July 2006


Over on Rob‘s blog, he talked about whether it was useful to create a trailer for a book. Would they generate sales? Would people even bother to view them? And, speaking of viewing, where in the hell would you put one so that people could see it? He mentioned a friend of his who was in the process of having hired actors and filming and editing — a true movie-like trailer version. That friend would be me. I’d mentioned what I was doing to him a while back, and then we talked about it in greater detail at ThrillerFest, but I hadn’t posted about it in detail until now.

I’m not surprised to see the somewhat unenthusiastic comments about whether or not a book trailer will be useful — it’s still a very new type of marketing tool. Many “book trailers” which have been done thus far (from flash to live action videos) have been cheesy or downright dreadful, which, of course, has the opposite affect of that desired by the writer: to attract the viewer to the book. But before we chuck it out as a possibility, let’s look at something for a minute here: you’re reading a blog. Seven or eight years ago, when I first started journaling online, there were a few hundred journals, and many of us knew each other. I thought I was a late-comer to the party. If you had told me back then that by 2006, more than 30 million people would have blogs (online journals), I would have thought you’d been sniffing the glue a little too much. A few years before that, the notion that people would publish essays on something called the “internet” and that other people would go read them… that people would form a lot of “boards” on various topics, that people would meet and become friends… marriages would happen… online shopping… “channels” for media (YouTube.com), etc. Most authors didn’t have webpages. Or blogs. And now those are considered essential to marketing one’s own book, to connecting with the readers, and to creating a “brand.” No one really thought all of that would happen in that short a span of time. (MySpace.com anyone?) We have Ipods which hold a phenomenal amount of songs and videos, where a person can subscribe now to videos. There’s satellite TV, satellite phones, satellite internet. There are TVs available on the refrigerator or the microwave. Media has changed our world. We, as writers, are benefiting from it via blogs and internet networking / marketing.

So, what’s next? And why?

I’m cribbing one of my comments posted over on Allison’s post for the Murder She Writes blog:

There has been a lot of talk in the past on various blogs about how readership is shrinking and how difficult it is to get a younger generation to pick up a book instead of watching TV or movie or playing a video game. I think a large part of the problem is that many of these kids either had terrible experiences with boring reading selections in high school (or in some cases, terrible teachers who made good books a dull, mind-numbing experience). When you look at an entire generation who has grown up with multi-media as the norm, then getting them to sit down and read a book is going to be difficult because they don’t really know the world of books and the adventures they could experience there. I’ve been pretty surprised at just how many people don’t really understand what “fiction” is — and didn’t ever really think about the fact that their favorite movie — or TV show — or game — was born from a writer.

So, how do we reach that sort of audience and bring them to reading? Especially if they’re not young adults and / or have been lured in by the Harry Potter phenom? I think one way to at least increase curiosity is the book trailer, if it’s done really well.

My personal feeling is that when an occasional reader ponders the thought of a bookstore, they are intimidated by the sheer volume of the choices. They don’t know the author’s names, they don’t really know the genre, and they think of it as the essay-torture they endured during high school. The only books which tend to break through this confusion / resistance are the best-sellers. Some people, for example, read the Da Vinci Code simply because they had heard about it and heard it was a thriller / page turner and became curious. This type of reader would probably read more, if they knew what to look for or who… if they had an inkling before buying the book as to the tone / hook. How is a debut author, or a mid-list author, then, to break through the clutter and entice them? You’re unlikely to get the occasional readers to visit a blog or read an excerpt, but they do tend to look at video more frequently.

I’m in the process of doing final edits for mine. It won’t go up on an official site, though, until much closer to the book is available for sale (May, ‘07), because there’s no point in having it up if people can’t seek it out. Do I think it’ll increase sales? I have no clue, no real expectations. But if I can make people chuckle (Bobbie Faye’s Very (very very very) Bad Day is a comedic caper), then maybe they’ll remember it when they’re passing through a Target or, egads, an actual book store. (grin) And just breaking through to some level of recognition should help. (Unless they hate the trailer. Yikes.)

I don’t know how well my video will do. Like I said there, I’ll have a very short version and the longer (funnier) version, and I hope they are well received. I do know that just doing a blog isn’t working for me — I keep thinking of writing topics, only to see others already covering them well enough. I’ve got a crazy idea for a webpage that Rob and a few of my fellow Killer Year classmates liked which I will put up. Ultimately, the book has to stand as a book — there can be no doubt about that. But getting people to be aware of it, maybe attracting them to it through other media — who knows? What seems like a crazy thing to do today may just be the standard of tomorrow. With professional cameras and editing software available, it’s possible. I, personally, would rather look at the potential, at the positive, and aim for that. I know a lot of typical readers won’t bother with the videos — they’ll come to the book in a more traditional way and that’s great! I’d love all of those readers. But I think videos may just open a few other doors to potential readers who wouldn’t normally have thought of picking up the book, and if we can take back some of the audience the publishing industry has lost… it’s a good thing. I’d like to experiment, see what works and run with it.

You just never know.

What do you think of book trailers? Or, perhaps more importantly, what do you think are the most useful innovations for writers now?

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Well, the little film project I was working on had its final shoot Saturday and I’ve got a copy of the rough cut and am very pleased with it. The editor’s working on all of the fine-tuning this week and the director and I will review it (probably on Friday) and I hope to have a final copy by the weekend. It’s something I’ll post a little bit in advance of the book selling… so that means not until next year will it go up on the book’s site (which, um, I need to create). The main purpose of it was as something to hand to my publisher, which I will now be able to do next week, in time for the internal book launch (which is August 17). However, I’m bringing a copy with me to the conference next week and will have a portable DVD player if anyone other than my agent wants to see it.

