My first thought was an enthusiastic yes. I’d not only have a book, but a mini-movie! I became a trailer fanatic, watching still pictures float past while excerpts were read off-screen. Lines from the book materialized on screen while music played. Actors played out scenes, bits were animated, characters drawn. I started to envision the dancer in my novel moving in a way that caused a blur—
Wait. If I wanted to use a visual, why a blur? That’s when I realized I didn’t want a real woman in my book trailer. Because my novel is on the theme of body image, I had skirted physical description of my protagonist. I wanted my readers to fill in that blank with an image that worked for them.
With filming a real dancer off the table, my first thought was to make the trailer myself. I’ve known others who taught themselves how to make a book trailer, so I figured I could, too. I attended a conference session to learn how.
I was immediately cowed by the need to think visually—to storyboard, sync music with action, edit. When the teacher warned us we’d discard our first eight attempts, as we had our early stories, I recognized the steep learning curve I faced: the same effort it took me to write a novel worthy of publication. Why would I want an inferior product to represent the novel I’d labored so long on?
Conclusion: I’d have to hire someone.
After looking around, I found people who could create a rudimentary book trailer for a couple hundred dollars or a slick production for a couple thousand, and everywhere in between.
Hmm. For the ease of the math, let’s say my royalty on each trade paperback sold is one dollar. Even if I invested in the rudimentary trailer, it would have to inspire 300 sales to earn its worth.
That’s when I realized that I had never in my life based a book purchasing decision on a book trailer. I’m your typical cover/back jacket/read a sample kind of buyer. So I conducted an informal survey among non-writers—women who attend book groups and read the same kind of accessible literary fiction I do. Each of them answered the same way: “What’s a book trailer?”
What I decided
There’s another kind of video content that can support a novel, and that’s an author interview. It still pitches the book, still raises the questions, yet is more informal and talk-show chatty. It felt more like me. That’s what I decided to do, and here’s the result.
I ended up relying on the expertise of others after all. Many thanks to my producer, Ray Lowengard, whose endless patience was a godsend as I fumbled my way through numerous takes. At the age of sixteen, Ray has a knowledge base born of passion-led homeschooling and access to great equipment and software that he actually knows how to use. Ada Lowengard, fourteen, tapped her background in acting to coach me to "act" conversationally. Ray and Ada are my nephew and niece. Their excitement and interest in this project, for which they sacrificed a day of vacation, made it a lot of fun.
So how about you: Have you ever purchased a book based on its trailer? Or if you’ve made your own trailer, how did it go?
Just catching up? Search results for this series can be found here:
Countdown to a Book
Kathryn Craft is a developmental editor at Writing-Partner.com, an independent manuscript evaluation and line editing service. Her work is represented by Katie Shea at the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Her monthly series, "Countdown to a Book," details the traditional publication of her debut novel, The Art of Falling, by Sourcebooks in January 2014. Her new monthly series, "Turning Whine into Gold," has premiered at Writers in the Storm. Connect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.