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                           


Cheeky Girl said...

The coffee smells great!

This was a very nice and interesting post. A group of us on twitter the other day said that ebooks aren't what will kill publishing, but that a lack of reading/book interest in younger generations would. I couldn't agree more.

We need to help develop a love of reading and that does mena compeating with video games, movies, videos, etc. Anything that can get their attention and draw them in in a fun way is a plus.

I'd like to see more schools having some assignments be books the kids chose themselves, but also for them to facilitate discussions on what kids think about the books instead of teaching "this is what this means."

Sheila said...

CheekyGirl I can't agree with you more. The whole "this is what this means" approach is more authority than influence.
I love it when I see school assignments that tie reading to something fun and encouraging. Associating reading with GOOD feelings and memories are is just one step toward instilling a love of reading.

Cecile Smutty Hussy said...

I could not agree with you more. I read to my daughter before she was born. And till this day, she loves reading. But it is unfournate that some parents do not take time to read to the children/babies any more. Video games, tv, electronics have replaced that. I will pose this question to my daughter when I get home this afternoon and get her opinioin on the matter. But as for mine, I agree with you about school's allowing them to read what they want (with a slight limit on the contexts, lol) and having a discussion about it. Getting them involved with the book, heck maybe even make assigments of them actually writing a book... instead of term paper... how about come up with a concept of writing a novella or something like that. But for the younger generation, tv is the best sourse to get them to notice the other adventure land is waiting for them... books!

Booklover1335 said...

COS I love your book videos...especially the one for Tortured. I wish more authors did them as we are very visual people. One of the reasons why book covers are also important.

Two of my half sisters (who are much much younger than I am) are not readers like I am...and this is sad since there are so many great YA books being published right now. I was hoping the Harry Potter and Twilight books would entice them to start reading for fun, instead of just for school, but sadly it hasn't happened yet.

I love the classics, but I wish teachers would also look to current literature to teach from as well because I think that would engage someone in this age group more as they feel that it relates to the world they live in now....and for someone that age, that's really all they care about.

I think the games they have to go along with the books like ISIS, or the one they had for the Dan Brown book with symbols were tons of fun. My suggestion for exposing and innovative ways to encourage reading would be to do anything that can be loaded, played, viewed or texted on cell phone/iphone. They are literally glued to those things more than the computer or TV. And it's usually not even's texting.

Maybe create a way to text in their shorthanded language (because it is a language) snippets and tidbits from a book from one of the characters. Have the characters speak to them and create a fan base and interest in the book, then connect it to something like a myspace page (can you do that with a fictional character?) Use the tools they know and love and hopefully maybe entice them to read the book.

Sheila said...

Cecile I read to my son before he was born too! He reads all the time and prefers books to TV. I do have to admit that he love gaming though. But he does consider reading as one of his main forms of entertainment!

Booklover1335, Thank you!!! I do think more games would be a great idea and I really love your texting idea! That sounds very innovative and fun!

Amanda McIntyre said...

I was thinking back on the span of ages in my household;) Books, flash cards, jigsaw puzzles, and game night have always been a part of this house. I can remember making a pallet "ship" for he twins when they were toddlers and I was just starting to pursue my creative writing--we used to prtend that they were floating on the water and they had to have quiet time(reading) for 30 minutes at a time. And reading to them, we did always-
we always have kept, believe it or not) Readers Didgest, National Geographic and Smithsonian--we've since added Wired. So reading...whether books, newspapers, games, etc....

One of the best prgrams I ever saw come out of our schools was when I worked as a reading teachers aid in our elementary grade school. They mandated one hour every morning to reading--only. Many of the teachers set up bean bags, carpets, even some couches and floor lamps to create an "atmosphere" for enjoyable reading. I wanted to hang out in some of those rooms! LOL

I've tried to do that at home too,creating littlereading spots...and it does still work even though they are teens and yes, into the whole gaming thing...

one thing, my dh and I never turned down buying books on a shopping trip--other stuff yes, but never books.

My oldest now teachings reading/language arts in a depressed school district.
Did any of what we did, make a difference? I dont know.

Was it worth every moment of effort and thought? Absolutely.

I dont know if the schools still do that, but I hope they do. As an author I once spoke to an English writing class, who then wrote short stories and I read them giving them critique.

I think there are lots of opportunities if we look around--reading aids, especially at Day cares, reading to the elderly...

Im waiting for teens to start plugging into all the new techno gadgets for reading books...but both already have download books on their ITouch.

Amanda M

Jan Douglas said...

I've just had time to read today's blog and this is a subject that is near and dear to my heart.

I'm the mom/aunt who buys and gives books for gifts. But I try to get books that the specific recipient is interested in. And I haven't been wrong yet.

I read to my special education students on a daily basis. And sometimes they ask for a book the second and third and fourth......time. There is also a website called presented by The Actor's Guild Foundation that we get a story from every couple of days.

I read to a 6th grade class once a week as a change for me and the 6th grade teacher. I am currently reading The Phantom Tollbooth to them. I read it for the 1st time when I was in the 5th grade I think.

Our school has Accelerated Reader. This is a reading incentive program. The students choose their own books and then take a test on each book. They accumulate points and at the end of the year they can redeem those points for prizes.

We have a Book Club at our school. I am the sponsor. We talk about the books we've read and I suggest and lend books to my kids when I find one that someone would enjoy.

I would love to write reviews on children's and Young Adult books but I am at a loss as to where that might be.

But anyway....that's how I encourage reading.


Amanda McIntyre said...

And the winner for Thursday Coffee Talk is JAN!

Jan , please contact me at to claim your prize today!

Thanks again to the remarkable Sheila Clover English for stopping my and to all who are dedicated to inspiring the art of reading!!


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