I am itching to post it, of course, but it’s too soon. The curse of having a pub date in May is having a lot of things I’d like to do, but can’t really, until closer to time for the book to come out, or else they’ll be forgotten. The hope (huge hope) is to create buzz, enough so that when people go into a bookstore, they’ll not only remember the book’s title, but seek it out. Creating buzz too early defeats the purpose if there isn’t a book there. Which is a bummer, because I’d love to show you what I’ve been working so insanely hard on.

And speaking of working on stuff, I’ve got to get a book site up, and I finally have an idea of what I want. Woo! The world may end from the shock of that notion, and notice it’s not actually up yet — still have to design it, but at least I have a direction, and creating this little video helped me figure that out. Well, that and an idea I’d had a while back which Rob brought up at ThrillerFest and encouraged me to pursue. So hey, gonna still be busy doing stuff.

Meanwhile, there are great posts over on Killer Year and I’ll be putting up stories there after the convention next week, so I’m not gone. Just hopping around, kinda crazy. (Yeah, I know. This is different, how?) Anyway, glad you all are dropping in on me. Book-wise, I’m at the copy-edit stage of book one (they aren’t here yet — probably will be soon), and working on book 2 and the video and well, I’m whupped. In a good way.

My friend, Pooks, is riding in the LIVESTRONG CHALLENGE, and I am so completely impressed and proud of her. From the site: “Net proceeds from the event support the Lance Armstrong Foundation’s mission to inspire and empower people affected by cancer. The LAF serves its mission through advocacy, public health and research.”

I’ve donated in memory of two strong-willed, impressive women who were friends of my mom, who both died of cancer just a couple of years apart. These women left a huge hole in my mom’s life, as well as my own (because I loved hearing about their lives and antics through my mom), and they had been a constant part of my life until they were dragged away. I think this is a supremely worthy cause, and on top of that, Pooks is a real inspiration. I hope you will consider donating. IT DOESN’T HAVE TO BE MUCH. A dollar or two, really, and it’ll help. So hey, let’s support that Texan over there helping to kick cancer’s ass. If anybody can do it, Texas can.

My friend, Tamar, has an absolutely wonderful essay up on the prestigious website, Autism Speaks. If you or anyone you know is affected by autism, I think you’ll really appreciate her essay and the helpful information available via her efforts in her blog, Hidden Laughter, which chronicles their very successful trip in helping their son after his diagnosis (all the way through mainstreaming him in school); there’s a great deal of information on the Autism Speaks site itself. Please pass along these links to anyone you know who’d benefit!

Best conference I’ve ever been to. I can’t believe I almost didn’t go, that I waited until the last possible minute before signing up. Not long after I arrived, I met Phil Hawley at the registration desk where he was volunteering, and he made me feel very welcomed. Then I met the hardest working woman on the planet, CJ Lyons, who was this year’s chair for the conference and it is a testament to her amazing organizational skills that the conference went so smoothly and was so much fun for the rest of us. I hung out a bit with Karen Dionne who runs the terrific website for novelists, Backspace. In that session, I saw Dusty (JD) Rhodes, where I informed him that I’d been stalking him across the internet. (The stalking continued all weekend.) And later at the welcome reception, I finally met Allison Brennen, who was just a super super cool person to hang with. (Allison answered a billion questions, made me feel like it wasn’t too cray to have that many questions, and was generally just a blast to hang out with.) I also met Rob who was just a terrific friend all around… and I can’t believe after knowing him for about five years, we’re just now meeting. He was a real joy to hang with, as well. Brett was a tremendous amount of fun and his book (like Rob’s) sounds fantastic. As — quite honestly — did the rest of the Killer Year’s debut books. Of course, there was the awesome JT Ellison and her husband Randy (who cracked us up over dinner), and another Killer Year alum, Marcus Sakey, whose book is first up at bat in January of all the Killer Year’s efforts. Finally, somewhere along the way, I met our other Killer Year founder, Jason Pinter, who just rocks.

By that evening when we hit the bar, I started losing track of the order of the great people I got to meet. There’s the incomparable Sarah Weinman, the terrific Elizabeth Krecker, (whose narrative non-fiction book really sounded terrific), the sweet MG Tarquini (who really should have won “best smile” because when she smiles at you, you cannot help but smile back). (Oh, and MG had the really sad, SAD I TELL YOU, job of driving Barry Eisler around while he and Joe Konrath signed stock around the Phoenix area. You almost wanted to hate MG for that, except then she’d smile and you’d forgive her.) There were fun people like Natalie Collins and Debra Webb (I’m not sure of her blog?) and David Terrenoire and Stephen Blackmoore (who, yes, I do owe a drink to) and… geez… on and on and on. I am forgetting to link to some really wonderful people.
The seminars were great, though I missed a few I’d really have liked to have cloned myself in order to attend. (See Allison’s blog for a good smattering of some of those.) The awards banquet was by far the best I’ve ever attended. Have you ever been to an awards banquet where the food was exquisite, the entertainment either had you laughing out loud (constantly) or had you wishing you had room to get up and dance? Yep, it was that much fun. I would link to all of the authors who were on the panels and who were great about hanging out at the bar where they mingled and such, but I have just smacked against the wall of exhaustion from the weekend, so I’m going to direct you to some of the other links above because several of them have given more detail, if you’re curious.

Next year, the ThrillerFest will be in NYC. You can bet I’ll be there.