Book Trailers: A Q&A With Jackie Kessler, Toni McGee Causey, and Colleen Gleason

I started emailing back and forth with Jackie Kessler, who contacted me about her new book trailer for her new book, The Road to Hell, which you can see at her website.

The first book commercial I can remember from the past few years of tv watching (and I don’t watch a lot of tv and even then I skip commercials) was for a Patterson book where he held the book next to his head and said, ‘Buy my book, Cat & Mouse.’ It was totally creepy and didn’t give me any intention of buying his book. I know that a good number of mega-releases have tv commercials, but trailers are an online phenomenon as far as I can tell. And with trailers, in every instance, if I wanted to go see one, I’ve had to go look for it.

I have to admit: I do not entirely understand the book trailer phenomenon. I get that it’s an audio-visual promo for the book, and I get that they are The Hot New Thing, after mixing black and navy for this fall’s hottest new look (another thing I don’t get, by the way) but I don’t quite understand the WHY of book trailers, and more specifically, the HOW. How do authors get them done? Why? What’s the goal? What’s up with that? And WHO decided black looked good with blue!? I look like a bruise if I mix navy and black.

While Jackie couldn’t answer my fashion questions, she did give me a whole mess ‘o insight into the process and purpose of a book trailer. Plus she steered me to two other book-trailer mavens, Colleen Gleason and Toni McGee Causey, who were kind enough to also answer my questions. And dang, did I have some questions.

 

So: Book Trailer: Who did yours? How did you get it done – professionally? Or did you do it on your own? Do you like how it came out?

Jackie Kessler: I wrote the script and found/licensed the images and the music, and I hired a freelance editor to pull it together and do the titles. We had a number of rounds until we got to the final.

Only thing I wish we’d done differently is not do it in Shockwave. That’s not You Tube friendly. The YT version is very compressed and the titles aren’t really legible, which is why I’m directing people to my website instead. Live and learn, eh?

This was my first-ever book trailer, but I studied Colleen Gleason’s trailer for THE REST FALLS AWAY, because out of the zillions of trailers I’d previously seen, that was the only one that made me want to buy the book, even if I knew nothing else about it. And a friend of mine, Toni McGee Causey, did a fabulous book trailer that she shot live action — marvelous stuff — and she gave me a lot of advise for overall movement for the trailer. So it was a team effort!

Colleen Gleason: I had it done by Circle of Seven Productions, and they actually subcontracted another entity to do the design. I remember when I first spoke with my contact at COS, she was so excited about the premise of my books and the way I described the series that she already had a designer in mind whom she felt would do the best job. And without a doubt, Brenda did an amazing job.

I didn’t have the time or ability to do it on my own, but I was very involved in the process from beginning to end. I wrote the copy for the trailer, and I was very specific about my vision—the look and feel and flow of the trailer as a whole—but not so clear on the details. That was why I was hiring them!

The first draft they gave me was nearly what you see today, except for the image of a woman with blood leaking from the corner of her mouth near the beginning, followed by a piercing scream. I said, uh, no. So we took out the woman and the scream and tweaked some of the word-smithing and voila! The best book trailer I’ve ever seen.

What was the best advice you got for creating a trailer? And what you think are do’s and don’ts of book trailers?

Jackie Kessler: I had terrific conversations with Toni McGee Causey (author of Bobbie Faye’s Very (very, very, very) Bad Day: A Novel — which is utterly hysterical, and I highly recommend it), who did a trailer workshop at this year’s Backspace Conference. I think the best advice she gave, either at the workshop or to me on the phone, was that in a book trailer, you shouldn’t get caught up in telling your book’s entire story. Instead, you want to capture the feeling of your book. And that feeling should (hopefully) get people excited about your book.

I think it’s sort of like pitching your novel to an agent. You need that query letter to be short and sweet and just right to pique the busy agent’s interest and want to read your manuscript. Same thing with a book trailer: you want to pique the busy viewer’s interest enough to want to read your book.

Colleen Gleason: I never got any advice on making a trailer, but I had seen enough of them that I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want cheese (hence the deletion of the screaming blood-thirsty woman).

I didn’t want slooooow-moooovingggg text or images (that drives me batty, and I will click past a trailer if it is too slow or boring). I hate waiting. Think about it—when you see a movie trailer, things move FAST. To me, slow, involved trailers kill the intent of engaging and intriguing the viewer.

