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Marketing a Book: Sean Biederman, The Concept Farm


Today we have a special interview with Sean Biederman, Account Supervisor at The Concept Farm. His company creates the book trailers for James Patterson. Sean is here today to share his experience, thoughts, and advice on making successful book trailers, and on creating and defining a Brand. Enjoy!

1395 CVC Stalk & Name

Twitter: @TheConceptFarm
Facebook: The Concept Farm

Based in New York City, The Concept Farm, a hybrid advertising agency, production company, digital development studio and entertainment development group is fueled by creativity, hard work, innovation, common sense, and love. Established by advertising, marketing and branding industry veterans in 1999, The Concept Farm specializes in multi-platform brand content creation for leading companies, institutions and personalities. The Farmer’s credo: “Fresh Ideas Harvested Daily”.

Awards: Ad Age Best Places to Work 2010, Cannes Lions, NY Emmys, IAC Award, Art Director’s Club, One Show, Webby Awards, Mobius Awards, Communication Arts, Telly Awards, New York Festivals, MIXX Awards, among others.

Sean Biederman PhotoSean Biederman, Account Supervisor

Over the course of his 4+ years at The Concept Farm, Sean has served key account management roles for a variety of clients including America’s bestselling author James Patterson, America’s 4th largest landline telephone company Windstream Communications, Lake Tahoe’s Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, and the ESPN family of networks. Sean has also worked on the client side in a brand management role for AXE Shower Gels at Unilever USA and as Marketing Director for education software firm LearnBoost. Among his greatest strengths is Sean’s broad perspective on his clients’ challenges and opportunities, derived from his graduate work in Business Administration, in conjunction with a level of immediacy and care that only comes from deep involvement on a daily basis.

Q: What is The Concept Farm? What does the company do?

SB: The Concept Farm combines an Advertising Agency with In-House Digital Development Capability, a Production and Post Production House and an Entertainment Development Company. We have a variety of clients spanning many industries and we develop advertising in any and every communication medium.

Q: What is your role at The Concept Farm? What is a typical week like for you?

SB: My title at The Concept Farm is Account Supervisor. What that means is that I manage the day-to-day relationship with clients, and the production of ads in various media from TV to Radio to Print to Online and beyond. I am responsible for meeting deadlines, managing budgets, and briefing the creative teams that come up with the campaign concepts. It is my responsibility to ensure that the concepts we’re presenting to clients are meeting their needs, and are attuned to their business goals. I sometimes challenge the creative teams to push their work to the next level for greater impact, or sometimes to scale it back to connect more readily with a wider audience.

Q: The Concept Farm works with some incredible, and very different, clients. Where do the marketing ideas come from? What starts the creativity flowing?

SB: That is true. We are proud to work with clients including James Patterson, ESPN, SAP, The Ad Council, Estee Lauder, The Bank of New York Mellon, Windstream Communications, TRW Automotive, and Century 21 Department Stores, among others. The marketing ideas really can and do come from anywhere within the company, and sometimes from the client side, but the creative responsibility does ultimately fall with the Creative Directors, Art Directors, and Copywriters who are trained to come up with big ideas that are truly novel, eye-catching, and inspiring but also relevant and practical. Nevertheless, everyone contributes ideas that fuel strategy, drive media choices, and influence language and imagery.

There are a wide variety of techniques that our staff use as part of the creative process. For some it’s varying their physical surroundings. We have folks who like to go into the park or out onto the streets to get inspired. For others, it’s the creative work of others that inspires them. So they’ll leaf through art annuals, peruse trendsetting blogs, and listen to music. Others still jump right in and start manipulating elements onscreen to get their creative machine humming.

Q: Would you share links to some of The Concept Farm Productions with us?

SB: Here are a few productions we’ve done with James Patterson and a few others we’ve done for other clients:

Kill Me if You Can

Postcard Killers

Middle School
Q: The Concept Farm is the agency that creates book trailers for author James Patterson. What is it like working with him?

SB: As a student of advertising, working with James Patterson is a real treat. Mr. Patterson is a living legend in the industry from his days leading J. Walter Thompson. I have an opportunity to learn from him and his business partner Steve Bowen (also a former Thompson executive) on every project. Moreover, James Patterson’s creative instincts are impeccable, providing excellent taste and direction as a client.

Q: What is involved in making a book trailer? Where do you start? What process do you use?

SB: Usually when we begin working on a trailer I’ll start by reading the book and writing up a brief for the creative team including the key selling points we want to communicate about the book. The creative team usually reads the book as well, before beginning to draw up as many storyboards as they can. The storyboards represent what the script would be and how the onscreen visuals might look both stylistically and content-wise. Oftentimes, Mr. Patterson or someone else on the team will contribute a premise that we will embrace among our directions, and try to improve upon. It’s a pretty collaborative process.

Once we’re comfortable that we have a number of strong, viable options, we’ll send 5 to 7 options to Mr. Patterson to review. Based upon those options, he will either select one for us to focus or send us in a new direction that we hadn’t explored yet.

Because we only have 15 or 30 seconds to work with, we try to boil down our message to its simplest possible form, and make that one idea work as hard as possible.

Q: From the time of the very first phone call to The Concept Farm, to the very first airing on television, how long does it take to create a book trailer?

SB: Since we have the release schedule so far in advance, we try to stay as far ahead of the game as possible. For the upcoming release of Private: #1 Suspect on 1/2/12, I believe we had our first conversation in September and then really began working in earnest in October. So that’s 3-4 months out. For a trailer that involves a film shoot, I would add at least a month or two, depending upon the complexity of the shoot.

