Show, Don't Tell: Video Marketing for Bookstores

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Booksellers who missed the popular ABA Winter Institute program "Using Multimedia to Market Your Store" -- which Tova Beiser of Brown University Bookstore described as full of ideas that "seem really cool and worth doing" -- can find something of a recap in a downloadable PDF created by the session's presenter, documentarian Alex Beckstead, now in the Wi4 materials on Included are links to several very effective videos, either professionally or store produced, that illustrate the power of the medium to convey a bookstore's personality.

Professionally produced video from Booksmith in San Francisco

"Using Multimedia" features a quick primer on creating videos, where to post them on the web, and the benefits and limitations of the various sites.

Beckstead is the director of the Paperback Dreams, a documentary film about the history and struggles of Cody's Books in Berkeley and Kepler's Books in Menlo Park, California. A good video, he noted, is a "visual postcard that gets passed around and conveys the personality of the store." It needs a hook, a narrative arc, and some humor and/or personal interest. The point is to broadcast the personality of the store, said Beckstead, who noted the medium is faster to digest than a blog and instantly expresses personality.

Homegrown commercial for Green Apple in San Francisco

Along with storytelling tips, Beckstead's presentation covers the tech side of video production and suggests types of cameras and editing software for a range of budgets. He encouraged booksellers to use video for author events and promotions, as well as chronicling a store's history.

In an example from Booksmith in San Francisco, a professionally produced video highlights the store's local-authors month with clips from participating authors singing the praises of their city and local bookstore. San Francisco's Green Apple Books created a funny and homegrown commercial to promote its book of the month. Both Vermont's Northshire Bookstore video and New York City's Book Culture video provide visual tours, but have storytelling styles, and Vroman's in Pasadena, California, mixed holiday title and sidelines recommendations.

Visual tour and storytelling style from Book Culture in New York City.

The point Beckstead made was that it's very much a DIY world, and booksellers can easily experiment with the medium and broadcast who they are and what they do for their community.

Beckstead's downloadable presentation and an additional link to a book launch video are accessible to ABA member stores via More information about Alex Beckstead and Paperback Dreams is available at --Karen Schechner