And while my budget couldn’t afford live action actors, I didn’t want that anyway. I wanted something short and sweet that would intrigue and inform the viewer so that there would be some brand recognition when they saw or heard about the book. That was my goal.

Oh, wait, there was one bit of advice I took with me when I was getting my trailer done—and it came from a discussion here on SB! I decided not to have the trailer be the “entry” into my Web site. Too many people complained about that approach, and about clicking through to the main site (or leaving all together), so I listened.

Here’s why: if it’s a good trailer, one that’s done well, it can be a nice gateway to a site. However, if I go back to the site, I don’t want to have to watch it again (or click through it). So even if it’s a good trailer, it’s a barrier to repeat visitors, IMO.

Toni McGee Causey: Best advice? Think of vivid images which tell a lot of the story for you. And you don’t have to be completely linear in the trailer as you would in the book.

Do’s and don’ts:  Do find the most professional team you can. (There are indie film groups in many major cities who would like a small bit of income and work to use for their own portfolio; don’t ignore universities with strong film majors—they often have grad students or former graduates working in the industry—maybe in TV news—but still with strong talent.) Trailers are getting sophisticated quickly, and it’s much worse to put out a home-made mediocre trailer than to have none at all. Do come up with a logline (one line description of your book) and a thematic tone and what imagery from your book best conveys a key moment or hook in your story: these are your building blocks. You’ll need these whether you’re doing it yourself or hiring someone else. Don’t linger too long on things the audience already gets—the audience is used to visual communication now and you can use images as a shorthand. Don’t be afraid to edit really tight (I would still make cuts, so I don’t think that can ever be overstated.) Do have objective third parties look at it and give you feedback. If they are all saying similar negative things, then listen and adjust. Do not let this objective feedback be your friends and family who know you’ve spent time and money and therefore want to encourage you: the rest of the world doesn’t care.

What pitfalls did you want to avoid while crafting your trailer?

Jackie Kessler: The biggest pitfall, I think, is wasting the viewer’s time — either by making the trailer too long, or by making the content of the trailer unappealing or (gah) boring. The way I did my best to avoid this was to let the music drive the trailer: syncing images and text to the beat of the music, letting the sound dictate the speed of the frames, relying on the music to help build the tension…and keeping it limited to 60 seconds.

As for licensing the music and the images, there are a lot of resources out there. I used istockphoto  for the images and Fresh Music for the sound. (No, there’s no easy way of poring through the images and the audio samples. You just have to do it, and hope your eyeballs don’t melt in the process.) Key thing is you want your images and your music to be royalty-free. The licensing fee for both the images and the music were very reasonable.

I know absolutely nothing about how to turn images, sound and script into a trailer, so I hired a freelance editor whom I knew through Backspace to pull it all together. She was a pleasure to work with. And she didn’t mind that I was horrifically anal about linking an image to a particular beat of music. And she did some marvelous things with movement, like the heart-shaped bubble winking.

The one thing I wish I would have known beforehand is that a Shockwave video doesn’t play well with You Tube. Argh. Who knew?

Something else that I think is very helpful — this goes back to the craft part — is getting input from others. Even though I wrote the script, a number of people, including my Loving Husband and Toni, helped me fine-tune it. My critique partner helped me select the music. And my Kensington promotions contact gave me terrific feedback after viewing the semi-final trailer. It doesn’t have to be a solo effort, even when you opt to do it by yourself.

Colleen Gleason: Slooooownesss. Cheesiness. Boringness. (Is that a word?)

Toni McGee Causey: Pitfalls? The biggest pitfall at the time was that there weren’t very many other live-action detailed (movie-trailer-like) book videos out there to use as a guide. There was a tremendous about of flash trailers, many of them very good, but many of them were for dramas, and Bobbie Faye is balls-to-the-wall action/adventure and comedy, something I didn’t think translated as well at the time with flash. (Or, put it this way: I didn’t have any flash type of ideas which I thought could convey the comedy.) The lack of live-action meant I looked more to movie trailers for inspiration, and so my trailer was more complex… and therefore more difficult to shoot, edit, etc. I think the medium forced me to have a better product, so the pitfall turned into an opportunity, but it was definitely difficult to do.

What do other authors do to create trailers? And what trailers really, really worked for you?

Jackie Kessler: I think most authors opt for using a one-stop-shop place like Circle of Seven Productions: . If you take a look, you’ll see that many authors are using COS. (And you can see their trailers! Break out the popcorn!)

One book trailer that I absolutely adore is Colleen Gleason’s for The Rest Falls Away.

