Fiona is green; Laura is blue.
Today we're looking at book trailers...those short, short videos that do for books what movie trailers do for movies. So Laura, have you thought about book trailers at all?
My first thought was that they really only apply to novelists, because the trailers themselves seem to appeal just to teens/adults. But...I've been rethinking that thought! If they appeal to adults, and as picture book/children's writers, adults are mostly the people who buy our books to give to/share with kids, then why not try a trailer to appeal to those adults?
Excellent point. And a quick gander through YouTube bears that out. I searched picture book trailer and children's book trailer and went through the Children's Book Circle. Indeed, trailers do run the gamut--from very young picture books to edgy YA...including a little poetry and nonfiction! Hurray for poetry and nonfiction! (apparently we have our own cheering section ;^) Favourite picture book trailers include: Blackberry Banquet, Tales of the Cryptids, Lightship, Five Trucks, Chet Gecko - Hiss Me Deadly. Okay, Chet Gecko is more of a chapter book/early novel, but it's illustrated so I threw it in there. I thought they all made good use of the book illustrations and did a good job of including just enough, but not too much, text. Some trailers made the mistake of trying to fit too much of the book into the trailer...a few even tried to tell the whole story. Aaack...not a good idea. It never does justice to the book. The trailers I thought worked best just hit the main highlights and expressed the flavour of the book. Excellent use of sound effects in Lightship and Five Trucks, I thought. It got me thinking about what sound effects I might include. And I was struck with how important the music was to set the mood in the other three. As for older books, I thought Greetings From Nowhere and Cracked Up to Be were very effective.
Oooo, I somehow missed that one. Great article. Lots of good pointers there.
It's interesting to watch a bunch of trailers all in a row and see what you respond to. One of my favorites is How to Save Your Tail, and I also enjoyed Blackberry Banquet.
That's what I did, too. It sure gives you a good idea of what works and what doesn't...at least on a personal level. Interesting that you pointed out How to Save Your Tail. Although I liked the visuals well enough on that one, I didn't like the voice-over. At the end of my book trailer marathon, the voice-over stood out as something I didn't really care for...probably because it's so hard to do well if you're not a pro. I found it detracted more often than not.
I think the trailer for Tantalize is cool and has great mood-setting (the music and pacing are genius), and the trailer for Rock and Roll Never Forgets is slick, slick, slick. But...here's the thing.
I like short book trailers. Like, 30-seconds. The long ones might be slick and wonderful, but I'm not a huge online video watcher, so maybe I'm just the wrong audience for them. If someone wants to show me a "hysterical YouTube video," and they open it up and I see that it's four minutes, my first thought is, "Come on, people. Edit! I don't have time to stand here for four minutes."
LOL! I totally agree, and you know what? We're not alone. "Keep it short" was a theme echoed in the book trailer articles and discussions I've seen. And that was why Tantalize didn't make my faves list. It was good, well-made, and interesting---and yeah, music and pacing in the genius category, for sure (and I'll add choice and use of images to the list, too) ---but it was too long for me.
I guess my bottom line is this: A trailer is a commercial. And even if it's wonderfully done, I don't want to watch a 3-minute commercial. At movie theaters, I have no choice, but at home or work, on my computer, I do. So for me, short is magic.
"Short is magic." Well said! I wonder if teens think of it that way, too, or if they consider "book videos" to be an extension of the book. If that's the case, YA trailers could serve more as entertainment than a commercial--content enhancement rather than advertising. If so, the length might be just fine for a teen audience. You and I are both in picture book territory, though, so for us, your "short is magic" is probably a good mantra to adopt.
I wondered that, too...are there times where the trailer itself is entertainment, even standing apart from the book itself? And I agree, I think the answer is yes, if your trailer is amazingly cool, funny, or mind-boggling. But, really, how many fit that description?
[nodding] So, for the rest of us, how short is short? 30 seconds!? Yowsa, when you said "short" you really meant "short"! Although I found a few 30-seconders that worked well (Tales of the Cryptids being one), generally, for me, 30 seconds wasn't quite long enough to get everything in. Once time was spent on a cover shot, author/illustrator/publisher/release date info, and credits, there wasn't enough footage about the book for me to know whether I wanted to buy it. It's like fishing when you lose the fish because you pulled the rod before the hook was set. I so wanted just a little more footage for Me Hungry and Scribble, for example. In the end, trailers in the one minute ballpark (45 seconds - 1.5 minutes) seemed to work best for me. It all came down to the pacing, but anything longer than two minutes was w-a-y....t-o-o....l-o-n-g. ...tended to drag, and I lost interest.
You mentioned "slick"...
When I first began thinking about book trailers, I had it in my head that the most effective trailers would be like movie trailers...full of video footage. I lamented the fact that if I made a trailer, I couldn't include video footage (I don't have any means of getting or working with it), and instead, I would have to rely on still images strung together. Bummer, dude. But after watching a variety of trailers, I changed my tune. It turns out the more video footage a trailer contains, the more the line between book and movie becomes blurred and the more likely I am to lose track that the content is about a book. While watching trailers such as Cowboy and Octopus , Moonpowder , and Bloom, (all very well-made) for example, I wasn't sure if I was watching a trailer for a book or a movie/TV show. Having the bulk of the trailer made up of obviously still images keeps the trailer firmly anchored in bookland for me. To keep "book" in mind, I need to see a more static approach to book trailer construction. Trailers that used very brief snippets of video worked fine, though. Of course, now that I want to cite a few examples, I can't find them! But all-video didn't work for me. Did that make a difference for you, Laura?
I'm torn. As you pointed out, the ones that are all video clips seem to be drifting farther and farther away from the book as a form, as words on the page. Buuuuuuuuutttttttt, I like how dynamic they are. I like the sense of motion and the feeling of excitement that generates. And I don't have enough familiarity with them (I'm impressed with your research! LOL! No special research...just a visceral reaction from watching too many book trailers!) to have totally analyzed what works for me and what doesn't. I think lots of different kinds of trailers appeal to me because in very small doses, I think it's fun to see completely diverse approaches. I guess my bottom line is that I like lots of different kinds of book trailers (as long as they're short!).
Interesting. Room for all kinds of styles, that's for sure. (And there's that "short" motif again! :^)
You know, the fact that I feel like such an amateur even while just viewing book trailers reinforced my feeling that at first I wasn't sure whether I wanted to do one. I had no idea where to even begin, but beyond that, I was not totally convinced of book trailers' effectiveness.
That was my concern, too. Is a book trailer worthwhile? As a marketing tool, they're unproven--no one knows what impact, if any, they have on sales. People are talking about them, though, and they're yet another way to get information out about the book (which the marketing gurus keep telling us is a good thing in a cumulative big picture way), so it looks like there's a chance a book trailer could do some good, but if not, well, no harm, no fowl. Bottom line: with little expected return, creating a book trailer is clearly not a good use of my limited promotion funds, but if it can be done for cheapcheapcheap or free, it's a possibility.
Exactly. That was my conclusion too. What do I have to lose? Now that book trailers aren't "new," I don't think they're getting as much buzz as they did a year or two ago. But one can still be a fun marketing piece to have out there, to link to, etc. You just never know what might cause a little buzz.
...and who knows what other innovative uses we might find for book trailers? I know a few authors who include a CD with their author school visit package, and it would certainly add interest to a press kit, too.
Tune in on Wednesday for Laura and Fiona's trailer-making adventure!