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March 19, 2008

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Comments

Dana Kaye

I totally agree with you. I've never bought a book based on a trailer. In fact, the only time I've come across someone's trailer is on their website or when it was sent to, me which means that I was already aware of the author.

The trailers that have people in them always strike me as weird. Isn't the point of reading to imagine what the characters look like?

Guyot

I think you nailed it - these trailers only work for already established authors. I think the only ones that could really impact sales on a any level are the trailers shown on television. Literally, a commercial for the book. But that's big money.

Unless you have the money and power of a Sandra Brown, and have a publisher making fancy trailers for you, the trailers made by midlist (and lower) writers are only be seen by people who already know the writer.

I'm sure some authors will argue that with Youtube more potential readers/buyers can find them via book trailers, etc. But Youtube is barely a step above Myspace - which is the single biggest waste of time for an author.

Even with Youtube, you're only going to find a book trailer if you're looking for it or the author. Generally the trailers are on the author's web site - so perhaps one could say that the person is there checking out the author to see IF they want to buy their book, and a good trailer could convince them, but - as DJM stated - most of the trailers are goofy.

The majority of book trailers are pale imitations of movie trailers, and for me it's nothing more than a visual blurb. And not all blurbs are good.

If a midlist author is debating spending money on making a trailer, I think they could find better use for that money.

There's potential downside as well. Say a reader was thinking about buying an author's book, then saw a cheesy, cheaply made trailer and thought, "Well, I'm not buying that book."

Keith

I think it would be much more effective to produce a video that makes the author and the book look interesting.

You know, Joe Author in his favorite bar, talking about why he used this location in the book. Stuff like that.

It's cheaper, too.

Alexandra Sokoloff

I was skeptical about book trailers for all the reasons you guys list above, but now I'm sold. I think trailers are more effective for certain genres - romance, paranormal, horror, thrillers - but if you're a mystery writer looking to get readers from romantic suspense, for example - making a trailer can open you up to that huge book buying readership, emphasis on BUYING.

I decided to do book trailers for the paperback release of THE
HARROWING and for the hardcover release of my second novel, THE PRICE,
mainly because of bestselling author Christine Feehan, who very kindly
spent a long time with me at Heather Graham’s New Orleans writers'
conference talking about how doing a book trailer was in her experience
the most important marketing tool available to authors. Christine
emphasized that the company that does her trailers, Circle of Seven
Productions, doesn’t just make the trailer for you, but also distributes it to several dozen websites that feature book trailers, including Barnes & Noble, Borders and Powells' sites, which all now feature book trailers. That's a hell of a lot of exposure.

I signed up with COS to do both of my trailers and found their production values and distribution to be every bit as excellent as Christine had told me. In fact, the trailer they did for me for THE
HARROWING just won a Black Quill award from Dark Scribe Magazine for
Best Book Trailer.

Making a trailer is more of an investment for an author - of either your own time or money - than other marketing tools, but once you have a trailer there are never-ending uses for it. My publisher has sent the trailers around to their sales force and to bookstores and libraries to generate excitement about the books. Authors can link to a trailer in their newsletters, embed it on all their websites, blogs and social networking sites (MySpace, Facebook, etc), and send it to bookstores and libraries where they're appearing to advertise their appearances. Some book conferences like Romantic Times charge a relatively low fee to broadcast your trailer
during their mass signings (I found myself mesmerized by the trailers
at RT last year and am excited my trailers will be played there next
month). I've gotten dozens of e mails already from readers who bought
one or both of my books because they were so intrigued by the trailers.

In other words, I think it's been gold.

Sorry for such a long response, Monty, but I think you guys may have a gender - I mean genre - ;) bias against book trailers so I wanted to give another perspective.

You can see both trailers here:

http://alexandrasokoloff.com/books.html

http://alexandrasokoloff.com/books.html#price

Sorry I had to miss Love is Murder... hope to see you on the road soon!

Alex


David J. Montgomery

I hope I can say this without giving offense... But watching the trailer for THE HARROWING did not in the slightest way make me want to read the book. If anything, it had the opposite effect.

My other main question remains: how are fans who don't know who Alex Sokoloff is going to find this trailer? Why will they be clicking on the BN.com page for the book? How will they find you in MySpace?

