Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Book trailer conventions worth breaking

Are book trailers new enough that my making a single one qualifies me to dispense advice about them? Probably not, but then again, most of us sling opinions about things we’ve never done and never will do (play pro football, sing at the American Idol finals, be the leader of the free world).

And for what it’s worth, I did put in twice as much time on my trailer than I'd planned.

So…the following list of book trailer conventions worth breaking is not comprehensive, not ranked, and not likely to shatter the core of what you thought you knew, but will hopefully be helpful nonetheless:

#1 – keep it watchable (no matter the length)

Generally speaking, I think shorter is more strategic. But when someone says “It was too long,” what he probably means is “It’s not interesting enough.” Something longer and engaging is better than something short and forgettable. So rather than focusing on keeping it short, focus on keeping it watchable. (Book people tend to have longer attention spans anyway.)

#2 – show book interiors (picture books only)

If you have a clever way to do so, by all means. But if it will be just a pan-and-scan variation of the same samples that will be on Amazon, why bother? As with your book itself, take the trailer as an opportunity to give readers/viewers something they haven’t seen before…and won’t see elsewhere again. If you do include interiors, I encourage you to include something else as well.

#3 – explain the premise in detail

Surely your book is resplendent, but sell it with a tease, not a torrent. Think back cover, not inside front flap.

#4 – (related) use intertitles plentifully

Yes, books are read—but book trailers don’t have to be. Every project should take ample advantage of its medium. Therefore, in making a trailer, pay attention to words, yes, but also to sound, pacing, composition, and other aspects of filmmaking. In fact, a good challenge: use as few intertitles as you can.

#5 – avoid material that is not in the book

What for? You’re not studying for a test! Actually, an interesting tidbit that for whatever reason did not make it into your book could be the hinge of a good trailer! In ‘80s TV parlance, such a tidbit was often called a “blooper.” On DVDs and downloads, it is called a “deleted scene.” And in this case “deleted” is a positive; “deleted” = “I want.”

#6 – do not have Batman in your trailer

No, do. If your book allows for it, and you stick to fair use, and you can bribe someone to don the costume, you will confirm what Gotham City has known for 70+ years: it’s nice to have the Dark Knight on your side.

If you want to see examples of each of the above in action, here is my trailer.

You want your book to stand out so be sure your book trailer does, too. Good luck, multi-hyphenates!

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