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Friday, March 13, 2009

Killer Campaigns: Book Trailers

I had mentioned on Sandra Ulbrich's blog that I was going to discuss book trailers this go round. I was actually putting it off for a couple of reasons.

I've never made a book trailer though I know what steps are involved for the typical trailer. Many, many of my friends have book trailers, so I want to make it clear that I am not judging anyone's work. I'm merely weighing the pros and cons on whether it makes for a good marketing ploy.

From what I've seen, even by the most accomplished authors, I don't think trailers are worth the time. If you can locate the appropriate stock art and music, they are next to free to produce, but in my opinion, it gets an "F" for doing its job, which is: promoting your book.

Before everyone gangs up on me, hear me out.

Nearly all book trailers involve static art that is rotated, dissolved, flashed or what have you, and it is paired with appropriate music. Let me first state that as a creative effort, MOST book trailers are pretty good.

The music is good, the choice of art is well thought out, and the sequencing is readable and intelligent.

But it fails in one very important aspect.

It has almost zero mobility. Most book trailers are parked at various video locations, on authors' websites and the occasional blog tour--and stay there. They are viewed by friends and the interested viewer and pretty much languishes there for perpetuity.

A good book trailer should do two things.

1. It should tell people about your book.
2. And it absolutely, positively has to go viral.

Nearly everyone gets the first part right. But hardly anyone can claim their book trailer went viral. The closest one I can think of is this one for Private Arrangements by Sherry Thomas, and it only got 4,391 views when I located it just now. That's hardly what I'd call viral, but it's better than most people get.

I took a moment to examine what Thomas did right. Unlike most trailers, she went with paper dolls as her artwork which I thought was marvelously clever and unique. As much as I like attractive and sensual models, they all seem to run together after a while. Thomas' take was original.

The music was also good, in keeping with her time period. The quick tempo played off well with the gossip balloons and the paper dolls. All of it fit together not only with Thomas' book but her subtle humor as well. By the way, if you haven't read Private Arrangements, get thee a copy. It is one book that is on my keeper shelf. And I don’t say that often.

I've had a "screenplay" of my book trailer for months. It is humorous, uses my dog and my friends and it has very little book pimpage. It talks more about the process of selling Touch Of Fire rather than a blow by blow of what the book is about. It is also a real video and not screen shots.

My thinking is if people find the story on how the book got published amusing, they'll take a chance with the book.

Why isn't it up on YouTube or various other video parking facilities?

Because I asked Greg to shoot the video. I even bought him a very expensive editing program. Methinks, he is stuck on the editing part. (Aren't we all?)

I've called Spielberg for some help, but for some reason he's not answering my calls.

I realize we've been rather busy here the last few months, but I have had this idea since before Touch Of Fire debuted. Oh well…that's my tale of woe. I really don't want to do the regular screen shot book trailer. I think my idea is pretty unique. It might not go viral, but I definitely think it will entertain.

A real video is also a bit more expensive. And then there are the enormous egos of the (unpaid) actors (my friends). We'll see how friendly we all are if and when we ever shoot this thing.

Bottom line: Book trailers aren't a waste of time because they could inspire someone to buy your book. And the price is right. You could put together the video yourself for very little money.

Just don't expect it to get a lot of attention. The market is glutted with book trailers. If you make one, make it stand out from the others.

Tips for interesting book trailers: (Bear in mind, these are my suggestions coming from a consumer's vantage point.)

• Consider Sherry Thomas' idea. Instead of the amazingly sexy and half naked models, go for something different that still tells your story.

• Keep it short. My attention span is at best three minutes. How about yours?

• Keep the text short and give viewers enough time to read it before dissolving to the next slide.

• If you have the skills or money, consider shooting a live action video.

• Pick one aspect about your book and go with that as your theme. For example, Touch Of Fire is a post-apocalyptic romance in a world that knows only magic. I could use the Elementals in my book as a theme, but I might go for something less obvious, like pictures of what the Earth looks like after an apocalypse. I think that might capture interest quicker. Instead of telling you something, it makes you ask: What happened here?

• The trick to going viral is making it so interesting that people feel the need to pass it on to their friends. Think about all the links to videos you've sent to others. What made you do that? Once you figure that out, make your video do the same thing.

I don't know if this post helped or not. As usual, I'm just analyzing these things, weighing the pros and cons.

If you've seen an exceptionally unique video, I'd love to hear from you.

Want to get a whole book with this information for $2.99?

Find it on Amazon.


Marianne Arkins said...

I actually really enjoy book trailers -- I've made them for most of my releases and love to watch them. But, like you I have a short attention span, and try to keep mine at a minute or so.