Colleen Gleason:  I thought Alison Brennan’s brief trailer into her Web site was good, and that’s what gave me the idea to do mine. But, honestly, I can’t think of any trailers that have stuck in my mind. Quite frankly, I haven’t seen many trailers that I’ve liked.

In your experience, what the average costs are for a trailer from a professional production firm? And how does that compare to what you invested?

Jackie Kessler: COS has various packages; the two that I got pricing on were less than $1,000.

I paid $27 for the music license fee, and in total about $130 for all the images. Plus $200 to my freelance editor. So I spent about $360, plus a hell of a lot of time and effort, on my trailer. I’m so ridiculously pleased with it — not because I saved money (but that’s a terrific perk) but because I got my hands dirty and was really involved in the process. I’m proud of it.

As for how I’m using the trailer, I’m pretty much telling everyone I know, heh. Actually, it was a conversation starter in a big way over at Absolute Write, when I posted to the Fantasy forum and asked whether fantasy readers there would venture into the romance section of a bookstore to get a book that could be urban fantasy, even if it’s marketed as paranormal romance…and then, after linking to the video, I asked if it made them interested in picking up a book labeled paranormal romance. That conversation is still going on.

The big thing is that between the trailer, the novel excerpt, and the reviews (which, um, are pending, and God willing they will be good), I think I’m giving potential readers as much of a tease about THE ROAD TO HELL and HELL’S BELLES as possible…which, hopefully, will turn into them being interested in my books and buying them.

Toni McGee Causey: I’ve seen prices from $750 (for a basic flash trailer) on up to $10,000 (for a 30 second live-action video). Something as complex as I had (a large number of locations, actors and speaking parts) would have been more expensive if I had had to pay for everything; luckily, I have two friends who were a director and a cinematographer and who were interested in making the video for me for free. I’d have never made it if it hadn’t been for their participation. Still, I probably spent closer to $3K because of the volume of locations (some fees) and feeding the actors, getting the props, etc. We shot the interior truck scene, for example, on a flatbed trailer with a rigging that my husband made so the director and cinematographer could stand outside the moving vehicle and get Bobbie Faye as she argued with someone. Those scenes are moving scenes, which required a truck, trailer, the red truck we filmed in, a follow-up sheriff’s car, police to stop traffic, etc. just for a tiny portion of the video.

Colleen Gleason: To have a professional do it (and if you’re going to do it, have a pro handle it), it’s going to be at least $1000—for a good one.

And finally: why a book trailer? More specifically, what is it about trailers that made you think, “I am going to make one and I am going to make a GOOD one” ?

Jackie Kessler: Toni and I are both members of Backspace, a terrific online writers forum that has more than 600 members from a dozen countries. Everything I know about the publishing business, I learned from Backspace members — some of whom are bestselling authors.  Every year, Backspace has an annual conference in New York City. Toni gave a workshop on book trailers. I attended it because I wanted to meet her face to face after knowing her virtually for years. And man, am I glad I attended!

She showed both the short and long trailers to BOBBIE FAYE and explained how she was able to do it (experience and connections) and some of the obstacles she had to overcome. The main thing that struck me was WHY she’d done the trailer: it wasn’t to make an external promotional piece. It was, instead, to build internal buzz within her publisher. And boy, did she ever!

After the workshop, I accosted her, and we talked for about a half hour — about trailers, about the romance community, about publishing in general. She gave me feedback on my initial script and gave her thumbs up on the images and music I’d selected. And she saw an initial version of the trailer and gave me fabulous advice about how to work the images to the sound of the music.

I can’t praise her enough. Taking Toni’s workshop got me all riled up. It was positively inspiring. I loved what she did, and it got me thinking that a good book trailer really can get people interested, even excited, in a book. And then I basically thought, Why the hell not? If I’m doing everything I possibly can to promote my novels, why not pull out all stops and make a good trailer? And once I started, it was a lot of fun to write and storyboard a script. I’d never done that before. It was a nice break from the novels.

And I’ve already found the music for the next trailer.

