Friday, September 6, 2013

Countdown to a Book 12: A Question of Book Trailers

One side effect of having a long countdown to release is the leisure to obsess about certain aspects of the book business. One thing I debated about long and hard was whether to make a book trailer.

Concept 
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.

Execution
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.

Cost
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. 

Hmm, again.

Need 
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 StormConnect with Kathryn at her Facebook Author Page and Twitter.

28 comments :

  1. I've never managed to sit through an entire trailer unless it was 30 seconds or under. To me, pictures and words don't go together. However, there are people who might follow the trailer back to a website and learn more about the book. The only reason I have one is because I won a free one while at a conference, and I really created "problems" because I didn't want a trailer about a new release; I wanted a trailer about my entire series. They did a good job, but I don't think I'd every lay out money for a visual. Your interview, on the other hand, sounds like a cool idea. Will have to look into that.

    Oh, and if anyone wants to see the trailer created by Visual Quill, you can find it here

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    1. I agree that length is an important consideration. I've seen some of these author interview videos that go on 6 to 9 minutes and by that point the author seems to be rambling. Thanks for the link to your trailer! I can't listen now because I'm at my fall writing retreat, surrounded by quietly writing women, but will check it out when they leave on Sunday!

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    2. The #1 thing that puts me off is inappropriate music for the theme of the book. Like rock music for a historical novel. Bleh!

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  2. I made trailers for three of my books because it was a fun exercise. I've got better software now and would love to redo them. Heck, I'd love to turn the books into movies. I'm still waiting for the software that makes that magically happen. I'd love to have actors play the roles in a trailer rather than static images with transitions.

    I also wonder: who really looks at them? I don't go trolling the web looking for book trailers, though I often watch them if they are posted on Facebook if they are a genre that interests me. There are sites devoted to them. I like the idea of the Amazon and Nook sites having a trailer available when deciding to buy the book, but wonder if readers would find this annoying rather than clever?

    I get tired of clicking on news stories only to find it is a video. But it could be a generational thing. Younger readers might enjoy the trailers more. An author interview is a terrific idea as well.

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    1. I only really see the"trailer of the week" examples that are featured in the Shelf Awareness newsletter, and they are typically for YA or commercial genres such as horror, thriller, or romance. So to prepare for this post I looked up Margaret Atwood and Ann Patchett—and wouldn't you know, they have trailers (probably made by their publishers) for their most recent titles! Yet I never would have known it—so discoverability is indeed an issue.

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    2. You have to embed them on your website, blog, and use them repeatedly everywhere you promote on social networks. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Never miss a chance to leave a link to your trailer, maybe not daily, but often.

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  3. I never have either (bought a book based on a trailer). Book trailers may be fun but it tells me nothing about the actual writing and sometimes the trailers actually turn me off

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    1. Thanks for this feedback! I think a comparison can be made between book trailers and verbal pitches—some people can nail them—but in the end, it really is all about the writing.

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  4. Like you, Kathryn, my main exposure to book trailers has been the Shelf Awareness newsletter. But I have picked up links to some and included them in my blog at times, and readers of my blog sometimes comment on how it made them want to read the book. So, I do think there's a place for them. I also think your approach is fantastic, doing an interview, and low-low cost. When I finally get to the point that I have to make this decision for myself, I'll enjoy revisiting all these idea. In the meantime, I'm pretty sure I'll opt out of doing the work myself...

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Meredith. Interesting to know! :)

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  5. And yet an exciting book trailer can inspire sales. I cite Hank Phillippi Ryan's trailer for The Other Woman as an example. It has everything. http://hankphillippiryan.com/other-woman.php#trailer Which reminds me I planned to interview her trailer master.

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    1. I checked the link. That's not really a book trailer; it's an interview. Even so, I shut it off at the 32 second mark. I know, like, and admire Hank Philiipi Ryan, but if I wanted to know about her book, I'd look it up on B&N and download the free sample.

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    2. I liked this trailer when I saw it—it's really well done, as you'd expect from someone with ties to TV!—but I already knew I wanted to read her book for other reasons, so it didn't prompt a sale.

