Friday, August 01, 2008

Fuzzy Navel Book Trailer

I finally succumbed to the latest trend and sold a kidney for $32,994 to produce a book trailer---the most expensive book trailer of all time.

With no false modesty, I know it was worth it. I'm thrilled with the result, which is a masterpiece of subtlety and persuasion. I'm sure it will catapult me onto the bestseller lists and beyond.

8/4/08 Update

Okay, now that most of my regulars have seen the trailer, I wanted to blog a bit about what I think about book trailers.

In a nutshell: not much.

I'll elaborate. A movie trailer (in most cases) uses visuals from the movie it is promoting in order to inform audiences that it is coming soon. This works because the visuals are a preview of the film, taken from the film.

People like coming attractions for many reasons. First, because of location. A preview comes before a movie, and usually the preview is similar in tone to the movie you just paid to see. Trailers are part of the movie-going experience.

A good film trailer makes you aware that a film exists, tells you when it will be available to see, and is often recognizable somehow. By recognizable I mean that the audience is often familiar with the actor, director, or franchise. Or perhaps the audience is only familiar with the genre, and because they paid to see a movie of the same genre, many will have an interest in the preview.

A book trailer, on the other hand, has none of these advantages.

First, it uses a visual hook for a media made up of no visuals. A trailer is a mini-movie. A book is not a movie, it is words on a page.

Second, a book trailer's location is artificial and requires active rather than passive effort. The best trailer for a book would be a printed excerpt in the book itself. But instead, book trailers aren't packaged with books---they're placed on author websites and YouTube. Chances are you have to be looking for the trailer in order to find it, so that cuts down on the number of exposures, especially to the uninitiated. Your goal is to reach people who haven't heard of you. I don't know anyone who goes looking for book trailers, other than authors.

Third, book trailers can cost lots of money, yet I have never bought a book based on a trailer. I use what works on me, and these simply don't.

Fourth, even really good book trailers pale next to movie trailers. Yes, Flash can be cool. But it still looks like a cheap inbred cousin to the Hollywood produced previews.

Fifth, a trailer is essentially an ad. That's what I'm satirizing in the Fuzzy Navel trailer. Thirty seconds of video that screams "Buy me" isn't going to sway the average viewer any more than a print ad or TV commercial, and the effectiveness of those ads is very low.

That said, there are some things good about book trailers.

1. Anything that you put on the internet is a trap that can keep catching surfers for years.

2. Trailers are still a new type of promotion, so there is a certain amount of buzz about them.

3. Publishers seem to like trailers, and anything that can get your publisher behind your book is a Good Thing.

Ultimately, I do not recommend that new authors invest their promo dollars in book trailers, or in any other type of ad. Instead, use your budget to attend conferences and visit as many bookstores as possible, signing stock and meeting booksellers and fans.

But if your publisher wants to buy one, or you're making a lot of money, you might as well give trailers a shot. They're one more weapon in a writer's self-promotion arsenal. Not a great weapon, but if you're doing everything else this is one more thing to try.


Anonymous said...

Okay, that was very nearly the funniest thing I've seen today.

JA Konrath said...

An hour of my life, gone forever. But I owed Jim Born for shooting up a copy of Bloody Mary on Youtube...

Anonymous said...

*giggles madly*

Creative, certainly. :D Your sense of humor is well appreciated.

Anonymous said...

makes me want to run IMMEDIATELY to my local BAM.



Anonymous said...

That was the funniest vid I've watched today - it even beat Feist's Seasame St version of 1234.

Ah well, that kidney was just weighing you down. Surely the books will be jumping off the shelves now!

Chris said...

So obviously you spent the other $32,990 on beer.

Hopefully good beer.

And I already bought to audiobook. I just finished it today. Great book -- had me laughing a LOT, hopefully at parts you expected to be funny.

I'm a little torn on the ending (I totally understand why you did it, but felt it was kind of "cheap"), but I still enjoyed it.

BTW, where is the damn cat on your poll off of the main page? Without the cat as an option for being off'ed, that just isn't a valid poll.

Chris said...

BTW, totally unrelated (well, semi-unrelated, but we're talking about funny videos)...

Anyone who likes horror and hasn't seen "Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon" is doing themselves a disservice -- first 1/3 of the movie was hilarious if you're a horror fan.

And what gives with the comment moderation? Stalkers getting out of hand? (Was the pair of tighty-whities I sent in the mail a bit out of line?)

Thorne said...

Haha, I put my ipod earphones on and turned the volume up loud to hear the expensive masterpeice... Ow, you owe me a new ear...

Hehe, hillarious.

Katie Alender said...

That's better than like 80% of the book trailers I've seen.

Must have been some kidney.

Anonymous said...

Can I get a hand with the book. Don't want a kidney.


Jen said...

Bwahahahahahaa! That's exactly how I sounded, laughing at the trailer. 'Till I choked on my coffee, that is. :)

Good one!

JA Konrath said...

Added an addendum for you RSS feeders who subscribe to posts...

Anonymous said...

