Monday 5 March 2012

Book Trailers - Are They Worth It?

Lately, everybody is putting up book trailers. They range in quality from a couple of stills set to music to a full production with actors and licenced music. Even some of the big publishing houses are springing for trailers when a new title comes out from an established author. I recently saw one for a writer whose work I have been reading for a decade now. I have to admit, I started hearing alarm bells when I saw it.

The bells weren't part of the soundtrack, they were in my head as I watched a couple of actors with bathmats strapped around their waists (they were supposed to be cavemen). They spent a couple of minutes wandering through the forest and starting fires. It was almost enough to scare me away from the book. If I hadn’t enjoyed her previous work so much, I probably would have passed on her latest title based on my impression of the trailer. I bought it and found it to be the worst edited thing I’ve ever read from a major house. My wife, also a big fan of this author was annoyed that we had paid so much for an eBook only to find that it was such a mess but I digress.

As I said, if it wasn’t an author that I’ve read before, I wouldn’t have bought the book. Maybe a decent or really good trailer would pull me in to read a new author, but a poorly made trailer would just scare me off.
I like the idea of doing trailers for my titles but it scares me to think how easy it is to chase away a potential first time reader. I have one for my ‘Black Ships’ short story  - ‘Metamorphosis’ and I can think of a few things that I would like to change. As an example, the text panel appears too soon after the title animation and messes up the pacing.

Fortunately, I created the animations using Blender, an open-source 3D animation program that allows me to go back and edit the environments and re-render.

I am still a new user to Blender but if anyone who sees the video has a comment or critique, I would welcome their input. I realize that it still needs work.

So the question that a lot of writers are probably asking is – “Do trailers do anything for the title?”
With bookstores closing, we need a new way to increase title visibility.

If the answer is yes, the second question is – “What kind of things are good for a trailer and what should we avoid?”

I think hiring someone to stumble around the woods in a bathmat is probably not going to help.
Showing faces probably takes away from the reader’s prerogative to imagine the characters.
Showing some of the architecture could help to set the mood?

Let me know what you think, and what you may have found from your own experiments.