Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Trailer Park

Interesting article in today's Wall Street Journal about a major publisher launching a channel to showcase videos and trailers for their books. While book videos are diversifying by the day, from interviews to demonstrations to character profiles, I want to focus on the popular kid in school: the book trailer.

Book trailers are a fairly recent development--a promotional tool that's really only caught fire over the last 2-3 years. The most successful example I can think of, in regards to actually selling the book it was promoting, is the VidLit Little, Brown commissioned for YIDDISH WITH DICK AND JANE. This was one of the very first "book trailers," and it caught on like wildfire. Despite working in the industry, I was still forwarded this trailer by half a dozen people. It was funny, pithy, and made you want to buy the book. YWDAJ sold like crazy, and a new promotional tool was in play. Soon VidLits were popping up everywhere (two books I edited had VidLits produced). They were even used for books that didn't seem quite right for the medium...

Now? Tons of authors and publishers have trailers or videos to promote their books. They run from Vidlits to flash videos to full on ensemble mini-movies like the one Michael Connelly created for ECHO PARK. I like the idea of book trailers, but I have to say the execution is still pretty hit or miss.

Here's the thing: Most book trailers are made on very small budgets, using stock photography, stock music, or enlisting 'd' level actors. It'll come as no shock then that a lot of book trailers give off the impression of a 'b' movie. A little cheesy, tenuously straddling the line between high drama and unintentional comedy. Some of them are done quite well (take the BROTHER ODD videos that were produced for Dean Koontz's series), and you can tell money and inspiration were put into them.

I created a teaser for THE MARK, but I've been hesitant when deciding what to follow it up with. I'm hardly a film major, and I didn't want to create another trailer consisting of random photos and eerie music. Fortunately the band Waterproof Blonde gave me permission to use one of their songs in my video, so instead of howling wind and random screams I had an actual pop song that, I think, fits well and gives off more of a cinematic feel. My teaser is far from perfect. In fact, it's all text. Like most authors, I used merely what I had at my disposal. And the result, while perhaps unique, certainly won't create the kind of buzz a phenomenal movie trailer will.

Book trailers are supposed to give off a "movie-ish" vibe, but I guarantee that most book trailers, if they aired before "Spider-Man 3," would be laughed off screen. It's not really the fault of the authors or whoever ponies up the dough, they're simply doing their best with limited resources. When you spend $1,000 on a movie, it's not going to have the production values traditional moviegoers are used to. And I wonder if this could do more harm than good.

So here's my question: since the entire point of a book trailer is to create a cinematic experience for a book, are we doing the books a disservice by creating C+ cinema? Again, there are many book trailers that are unique, inspired, and far from cheesy. But from the trailers I've watched(and I've watched a lot), these are the exception to the rule.

So while this book channel is certainly a step in the right direction, part of me wishes we'd perfect this form of promotion before blanketing the earth with it. Do we really want our books to have the "cinematic feel" of a Tori Spelling MOTW?


Blogger EBO said...

I actually haven’t seen one of these book trailers yet, but the concept sounds interesting.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Sheila said...

Book Trailers have been around before VidLits. And an online book tv channel was conceived a year ago and finally went live this year.

The book trailer for Absolute Fear did indeed play before SpiderMan 3 in movie theaters, so I thought your comment was very ironic. How did it do? It actually did very well! Thank you!
Here's the trailer-

In 2002, when COS Productions did the first book trailer, no one thought it would amount to anything. "Snubbed" in NYC, it wasn't until Borders Group gave it a try and had some surprising results, did people start to take notice.
Now they play on TV, in movie theaters and online and the public loves them.

Sure, some of them were cheesy in the beginning. What do you expect for $1000? Now we're doing HD and Film, winning awards and being contacted by publishers, media and booksellers.

Now, it's all about the distribution. Where do you put them to make them the most effective?

Book Trailers are a wonderful way to reach out to potential new readers. It's a great way for books to compete for the entertainment dollar. And, they'll get better as budgets do.

I'm thrilled to see so many people blogging about Book Trailers. The concept has come a long way since 2002. I hope it helps remind people just how entertaining books are.

Sheila Clover English
CEO, Circle of Seven Productions

2:44 AM  

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