You may not have heard of Roland Denning yet, but his hilarious non-book-trailers (On Meeting An Agent, Parts 1-8) are rapidly becoming the stuff of retweet and link-sharing legend. I first learned of the video clips via a tweet from Debbie Ridpath Ohi. Debbie is the artist behind the Will Write For Chocolate and Inkygirl comics. If you use Twitter, I highly recommend following Debbie because she tweets boatloads of great links for writers and publishers. Now, getting back to Roland…
After viewing the clips, I knew I wanted to interview Roland. Not only are his videos entirely relatable for any writer who’s ever queried on a manuscript, they’re very, very funny. The films are book trailers in the sense that they were created in order to promote Roland’s book, The Beach Beneath The Pavement, and there is a brief mention of the book at the end of each film, but the films themselves don’t have anything to do with the content of the book.
Watch On Meeting An Agent yourself (broken up into parts 1-5 and 6-8 in the YouTube videos below), then read my interview with Roland afterward to learn more about the films and their creator.
Why did you decide to create the clips?
I started playing around with the software, then they just seemed to emerge into a series. Then I realised it could be a promotional tool for my book as well as an entertainment.
Did you hire someone to do the animations, or did you create them yourself?
I did it all myself. I am, as it happens, a professional filmmaker. But these were made with some incredibly easy free on-line software (xtranormal.com) which means I could make each one in about 3 to 4 hours from conception to going on line, except the final episode which integrates live action and took a couple of days. (Bugger, I shouldn’t have told you that. You’ll all be doing it now). The problem with the software, brilliant though it is, is that it is very limited. The animations all come out looking very similar. I think I’ve been lucky in that, as far as I know, I’m the first to use it in this context.
How true-to-life are the clips? Did you try to more or less repeat conversations you had with real people verbatim, or did you take some artistic license?
It’s fiction. I made it up! Perhaps it was a mistake to give the robot the same name as me. No, really, the phrases came from real life (‘I didn’t love your book enough’ etc) and real conversations, but I’m not really bitter. The agent I met was extremely nice. I was just a little disappointed. But ‘disappointed’ isn’t funny. ‘Violently bitter’ is. It does reflect some of things I’ve gone through, like you think your book is definitely finished, an agent has a few ‘issues’ with it, you find yourself re-writing the whole damned thing, then you tell yourself that’s what you were going to do anyway.
Don’t you think that’s one of the inevitable factors of being an author, oscillating between total self-belief and self-loathing? Or is that just me?
Did you release the clips primarily in order to drive more book sales, to attract mainstream publisher attention, or for some other reason?
Primarily I made them because I enjoyed them. After spending so long writing the book, they came as a light relief. It was only after I started making them I saw the marketing potential.
How did you go about raising awareness of the clips?
I just sent them to a few literary blogs, and sites such as yours and they began to take off.
Have you seen an increase in book sales since releasing the clips?
Too early to say. They’ve only been out a couple of weeks and it takes longer than that for the sales figures to get back to Lulu (who did the POD).
In the clips, there’s some joking about the avalanche of self-published books, and an implication that many of them are of poor quality. What led you to finally choose the indie path, given that you seem to have a somewhat skeptical view of self-publishing?
Well Lulu publishes 1000 new titles A DAY. Clearly, they are not all masterpieces. But the point I was really making was – how the hell can you get noticed when literally thousands of authors are clamouring for attention at the same time? The POD revolution is great, all the mechanisms of the web to promote stuff are great EXCEPT it’s getting exponentially harder for each book to get attention, let alone a sale. I think it’s easy to think that when your name is known around a few writers sites, when you get mentioned on literary blogs, the world knows all about you. But sometimes the internet can be a very small place – or, rather, you can be stuck up a tiny little cul-de-sac and not realise it.
To answer the second part of your question, I’m still sending my chapters out to agents (a revised version, without the problematic second chapter!) as well promoting my self-published version.
Roland Denning was born and lives in North London. He studied philosophy at university but has got over it now.
Most of his life has been spent working on the fringes of the film and television industries and in the arts.
The Beach Beneath The Pavement is his first novel.