Saturday, April 25, 2009

Book Trailers

Last month Janet Koch, of Deepwater Designs talked about website design. Today she’s back to discuss book trailers.

PDD: You've made several book trailers for different authors—including me. How are writers using book trailers?

JK: Trailers are embedded into author websites. They’re sent as links to everyone on an author’s emailing list. The links are posted on listservs. They’re burned onto DVDs and sent to Moms, Dads, grandparents, and probably bookstores and newspapers. Although I haven’t heard, I suppose authors are showing them to people at book signings on laptops and putting them on bigger screens at large presentations.

Do trailers sell books? Haven’t the foggiest. I’m not sure anyone knows. But going with the theory that anything that gets your name out there is good, having a book trailer can only be a benefit. Plus they’re fun!

PDD: How similar is a book trailer to a movie trailer?

JK: Depends on the trailer. I’ve seen book trailers that are simple voice-overs over still photos. I’ve seen others that are indistinguishable from the Hollywood version. The simple ones can be just as powerful as the fancy ones – money spent isn’t necessarily what makes a trailer successful.

But the point of both book and movie trailers is the same: get consumers to spend money.

PDD: Can you picture book trailers being mixed in with movie trailers at the multiplex at some future point? (Or maybe a trailer for the movie and then the book based on it?)

JK: Nah. Not enough return on investment. I’d guess everyone in the country goes to a movie or three a year and is willing to pay around $10 a head for the privilege. Unfortunately, they don’t all buy books.

PDD: What goes into the making of a book trailer? How do you get started? Does the author come to you with a concept or do you read the book and pitch ideas?

JK: I can’t tell you how anyone else makes a book trailer, but here’s what I do:

1) Read the book.
2) Take copious notes while reading.
3) Finish the book. Think.
4) Think some more.

What I’m thinking about is how to communicate the “feel” of the book. The theme in emotional terms. What makes a reader keep turning the pages. Then I have to figure out how to translate that feel into images, music, and a few lines of text.

Sometimes ideas come easy, sometimes I have to work at it. Sometimes the author has ideas about what she wants to see, sometimes not. Like so much else in the book business, it depends.

Once the original concept is agreed upon, I start looking for the right music. Don’t know why I have to start this way -- maybe it’s all those years of piano and violin lessons -- but that’s how I get going.

At this point I’ve also begun collecting still images I might want to use. Most of them won’t end up in the final product, but having a gallery of images to choose from helps with ideas.

Then I fire up my computer and start the movie-making program. The music is popped in, then I start playing. In go some images. In goes some text that describes images I haven’t yet finalized. In goes a book cover. Add text. Decide that text is all wrong. Delete. Add new text. Slide a photo over. Add photo movement. Rinse and repeat.

If there’s going to be video or original photographs, I don’t do that until the ideas are set in stone. (Video and photography is time-consuming in all sorts of ways.) There are book trailer producers who hire actors and have scripts and expensive lighting and really expensive cameras ... but I do what I can with my low-end camcorder.

Toward the end there’s a lot of tweaking and fine-tuning. When both the author and I are happy, I upload the trailer to YouTube. Done!

PDD: How is a book trailer different from a print advertisement for a book?

JK: Interesting question. Let me think...while a print advertisement is limited to text and images, a trailer can include print, voice-overs, sounds effects, music, still photos, funky graphics, video of settings, video of people, etc. (Okay, duh.) There’s lots of room for creativity with book trailers, and there’s lots of room for dollars to be spent.

I think the big advantage of book trailers over print advertisements is the size of the potential audience. Print ads, whether bookmarks or postcards or newspaper placements, are handed out or sent individually. Book trailers are instantly available worldwide, and if you’re lucky enough to have your trailer link go viral, millions will click that little “play” button.

But as with most advertising, the point of a book trailer is to entice a consumer to the point of purchase. Can a multi-media presentation translate into sales for a printed product? Or is it primarily a way to build name recognition? Ask me in another few years and I might have an answer for you.

PDD: What are your thoughts on commercials for books? Is that something you're interested in doing?

JK: If there were a cable channel that was All Books All The Time, I could see a point to book commercials. But even then a quality production would be prohibitively expensive for almost all authors.

Me? Do television commercials? Only if I get a megaphone and a director’s chair with my name on the back.


Kenna Coltman said...

Great post - and I have to admit - and 'All Book All the Time' channel sounds wonderful!

Personally, I spend far more on books per year than I do on movies, and more time on the internet. I've enjoyed the book trailers I've seen that you've done, Janet.


Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Readers may notice that Janet described doing all the fun parts: picking the music, taking the pictures, deciding how to make them tell a story, etc. In the trailer she's doing for me, I wanted that fun for myself--but Janet's role is still enormous. Janet, how would you describe what you've done for me? Brilliant editing? or something more? I'm so happy I decided to go to you rather than the alternative, which was to get some kind of video-making program and try to limp my way up the learning curve.

Deb Baker said...

Janet, I love your work! Whatever you are doing, keep doing it.

Sandra Parshall said...

James Patterson does TV commercials for his books -- and as a former head of an ad agency, he prefers to do them himself. You'd think that by this point he wouldn't have to advertise.

Darlene Ryan said...

Liz, I call what Janet does, walking around inside an author's head.

And btw, we all want you to post a link to your trailer when Janet is finished so we can see it.

Elizabeth Zelvin said...

Don't worry, Darlene, I will want EVERYBODY to see this trailer. Janet works fast, but it may be a while before we release it--closer to when the book is available. If I can stand waiting. :) Then I can only hope it'll go viral--like the video of Susan Boyle singing.

Janet Koch said...

Thanks for all the comments, everyone. (I was out of town all weekend helping my parents with spring clean-up chores and came home to a computer with non-functioning email. Ahk!!)

Liz, I'd say I'm doing production for your trailer. That sounds a little grand, but it's about as close as I can come.

James Patterson does TV commercials? Good heavens. You'd think...well, never mind. Hard to say he's doing anything wrong considering the royalties he must be raking in.