Toni McGee Causey:  I was very fortunate that St. Martin’s was already enthusiastic about the book and put a lot of emphasis on it throughout each step.  They are tremendously wonderful people to work with.  As for why that strategy? Well, partly because they really were such a great group to work with and I know their job is difficult: breaking out an author who’s writing action/adventure comedy, when there’s not really a “genre” for that. Also, when I sold, it was on three chapters and a synopsis (it was a three-book deal), so no one had the whole book… and I then had to finish the first book and go through the editing/marketing process; it was closer to two years from the point of sale to the actual release date. Combine all of this with sales reps who have a tremendously difficult job in that they have a very short minute or two to pitch a book they may not have personally had a chance to read, and I felt the need for a tool to use which would set the book and the world of Bobbie Fay up while being unique and memorable, and video made sense to me, especially since I came from a film background.

I think we have to be aware of the fact that there is so little time to capture an audience’s attention for something, and the visual medium has the possibility of capturing it in a memorable way, quickly. One of the points I tend to keep going back to is that this world has become such a visual experience: there are iPhones now which will show video, there are movies, DVDs, streaming video on the web, video games and so on. There are whole generations who are used to video coming at them constantly, and so the slower text messages don’t get through the competition for attention as easily.

Then (to me) there’s a second phenomenon, and that’s bookstore stress. I think a lot of readers would read more than one book a year if they knew what to pick up. When a customer walks into a bookstore, if they don’t know exactly what to look for, they are confronted with a sea of titles. If they don’t already have favorites, if they’d only read a John Grisham for example, it’s a bit overwhelming to navigate the aisles and all of the titles on the spines and genres and then sub-genres to try to narrow down to a new book they might like, for the same amount of money (or less) than the movie they saw advertised on TV.  Great review sites such as yours help cut through the volume (thank goodness), or else I honestly think we’d have seen a faster decline in reading. But finding a book—particularly a cross-genre book such as mine? Not an easy thing. I hope that a book trailer hints at what’s in there memorably enough so that a reader will recognize the character’s name the next time they’re in the store and see the book cover—enough to pick it up and see what crazy escapade she’s up to now.

Colleen Gleason: Okay, here’s where the discussion can get really interesting. I’ve been talking with people about this for months, and I have my own opinions about the efficacy of trailers and is it worth it to have one done.

To be honest, I don’t know if it was money well-spent for me.

Yes, lots of people saw the trailer (but not nearly enough), and many people have said it was one of the best they’ve seen. But most of the people who saw the trailer saw it because they came to my Web site anyway. They knew about me/my books anyway.

That’s not enough. In order for a trailer to be worthwhile, you need tens of thousands, preferably hundreds of thousands, of people to see it—people who aren’t already aware of you, your site, or your books.

In order for a trailer to be truly worthwhile, it has to become viral. Isn’t that the goal of everyone who makes one? To be the next YouTube pick?  To have it highlighted on Yahoo! or to be showing up in your email three times a week? It sure is my goal!

That’s the issue of the moment: how do you get that to happen? How do you get to that Tipping Point? No one knows what’s going to tip, so you can’t really plan for it. That’s the challenge and the conundrum.

So I’l say this right now—if anyone thinks they know the trick or has an idea for a trailer that could become viral, I’d love to hear from you. Seriously.

However…and here’s a personal plug here, if you don’t mind—I do have a specific idea for a trailer and I’m looking for a writer to pull my ideas into a very short script. I’m looking for someone who has a snarky, absurd sense of humor (can’t imagine there’s anyone around here like that) who would be interested in working with me on it. For pay. If there’s anyone here who wants to give it a stab (no pun intended; see, I’m not a humor writer), please email me at author at colleengleason dot com.


So there you have it. Everything you could possibly want to know about book trailers, that is, if you’re me and you’re asking the questions. And really, asking all these questions has certainly changed my perception of trailers.

At first, my initial reaction was, “Ok, why do that?” I’m not a visual person; I don’t “see” books play out in my mind, but I “hear” them – the narrator, the dialogue, etc. So the brief video promo of a book never made sense to me. After reading the answers, I have a lot more to think about.

For example, on one hand, the book trailer is something author has to tackle on her own, expense-wise and time-wise. But on the other hand, the author isn’t in control of her cover, or sometimes even her title for her next release. The trailer is a promotional tool for the book that the author can develop that does reflect the plot AND the author’s intentions. While many, many hands have a stir in the stew pot that makes up the final published product, the trailer is often developed at the author’s direction (which could be a good or a bad thing) and may be the only marketing element that completely and accurately reflects the book itself. Moreover, the allure of “here’s my book in 30 seconds visually and audibly should you wish to experience it literarily,” covers some senses that don’t usually get attention among the book-buying public. It could be the best bet for folks who like a visual when book shopping.

