Booktrailers – Be Careful


A book trailer can be a valuable tool in promoting a literary work, but it must be used carefully. Moreover, a cinematic book trailer, where the trailer mirrors many of the elements used in movie trailers, including utilizing actors, locations, dramatic pacing with editing and music, etc., must be used even more carefully, as the objective is to garner interest in the work, not detach potential readers from interest in the material.

 For example, in The Silent Partner’s cinematic book trailer, I utilized actors and dialogue from the actual novel, but I was careful to illustrate conflict within the visual promotional “tease” of the book, while not telling much of the story. In fact, many people gave me similar feedback: “It looks very interesting, but I don’t know exactly what the book’s about.” This was the exact reaction I had hoped for. (The Silent Partner‘s book trailer is available on YouTube HERE.)

You know when you go to the movie theatre and see a three-minute trailer, only to be turned off from seeing the actual film and muttering to your friend, “Ahhh, I’ll skip that one”? I used my own real-life experience to avoid doing this exact thing, so the viewer doesn’t believe they’ve seen the best that the source material has to offer. The objective is to leave them wanting more.

Most book trailers are not dynamic and, in my experience, fail to bring about a feeling of any kind by the viewer. Why bore people to death? They can love the humor, dislike a character, or be frustrated by something happening to a character, but they have to care. Protect your visual promotion of your storytelling by ensuring that the viewer is more interested in your story after seeing the trailer, not less.

A book trailer may or may not significantly add to your book sales. My utilization of the trailer did help me get a couple specific interviews, including one with a FOX TV affiliate in San Diego, but it’s hard to tell exactly how many books have been sold due to the trailer. Rather, the trailer provided additional interest in the overall process of self publishing, and that in itself has in some cases been more interesting to some than the content of the source material. The trailer helped build the profile of the book and build my Twitter following, as well as gain interest from some in the novel. Truly, though, it’s hard to tell of specific ROI impact.

A simple checklist for producing your very own book trailer:

  1. Like with your book, draft out key points to showcase your story. Think of elements you can tell or enhance with visuals, and stay away from spoilers. Have a plan.
  2. Put together a crew. You can’t do it yourself. Get different people with skill sets in different areas, and find ways to compensate them. If not with money, use food, furniture you would have gotten rid of anyway, etc.
  3. It will take more work than you’re prepared for, so don’t set any promotional dates until after it’s completely done. Completely.
  4. Be nimble and prepared for actors or crew members to drop the ball. It’s your responsibility to pick up the pieces, so when something goes wrong, look at the situation as an opportunity to improve your work. There’s no reason to accept defeat.
  5. Try to be less than 3 minutes in length. It can be hard, especially for a 300-plus page novel. It was difficult for me.
  6. If someone is more talented than you in some way in putting the trailer together, hear their voice and utilize their talent, but don’t compromise your overall theme or feel of the original work.
  7. Use the ecosystem you’ve built with your blog, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., to publish access to your promotion.

Good luck in bringing your writing to life!


The Silent Partner – Book Trailer

This book trailer was produced in an effort to bring more attention to the unpublished manuscript. During production, we strove to create a book trailer that was cinematic in scope–despite its shoestring budget–without giving away the bank in story, character, or plot. Most book trailers justifiably shy away from showcasing any characters, for fear of providing too much information regarding their look and visual texture. We went a different direction with The Silent Partner, figuring that we could get away with showing snippets of scenes if the trailer was shot tight enough . . . if the pacing was quick . . . and instead focused on the hints of story arcs. Our objective: to pique interest in an entertaining way.

After all, much like how watching a music video (remember those?) can change the way you hear a song, a book trailer can change your mental picture of characters, setting, etc. That said, the intention wasn’t to preserve the imagination of someone who’s never heard of the book, but rather promote the book’s existence (or, more accurately, its forthcoming existence). Like a music video, the promotion of the coming book will hopefully lead people’s interest in the source material. If we’re vague enough with the story and characters in the trailer, and the book is then discovered, hopefully it will be enjoyed by readers as intended, and passed on to others. In the end, we’ll know if this worked out.

Here we go . . .

The Promotion of a Book or Book Trailer?

