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Rachel Kramer Bussel

Rachel Kramer Bussel

Posted: November 9, 2009 02:20 PM

Book Trailer 101

What's Your Reaction:

Last month, in the name of book promotion, I hopped in the shower, made out in the street, drank from a water fountain in Central Park, gyrated behind a curtain and flashed my underwear. What for? All to promote my latest anthology Peep Show: Erotic Tales of Voyeurs and Exhibitionists--specifically, for the book trailer, shot in New York by a very talented friend of mine who's directed my previous trailers. I had the good fortune of being granted the use of a song by one of my favorite bands, Ida, one that fits perfectly with the theme of the trailer, and since it's an anthology, I had a range of seductive stories to use for voiceovers (an added bonus: the book's contributors blogged about the trailer and were excited to be included). For someone with a limited budget, little time or money to travel, in a niche genre like erotica, a book trailer is the perfect way to start spreading the word while expanding on the theme of my book--and having a little fun in the process!

One of my favorite trailers happens to be for one of my favorite books, Samara O'Shea's Note to Self: On Keeping a Journal and Other Dangerous Pursuits. In it, she talks about her own path to journaling, and offers not just an anecdote of a journal mishap--her boyfriend read her journal and found out she was cheating--but a comedy clip by said (now-ex)boyfriend, Jesse Joyce, talking about the incident!

That's one of the great things about book trailers: they can be whatever you want them to be. Recently launched book trailers include ones for Wish You Were Dead by Todd Strasser, featuring ominous music as it sets up the scene of a popular teenage girl who's disappeared and Shoptimism, which has author Lee Eisenberg talking about his book. Stephen King's newtrailer for Under the Dome has racked up over 10,000 hits in a week. Jonathan Safran Foer recruited his grandmother to costar in his Eating Animals book trailer. When a sound bite for a memoir simply isn't enough, sometimes authors simply talk to the camera and explain a bit about who they are, such as with Elna Baker's The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance (watch the trailer to find out what the dance is). Melissa Hart shares the recipe for "Annie's Special Chili" from her memoir Gringa: A Contradictory Childhood in this trailer.

Author Wendy Nelson Tokunaga, who's made book trailers for her novels Midori by Moonlight and the forthcoming Love in Translation, finds the process itself rewarding, "and not just part of a promotional arsenal." This is important as well, because if it's just another "thing to do," I imagine that will come across, especially in a video you yourself are making. Adds Tokunaga, "I love the revision process in writing and I found that storyboarding a book trailer, then editing pieces of video and still photos, and selecting the right music to be a very satisfying experience. It's just an extra bonus if the videos end up being effective marketing tools as well."

For Elissa Stein, author of recent nonfiction book Flow: A Cultural History of Menstruation, which she blogged that she hopes will be her "breakout book," there isn't just a single trailer, but several short (around 30 seconds) retro-inspired films that ask questions like "Is a bear more likely to attack a woman when she has her period?" and "Other than shag carpets, what else did women vacuum in the 1970s?" One launches as soon as you visit her book's official site, www.flowthebook.com. Stein created all the videos herself with keynote and garageband instruments, which she said required a steep learning curve. "Flow is filled with endlessly fascinating facts. I want the films to make people stop and think--the goal is educational and shocking, with a twist of kitsch."

And just as theaters are now showing movie trailers for films that aren't out until July (which I think is a bit excessive), authors aren't waiting until their books are out to start the buzz. Erin Bried, author of the December release How to Sew a Button: And Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew, has posted videos such as "How to Fold a Fitted Sheet," "How to Make a Vodka Gimlet," and the most popular thus far with over 3,000 views, "How to Tie a Necktie."

"My book really lends itself to video tutorials, and I plan to be posting more and more of them, on my website (howtosewabutton.com), YouTube, and Facebook. Of the 5 videos I've posted so far, tying a tie is by far the most watched. If I had to guess, I'd say it has gotten attention because it's both useful and funny," sad Bried. "I think people want to know more about authors. Readers feel a greater personal connection to you if they know a little bit more about who you are before they buy your book. So I let my personality come through in the videos." As for the impact on sales, she said to check back with her in March.

Chris Pitzer, publisher of AdHouse Books, doesn't think book trailers are imperative for authors, but "I do think they bring another dimenston to marketing. Anything that gets the consumer excited about a title has to be good." To that end, they've just debuted their first book trailer for graphic novel Afrodisiac by Brian Maruca and Jim Rugg, a genre Pitzer says is "ideal" for book trailers since "it's a visual medium. The trailer shows a fair amount of preview art for the book, while also working to capture the essence of what the book is about."

Author A.R. Silvererberry sought out M2 Productions, whose work, he says, "blew me away. They were dramatic, emotionally driven little gems that made me want to read the books on the spot." He also participated in the process, providing a synopsis, the first chapter, and description of his fantasy world of Aerdem in his YA novel Wyndano's Cloak. While the book won't be out until March, the trailer just launched on his website (and YouTube). "Prepublication interest can help build a following for a book. In particular, a book trailer stimulates anticipation," says Silverberry." Because people share trailers via email and social networking sites, word can spread fast. I was amazed that my trailer got more than eighty views in less than eight hours. In a little over a week, the video has been watched across the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, and Venezuela."

I too appreciate the speed at which trailers can travel. The author has to invest time and, in some cases, cash up front, but after that, the trailer can be posted and linked to with ease by anyone. The advantage book trailers have, for one thing, is that they're easy to get people to click on. You're not asking someone to buy something, just to take a peek. All you're asking is a few minutes (or seconds, in some cases), of their time. I think of book trailers as a way to introduce not just a specific book, but myself as an author. Someone may not buy my book, but they will see me, hear my voice, and get a sense of the kind of work I create. For instance, my first trailer, for my anthology Spanked: Red-Cheeked Erotica, has been viewed over 162,000 in the little over a year since it was posted, but the book's sales to date are 7,000 (which in the indie erotica world is considered good). Do I think the trailer helped boost sales? Yes, but even more importantly, I'm sure it was viewed by people randomly searching on YouTube, who'd never heard of me, and if it inspired any of them to check out my work, then the trailer has done its job.

Book trailers are a perfect way to introduce people who may never come across your book in a bookstore (or may not even frequent bookstores), and as you can see, there are a range of ways to go about making one, from DIY to production companies and straight-up speeches to mini movies.

 

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