More book trailers — are they worth the effort?

Last time around I introduced you to a few of my favourite book trailers. I’ve got some more for you to look at this time. Plus, I also pose the question: Are book trailers worth the effort?

But first, let’s take a look at the awesome trailer for Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan:

It’s a complex, beautifully animated trailer. But simple animation can also work. Take, for example, the trailer for Wardragon by Paul Collins. It’s not in the same league as the Leviathan trailer, but… Some simple animation, a bit of text and some stirring music combine to make an effective trailer.

This trailer has been online for about nine months, but it’s only had about 180 viewings. This begs the questions: is the time and effort (and possibly money) that is invested in making a trailer, really worth it, if only a couple of hundred people will watch it? This is the question I put to Paul Collins, who is the publisher at Ford Street Publishing as well as an author. Here’s his response:

“I think this latest publishing phenomenon is too young to predict how useful it is. Providing publishers/authors/illustrators can get their trailers done reasonably cheaply, or they can produce them themselves, I see trailers as yet another cheap means of promotion, much like blogging/reviews, etc. Truly inspirational trailers must cost thousands, but the viral impact is tremendous. So if a book trailer can fire up the viewers to send it on, then it can’t fail to promote the book. But looking on Ford Street’s YouTube channel, I see our most viewed trailer, My Private Pectus, has only had 536 views, and the second most viewed trailer sits at 436. How many of the viewers bought the book/s? Hard to quantify!”

Check out the trailers at the Ford Street YouTube Channel.

While the Ford Street trailers are counting their viewings in the hundreds, Leviathan is clocking up multiple thousands, as is the trailer for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters (see previous post). It seems to be a case of big name authors and large publishing houses (who have more money to spend on producing trailers and promoting them) are getting the huge audiences (and huge sales), while lesser known authors and smaller publishers are struggling to get their trailers seen by more than a few hundred people.

Last year I had a book trailer created for my teen novel, Gamers’ Quest. It’s a computer animated video, put together by H Gibbens of Finger to the Bone. It’s had a little over 450 viewings. It’s not possible to know how many of these viewings have resulted in a sale. But for me it is more than just a video to be uploaded to YouTube. I use it during school talks and I also have it playing on a screen beside me when I do book signings. It has proved to be a great way to grab an audience’s attention and so has been an invaluable marketing tool for me.

I think that books trailers are now evolving beyond their initial intention. Just like the music video has become so much more than just a way to advertise a new single, the book trailer is also evolving beyond a simple marketing tool. It is becoming an art-form of it’s own. Just take a look at what the New Zealand Book Council have put together for Maurice Gee’s Going West:

Art? Or mere advertising? What do you think? And what are some of your favourite book trailers? Post a link in the comments section.

And tune in next time for even more amazing trailers.

Catch ya later,  George

Book trailers

Film trailers have been around for a long time. They are advertising for an upcoming film, showing some key scenes to interest watchers in parting with their money in order to see the complete film. In recent years, thanks to the popularity of YouTube, we have seen the rise of the book trailer — a short video advertising an upcoming book to potential readers.

But what do you put into a book trailer? It’s not like a film — you can’t just edit together a few of the more exciting scenes. You need to actually create content. In effect, make a short film from scratch.

Book trailers vary greatly in content – and quality – from simply presenting the book cover with a voice over, to fully dramatised scenes from the book. Of the latter type, here’s one of the best I’ve seen, for Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

I’m willing to bet that this trailer cost a pretty packet. But what do you do if you don’t have a rich publisher willing to throw around bucket loads of money? Well, you could always find a friend or family member to make a trailer for you. Or, if you’re handy with a computer, make one yourself. Of course, this has lead to a glut of really bad trailers being uploaded onto YouTube. But fear not, I have waded through the dross and can now present for your entertainment, some of the better trailers I’ve discovered.

Here’s the trailer for The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin, the upcoming fantasy series from Rowena Cory Daniells:

This is a beautifully animated trailer based on the cover of the first book, and it was put together by Rowena’s husband, Daryl Lindquist. Here’s what Daryl had to say about the creation of this trailer:

“The concept for the trailer came to me fully formed out of the blue, as most creative ideas do. We had copies of the great cover done by Clint Langley for the first book. This was the inspiration for the book trailer. Having come up with the concept, the next step was to pitch it to the publisher and editor. They were enthusiastic, so the next step was to approach Clint for permission to use his artwork. He was also most supportive. Clint forwarded his layered Photoshop files of the cover image for us to use in the trailer. This allowed us to isolate the main character from the background. The process was to build a 3D environment, a portion of which matched the cover from the camera perspective, then work out the camera moves that lead up to the final shot which is the cover image.  The main character was then hand-animated, while the background is 3D rendered. Once the background had been rendered, the main character was then composited in to give the final cover image. Once the clip was finalised, we moved onto the creation of the soundtrack. All completed within two months.”