I saw one (and I don't remember the book, dang it) where the person wrote on the top of her refrigerator with dry erase markers. And another where the author had her young daughter draw all the pictures. Clever, but the titles didn't stick in my head.

I think they can be a benefit -- but you do have to make an effort to get them out there.

Kaz Augustin said...

Well, to be bluntly honest, I think they're a bit of waste of time. I mean, don't get me wrong, I can go geek as well as anyone and there's nothing I like more than downloading some software and giggling like a pre-schooler as I try to break it. (I'm having a whale of a time with TuxPaint at the moment ... when I can boot the kids off the relevant machine.)

But, while there have been some nice examples -- except, like Marianne, I can't remember their titles so, in that respect, I suppose they're a fail -- the majority are just too STATIC for my liking. And I always wonder how much the author has paid for the music & stock photography. LOL

It may be that I think such illusion-destroying things because I'm an author myself, but that's one promotional avenue that I'm happy to leave alone for the moment. Just my 2c.

Security word: cization. Oh yeah, baby! (Whatever cization means)

Maria Zannini said...

I remember that one! And it did go viral because I remember several of my forums were posting it on online.

I even went so far as to go to the author's website. Alas, I wasn't intrigued any further than the creative use of kitchen appliances, so my interest died there.

Which I guess is the third lesson. Even if you go viral, if your excerpts don't meet expectations, you still won't sell a book.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Kaz,

I'm like you in that I'd probably like the challenge of building one, but none, not even Sherry Thomas' trailer ever inspired me to buy a book. I bought her book because the excerpt was phenomenal.

She had an enormous amount of buzz too, but I don't fall for buzz--considering the business I'm in. But when I read her excerpt, it changed my mind.

Josephine Damian said...

I've said in other blogs posts about this topic that I rarely watch these and they don't influence me to want to read a book, but then I saw this video on amazon

for Sag Harbor. It's not so much a trailer for the book, but more a quirky author interview with himself. Made me want to give the book a try when it comes out.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Jo!

I do like that it uses a live author interview in and around the location of the novel. It didn't inspire me to buy it, but that's probably because it's not my thing.

But this is what I'm getting at about trailers. It has to motivate the author to buy the book. In your case, it did just that.

I think it helped that he did the author interview. He was easy to look at, he seemed personable and it was nice to see the book's locale. The only thing I did not like was the wind blowing in the background. It should have been edited out for a cleaner sound.

Lindsey said...

Great blog (as always), Maria. I agree that people need to do something a little more than just add pictures and music to blurbs and that you can't them to do much more than get readers to check your website/excerpt.

That said, Diana Holquist has had some success with them. Her "Why the Sexiest Man Alive Has No Head" video was featured on Amazon and has over 15k views. And our "RITA Trash Talking" video was picked up by GalleyCat and has over 10k.

I also know an author who sent her trailer to Sue Grimshaw in hopes of getting it featured on the Borders site. A couple weeks later Sue came back saying she'd read and loved the book, was upping Borders' order, and has since very much been behind the author. Maybe Sue would have read the book anyway, but that's definitely a case of getting it in front of the right person. That same trailer also got a link from Wal-Mart. It hasn't had a ton of views (2k?), so I can't say how many readers it really influenced, but it clearly caught the eye of people in the position to contribute to the book's success.

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Lindsey,

Ref: "Why the Sexiest Man Alive Has No Head" video was featured on Amazon and has over 15k views.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. It is different and it makes you want to find out more about the author and/or book.

I imagine when book trailers were brand new, each one was a novelty, but now that they're so common, it's hard to distinguish one from the other.

When you break away from the pack like Holquist did, it makes you notice.

Shelley Munro said...

Personally, I've never purchased a book because of a trailer. I've watched a few trailers recently, mainly because I decided I wanted to make one of my own. I agree short is best. My attention span is short. I enjoyed doing the book trailer, but like you, suspect it won't help much in sales.

I have Sherry Thomas' first book but haven't had a chance to read it yet. My holiday is soon. I can't wait to have some more reading time. :)

Maria Zannini said...

Hi Shelley!

You'll enjoy Private Arrangements. It defied all my expectations. I went in quite cynical because of all the hoopla, but that book truly was good.

Heather B. Moore said...

Great thoughts, Maria. I've thought about doing one for my next book. I've probably only watched about 1/2 dozen of them. I guess I need to do a little more research.

Maria Zannini said...

I can envision your trailer as a series of sensory details. Things like women drawing water, overwhelming deserts and slow sunrises.