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?