12/05/2012 10:23 am ET Updated Feb 04, 2013

Are Book Trailers a Must?

I've always been a film fanatic. When I'm not writing, I clear my head with celluloid fantasy. So when my debut novel Diary of a Sex Addict came out in 2011 and a PR pal insisted on a must-do book trailer, I signed on with enthusiasm. I've written (and optioned, though they were not produced) a few film scripts, so I roughed out a short and my uber-talented buddy BlakeD got footage in a day. One snag we faced was shooting an explicit nude sex scene, so we opted for adult film stars instead of serious "no nudity!" NY actors. It turned out to be a great move. The film stars, Brandon Hawk and Gio Dell were two of the sweetest, most professional actors I've encountered. And they brought their own followers, many of whom have now read the book (I saved the fan letter I got from one porn star).

What I found most interesting, however, was that while I was still waiting on the book's first review, the short film had received 2,000 hits on Vimeo and YouTube. And ultimately, several editors who did not have time to read the book, watched the trailer, which snagged their interest, and they found time to read the book, and write about it.

So is a trailer a must these days? I'd say it sure as hell doesn't hurt.

For this post, I decided to hunt around online for other trailers for books. After seeing a fan-created trailer for Fifty Shades of Gray, a few dismal homemade book trailers and a few cute bits, I tumbled across the trailer for Joshua Kornreich's novel The Boy Who Killed Caterpillar. Artfully done, beautifully shot and truly intriguing. I reached out to the author to get his thoughts on whether the trailer had helped sell books, and what lead him to create it. Kornreich told me that Red 14 Films, an L.A.-based studio headed by a Adam Cushman, approached him about doing a trailer for The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars after he read the novel, 'dug it' and saw the cinematic qualities of its imagery.

So why a trailer?

I guess it was to generate some "buzz," as they call it, for a book that was way too under the ground the first time it was released to be even described as underground. The trailer came out in late September of 2012, almost exactly five years after the 2007 release of the original paperback version from Marick Press. But this trailer that we did, it was geared more toward building up some pre-sale buzz for the e-book reprint of The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars that will be released by Dzanc Books sometime in the imminent future.

Could the short evolve into a feature?

Beyond sales- and marketing-related objectives, I think I viewed this little project, in some ways, as a medium to test out a very short cinematic treatment of my work. I mean, for every comment about the book's unique lingual style, I probably get a comment about its evocative visceral qualities as well. A lot of readers have asked me if I ever would consider making this book into a full-fledged film, so perhaps this project was sort of a semi-, or preliminary, response to those inquiries.

How did you use the trailer?

Red 14 handled the distribution of the trailer as well as the production of it. So, I believe they put it on all the popular general video sites, such as YouTube, Vimeo and DailyMotion, and also on some of the more literary-friendly social media sites, such as GoodReads. I think both Red 14 and the Deka Brothers have also showcased the trailer on various video and book trailer forums as well. Also, the trailer has been uploaded onto a Facebook fan page and I'm sure any subsequent trailers or other video related to the book will be posted there in the future.

In the end, is it worth the investment? Will a trailer sell books?

I'm not exactly sure how many books I've sold recently that are related to the distribution of the trailer or a link to the trailer. I think the jury is still out, in my case, in terms of how many units will sell from this form of promotion, mainly because the e-book that it's been made to promote is not available for sale yet -- thus, the follow-on trailer to come. As a promotion and marketing tool, a trailer is definitely a very expensive option. I'm not sure if it should be the main thrust of a marketing plan. A main thrust of a marketing plan should be to write a good book and to keep on writing good books, and, in so doing, getting others to talk about you and your work.