But moreover, the idea that the book trailer also exists to generate buzz within the publishing house – that really made me think. It’s like having to stand out twice- once to get signed and then to get marketing buzz in the current crop of new books being published.

So what do you think of book trailers? Who’s got a good one that you like – or do they not really influence your buying in the first place?

 

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    Ellen says:

    Not only have I never seen a trailer that made me more likely to buy a book, I can’t even imagine a situation in which that would happen. I don’t sit around watching book trailers (partly because I haven’t seen many that were interesting, and partly because… why would I?), so any I run across are likely to be for books I’ve already heard about and—if I’m willing to spend the time to watch them—books I’m already considering buying.

    I’d much rather read an excerpt or a synopsis of a book if I’m considering buying it than watch a trailer; the trailer isn’t likely to be representative, since it’s in a different format.

    All that said, I think Colleen’s point about videos being viral is a good one—I might very well pick up a book by someone who had created a YouTube video I enjoyed. I don’t see such a video being a trailer for the book, though. Something like an author’s reading might be worthwhile. The best thing would be a video that’s related to the book but not connected—something that’s not packaged as publicity. The best example I can think of here is Maureen Johnson’s The Great Harrod’s Caper; I can see myself watching that and thinking, “Who is this person? Does she write books? Because I want to read them if so.” It looks like the video only has about 850 views, though.

  2. 2
    M says:

    Book trailers do NOT inspire me to buy a book—on the contrary, some of them are so ridiculously cheesy I am completely turned off.  I buy a book because the blurb or the excerpt caught my attention or because the author is an autobuy.

  3. 3
    Dee Tenorio says:

    Well, I like the idea of having a place to come see a host of trailers. If someone made THAT site, I’d be there all the time. I love watching movie trailers. I’d watch more book trailers if I could find them without a bunch of work.

    Oh, don’t forget Stonecreek Media. Far more affordable and still quality work for a whole bunch of web stuff.

  4. 4
    Teddy Pig says:

    It’s trying to sell one medium with another like radio promos. I do not know if they work very well.

    I would rather see ads and excerpts and interviews in magazines and newspapers.

  5. 5

    I’m also in the blurb / excerpt camp. I have to seriously limit how much time I spend cruising around the internet if I actually want to get any writing done so I don’t tend to go to YT or blogs unless there is a link from someplace like this!

    I guess I could see how trailers might work IF you could get them in front of thousands of people who wouldn’t otherwise come to your website, but personally, at this point in my career I can’t afford a trailer at prices they mention, even if I had a way to get it out beyond my own personal site.

  6. 6
    Ann Aguirre says:

    I don’t know anything about this, but I would have to say that I think the only place these might do some good is on TV. But even then, I’m not sure how it would translate to book sales.

    It might increase name recognition, though, which is good. I read somewhere about people having a “three time” rule before buying. Like if they hear about a book or author three times in one month that the book comes out, then they buy it.

  7. 7
    Qadesh says:

    For the question of live action trailers, I know Christine Feehan does a whole lot of them.  If you become a member of her site you can view them.

    On a personal note I only know of one that got enough buzz to make people I knew interested in a book and it was one made by Lara Adrian for her Midnight Breed series.  They liked it, looked for the books, liked those and then spread the word to others who enjoy Paranormals.  So, in that sense it worked.  Their buzz, plus the trailer made me buy them.

    But I can really see how a trailer, if it is done well, could create buzz within the publisher themselves.  I would also say, that other than websites, it seems like it is one of the things that an author would have the most control of.  An author can’t control a cover or even the name of the book, but a trailer produced or made with the author’s input is another story.  That would hold a lot of appeal.

  8. 8
    SB Sarah says:

    An author can’t control a cover or even the name of the book, but a trailer produced or made with the author’s input is another story.  That would hold a lot of appeal.

    That’s part of what intrigues me, Qadesh. The manuscript is all author, then there’s a whole mess of people involved in developing the final product, but the trailer, that’s back to the author and her “vision” for lack of a better term. Makes me consider trailers in a different light, since before I did the interview with these three authors I really thought, “Ok, movie about book? WHY?”

  9. 9
    MaryKate says:

    I am not a fan of book trailers in general, although Colleen’s for The Rest Falls Away was genius. In general, I think they’re a waste of space though. I think the best way to build momentum for a book is by interacting with readers, mostly by blogging. I find that’s the way to get me excited about a book or series.

    That being said, I do think the idea of building momentum within the publishing house is an interesting one though. I’d never even considered that.