That's what I think the central problem is. Assuming we could come up with a trailer that would really SELL the book -- and frankly I've hardly ever seen any that I think would -- how will the casual fan see that trailer in the first place?

I don't think it's a sex thing or a genre thing -- I think it's a practical thing.

Pari Noskin Taichert

Well, I'm a midlister with a video interview on my website and a couple other tiny bells and whistles.

The thing that disturbs me about book trailers -- the thing that will keep me from doing one -- is the media mix. I don't think that these potentially powerful commercials spur people to read . . .

Word of mouth remains the most dependable tool for sales. I think the idea for book trailers is that they'll generate this.

I think that's an odd leap of faith. People who like to watch aren't necessarily people who like to read . . .

Doug Riddle

My problem with trailers is that I think you are preaching to the choir with them. By that I mean, most trailers are viewed on the authors website, and if I am on your website, I am already interested.

Also, I think I have seen more bad trailers then good. I personally would much rather see a well filmed interview with the author talking about their book.

JT Ellison

I think Alex has a very good point here. Yes, a trailer does you little to no good if you just put it up on your site. But if you get into the distribution network, into the hands of the readers (which in the romance and thriller genre, there are numeral venues to do that) you can get a lot of eyes on your ad.

David, you're right about the "push marketing" aspect. There is no single thing that incites a reader to buy a book. But if you can have an economical trailer, it can be one more tool in the arsenal.

I just made myself a trailer. It was easy to do, I got my message in it, and I was able to bypass spending a lot of money on it. Is it going to win awards? Hardly. But it will be another facet in the marketing for the next book. Maybe one day we'll all have commercials, like the big dogs : )

Alexandra Sokoloff

But David, trailers aren't aimed at YOU. They're a way to reach a completely different audience - teenagers for THE HARROWING, romance readers who wouldn't necessarily pick up a mystery, and whoever it is that goes to all those book trailer sites out there. I've looked at the view count for both of my trailers on some of those sites and they're in the thousands, so obviously SOMEBODY is going to those sites.

If your point is that book trailers are going to turn off as many people as they turn on, well, maybe - I don't have any way of knowing that, but I suspect that people who don't like book trailers simply don't take the time to watch them, so it's not something to be overly concerned about.

JT Ellison

Numerous venues. Sorry.

Alexandra Sokoloff

Oh, and on the B&N site question - B&N is launching a trailer SECTION on their site. So people can randomly browse through trailers and then click through that to the specific book page. So they find the book through the trailer, not vice-versa.

If all those book chains are creating their own trailer sections, someone in corporate must think that it's a useful marketing tool.

Keith

I think trailers are this year's way of siphoning money out of authors' pockets.

How much does a good one cost? (For that matter, how much does a cheesy one cost, since cheese is the rule.)

How many additional books have to be sold for the royalties to pay for the trailer?

I'm going to take a wild-ass guess that $500 is low-end for a cheesy trailer. What's a paperback royalty these days? Ten cents?

Does anybody but the video people actually end up ahead?

Keith

Alexandra, someone in corporate thinks user-generated content with near-zero overhead isn't a big risk. If it doesn't take off, no loss, and if it does take off, they can start charging for it.

Or wait--are they already charging for it?

David J. Montgomery

But if most book trailers don't appeal to someone like me -- a person who's always on the internet, a person who likes new ideas and new technology, a person always looking for new and different kinds of books... At the very least, that causes me to raise an eyebrow at their effectiveness.

Don't get me wrong, I hope that eventually some new form of marketing like this will take off and become really successful. We're always looking for new ways to get the word out about books. My concern is that this ain't it -- at least not at this point.

Guyot

I like Keith's idea.

I think DJM's point is what I said - you run the risk of losing a sale as much (if not more) than gaining a sale with a trailer.

A writer friend of mine mentioned how people don't buy books the way they buy movies. You're essentially using another business's marketing tool, which may not fit with yours.

If what X says is true - that the pub industry is becoming more and more like Hollywood, and thus, Hollywood marketing needs to be used more - I think that's a sad, sad state of affairs.

If B&N and Border's, etc. are using the form, soon the whole industry will become so lazy that trailers will become the standard - then books won't be judged by their quality or their author, but by the trailer. Publishers will dump money into creating bigger and better trailers, and all the hype will be about opening, and nothing else... just like movies are now.

