ten of the tips I explain at length in my book Sell Your Book on Amazon.  Instead of canniblizing my ideas, she plugs my book very nicely in her video, in such a positive manner, I’m likely to promote her video (and therefore her company) to my lists.   Kinda like I’m doing now.   The result?  She creates a great video and gets further exposure for her business. In fact, the very nature of the way in which she leveraged these exact marketing concepts in her video impressed me so much that we partnered with her to offer a Social Networking Webinar to our authors.  It’s coming up on November 2nd, and the details are in our blog here.

Here’s her “how-to” video:

Author Platform Videos on YouTube

The fourth method for self publishing authors to add content to their YouTube channels is through the creation of “dynamic Google videos.”   Frankly, at Outskirts Press we have just recently begun playing around with this. So it is not an “option” we officially offer, per se.  At least, not yet.  Instead, we use it in-house to recognize certain authors, grant perks to others, and in general offer something “extra” to select authors for one reason or another.  

The creation of the video itself doesn’t have a lot of value — Google makes it incredibly easy to make these videos yourself — so the value we bring to the Platform Videos we produce for our authors is through the distribution of them to our social networks and video channels, which by and large, receive more traffic (and therefore more “views”) than an individual author’s channel.

Google has created this dynamic video generator to help Google brand THEIR value as a search engine. But with the right creative effort put behind it, our Author Platform videos successfully communicate the value Outskirts Press delivers by helping self-publishing professionals establish expertise and credibility in their field through the publication of high-quality books.

Here is an example:

Book Video Teasers on YouTube

The third option for adding content to your YouTube channel if you are a published author falls under my definition of a “book teaser.”  This option is similar to a book video trailer, although not as long and not as customized.  At Outskirts Press we produce book teasers for our authors for just $99 and provide them with the high-quality MP4 file to help them get their video channel underway.   We also offer the same service for authors who published elsewhere for $109.

Book teasers are short, only 30 seconds or less in length, and in that manner they share some similarities with the first option I discussed, television commercials.   But that is where their similarities end. Commercials typically feature full-motion video and professional voice overs, and as a result, a much higher budget.  Book teasers typically have none of the above.  They serve more as a standardized video announcement that a book is now available.

Nevertheless, for an author seeking content for their YouTube channel and their other online marketing efforts, a $99 book teaser sets them on the right path.  Here’s an example of one.

Outskirts Press published authors can order book teasers within their Publishing Center by clicking here.

If you published elsewhere but still want to learn about (or order) a book teaser, click here.

Creating YouTube Content for Self Publishing Writers

Last time we discussed the first method for adding content to your YouTube Channel — professional video production.  An expensive option and not really an option for most people.

The next option is much more affordable and is the method most authors use. They hire a company to produce a book video trailer for them — or if they have the capability and the software, they create a book video themselves.

Book videos are typically 1-3 minutes in length and their purpose is to generate some excitement about the author and the book, in the name of generating book sales.  The style of book videos vary greatly, as do their production costs, which can range from $300 to $20,000 or more (yes, really).   Some book videos are interviews with the author. Others are static camera shots of the author reading a passage from the book.

At Outskirts Press, our philosophy is that book video trailers should be like movie trailers – fast and exciting.   We produce one minute to 1.5 minute book video trailers for our Outskirts Press published authors for $399 and then distribute those videos to video sites like YouTube, Meta Cafe and others on behalf of our authors.  We also “blast” new videos throughout our social network on our blog, Twitter, and Facebook.  Of course, the author also receives the video file to pursue his/her own video marketing endeavors, too.

With the introduction of our a la carte marketing solutions for writers, we now offer the same book video & distribution service for authors who have published elsewhere, although their cost is higher than it is for our authors. In fact, our authors currently receive a 50% discount for publishing with Outskirts Press when it comes time to order a book video.

Here is an example of a book video trailer we produced for one of our authors recently. And it just won the September “Best Book Video” contest that we ran through our Twitter account (more on that in a future post).

Authors who published elsewhere can order a book video and distribution package from Outskirts Press by clicking here.