I hear you on the book trailer. I can count on one hand the number I've watched from beginning to end: the one for Michael Connelly's ECHO PARK, Mario Acevedo's brilliant trailer that pimps his Felix Gomez series instead of a single title, and now yours.

Nick Kelly said...

Chris - You're right as right can be about Behind the Mask. It was awesome! I had a chance to review the film and interview Nathan Baesel for

On a side note, what would you think of partnering with a musical project that was doing its video, and using spoken word excerpts from one of your books. Mark Danielewski read excerpts of his novel, House of Leaves, over his sister Poe's song "Hey Pretty". It worked out pretty well for both of them.

Just a thought.

Sheila said...

"First, it uses a visual hook for a media made up of no visuals. A trailer is a mini-movie. A book is not a movie, it is words on a page."

Ack! Am I the only one who sees images when I read? Books are not just words on paper. They are words that form stories. And where do we "see" these stories play out? I absolutely "see" what a character looks like. Books are mind-movies, not limited to the size of a screen.

Commercials inform. Trailers entertain. That's my own take on it.

Are there other things a new author can do? Sure there are. I do think conventions are a great idea. But you can't turn a blind eye to having an online presence.

YouTube is not the best place to find readers. Bookstores, libraries, book clubs, those are great places to put a book video. We play book trailers on transit buses in 5 major cities. 10 million people see them. We don't pay for that placement, we supply it as content. Yep...content.

Book trailers shouldn't be your only promo. But, they are worth having if you know how to make them effective.

I love your book video, Joe! ;-)

Jainey said...

Have you heard of Anthony Flacco? I’m currently finishing up his most recent book, and it actually has a fantastic book trailer. The book is a fast-paced, suspense-filled historical thriller called “The Hidden Man: A Novel of Suspense." It takes readers back to 1915 San Francisco reborn after the Great Earthquake and Fire. Particularly, I love the interesting, flawed characters that make the book shine like a jewel. James Duncan is a famed mesmerist at the pinnacle of his career in the upcoming World’s Fair, and he must work together with equally fascinating Detective Blackburn and Blackburn’s young protégé Shane Nightingale when a murderous stalker sets out to destroy him. My favorite character is Vignette Nightingale though, who reminds me of a female version of Huckleberry Finn; she’s a character you don’t see often in mystery books these days. If you like complex characters, this is a book for you.

Anyway, you can check out the reviews and book trailer on his website: Give it a try!

Anonymous said...

Fourth, even really good book trailers pale next to movie trailers. Yes, Flash can be cool. But it still looks like a cheap inbred cousin to the Hollywood produced previews.

Exactly! I freely admit to being spoiled by movie trailers. Most book trailers I have seen--and I've searched out and seen plenty--just have me squirming at how unintentionally corny they are.

Anonymous said...

I think the analogy to movie trailers is flawed. Book trailers aren't like movie trailers for the reasons you've noted--completely different medium.

Music videos are essentially promotional items for music. (Ironically, a music video gives you the whole song PLUS visuals, in order to get you to buy the song.) Again, different than book trailers.

Book trailers are unique (or a hybrid).

I've seen some effective book trailers (effective = I bought a few books I would probably not have otherwise checked out). I think they'll become more important soon. YouTube may be the place to host them, but it's not the place to find your readers. I'm not sure what that place is yet (Amazon?), but we'll find it. Someday your e-book reader will be able to play little Flash clips with each e-book you purchase.

Mike Cane said...

Wow. I guess I'm the only one to say That Sucked Hugely.

No really. There are enough dumbass things on video services without adding that to them.

If you expect that to generate any sales, forget it. That'd DISSUADE me from giving you money because you just annoyed the shit out of me. And if that's what you do when given the chance to have my attention with video, it makes me wonder what you'd do in print to waste my time too.

I just deleted a first-time novelist from my MySpace Friends because *daily* he sent out the same damned Bulletin. It was a daily beg-a-thon for his freakin book. Which I now will never buy and he is someone I will never write about.

JA Konrath said...

Wow. I guess I'm the only one to say That Sucked Hugely.

Then it was effective. It saved you from reading a book you wouldn't have enjoyed.

Sheila said...

I didn't think is sucked. I laughed my butt off.
People need to try and see things in context.
It was certainly effective. It made someone respond.
Love me. Hate me. Just don't ignore me. ;-)

Michelle Gagnon said...

LOL Joe!
Way to serve it to Jim and his potato cannon...
I have mixed feelings about trailers too, but produced one for my last book anyway. And I have to say, I think it did make a difference. But my publisher went the extra mile and had it placed on Boneyard's amazon page. Also, it ended up as a favorite pick on, which elicited a slew of responses from people that I doubt would have heard about the book otherwise. And the sales team did seem to get excited about it, so in the end I'd say it was a worthwhile investment. But not for everyone, I agree.

Michelle Gagnon said...

Also, I have to agree with Sheila, conferences are great fun but you're reaching at most what, a few hundred people? And that's if you're actively pushing your book to everyone you encounter, at conferences with a few thousand attendees. You can end up marketing to the same few thousand people ad infinitum. Book trailers are a way to potentially reach a wider audience.