    Question: Do Nora’s commercials count as trailers? I think of them more as an add for Nora, rather than an add for the book itself.

    I look at the trailers as more about a specific book than the author themselves. The one book trailer that sticks out in my memory was for a Christine Feehan book, I can’t remember which one, but all I could think was that the actor portraying the hero was no where near good looking enough. That, and the cheese factor was very high for me. It was then that I wondered why do it.

    Also, aren’t most of us here already established romance readers? I’d love to know what someone who doesn’t really read romance thinks. They might have a different opinion.

  10. 10

    The first time I saw one, I thought I thought it was an interesting idea and I did enjoy it. But I’m a reader, so I like anything to do with books. Whether or not, a trailer would induce a non-reader to buy a book is questionable. And where would you advertise them other than the writer or publisher’s site?

    I’ve watched trailers on the Harper Collins site and I have enjoyed them and made a mental note of a few but haven’t bought the book yet.

    I do think they have to be interesting in order to work. Cheese isn’t go to do it for me.

  11. 11
    Desertwillow says:

    I used to watch the trailers on Christine Feehan’s website. I think Susan Squire (regency vampires, right?) did some. CF’s early ones were kind of cheesy IMHO but they might have improved. SS’s were very elegant. But I can’t honestly say the trailers impact my book buying. Kind of fun though.

  12. 12
    SamG says:

    I’ve only ever watched trailers when I was visiting an author site anyway.  I have never gone to look for one.  I also haven’t bought a book because of a trailer. I was on her site because I like her, so her books are an auto buy anyway.

    That being said, my reaction is pretty much lukewarm.

  13. 13
    Alison Kent says:

    I have definitely purchased books because of trailers – the most notable being Toni McGee Causey’s.  I didn’ care for the cover of the book, so would have passed it by, but the trailer?  Oh yeah.  Convinced me immediately that if I liked the writing, the story was going to be a hoot.

    Michael Connelly had a great live action for ECHO PARK.  Chris Marie Green’s for her Vampire Babylon series was awesome.  I would have bought both books anyway, but those trailers were great advertisements.

  14. 14
    Barb Ferrer says:

    I decided to go with a trailer, despite being incredibly AGAINST them for the longest time, for the exposure they would give me with my target audience (or one of them, at least).

    I’m not sure, yet, how well it’s working, but I do know that the major bookstores are looking more and more for trailers to include in their online/email newsletters, FWIW.

    And my RITA dress was navy blue and black.  I think it worked rather well.  ;-)

  15. 15
    Marta Acosta says:

    I’m trying to figure out if book trailers are really worth the effort and money.  But after watching some trailers that stunk up the joint, I decided to have a contest that would show that people could be creative when making trailers.

    The Smart Bitches are two of the judges of my Best & Worst Book Trailer of a Classic Novel Contest.  First prize, Adobe’s Creative Design Suite 3 Pro.  It’s worth $1800 and if you don’t want it, enter and win it for the SBs.

    For details, go to my blog, http://www.martaacosta.blogspot.com

  16. 16
    anonymous reader says:

    I agree with most on here…that a good blurb or good first page will get me reading more than a book trailer. However, my biggest ‘huh?’ moment with book trailers is why?  Why does a printed item need a visual advertisement beyond its cover? A book is about reading…imagining for yourself. Some book trailers just give you images, but I’ve seen some that use models or actors to portray parts…and it just ruins the idea of creating the character I see in my head.

    Plus, I’m sorry, but the first thing I do is compare a book trailer to the very slick, very well done movie trailers for something that *is* visual entertainment and on which Hollywood spends a lot more than a few thousand dollars.

    I think authors believe them to really help sales or get their name out there, when I think that $1000 or $2000 would be better spent on a big ad in romantic times or internet ads, like here on the Smart Bitches site. If they were so good at increasing sales, wouldn’t the bigger authors be doing them?

    Just my two cents.

  17. 17
    Qadesh says:

    The manuscript is all author, then there’s a whole mess of people involved in developing the final product, but the trailer, that’s back to the author and her “vision” for lack of a better term.

    Exactly SB Sarah, I can see it as a means by which an author can take control of part of the marketing of a book.  And that is especially true if she is putting out the moolah for it’s production.  It might be pricey, but some might also find it empowering.

