This month I've been contacted by new fans from India, Los Angeles and Brazil, all inquiring about my novel Diary of a Sex Addict. They found me, not as the result of a stellar review (Edge had a few good things to say), but because they caught my book trailer on Vimeo.
That teaser, created more as an afterthought during the novel's launch, got 13,000 hits in the first year with literally no promo, and continues to draw attention. But can that attention actually translate to book sales?
While the importance of book trailers as a way to get people to buy a book is up for debate, the tide seems to be moving toward these shorts as an integral part of the marketing mix. The concept harks back to the MTV music videos of the 1980s. While at first simplistic, they evolved into major productions that could boost a song's chances at gold. At one point, the video became not an option, but a necessity.
Which makes me wonder: will there be a time when a hot book trailer and easy link to an e-book leads to a mega sales boost? Also, can emerging writers use a trailer to land an agent? Having just completed my novel Three Brothers, I'm pitching it to agents, and wondering if a trailer could help a query.
According to Adam Cushman of Red14Films (which produces "very short art-house films that accompany a book, serving as a cinematic back-cover synopsis"), the trailer he did for Deborah Henry's novel The Whipping Club was indeed helpful in her finding an agent.
Cushman's passion for literary shorts most recently lead to his launching a Kickstarter (see video at top of story) to produce four shorts for authors Matt Bell (Soho Press), Monica Drake (Crown Publishing), Jason Ockert (Dzanc Books), and Scott Dominic Carpenter (MG Press).
Kickstarter campaign member Carpenter is a champion of the book trailer, having found success with the short for his novel Theory of Remainders.
"Theory of Remainders benefited from an outstanding trailer attracting over 100,000 viewings. As the youtube comments show, this unsettling minute of video drew them to learn more about the book. That short also appeared in The Rumpus's "Fantastic Books Trailers" article".
Also part of the Kickstarter, Ockert hopes a trailer will draw attention to his Neighbors of Nothing, a collection of short stories which won the Dzanc Short Story Collection Contest and will come out in November:
One of the best things about a literary short film is its ability to conjure a tone and establish a mood. Feelings of futility, hopefulness, and humor can be captured instantaneously with the perfect visual whereas it can take many pages to get right in a book. The idea is to invite the viewer into the visual world of the film and then encourage that person to become a reader of the text.
According to Cushman, outstanding trailers for books could indeed "reignite" interest in not just a particular book, but in reading overall.
There was a time, before I was around, where it was common to have a poster of Camus or Kerouac on your bedroom wall. Writers used to be rock stars. A Cinematic Book Trailer makes people excited about an author, yes, and does a great job of celebrating authors and the books they've written. But there's something larger at work here. There's a chance to reignite an interest in books in general. It's why I think "trailer" is ultimately the wrong word. They' shouldn't merely "trail." Why not have these films to advertise older books as well? Even the classics? The success of the Kindle ought to be a sign that people still love to read. We just need to be innovative and positive in the way we compel them to do that.
Blake of Blake Drummond Films, the creative energy behind my book trailer for Diary of a Sex Addict believes shorts are definitely vital and here to stay.
I think the most amazing part of creating the book trailer for Diary of a Sex Addict was the direct exposure I had as a burgeoning filmmaker to the author and his text - the creative process from paper to screen is often rife with limitations and politics these days - but I was able to work closely with Scott to shape his vision into a digestible, "new-media friendly" piece. We spend SO much time in front of our laptops and on our phones these days - much of what I read is what's trending on my social media feeds - and video is often the most easily accessible because of its ability to "cut to the chase." So a book trailer is naturally the next step in novel marketing evolution. In the future, I see much more mixed media, what with e-books putting libraries and book stores out to pasture - embedded video, images, clickable interactive games; all while you are reading; will give birth to a new form of entertainment yet to be discovered - and the greatest part - it's a new frontier for artists of every milieu.
A side note: while the popular new trailer for William Faulkner's classic novel As I Lay Dying promotes the James Franco film out in November, it is drawing fresh attention to a literary icon. Franco's next project: Cormac McCarthy's Child of God.
"We live in an age where media success is click-driven," said Cushman. " Where we're asking people to share content. So that's what we're trying to do. To make Cinematic Book Trailers stand alone art pieces that also spread the idea of a book and the book's author in a visually and emotionally pleasing way. The regular old crappy book trailer is dead. People (publishers, writers, readers) think they're a joke. And they're correct. Authors spend years of their lives and enormous energy writing their books. Why not present the book trailer with as much care. At the very least you're giving back to your fans. At best, you're selling copies and building your fan base. You might even be attracting movie producers."