To find out more about Rowena and her writing, check out her website. To find out more about Daryl’s animation and book trailer production check out the R&D Studio’s website.

Here’s the trailer for the Nit Boy, a series of kids’ books by Tristan Bancks:

Here’s what Tristan had to say about the trailer:

“I love making trailers and bringing the world of my books to life. On the Nit Boy book trailer I wanted to build on the work I’d done creating trailers for my Mac Slater, Coolhunter series.

I showed Peter Leary, the very talented animator, the books’ amazing illustrations by Heath McKenzie. I then wrote a script. The animator made suggestions. I cut the script down. He made a rough animatic (still pictures with a voiceover) and he began building the 3D characters (essentially, ‘wire’ frames in the computer). I gave Peter feedback on the characters and he created a rough version of the trailer. I then started working on the music with Charlton Hill and the post sound and voiceover with Murray Burns. Peter then supplied the final animation the day before the book launch.

The trailer has been an incredibly useful tool for promoting the books. I would say that the key to a good trailer is in nailing the essence of the story in the script, and working with excellent people who know what they are doing.

A producer has optioned the Nit Boy books for TV and my next vis-lit adventures will be trailers for my 2011 releases, Galactic Adventures: First Kids in Space (UQP) and a funny shorts collection for Random House.”

For more info about Tristan and his writing, check out his website.

Tune in next time for more trailers.

Catch ya later,  George

Literary Mashups – the New Classic or High Culture Vandalism?

Arguably, the biggest trend to hit 2009 mass paperback fiction was vampires, fuelled by a little book you may or may not have heard of (Twilight).

The second biggest trend was the literary mashup.

Mashups have been around for a while, employed in the music business as a song or a composition which blends two or more other songs. It would appear that the controversy of mashups bends over the question of originality, but so far they hold up under copyright laws as a transformation of the original, and thus original in its own right.

In March of 2009, a book titled Pride and Prejudice and Zombies slobbered its way onto the scene, impressing upon the reading public the idea that Austen’s famous and much-loved gentility prose could be ‘zombified’. The story begins much the same as the original text, except that while Mrs Bennett endeavours to marry off her daughters, Mr Bennett goes about teaching the girls the art of martial defence. The gaggle of ladies still attend the ball, yet amidst the social interactions a zombie attack ensues and the women slap about like petticoat-ed Charlie’s Angels, hacking away and sloshing the floor with zombie limbs and other delicious bits. And so on and so forth.

Author Seth Grahame-Smith (in collaboration with Jane Austen – ha!) said at the time:

“You have this fiercely independent heroine, you have this dashing heroic gentleman, you have a militia camped out for seemingly no reason whatsoever nearby, and people are always walking here and there and taking carriage rides here and there…It was just ripe for gore and senseless violence.”

By no means an Austen purist, I was drawn in by the hype. I read the text, but was thoroughly perplexed by the message behind the book (if there was one). To my knowledge Pride and Prejudice and Zombies never purported to be fine literature, but I must admit I felt a little uneasy, and did I only imagine the ground shook for a moment, in response to a certain someone rolling over in their grave?

Since then, the bloodlust for monster mashups has only increased. Austen appears to be the current favourite, with the release of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, and Mr Darcy, Vampyre. Louisa M. Alcott has since had the pleasure of werewolves invading her classic, Little Women, and Android Karenina is rumoured to be released on the 100th anniversary of Tolstoy’s death.

Sadly, Seth Grahame-Green couldn’t reprise his role of author for the brand-spanking-new prequel to Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, as he had his hands up to the elbows in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. And no, I’m not kidding.

So what do you think? Is it blasphemy, or does it encourage more people to read classic literature? Reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies didn’t inspire me to pick up the next mashup I came across, but for my one voice of nonchalance there are probably one hundred voices of praise.

SOMEONE must be laughing…

Is it the readers, giggling over lines that shouldn’t be taken so seriously?

And the publisher, skipping all the way to the bank?

Or is it one entirely more sinister, horns throbbing and forked tail twitching; cloven hooves trampling delighted over a pile of freshly-sold literary souls?