A book trailer exists to promote the book that inspired it. Now that there is a completed book trailer for my unpublished novel, The Silent Partner, the nagging question now is, “How much time should go into the promotion of the trailer versus that of the book?” The end goal is to get the manuscript reviewed, accepted, promoted, and read. The book trailer is merely a vehicle to help direct attention to the material.

Everyone educated about such conundrums has–so far–given me different opinions on this, so clearly there’s not one right way to go about it. Perhaps we’re all wrong, because often the most splashy news articles about writers’ success document how those visionary talents did something differently. The things these writers have in common with each other, from Christopher Meades and Steve Berry to Kathryn Stockett: perseverance in putting out their best work and an unforgiving desire to succeed.

The Silent Partner book trailer took 11 months to make, from script to final version of the official trailer (planned for a release on YouTube after its showcase in San Diego on September 21st, 2011). The book, though, took almost five years to write. (By “write”, I mean write, re-write, blow up, write again, revise, pull hair out, revise again, etc.) Now that it’s done, more time and energy can go back into agency submissions and–gasp–writing again. Production of the trailer has afforded me time to conceive the next novel.

The vision behind the trailer was to showcase a fresh, new story. Just that, there are two mediums used to tell it. If we can get people to take notice, just maybe we’ll be able to get representation for the manuscript, and we’ll have a book.

Then, it’s up to the cosmos.

“The Silent Partner”: Why I’m Bringing My Unpublished Manuscript to Life

Five years ago, the idea for the book first made its way onto computer screen. The first two and a half years I was on my own, discovering and writing. It would take a couple years for a first draft (that no one shall ever see, it was so bad). Over the next year and a half, my book editor, Wendy, assisted with multiple drafts while I attempted to turn the story into something people would want to read. Big discovery came here, too, along with humble pie and the revelation that I had no idea what I was doing. But quitting wasn’t an option. Too much time had been invested, and I’d learned resiliency years ago. It was time to learn how to write, and not fool myself that I already knew how. It didn’t matter how many writing books I had read or how many A’s I’d received in college studies. I now studied feverishly, unlike I’d ever studied anything before. (My college professors would surely be irate if they knew I had ignored such capacity to expand while in their classes.) The Silent Partner eventually emerged from an idea and poorly written story into a crafted and structured novel that, hopefully, will be read.

I had never heard of book trailers until about ten months ago, when Wendy said I should look into them, given my background and affection for film. Completing the manuscript had led to the additional challenge–and fortune–of finishing the book trailer to promote it. Now, with a number of agency rejections to back my claim up that my manuscript does indeed exist, soon the launch of the book trailer will showcase the book in a new medium. All in the effort to have a new voice and bring attention to the source material, acquire agency representation, and–more importantly–get The Silent Partner published.

The solitude of writing, rewriting, editing, revising, throwing away, and starting over again . . . gave way to collaboration with a team and crew of artists–from a number of disciplines–to bring The Silent Partner to life. Filmmakers–from a cinematographer to writers and directors–and actors, a producer-pal and location scout, a film editor and special effects pro, a composer, a band, a sketch artist, and book designer (to assist with the promo “cover” of the book). Many of them now friends.

What an incredible array of talents . . . all bound together for a book that no one yet knows exists.

A Book Trailer’s Greatest Limitation

Book trailers didn’t exist in my world until last October, when my editor had suggested I consider doing one. She knew of my background in filmmaking and–even more relevant–my visual outlook of the world. Colorful, distinguishable characters navigate through the plot-driven narrative of the manuscript through action, and she thought a book trailer could very well illustrate the strengths of the story behind the writing. (While description and internal conflict thrive in detail in The Silent Partner, as one of my sisters said, I don’t “go on for three pages about the color of the grass”.)

A lot is at risk for the new, unproven author. Bookstores are closing, publishers are running shorter production runs, and literary agents are taking on less new clients. Self-publishing is on the rise, for good or bad. Publish on Demand is gaining traction (and is, upon consideration, a business model I wonder wasn’t practiced by publishing houses decades ago). The Internet continues to provide writers many more outlets, which means publishing gatekeepers can’t keep unpublishable voices from screaming from the mountaintops. It’s the ambitious writer who pursues the validation of the literary industry with work that has the capacity to engage the public personally and is marketable. It makes sense that a well-produced book trailer could illustrate possible commercial viability, though it may say more about the filmmaker than the writer. (Many well-produced theatrical movie trailers have promoted disappointing films, am I right?)

