Amanda Luedeke

February 13, 2014

Thursdays with Amanda: What Goes In To A Viral Video


Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

We’ve spent the past few weeks talking about viral videos. Last week, we looked at the difference between exciting and…not-so-exciting book trailers. This week, we’re unpacking the “How-to” behind a great video. Now, it’s not rocket science, so if you were expecting a magic formula, I’m sorry to disappoint. But at the same time, I think it’s doable. It’s feasible. Viral videos can be a freak phenomenon for sure, but at the same time there are clear ways to increasing your chances of experiencing that very viralness.

So now that we have a sort of understanding, here’s my list of essentials for a video to go viral:

  • Know what you’re selling. Are you peddling a book? An in-store event? A writers conference? Your editing services? Figure out the driving force behind the video. The more specific, the better.
  • Choose your emotion. The only reason viral videos get shared and watched is because they cause the viewer to FEEL something. Most viral videos cause laughter. Some are suspenseful and put the viewer in a state of unease. Some, like the Budweiser Puppy Love commercial, create a sense of sadness and, later, warm fuzziness. Consider the type of emotional response you want from your viewers, and while you’re doing that…
  • Create your concept. Here’s where your creative juices should come in handy. You’ll want to come up with something unique…something creative that will entertain viewers while highlighting whatever it is you’re selling. Writing a video is no different than writing a novel, really. You’ll want to plan it out with a script and even storyboards. You’ll want a beginning, middle, and an end. And you’ll want it to be fairly short (under 2 minutes is ideal). And remember! Keep the focus on the concept, not the product. No one would enjoy the Puppy Love commercial if it kept flashing to frothy beer mugs and inebriated cowboys.
  • Secure the essentials. Will you need actors? Props? A set? You’ll definitely need a great camera. All of this quickly adds up, and the cost alone will probably have most deciding that creating a video isn’t for them. But I’m a firm believer that with the right help and a bit of effort, you can come away with a video that is relatively inexpensive to make. Utilize the people around you.
  • Don’t skimp on editing. Okay, here’s the truth…a great concept even if poorly executed still has a chance at going viral. To increase your viral chances, pair a great concept with great execution. Find someone who knows how to operate a camera and video editing software. This is where it can get very pricy, but there’s no rule that says you can’t work out some kind of deal. Trade services for services. Or agree to watch the guy’s kids every Saturday night for a month. The point is, if you don’t have hundreds or even thousands to throw at someone who knows their way around video-making, then it’s time to get creative and see if you can strike a deal.
  • Back the video with a marketing plan. Most book trailers flop because they get uploaded to YouTube, and there they sit. The author may share them on social media, but there really isn’t a plan for promotion. It’s as if the video itself is the promotional plan. And it’s pretty obvious that a video isn’t able to get views by just sitting there (just like books don’t get sold by simply existing in the Amazon black hole). So you want some sort of campaign to spread the word as fast as possible in hopes that the content will click and people will start sharing.


  • Puppies = Internet fame. If you can include a puppy or a dog (or a cat), DO IT.
  • Don’t forget to get release forms signed by anyone appearing in your video. I haven’t researched this very much, so I’m not sure what the rules are, but it seems smart to cover your bases.
  • Babies = Internet fame.
  • Special effects are iffy. Trick photography is great…but CGI animation done by an amateur is dangerous territory. You want people to laugh or cry WITH your video. Not AT it.
  • Bad acting is probably worse than bad special effects. It’s tempting to tell your niece that she can be in your video. I mean she’s family! And she’s a cute teenager! So what’s the harm? Before telling ANYONE that they can be in your video, you’ll want to find out of they can actually act. Consider skipping family auditions and going to your local Players Club or theatre to root up some trained actors. You’ll save yourself a lot of headache and awkward family conversations.

Okay, so you might be reading this and panicking. I mean who has time for this?! It seems that creating a video is almost as hard as writing a novel!! And it took you what, 5 years to finish your opus? Factoring in the learning curve, creating a viral video should take you 4-7 years.

If this is your thought process, FEAR NOT. I have a way better solution that is most likely what I would do if I were you…but I’ll save that for next week. Because I’m mean like that. And because I’ve already written way too much.

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