Or, Outskirts Press authors can receive a 50% discount by ordering the same service from within their Publishing Center by clicking here.


Self Publishing Videos For Your YouTube Channel

Once you have your YouTube channel set up the way you like it, the challenging part for most self-publishing writers (or anybody, really) is to add content to the channel — i.e., videos.    It doesn’t have to be difficult. There are five basic ways anybody can add video content to their channel for the purposes of book promotion, company promotion, self promotion, and search engine optimization. I will discuss these methods over the next five posts.

The first method is to have a video actually created by a company. This is also the most expensive method. Outskirts Press advertises on television networks like History Channel, The Learning Channel, National Geographic, HGTV, and the Biography Channel.  So we produced a television commercial for the purposes of television advertising.   Due to tracking purposes (the procedure by which we determine the source of our new clients/authors), we didn’t add our television commercial to YouTube for quite a while.  But, once the initial television campaign was complete, we added the video to our YouTube channel and now our website visitors can also see our “As seen on TV” spot from our website:

If producing a television commercial/video is not an option, there are four other methods for adding content to your YouTube channel and I’ll discuss those options next…

More on self-publishing, YouTube, and advertising

A number of posts ago I mentioned our YouTube branded channel and the functionality called “overlays.” I also expressed some frustration that in order to show an overlay on our videos we had to indicate that ads could appear on our branded channel.  My feeling was that part of the reason behind branding a channel on YouTube was to have control over the appearance of other advertisements, and  yet, I wanted to be able to display overlays. It seemed as if I couldn’t do one without authorizing the other.

I was able to get that issue addressed by an actual human being at Google, and here’s what I found out:  Adsense ads appear on branded YouTube channels if one or more of the videos on that channel featured “claimed content.”  Claimed content is YouTube’s classification of videos that may or may not feature copyright protected materials (images or music).  YouTube uses a pretty impressive algorithm to identify potential copyright issues at the uploading stage, but it’s not perfect.  So once I cleared up that misclassification for a few of our book videos, we were able to set up our YouTube branded channel to display our overlay (which now features our $500 promotion) and at the same time no longer display any other ads.   The system — after some effort — works!

Advertising on your YouTube channel

If there’s one thing Google knows how to do, it’s make money offering advertising options. And with their acquisition of YouTube, they’ve now “spread the love” to everyone’s favorite video site as well.  Obviously, the easiest way to advertise on YouTube is to upload a video that advertises your book or company.  The only bad thing about that is that videos that play on YouTube are not “clickable” which makes creating a “call to action” all that more difficult.  Sure, your video can feature a call to action — i.e., “visit such and such website today for a 10% savings — but this requires the viewer of your video to remember the webpage URL and then asks that viewer to actually type the webpage address into his or her browser.

We’ve become a society of clickers.  We don’t write freehand anymore and we barely type anymore.  Unless we can “click” from one place to another on the internet or tap our iPhone/iPad screen, the chances of us reacting to your “offer” is decreased exponentially.

Fortunately, adding an “overlay” to your videos on YouTube solves that problem.  Unfortunately, in order for your video to be eligible for an overlay, it needs to be submitted to YouTube’s PPC Promoted Video’s program.  This is where you bid on search terms (in much the same manner online marketers do within Google).  So while the overlay itself doesn’t cost any money, you are committing yourself to some level of advertising cost by submitting your video to their Promoted Video program in order to activate overlays on your video.   

At Outskirts Press, we are just starting to experiment with actively using video for the promotion of our company (we’ve been doing it passively for a number of years).  As we watch the results, and the costs, we will better be able to determine whether this is a marketing option we want to offer for our authors and their book videos as well…

The YouTube Branded Channel for Self Publishing

With my last post I mentioned how productive September was for our social networking tactics. I started with YouTube and I’ll continue with that topic for this post although I first wanted to mention that my general recognition of our strides in the social networking realm also included some improvements we’ve made to our blog and toward our efforts to attract more followers on Twitter. And I’ll discuss those in the coming posts, too.