Q: How important is it for an author or company to create a brand? And how does one go about creating one?

SB: In any competitive market, building up your Brand is going to help you inspire trial among new customers, loyalty among your existing customers, and enable you to command a premium price for your goods or services. As an author, you don’t necessarily need to advertise but you should pay attention to the Brand image you are projecting to the market about who you are and what is interesting about your writing.

Persuading first-time buyers of your work to give it a shot is going to be the biggest challenge. Fortunately you have a few key tools at your disposal, before we even begin to talk paid advertising. Your book cover and book summary are your greatest opportunities to draw interest to your book. Think about those as your most fundamental advertising vehicles.

Don’t over think it. Just do your best to capture the essence of what is compelling about your story (a question that the reader simply must have answered, perhaps) and your characters, and try to translate that in a paragraph or two of prose, and visually in a style that is going to appeal to your target audience.

Also, be sure to think about what type of person (be it a demographic, psychographic or behavioral profile) is most likely to respond to your book, and keep that person in mind when you are crafting to “Brand Positioning” which is really just the few steps I describe above.

Store placement (be it physical or digital) is also really important but that’s not something you can always control. If you can, you’ll at least want to be sure your book is correct genre so your target reader is more likely to come across it.

Public Relations or Publicity, in mass media and among the reading community, is the other key driver of book sales that you should employ if at all possible.

Q: What impact have social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, and G+ had on creating marketing and branding strategies for clients?

SB: Social media provides an opportunity for two way communication between authors (and other clients) and their fans. We are able to get more, and more immediate feedback, via social media than ever before. Social media also gives us a constant channel to communicate the latest news about James Patterson, be it a new book release, an upcoming television appearance, or sweepstakes we’re running.

For Mr. Patterson in particular, we are able to humanize him via social media more so than other channels. James Patterson’s movie reviews have been a very popular feature on his Facebook page, as have his messages about supporting independent bookstores and getting kids reading.

Moreover, social media ads often provide a level of targeting that allows us to more efficiently reach individuals who are more likely to be interested in our message based on their profiles and online behavior.

Q: Many of us authors are stepping into a whole new world when it comes to marketing, branding, and promoting. We see the book trailers your company makes and we want them, too! What elements should a book trailer absolutely contain? How long (or short) should they be? Music only? What about pace and style?

SB: Because we are usually producing book trailers for TV, we generally create :15 or :30 trailers. Online you are able to go longer but just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. My sense is that 60 to 90 seconds is the maximum that most people will want to sit through a book trailer, regardless of its merits.

At The Concept Farm, we combine a dramatic voiceover with a piece of music in our trailers because we find that inspires a more visceral response in the viewer but combining some music with on screen titles to tell your story is another viable option, and a less expensive one.

My best advice on pace and style would be to the feel that you are going for in your writing. Ideally, the minute or so that the viewer spends watching your trailer will have a lot in common with how they would feel while reading one of the better passages in your book. Draw on those same feelings you are creating at your climax, be they suspense, sympathy, humor, amazement or otherwise.

Q: Since this is a blog about books, let’s flip things around for a moment. As a reader, which of the following do you take into consideration when deciding whether or not to purchase a book?

SB: I’ll go ahead and rank these on a scale of 1 to 8 with 1 being most important and 8 being least important.

Book summary: 1 (A key sales driver is simply the ability to
condense the hook of the story [the elevator pitch] into a
compelling paragraph or 3)
Book cover: 2 (right or wrong, everyone judges a book by its cover)
Word-of-mouth: 3 (to the extent that it exists in my social circle)
Number of books already sold: 4 (I think that selling a great deal
of books is generally a positive indicator but not selling many books
is not necessarily a negative one)
Book price: 5 (I often wait for the paperback among releases I’m not
hotly anticipating).
Reader reviews: 6 (I find it difficult to predict how much I will enjoy
a book based upon a sea of reviews from readers with whom I may or
may not have much in common)

Author’s Facebook, Twitter, and other social media:
 7 (despite my
earlier comments … I would likely engage with an author’s social media
after reading a book rather than before)
Author’s blog: 8 (Again, I might check this after reading a book but it’s
not likely to factor into my decision.)

Q: One last question… Do family members or best friends ever invent excuses to try and get onto the set or into the office on days when some of your famous clients (i.e., James Patterson) are on-site? (Full disclosure: I would.)

SB: I can’t say I’ve had folks from outside try to sneak into the office or onto the set during a shoot. What I have gotten is requests for signed books on a number of occasions, which he’s been happy to do.

When Mr. Patterson is our offices, there is a bit of a buzz given his notoriety but the response doesn’t usually go beyond some peeking around corners and into conference rooms.


Posted in: Marketing

16 Comments on "Marketing a Book: Sean Biederman, The Concept Farm"

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  1. Ashley Barron says:

    Thanks for being here today, Sean, and sharing your experience, advice and idea with our community of authors and writers!

  2. Carrie Green says:

    I’ve been a huge fan of James Patterson’s books as well as his marketing, like Stephen King (one of the first to try eBooks), he always seems a step ahead of the latest trends. Love his expansion into YA/children’s books. Thanks so much for this great interview!

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    Ashley Barron: Interview: Sean Biederman, The Concept Farm

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    Ashley Barron: Interview: Sean Biederman, The Concept Farm

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