I’ve had a great idea for a new way to promote my books: I’m going get the word out via YouTube. As a man in his late 40s I’m not the most photogenic of people, so I’m not going to do any straight-to-camera work, but I do have some Blender skills. Blender is a free and open source 3D creation suite. It supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline, including modeling, animation, and even video editing.
So, I thought, why don’t I fire up Blender and create an animation of my book as a 3D object, to delight and entice prospective consumers of ripsnorting space opera. The book is available on Amazon, so the point of the animation is to send readers there, so they can buy the book. There’s also a link to this blog, in case people want to come here instead. Have a look at the results below, and read about how I put the video together.
I Googled up a tutorial on how to make a 3D book, watched it, and tried to follow along. The narrator has a beautiful accent, I’m guessing French, which makes listening and doing what you’re told nice and easy. The video is the first of a series of four or five, and my enthusiasm started to wane about half way through the second, I have to admit.
I started to take quick and dirty shortcuts and, as soon as I had something half-way decent, I needed to export it from Blender as a video. I decided to start with good settings for a format that could be uploaded to YouTube, even though most of my early experiments are not going to be uploaded. They are terrible, and will never see the light of day. I found the settings at the following link, and they are invaluable because audio and video codecs, and resolutin etc, are such a complex subject.
I then pasted the cover of my book onto the fake cover of my 3D book, which is done via something called UV unwrapping. I’ve done UV unwrapping a couple of times before, but I couldn’t remember exactly what I had done, so I quickly Googled up a swift reminder on Stackexchange.com that got me up to speed. As usual, I also couldn’t remember the button for separating one part of a mesh from another, and I had to look that up, too. The problem is the shortcut key is P. For me it would be better if this shortcut was set to C, for cut, or S for separate, but it isn’t, so I have to look it up every time I need it.
Once I got the book working, I had the idea that it should be sitting on an asteroid against a background of stars. It is a slice of grand-scale sci-fi action, after all. So I went Googling for a way to create a nice looking asteroid in Blender. I found this discussion with lots of ideas. It was fascinating, but way too complicated for my purposes. I didn’t want to create realistic models of Saturn’s moons or anything like that.
I found a more automated way to add rocks to Blender here, which requires an add on. I downloaded the zip file, added it to Blender and it made beautiful space rocks in seconds. The only problem was that they are complex, and so they take a long time to render an image, and I want to do an animation with hundreds of individul images to render. I had to play with the presets a bit, but I found some settings that would render acceptably quickly on my laptop, then I paused to consider what I had done so far.
After faffing about with the asteroid for hours it just wasn’t working. I decided I didn’t need an asteroid after all, and so I deleted it and left the book free-floating in space. I liked that asteroid but, as they say, you have to kill your darlings. Space isn’t just black though, space is pretty and it has stars, so next I had to go Googling to find out how to easily add them. Stars are quite simple, it turns out, and there is even a video showing you how to include them in the background of a render.
After that, I was almost ready to start doing some test renders, but I waited a bit, just long enough to find some moody sci-fi music. Luckily there are lots of places to get free music from. After much searching, I decided on a track called Hard Ultra Yaoi Psychedelic Death of Vintage Cluster Bomb of Glitter by Monplaisir. It’s an excellent song and certainly a good enough place holder for now.
Now, just before it was time to start putting this all together, the very last element I needed was some big gold stars (for my star rating on Amazon), and I found a video showing how to do that, too. Most tutorial videos for Blender are dull, but the one I found about stars is a lot of fun. I can even imagine people who don’t have any intention of ever learning how to create 3D elements for video might enjoy watching this one. It’s frikin’ delightful. So go watch how to make a star in Blender.
Another nice feature would be to have a link to my site at the end of the video, or even a link directly to Amazon for people to buy the book directly from inside the video, but unfortunately YouTube doesn’t allow that anymore, unless you have 10,000 views. I only have 200 views, even putting all my videos together, so I guess I’ll have to use the video description for links for now. I will start uploading lots of videos to YouTube to get my 10,000 views… sometime in the far future.
Anyway, when I was uploading my completed video to YouTube I noticed a strange option on the upload page called Add a Message to Your Video. I couldn’t work out what the point of it was, so I Googled that too. It turns out it’s just a message that is added when the video is automatically shared on Twitter and Google+, so quite a useful field to fill out.
You can see the video I uploaded to Google here. Now I just have to sit back and watch the powerful effect that my new video advertising has on my eBook sales. Or not. We’ll see how it goes.
Galaxy Dog (Dark Galaxy)
The fist sci-fi book I ever wrote, and still the one that sells the best, is Galaxy Dog. It is the first book in the Dark Galaxy series and it is a story of adventure, spaceships, and rebellion across a galactic empire. A small group of friends, one woman, one man, and one robot incite a revolt and take on the might of the Tarazet Deep Space Navy. They find an immensely powerful alien spaceship so, even though the rebellion is extremely outnumbered, they still stand a chance. Galaxy Dog combines the action of military sci-fi with the heart of space opera. There are robots, aliens, space battles, and all the good things that make sci-fi so enjoyable. Galaxy Dog is available from Amazon right now, so just click the Amazon link and download a copy.