Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Book Trailers

Lately I've been thinking a lot about book trailers, as they're the Newest Thing in book promotion. Was mulling over doing a post about them, and then the other day someone asked me my opinion during my monthly "guest expert" stint on the Backspace Writers Forums. Below is a revised version of my response.

A good trailer will garner attention for a book and author. And as debut author Julie Kramer pointed out, having a video is great if you're going to be interviewed on TV. It's a helluva lot more interesting--and memorable--than a static shot of a book jacket. Videos can be particularly useful for "genre" fiction such as mysteries, thrillers and romance because they can create a mood that lures in readers, as the last four do in the list below.

I've seen book trailers that are really good, some that are so-so and some that are total yawns. HarperCollins believes in trailers so much that they're producing them inhouse. GalleyCat has been posting several each week; see Web & Tech.

A book video, just like a TV ad, has to TELL & SELL: Tell what the book is about and sell it to the target audience. It has to answer the Three Big Questions:
  1. So what?
  2. Who cares?
  3. What's in it for me?
After watching a book trailer, the viewer should think, "Wow, I gotta buy this book!" Not just, "Wow, I gotta forward this video!"

Here are some trailers that tell & sell in an enticing way:
TROPHIES by Heather Thomas has a lavishly produced video that doesn't quite do it for me because the narration (by Gore Vidal!) is ponderous, the dialogue murky, and after nearly 5-1/2 minutes (yawn...) I still didn't know what the book was about nor why I should care about its main characters. Also the bit about dissing the waiter is a little too reminiscent of one in the late, lamented (by me, anyway) TV series "Action" (available on DVD; see it now!). But the acting, whether by dolls or real people, is terrific.

After I forwarded it to GalleyCat two months ago, Book Launch 2.0 went viral. I think everyone in publishing saw it and sent it to everyone they know; I got it at least 3 times. But though achingly funny, the video had nothing to do with the book it was ostensibly promoting. In fact, I couldn't remember the author or book title--or even whether the book was a novel or nonfiction--to save my life. I had to search my blog archives: Dennis Cass, HEAD CASE: How I Almost Lost My Mind Trying to Understand My Brain. (One of these days, I'll contact Cass & ask what effect the video had.)

Last year, there was a big hoopla at BookExpo about the big-bucks "mini-feature" for Ian McEwan's ON CHESIL BEACH. I watched the trailer online. OY. Read my assessment in What's Not to Like? Let Me Count the Ways...

What I wonder most about book videos is whether they have a positive impact on book sales. I would love to see hard data, if there is any.

One concern I have is that book trailers will be added to the ever-expanding list of things that authors "must" have to stay competitive. Which means that they'll be spending time, and especially money, on what are basically commercials for their books instead of writing their books. My position is that every author doesn't have to have a blog, a social networking page or book trailers. (Every author absolutely should have a website, though.)

My second concern is, where are all these book trailers going to be shown besides online? There's been talk of having TVs in bookstores constantly running videos. Everywhere one goes nowadays, whether the supermarket, the mall or the swimming pool, there's music blasting over loudspeakers. There are TVs blaring at the dentist, the auto repair waiting room and the airport. To me, bookstores and libraries are the last secular havens of quiet enjoyment. I don't want that peace shattered by endless loops of book trailers.


Doreen Orion said...

Book trailers do seem to be de rigueur these days. (Sorry, couldn't help myself after hearing Bella's lovely French accent while ordering French food the other day.)

I had the same thought about Cass' video: It was hysterical, but didn't give any info about the book. I also wonder if people outside the industry "got" it. I sent it to a few civilian friends and they didn't see what was so funny, until I explained the joke. So, I wonder, too, if it really helped sales.

I wish I could tell you if my videos have helped QUEEN OF THE ROAD, but they've been released at the same time as my fabulo website (which you've commented on quite a bit, Merci), as well as some of the wonderful reviews the book has gotten. I can tell you that as I'm doing my radio tour this summer, I always mention my website saying, "it has wonderful pictures of our trip, reviews, an excerpt as well as videos, including of the nudist RV park. Now, don't crash my site, people." And, I have noticed Amazon sales as well as webstats going up after each interview. How much is specifically due to the video, I have no idea, but even if it's only indirectly, ie it drives people to my website who then like what they see (PULEASE! I DON'T mean naked, middle-aged me) and then buy the book, I'm not complainin'.

Julie Schoerke said...

I absolutely love your blog about book trailers! All of the book trailer links are terrific, Sherry Thomas's is hilarious! We do book trailers for most of my clients and the authors end up loving them. I use them to promote the books when I'm pitching for media coverage and when we're wanting to get an author a great placement at a book festival or other event. I can't say yet whether the trailers actually sell books on their own or if they are part of a comprehensive strategic plan that ultimately sells more books because of more buzz building.

Again, great post!

COS Productions said...

Book trailers are novelty items unless you do something with them that makes them effective.
Distribution is important. I see people talking up any trailer than gets over 50,000 hits on YouTube, and in my opinion YouTube isn't really the best place for book trailers. You need to be there because YouTube is a large video site, but places like, Powells, GoodReads, etc. are going to have more meaningful hits.

We place our videos all over the internet. We're on social media, book marking sites, bookseller sites, library sites, book club sites and specialty sites (such as Watch the Book and Reader's Entertainment TV). But we are also offline and play book trailers in transit buses, tv, movie theaters and other out-of-home placement.

Technology has made it possible to do inexpensive media buys using a digital medium. I think we'll see more and more offline placement in the future.

Just last week we were asked to participate in an experiement where kiosks are being put in high schools and will play age-appropriate book trailers. People are getting really inventive!