And I still say Myspace and Facebook are worthless for legit authors. All one need do is look at the hard numbers for these sites - the demographics, etc. - and you'll quickly realize it's all Snakes On A Plane.

Keith

David, my opinion is this can't be it until authors and amateur or semi-pro video production people are priced out of the game. Until then, it'll mostly be cheese--and the public only likes cheese when it's also a novelty. Which this won't be pretty soon.

Guyot

Keith mentions something NO ONE talks about in this day of marketing-above-all-else, Konrath stories of selling yourself, and everything else...

Is it worth it? Does the time and money invested in all this marketing/publicity really payoff at the end of the day?

I know several authors with very high internet and conference profiles who can't make a decent living off their book sales.

David J. Montgomery

That's an excellent observation. What's the point of having 10,000 MySpace friends if you're only making $8000 per book? What's the point of having a blog with 500 unique visitors a day if you've only got a 3000 copy print run?

Isn't there a better way that we could be spending our time, whether it's improving our writing or just doing more effective forms of promotion?

We're all grasping at straws in this business, because there's so little empirical evidence about what works and what doesn't. But that just means we need to be even MORE analytical, more critical, more skeptical about the "next big thing."

Doug Riddle

I have been thinking a lot about the whole "push marketing" that is going on in publishing, and as a yet to be published author it has me wondering....can I do all this maketing crap?

My god, I barely have time to write while holding down a fulltime job and raising my kids, what would I do if I actually got published and was expected to do all the marketing I see authors being pushed more and more to do?

And I have to agree with Guyot, how much of it really does any good when it comes to selling books?

Since the original subject was "trailers", let me just say that the first trailer I ever saw was on Michael Connelly's website, and I got the impression it was a little freebie for the faithful, like the CD and DVD he attached to a couple of his books. I don't see a MySpace page attached to his site, or a lot of other internet presence, and I only see his name connected to some of the bigger confrences, so how much of has any of that contributed to his position in the industry? It would seem not that much.

Why isn't it enough to just write a really good book?

And how did it become the authors job to have to sell the book? Seems like the publishing industry has slipped one over on us. Next thing you know we will be down at the printer packing boxes.

Keith

It became authors' jobs to sell books when we jumped up and said ME ME ME! I'LL SPEND MY ADVANCE! I'LL GO INTO DEBT! I'LL DO YOUR MARKETING! JUST PUBLISH MY BOOOOOOOK!

David J. Montgomery

I don't think it's a problem if authors do some of their own marketing, assuming they chose to. Where I have a problem is that the publishers have largely abrogated their responsibility to market the books they publish (except in the case of those particular authors they've chosen to push). To publish a book in a meaningful sense does not mean simply to print and distribute it -- but that's all that happens in most cases. That's why I've been calling for years for publishers to substantially reduce the number of books they publish, and then actually promote and market those books that they do publish.

Guyot

It became authors' jobs to sell books when we jumped up and said ME ME ME! I'LL SPEND MY ADVANCE! I'LL GO INTO DEBT! I'LL DO YOUR MARKETING! JUST PUBLISH MY BOOOOOOOK!


I've seen that guy's blog.

Doug Riddle

You guys are making me weep over here......lol

M.J

Here’s my take. A lot of agreement with a lot of what a lot of you have said. But in this case at AuthorBuzz.com we work with about 300 titles a year so I have some research for this.

First – no one will buy a book if no one knows it exists. So saying word of mouth is the best way to sell/market a book is true but false because you can’t get word of mouth unless first you get a sizable group of people to read the book and start talking about.

And to do that you have to advertise it somehow/some way. And if you look at any bestseller list you’ll see that every one of those books gets marketing dollars. Books don’t sell by magic or osmosis. And I know publishers tell authors advertising doesn’t work except everyone who says that spends serious money advertising their lead titles. The party line that advertising doesn’t work is code for we don’t have it in the budget for your book.

85% of all books get less than $2000 in ads/marketing.

So. They have to market your book. Or you do. And no one thing does that. Dozens of individual things do that.

And certainly a book trailer can be one of those things but if you think no one reads a book that they don’t know exists they don’t watch a trailer that no one knows exists.

So if you’re going to do it I usually offer this advice.

