Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Coffee Talk: Sheila Clover English, CEO of COS Productions

Today on Coffee Talk, I am thrilled to have with us, CEO of Circle of Seven Productions, Sheila Clover English. COS was one of the pioneer multi-media companies to take book promotions and combine it with entertainment, giving readers amazing, creative visuals to books! In essence, bringing them to life before our very eyes!  COS, I'm proud to say, did the incredible booktrailer for my book-Tortured.

Here is a bit about Sheila before we get started. So grab your cuppa on this chilly, rainy morning and tap into this innovative media group and all the good stuff they are up to!! For those of you attending reader and author conventions, you can almost always find Sheila, her husband and crew showcasing some of their fabulous work and you're sure to recognize a number of your fav authors!

Sheila Clover English is the CEO of Circle of Seven Productions and Executive Producer of Reader’s Entertainment TV. She is a member of the Downloadable Media Association, the Internet Content Syndication Council and the Silver Telly Council.

Sheila is the Chair of the ITW Social Networking committee and guest blogger for Future Perfect Publishing. You can find out more about Sheila’s industry awards and accomplishments on IMDB -
Her company has been in The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, The New York Times and on NPR as well as featured in technology circles such as TubeMogul University, Ask the Experts and Fast Company.

Here's a warm-up as we settle in and listen to yet another innovative program that COS has created!

Reaching young readers in a way that is entertaining and enticing is a way to build tomorrow’s readers. That’s why the use of multimedia in a variety of venues has become increasingly important.

Children and young adults today are online. They are online for school work, jobs, news and entertainment. Often they are looking for something to do and they are picky about what they are willing to give their time to.

Video games are extremely popular with children and young adults as is online video. Young people are looking to be engaged either by doing something (games) or direct-entertainment (videos). So where do books fit in?

How do we remind them that books are entertainment?

Influence Not Authority
Why is it that a parent can recommend something to a child and the child will turn it down flat, but if their peers recommend the same thing they jump all over it?

Because influence will always win out over authority in the long run. We do what we are told to do because we have to. We do it begrudgingly. We do it until we don’t have to do it. But, when we are influenced by someone or something we want to do it.

Instead of a directive, try living by example. Kids want to feel exhilarated. They want to feel the emotions we know live inside a book. Tell them how a book made you feel. Relate it in an enthusiastic way. Then give them the book. Show them a book trailer. Send them to a cool website that promotes that book or author so they can decide for themselves.

Contact bloggers and give them a video to share. Give them talking points for discussions. Don’t make it a job for a blogger. Give them fun things to do or say so the blog can encourage participation. That’s what an influential blogger does. They get people to engage. Help them with that by giving them tools.

Elective Not Forced
Many schools force kids to read books at certain points in their educational career. There are books we can all discuss because in the 8th grade we were forced to read it. And though we might enjoy that book now, it was being forced to do something that we related to the physical action of reading.

Being forced to do something often breeds feelings of resentment. And if you like the teacher but not the lesson you blame the lesson, right? That’s exactly what happens. You need to blame someone or something for these bad feelings and often what gets blamed is the act of reading.

If you are forced to eat an apple every day will you learn to love apples, or when you no longer are forced to eat them, will you swear never to eat an apple again? You see how that works?

Smart schools are trying other methods to encourage kids to read. They have reading lists so young readers can feel they have some choices over what they will read. Some will reward the class by showing a movie after everyone reads the book, so there’s incentive connected with a positive feeling.

Entertainment Not Work
Remember when you were very young and story time was exciting? It was a reward or a comfort at the end of the day. Or when you’re on vacation and want to escape you would curl up with a good book and forget about work for a while.

Books need to be put in a positive light. They need to be presented as entertainment, not an assignment. Reading should be a reward.

COS Productions works with the University of Central Florida on something called Digital BookTalk. They have a program called UB The Director that allows kids to create their own book trailer. So, instead of a book report they get to do something fun with multimedia.

The Digital BookTalk program has been a huge success in both middle schools and high schools, though the program does target primarily middle school kids. The program is done either as an after-school program or as part of an English assignment. The books chosen come from a list given to the teacher by UCF and the UCF program teaches the teacher how to utilize technology to promote reading and comprehension.

The videos are currently shown on the UCF Digital BookTalk site, but will also be added to a new Young Reader’s TV site that will go live in 2010 as part of Reader’s Entertainment Group, the new umbrella company of Circle of Seven Productions.

Circle of Seven Productions and UCF found a natural synergy in their goals and objectives: Promote reading, build readers and show kids that books are an exciting form of entertainment.

The assignment isn’t having to read the book. The assignment is getting to make a book trailer. Reading becomes part of the process for a project kids consider to be fun. So now reading and fun have been put together in the minds of the kids.

The kids get together in teams and each team creates a trailer that everyone will review. Some of them vote for the best trailer, some of them play the trailers as part of a fun day in class. Books, reading and an assignment are now entertainment, not work.

You can find out more about Digital BookTalk at

Fun Not Commercial
Many schools, libraries and bookstores utilize multimedia to encourage reading, but whatever that multimedia is it needs to be fun-filled, engaging entertainment. Kids are busy these days and don’t want to waste their time watching commercials about your book. You need to give them something worth their time.

Book videos need to have entertainment value in them. They can’t just be a commercial. Commercials are fact, viral videos are entertainment. Facts are more like work, viral videos are more like fun.

I’m asked all the time whether or not a book trailer is a commercial. It is not. It has commercial elements in it, but it is not a commercial. Book trailers are meant to be entertainment. They have elements of adventure, fun or other enticements that influence through positive feelings and engagement.

Here’s an example. Evermore is a young adult novel with a target audience of tweens to twenties. This is more of a “Twilight” crowd and they are very interested in anything to do with the heroine, Ever.

You can see that on one site alone this video has over 75,000 views. More importantly though you can see how engaged the viewers are by the number of comments and ratings. This series hit the USA Today and NY Times bestseller lists with a #1 NY Times spot for author Alyson Noel.

This video became an influencer and a platform for other influencers. It is a little over one minute long and meant to be entertaining and enticing. It is not a standard commercial format, even though you see commercial elements such as the book cover and URL.

Another book trailer created to be more entertainment than commercial is Christine Feehan’s Turbulent Sea which is a music video. It has over 60,000 views on YouTube alone.

This has 50 ratings and over 50 comments. It went on to be #1 on the NY Times bestseller list.

The point is that videos created to be entertaining are more likely to be shared than one that is more commercial in nature.

Other multimedia that has been rising in popularity is online gaming for books. I’ve seen different game ideas, but essentially this allows people to play a game while using the book storyline or in the case of the book Isis, the illustrations are used for the game. You can see that at You can get your score and challenge your friends. The game has been played over 1 million times already.

The bottom line is that we need to promote reading in a positive and fun way before we can ever hope to promote individual books. You can’t sell something no one is interested in, so you need to create an interest. Starting with young readers, changing the way we present reading to them, is an investment in their education and in our industry.

So now we need YOUR we're asking you as readers to suggest innovative ways to encourage reading in middle school and/or high school age kids! One comment selected today will receive a prize packet from THURSDAY COFFEE TALK!

Tell us what your school has done to help this, or what steps you have implemented at home. Maybe your sharing an idea will help someone else and encouraging reading in our young people is vital to all of our futures!!

I'd like to thank Sheila for stopping by and sharing this new and yet another innovative idea to inspire reading! Thats' what COS is all about!

To learn more about Circle of Seven and their amazing programs, log on to one of these links!

CEO, Circle of Seven Productions

Reader's Entertainment TV

Read the COS Newsletter