Through all of the preparation I’ve been doing for the trailer for The Silent Partner, I’ve still been revising the manuscript itself to its best potential. If there are extensions of a book–such as produced work like a book trailer–they are merely the grand entrance to the party. The conversation–or the voice of the work–has to sustain the energy of such an entrance . . . or the crowd will turn their heads to the next voice they hear, interesting or not.

So “final” revisions of the manuscript continue. I write, therefore I re-write.


Staying Motivated

The writer’s world: an often-familiar routine in a controllable environment with simple creature comforts. It’s the place where creativity find its way onto the computer screen. A pleasant frequent aroma allows you to let it all out, and the temperature is cool but not chilly, warm but not tepid. A friendly staff of baristas work there, perhaps. You’re a regular. There’s a table where your stuff stores perfectly. Maybe, you search for a specific chair. If it’s occupied, you keep glancing up at in rising hopes that it will be vacated. After all, that’s your favorite place to write. 

It’s really the small things, isn’t it?

Working on my novel for over 4 1/2 years, I have found multiple ways to stay motivated. As anyone who’s ever attempted writing a novel–let alone completed and published one–knows, there are many tactics we use to keep us on track. As my latest final of all final revisions are being finalized into the next final revision (right!), and the book trailer for The Silent Partner enters its editing phase, I thought of the things I do–and have done–to stay focused. I haven’t let the lovely San Diego lifestyle infect me. I’m no beach monger who has nothing to do but get some rays and accelerate premature melanoma. Rather, I’ve kept forward momentum by spending a lot of time in a coffee shop. (I pay high California taxes to live here WHY?)

Here are ways I recommend to manage staying motivated after you believe you’ve started to write some brilliant prose. (It’s probably not brilliant yet, but if it is, dedication to your craft can hopefully make it that way.)

  1. Find a place you will love to write. You’ll miss the experience of writing. This has worked for me. I’ve missed this when I’ve been on vacation, and I couldn’t wait to get back. Don’t sweat the four bucks for the good coffee if that’s what it takes. The progress is worth it! Or, get a regular coffee, fill it with milk and Splenda, and cut the price in half.
  2. Tell your friends. The good ones will ask about it. And I’ll be damned to be made the fool. Not deliberately or out of laziness, anyway.
  3. Find ways to enjoy the process of getting to the next step. The next chapter. The next revision. The next (or first) step in agent querying. It’s fascinating to watch writers on Twitter motivate each other with a word count. Find success and accomplishment in all steps moving forward.
  4. Meet other writers. In my case, most are better than me at something . . . and I love them for it. Inspires me not to stop.
  5. Don’t stop learning. A little space from your work allows you to breathe new life into yourself, and likely, your writing. If your life becomes enriched, so does your writing.
It’s all about progress. Hopefully this helps you.

Shooting THE SILENT PARTNER’s Book Trailer

I’ve come across so many people who are interested–sometimes faintly–in hearing about the book trailer for The Silent Partner. So great, the things I hear: “What’s a book trailer?” “Is it a movie?” “So . . . anyway . . . I’m thinking about getting some veneers.”
At this point we’re about 65% through production, with the most elaborate and fun sequences ahead of us. We have a few more pivotal sequences to shoot and then the work in editing starts. Music is currently being arranged. Our Facebook page is alive and well (see the link in the menu on the left for The Silent Partner), and agents are receiving–and hopefully reading–manuscript submissions.
Through this process of, well, everything, there is no question of whether or not the project is done. In fact, the book isn’t a book until it’s published, correct? A manuscript–even a polished one–is just that. The roadmap to hopeful publishing. Except, I can’t be . . . won’t be . . . merely hopeful. This has to happen. The work’s got to be sharp, crisp, and ready for consumption. The best news: it won’t be consumption for one, being that my editor and I have both read it.
On our way.