A: The trailer has to be part of a larger marketing effort. You can’t just shove it up at a few websites and expect anyone to find it or watch it. And you can’t rely on viral marketing. (Viral marketing works - or pass along videos only happen when video is so funny or amazing people have to pass it on. This happens with one in 100,000 videos. It worked with the first Vidlit.com because it was hysterical – but very few trailers are funny enough or amazing enough to get passed on.)

B. 90% of book trailers fail to make it clear from the start that this is a book we’re talking about and that’s a big problem. They do look like movie trailers and so confuse readers. The complication here is readers don’t watch books but we are asking them to watch a reenactment from the book in order to convince them to read the book. Its counter intuitive.

C. Author interview trailers as opposed to reenactment trailers sometimes are a better solution.

D. If you are going to do a trailer and expect it to accomplish anything you should do it the way Alex did it - but don’t even stop there. ExpandedBooks.com does author interview trailers and/or distributes their or can be hired to distribute others. Ditto for Circle of Seven – they do them trailers and/or distributes.

And then ad AuthorBuzz.com notes to get them in front of hundreds of thousands more readers, bookclubs librarians and booksellers. (You didn’t expect me not to make a pitch did you?)

E. I’ve done quite a few trailers myself – actually I think I was the first author to do one in 2001 – but of all of them the only one I think that worked is this one - its just a teaser - my goal was not to tell the story of the book but the readers experience. We ran this on cable TV shows and on the web - http://youtube.com/watch?v=FsbtOSflRro

Doug Riddle

Honestly though, I just read on Jason Pinter's blog about his trip from NYC to Seattle, and I thought to myself....Just how many books would you have to sell to make it worth the air fare and hotel room?

Years ago I read about Lawrence Block trying to beat the high cost of traveling to promote his books by driving a RV loaded with books from store to store. But with gas looking at $4.00 a gallon that isn't even an option.

"Coming Soon to a bookstore near you...The I Want To Be A Famous Writer Bicycle Tour."

Keith

M.J., what's the price tag for what you'd consider an effective trailer/marketing package for a midlist book?

Elaine Flinn

Well, once again - I agree with David & Guyot (and that's beginning to worry me!) :)

Alex's experience & M.J.'s advice are great - but - and this is a BIG BUT - where does it end? So you do a five second simple, but provocative trailer...and then the 'next big thing' is a 20 second one, and then maybe two minutes (or whatever the hell increments actually are). So now you're in the game and you have to keep up with the crowd. Before you know it, we'll all be forced to make mini-movies. Hell, the book won't even be necessary - or will at the least - be anticlimatic.

And by the way, Keith-you nailed it pretty damned well!

David J. Montgomery

What MJ writes is gospel truth as far as I'm concerned. I strongly urge authors to read it and learn. She's an expert on this subject and knows what she's talking about.

J.D. Rhoades

Y'know guys, there's this about Stacey and Konrath. They work their asses off, and they're willing to share the fruits of that labor, however ephemeral they may be, with other writers. Does it work? Is it effective? Beats me. But it's got to be a lot more productive, and certainly more fun, that sitting around playing "look how clever and snarky I can be about people who never did a goddamn thing to me" from behind your keyboard.

But hey, fun's where you find it, I guess. Y'all enjoy yourselves, I'm gonna go work.

David J. Montgomery

I deleted the 2 comments that were nothing more than insults against a person who's not even involved in the discussion. I'm reluctant to delete comments, but I want to keep things on a productive level here.

Aside from those remarks, I think this has been a useful and interesting discussion, and gives all of us something to think about.

Let's try to keep it on that track, okay?

J.D. Rhoades

Works for me, David.

Now, on to the topic: I tend to only look at trailers made by friends, whose books I'm going to buy anyway, so I can honestly say (1) trailers by strangers don't normally interest me, and (2) those that do don't influence my buying.

But here's the thing: none of us here on this blog are "normal" readers. I submit it's impossible for we happy few, we band of brothers here on this tucked away little corner of the Internet, to assess the impact of trailers, absent some actual statistical data, because we don't make our book buying decisions like the average consumer. As Alex pointed out, the things are getting a lot of hits from someone. Or as Dr. Frank N. Furter said in "Rocky Horror": "I didn't...make him...FOR YOU!"

Guyot

"This little corner of the internet..."

See, that's the thing. Outside of this little corner, there is almost no one cruising the Net looking for book related stuff.