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  6. Have I ever purchased a book based on a book-trailer? That's easy ... no. Hmmm, that might have something to do with the money I wasted getting one made for my first book ... results from that were zippo. Annnnyway, good job on the interview video thing, Kathryn ... hope it works!

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    1. Thanks Christopher. Interesting feedback on your trailer...

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  7. Yes, I have bought a book based on the trailer--and I loved the book. Before I made my trailer for It's Just Lola, I spent a lot of time watching trailers. One was so bad I turned down the offer of a free book.

    I enjoyed the process and the results. Everyone who has commented loves the music (composed by my grandson). It's 70 seconds long.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AwpUTUOlzA

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    1. By the way, I don't think it was an effective way to sell books, but I'm happy I did it.

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    2. I think it's just another form of advertising, and builds on other forms. It's all about name recognition.

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    3. Yes I know you enjoyed making your trailer, Dixiane, and your enthusiasm almost had me—but I realized it would take me too much time while I needed to be concentrating on other things. Thanks for chiming in here!

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  8. I'd rather see an author interview (real person) than a story trailer (fictional characters). I can tell a lot more about whether I'd enjoy the book from the interview than from a tiny trailer. Of course, in either case I could be wrong in my assessment.

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    1. Good point, Linda! We can be duped by great openings, too, for sure.

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  9. I've never bought a book based on a trailer and I rarely even view them, because of things mentioned--length & quality. I started to make one for my first book but was stymied and never finished.

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    1. Glad to hear I'm not the only one, Heidi!

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  10. I LOVE the interview concept in lieu of the trailer. I think that what potential readers/investors want to see is the author's genuine enthusiasm for their own work. I would recommend shortening the description of the book to a few sentences, then answering questions like: How did you get this idea? What themes does your book explore? What excites you about your book?

    I think that if readers love your books, then this kind of interview will connect them to you (the author.)

    For my Pubslush campaign, I will be creating a video as part of my profile. By reviewing others' videos, I too, came to the conclusion that my pitch must be shorter than 1 minute. (Although I will be keeping that 30 second mark in the back of my mind.)

    Also, in my case, if I'm asking for money from folks, my video should look nicely done (like Kathryn's) but not appear to be an expensive production. Rather, shoot (haha, pardon the pun) for something that is simple and honest.

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  11. Kim: I was just thrilled to take it under the 3-minute mark, after seeing others that ran much longer. Everything needed to hook the reader is in the first minute, though. Here's my creative math: there are two story lines, so that's thirty seconds a piece, lol. I figure those who are motivated will continue to watch, and the others probably wouldn't have been reached with this method anyway.

    And I think we do have to remember that not every book can be shrunk to a high-concept log line—and in trying to do so, you may misrepresent your project, which readers never like.

    Good luck with your Pubslush campaign!

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  12. I tested my 1-minute pitch out on my Toastmasters Club last night. Thumbs up! They offered some good suggestions for tweaks. Thanks for the tip and encouragement!

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  13. Kathryn, I am back to follow up with my comment from September 11.

    I launched my Pubslush campaign and I have been very happy with it. Crowdfunding is a lot of work, but worth it. Here is the link to my page and you can view my video.

    http://pubslush.com/books/id/468

    Other than the truck driving by mid-shot, I was pleased with the result. My goal was to connect directly with the reader/viewer. I was so nervous about getting it just right and doing it over and over. I worried that I'd lose the relaxed atmosphere if I practiced over and over. However, I learned through my Toastmasters group that practice really does make perfect and I shouldn't have to fear doing it over and over again. Is that a ramble or did that make sense? A bit of both? Ha! :)

    Thank you again, for this topic!

    Kim

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  14. Hi Kathryn,

    Wanted to follow up on my September 11 comment. Here's the link to my video.

    http://pubslush.com/books/id/468

    I was so worried that it would get stale if I practiced over and over, so settled on accepting the background whoosh of a truck driving by. I have since learned from my Toastmasters group is that practice really does make perfect. Next time I make a video I will practice, practice, practice til I get it just right!

    Crowdfunding has been a lot of work, but worth it!

    Thanks again for this topic. - Kim

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The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.

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