Think writing a query letter is hard? Or the synopsis for a book that you hope to have published? Or the copy for the inside flap of the book? Welcome to the next task in presenting your book to the world: the video book trailer. A few years ago, this task didn't even exist. But given the shift to online promotion, social media stoking, and YouTube domination of the world, visually stimulating book trailers now play a key role in drawing attention to the written word.
How to present a book with thousands of words worth of ideas and people and places within the space of a one- to three-minute video? Faced with the task, I was stumped. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair is a memoir about my year of magical reading in which I discovered the healing, even transformational, powers of books. Tolstoy and the Purple Chair covers themes ranging from sorrow and loss to family and comfort, to remembrance and hope; it spans the time from my first visit to a bookmobile at age three across the decades to years later when I read a book a day, every day, for one year; and it includes real-life characters (family and friends) and the wonderful (or awful) characters I met in books. How could I represent all those ideas, times, places, and people within a short video clip?
I began shuffling through YouTube book trailers, looking for what worked and what didn't. Humor definitely works, as in the marvelously clever video, Love in the Time of Amazon by writers Midge Raymond and John Yunker. But although my book definitely has moments of humor, a funny take wasn't right for me.
Fear works for Stephen King, of course, as his very short and bloody trailer for Duma Key
demonstrates. But again, as effective a motivational force as fear is, it was not the emotion I was looking for in presenting my book.
Gretchen Rubin's trailer for The Happiness Project is upbeat and motivating, relying on perky words of brightly-colored advice popping up across a black screen. I loved it, but for my own trailer, I wanted images, with just a few words as compliment to the visual impact.
So I finally just pawed through four-plus decades of pictures, from Kodak instamatic three-by-fives to iPhone four-by-sixes, and picked the ones that tell the story of my family, our loss, and how books helped all of us rediscover joy. I put them to the music of my youngest son's voice, and voila: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, the video book trailer.
What comes next? Motivated by the visual, I hope to draw readers to the written word. Because pictures may tell a thousand words, but books tell a thousand stories, and one of those stories is mine.
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