    I know some have questioned if they work.  I can tell you in the case of Lara Adrian’s, the website address for it was passed around some of the readers groups at Yahoo.  A lot of these are groups that usually are geared for a particular author or subgenre.  So if you get one person to view the trailer and think it looks good, then they might post a message to their group/s saying check this out it’s by a “new” author.  You now have people who might not be familiar with the author viewing a trailer for a book or series they might not have even been aware of.  If they are then curious and pick up the book and like it, they talk it up even more.  If you can get them into the right hands they can work for you even if they are in a different medium than the written word.  I wouldn’t discount them entirely.

  18. 18
    Wry Hag says:

    Boy, I don’t know.  I watched some of the COS examples and, visually and aurally captivating as they were, they sure as hell didn’t hook my interest in the books themselves.  Trailers only fascinate me because of what they are—“trailer art”—not because of the books they’re pitching. 

    Gimme good old-fashioned blurbs and excerpts, baby!  And maybe some recommendations that are articulately rendered.  The bottom line for me is always this: If I don’t like the way a writer writes, I’m not going to bother reading her/his books.  No adequate grasp of the storyline combined with no sample of the prose = no sale.

  19. 19
    fiveandfour says:

    I’m on the fence on the concept and about whether it would influence me in a positive or negative way to purchase or read a book.  On the one hand I hate being “sold to” and since books are one of the last forms of entertainment where I don’t feel sold to 24/7 (as opposed to, say, movies) it’s a little painful to see books go down that marketing path.  On the other, it could be a way to quickly grab my attention on a book I might otherwise not notice or ignore.

    But what I see happening is that soon we’ll be walking into Borders or Barnes & Noble (or your big box of choice) and see flat screen tvs all over the place playing trailers in the same way that you see trailers playing non-stop at a movie house or video store.  Because if these things are going to be truly effective, that’s where they need to be, right?

    Frankly, that thought scares me quite a lot. 

    When it does come, I think we’ll likely also see the same thing happening with book trailers as we see for other forms of entertainment: the “big” names or books will get the guaranteed slots in the rotation and the nice budgets and the catchy productions.  Meanwhile,  the smaller names or independent publishers will be priced out of the market and end up hanging out on the internet just as they are now.

  20. 20
    C.M. says:

    I suppose book trailers aren’t really amazingly geared towards reeling in the already-established community of readers.

    I can see the potential, however, of a viral trailer getting an author’s name out there. The more people know about you, the better. Attracting the new audience in the new generations is critical.

    Ideas for a viral trailer? Well, as previously stated, it has to feel not like an ad. It could be a puzzle, or a tease—don’t put actors in there. Something that gets you excited about the concept of the book. Excerpts read aloud? Maybe a little controversy attached. Something that gets people talking saying ‘have you seen the book trailer of *insert title/author here*? Are they for real?’

  21. 21
    Serena says:

    I’m with those who aren’t very excited about trailers.  The only ones I’ve seen, on Christine Feehan’s website, are all for books I’ve read.  I’m usually snickering about 15 seconds, with the distinct feeling someone’s waving a whole block of Velveeta around. 

    Maybe my adverse reaction is so strong, because I’ve already read the books, and my imagination never matches with the actors cast.  The trailers are usually so vague, that even having read the books, it’s difficult to get an accurate sense of what the book is about.

    I’m all for blurbs, teasers and good cover art.

  22. 22
    Alison Kent says:

    Something that gets people talking saying ‘have you seen the book trailer of *insert title/author here*?

    My favorite to fall into this category is the one for HIDE by Lisa Gardner.

  23. 23
    Ann Bruce says:

    Just say NO to book trailers.  Movie trailers, yes.  Book trailers, no.

    Book trailers do not do anything for me.  In fact, I’ve found myself steering away from books because of them and the corniness!!  Oh, the cheese.  The ones I saw made me think the romance genre just took several leaps back.

    You want part of my $2000 annual budget for books?  Good blurb, good excerpt.  That’s it.  I’m pretty easy.

  24. 24
    megalith says:

    Marta, I can only find four trailers for your contest on YouTube. Are there more, or is that all you’ve gotten so far? (I searched under “MA contest”.)

    As far as book trailers in general, I think the ones that interest me stick to telling the premise of the book in a simple but interesting way. But, as someone who reads a lot already, even a well-written review or a brief video interview with the author would have kept my interest more than the few trailers I’ve seen, and I still like an excerpt best. Reading a sample of the author’s writing is what will make me actually look for a book next time I’m in the bookstore.