But back to YouTube, and the branded channel.

As you can see from the screen shot below, a branded channel provides a lot more control and functionality, as displayed by the buttons along the top which read, respectively:  Post Bulletin, Settings, Themes and Colors, Modules, Video and Playlists, and Branding Options. And through these six buttons, you can control many elements of the appearance and functionality of your channel.  Ours admittedly has a ways to go.  The banner for example, was not designed for the size of the banner YouTube required, so for the sake of immediacy, we took a pre-existing banner (I think the same one we used for our blog) and artificially enlarged it.  That works on a short-term basis, but the fact is that doing graphic manipulation like that “stretches” our logo and causes the whole thing to look just a little bit fuzzy.  We also have an opportunity with the background that we’re currently not taking advantage of, so until we can devote time to do that “right” – we’re sticking with a “blue” background. At least it comes close to matching our color scheme.


Much of the additional functionality is largely the same as a “normal” YouTube channel. The spotlight video box plays a pre-selected video, and new videos are listed in chronological order in which they are uploaded.  Not shown in the screen shot is a branded advertising box the “branded channel” affords us along the left-hand column lower down on the page.  

Across the bottom of the video that is playing in this screen shot is a reference to the promotion we were running in September (when this screen shot was taken). This one is for 30 free books, which was our September promotion for the Diamond publishing package.   This is called an “advertising overlay” and I’ll talk about this next time.

If you don’t yet have a channel on YouTube, you should start one to promote yourself, your company, your book, or whatever. And then, see if you can get a Branded Channel.  I’m not personally familiar with how that happened for us, but I think it was the result of Google recognizing how much we spend on advertising and setting it up for us, either out of a) customer courtesy or b) their desire to get us to spend more.

What is Adsensiphobia?

September has been a productive month on the social networking side of things, with the introduction of our branded channel on YouTube. It’s still underway, and elements are still being tweaked, but here it is as it stands currently, nonetheless:

The advantage of having a “branded” YouTube channel–as opposed to a “normal” YouTube channel– is that Google (the company that owns YouTube) provides some controls and filters to more precisely control how visitors and subscribers interact with your channel.  For example, you can turn “off” the advertisement that appears in the upper right hand corner.  It’s currently “on” for us because it apparently needs to be “on” in order to activate advertising “overlays” which we have in conjunction with sponsored YouTube videos;  and I’ll talk more about YouTube overlays and sponsored YouTube videos in a future post.

In addition to the controls and the additional graphic “skins” one can add to a branded YouTube channel, one of the other advantages is the ability to turn “off” that advertising. Why would someone want to turn off the advertising, or even care?  Well, when it’s an ad for Doritos, I don’t care so much. But when it’s an add for one of our competitors, it’s not so great.  This concern refers back to a posting I wrote a while ago, introducing a term I coined “Adsensiphobia.”

Adsensiphobia is experienced by marketing people when they are faced with the dilemma of directing potential customers to a website on which some of their competitors may be advertising (either via banner ads or contextual  text ads in a Google AdSense box).  Free PR distribution services are notorious for this, as are MySpace, YouTube, and many other “Web 2.0” websites.   I fear a day will come when Twitter decides it needs to monetize its traffic via AdSense, as well.  

Ultimately, however, altering your marketing initiatives due to adsensiphobia is self-defeating and, in the long run, pointless. Thanks to XML, even distributing your press release through paid distribution services like PRWeb doesn’t protect you, since some AdSense-specific websites exist solely to pick-up the XML feed from PRWeb AND display contextual AdSense links (which probably include links to your competitors).  If your book or company has proven to be profitable for AdSense advertisers, there is no getting around it; and by refraining from distributing to every possible outlet solely because of adsensiphobia, you are really only shooting yourself in the foot.

If you are marketing a company and experiencing adsensiphobia, ask yourself this… is it realistic to believe that your potential customers have never heard of your competitors?   People don’t drink Perrier because they are unaware of tap water. They drink Perrier because Perrier has established its value to its customers.  At the same time, does Perrier slap stickers for Evian on their trucks? No.