Book Review: Hal Landen’s Secrets of Producing and Selling Successful Videos: How to Make Money with DVDs and Streaming Video
Posted Mar 22, 2007

I must say I would never have expected to find Veggie Tales, Jane Fonda, Michael Moore and sex mentioned in the same book. However, in his newest release, VideoUniversity founder Hal Landen has done the unimaginable … and succeeded. Weighing in at over 300 pages and chock full of information, Secrets of Producing and Selling Successful Videos: How to Make Money with DVDs and Streaming Video, truly has something for anyone interested in producing and marketing videos—especially special interest videos (SIVs).

I admit to thinking that Landen's sales copy for this book sounded a bit overboard. It states, "This book will help you bootstrap your own video publishing business without investors or loans ... Discover how others with no equipment or video experience have published successful video series, not just single videos … If you are a video producer, you'll discover that special interest videos are a perfect sideline that can overcome the limitations of the video service business … For pennies a day, you can have your own storefront that sells your line of videos 24/7. Or you can have others do it all for you and send you monthly checks." (Now that's my idea of work!)

As it turns out, he wasn't kidding—or even overselling. Fifteen chapters of comprehensive information—including how to find talent, choose music, create a discount schedule, acquire a UPC and ISBN number, form a business, hire a videographer and editor, pick a topic, research your market, develop a website, write a script, sell via the Internet … it's all there. Additionally, an extensive appendix includes numerous distributor lists, legal forms, a glossary of terms, and other valuable resources.

Landen also provides a "bonus" chapter, "Guide to Making Money with Web Video." Available as a pdf, it will be updated as the medium evolves. A good idea, since every day, something's new in the video publishing biz.

Lest you think of this as a textbook, dry as dust and thick as mud, let me reassure you—it is not. One of the first things I noticed, aside from its "THUD!" factor, was how easy on the eyes it was to read. I realize that typesetting and design layout are rarely mentioned in reviews, but typesetter/designer Rick Altman (thanked in Landen's acknowledgements), has to be acknowledged here for helping make Secrets of Producing and Selling Successful Videos inviting where it could easily have appeared intimidating.

From the overview on, the tone is conversational. Landen mixes instruction and advice with some interesting case histories and stories. He offers numerous examples of success and also presents real-life experiences where things didn't turn out quite as well as planned, some of these being his own. He also provides interesting and instructional case studies, such as the stories behind Veggie Tales and Fred Levine's classic kids' video Road Construction Ahead.

Landen does offer this bit of caution: "Believe me, this is NOT a get-rich-quick business. For many it's not even a ‘get-a-decent-living -slowly' business. Anyone who tells you that you'll make a million dollars in this or any other business is not telling you the whole truth. This is a business—and every business involves risk."

If you're at all interested in building a profitable business through producing SIVs, your first step toward risk reduction should be to buy this book. Even if SIVs aren't your bag, it's still a valuable and inexpensive resource to have on hand. It's available online via Amazon and VideoUniversity.com.

Steve Yankee is an EventDV contributing editor, columnist (Strictly Business) and founder of The Video Business Advisor.