  25. 25
    Jami Alden says:

    I don’t really pay attention to book trailers – I waste so much time on the net already, I’ve avoided most of them. And since I can barely manage to keep my web page up to date for f’s sake, I can’t imagine doing a book trailer.  Here’s where I can see it being valuable:  imagine if Wal Mart, Target, B&N and Borders had big flat screen monitors and you or your publisher could buy advertising time to have your trailer running on a TV right next to the shelf that has your book.  Then I might consider doing one.

  26. 26
    Angela says:

    I’ll look at them if I have time on my hands but for the most part, if I’m on an author’s website, it’s because I’m already a fan. If I don’t know who they are, I’m looking for excerpts. And even if I’ve heard buzz, looking at a trailer doesn’t really give me a feel for the book and the author’s voice. So I guess I’m saying they’re a bust for me.

    On the Lara Adrian note, would she have gotten as much buzz had the trailer been for her medievals(as written under Tina St. John)? The fact that she’s a paranormal author and her publisher had a good amount of print ads out there brings a whole ‘nother angle to the WOM she received from her book trailer.

  27. 27
    darlynne says:

    I’d never even heard of book trailers, but after viewing those being discussed here, my vote is definitely for the less-is-more approach for Ms. Gleason’s and Ms. Kessler’s books, if one is going to have them at all. Although the premise of Bobbie Faye’s Very Bad Day intrigued me (yay blurbs!), the live action video totally threw me out of the mood. I felt as though I were watching The Dukes of Hazzard or My Name is Earl. Since one of the joys of reading is MY vision of the world the author created, a trailer such as this runs the risk of preventing me from buying the book at all.

  28. 28
    Marta Acosta says:

    Megalith said, “Marta, I can only find four trailers for your contest on YouTube. Are there more, or is that all you’ve gotten so far? (I searched under “MA contest”.)”

    I know.  Isn’t it tragic?  Pretty much anyone who enters will win a prize. 

    Like so many things (jet packs, a Scott Baio reality show, the Macarena), it seemed like a good idea at the time.

  29. 29
    iffygenia says:

    I must not be the target audience.  I tried, but I still don’t get it.  In the 60 seconds I spent watching a trailer done at someone else’s pace and conveying very little about the book, I could have read a review or an excerpt on the author’s website.  Because the book ultimately involves reading, not watching, those are much more valuable to me.

    I watched the 3 trailers you highlighted.  The live-action one turned me right off.  The other two conveyed atmosphere (though I couldn’t read most of the text in Gleason’s).  But neither one connects in my mind to buying a book.

    However, C.M. may have a point:

    I suppose book trailers aren’t really amazingly geared towards reeling in the already-established community of readers.

    I can see the potential, however, of a viral trailer getting an author’s name out there. The more people know about you, the better. Attracting the new audience in the new generations is critical.

  30. 30
    Qadesh says:

    On the Lara Adrian note, would she have gotten as much buzz had the trailer been for her medievals(as written under Tina St. John)? The fact that she’s a paranormal author and her publisher had a good amount of print ads out there brings a whole ‘nother angle to the WOM she received from her book trailer.

    Angela, I really don’t know.  But I know in my case I wasn’t aware of her at all, under any name.  Did her trailer by itself cause me to buy her books?  Nope.  It just put her on my radar.  Some people whose taste runs similar to mine read her books and suggested I pick them up.  I don’t remember seeing any of the ads, but I do know that Border’s had a big push on for her.  She had pretty prominent placement in the store.  But that alone doesn’t mean I will pick up the book.  I read so much, and have so many authors I follow that it is hard for me to ad new ones to the mix. 

    Do trailers themselves cause readers to buy a book?  No, IMO not.  However, if they are done well and are catchy it is possible that they might get a potential reader to go check out an author’s website and that in turn can lead them to read an excerpt and maybe get interested in purchasing a book.  It can at least cause you to have a ‘hmm’ moment when you run across the spine of the book on the shelf, because unlike the hundreds of other authors, you have heard of that one.  Then the author can get the chance to get the sale if the writing appeals. 

    Now, that being said I’ve found most trailers are so bad that they wouldn’t interest me in picking up the book and that is for books I’ve already purchased.  I think a bad trailer could do more harm than good.  But for a new series or new author who has several books coming out in a short space of time, in that case I can see where the cost might be worth it.  However, I don’t think they can replace the excerpt.  Those will always be more a better gage of whether you like an author or not.  But, I do think trailers can get an author some attention that they might not otherwise get.  And that is the name of the game isn’t it?

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