The hard data exists - check out the PW research from a couple years back, or the MSNBC report on "Losing our literacy" from last year.

Book buyers who are on the net ARE the people reading this and all the other author-related sites.

Book buyers (your "normal readers") who aren't spending all this quality time on the net are not going to be influenced by something they don't see.

David J. Montgomery

I think Guyot brings up the problem -- most book buyers aren't surfing websites and looking for book trailers.

In order to use these things effectively, you have to find a way to get them in front of the audience -- like MJ did when they took her book trailer and ran it as an ad spot on TV.

Otherwise, you've got just a little video to show your friends. But the audience won't even be aware of it.

M.J

Keith - there's no number. I think what an author can do for himself/herself is spend enough to stay alive which means continue to get published year after year until you hit the book the publisher thinks deserves a real push.

But if you had to force me to name a figure I'd say that if you were willing to put six weeks of work in on stuff that doesn't cost anything and from $1000 -$5000 dollars you can improve sales and sell through enough for you and your publisher to notice it.

At this point I've worked with hundreds of authors who feel they have seriously improved their positions with that kind of investment.

Feel free to email me privately if you want more info. Lots of those authors have written comments on the Authorbuzz.com site, fyi.

I also know authors who have invested from $10,000 - $25,000 and its been worth it but you need to know the publisher is behind the book before you do that because you need to know enough copies of the book will be out there to make it work.

Patrick Balester

I've never bought a book based on a trailer, and haven't seen that many anyway. So, if a trailer is out, where does a midlist or debut author spend his promotional dollars? That could be a separate posting, but so far I've
1) Created a website
2) Ordered some promo business cards and posters
3) Applied for relevant membership in writer's organizations.

Anything else we can do that won't break the bank?

Doug Riddle

I think David, Guyot and Dusty just supported the point I tried to make earlier....with trailers....I think you are preaching to the choir with them. By that I mean, most trailers are viewed on the authors website, and if I am on your website, I am already interested.

None of us are normal readers, and if we were we would be on this blog.

But in addition...I was in Border's earlier this week and saw a trailer on one of their newly mounted TV screens. And for the life of me I can't remember what book the trailer was for....I do remember it was not in the Mystery/Thriller genre, but not the actual book. Guess that might say something.

J.D. Rhoades

Actually, Doug, my point was not that trailers are preaching to the choir, but that we in the choir can't assess the impact of the music because we hear with different ears than the congregation.

So does the music bring people to Jesus? On the one hand, Alex mentions thousands of hits on her trailers. On the other, Paul cites "the PW research from a couple years back, or the MSNBC report on "Losing our literacy" from last year," which I would love to have some URLs for if you've got them.

What it all boils down to, I fear, is that none of us really know what works.

Sheila Clover English

Book trailers are fun for traditional readers, but not really a necessity. Most traditional readers like to read a first chapter, a review or back cover copy. Many like trailers, but they are less impressed with them.

Potential readers are those who read occasionally and can be convinced to pick up a book more often if the story appeals to them. These are the people who turn to trailers to decide what to buy.

I would like to point out that my company does not force authors to buy our trailers. We don't hard sell any product we have. We don't tell people that their book won't sell without us. And where most production companies charge $3000-$6000 per finished minute for a video, our videos start our at $250 (includes a lot of distribution) because we know authors don't all have big budgets. I can't speak for other video companies, but ours is author and budget friendly. And COS isn't making "bank" on book videos. We don't expect to. We just want a fair wage, like anyone else who works for a living.

Book Trailers inspire people to read. If you think this is only about marketing, you're missing an opportunity.

We just signed a contract with a company that will play our book videos on buses in 5 major cities. Those videos will each get 10 million (yep...million) impressions per week per video. The company CEO called me, said he started watching our trailers and ended up at our YouTube site for over an hour. He's taking our video as content. No ads. Content.

For each video, our contract allows our company 15 seconds of self promotion. We have given up 10 seconds of self promotion on each video in order to include a message at the end of each video that says "Do it. Encourage it. Read." We just want people to read. And we're willing to sacrifice a little in order to encourage reading.

It's not all about making money.

We distribute to over 300 booksellers and over 5000 libraries. We have over 200 social media sites, over 70 book marking sites and lots of niche sites that are reader destinations.

Borders Group said last month that the trailers are very popular with readers, which is why they take them as content as well. Not co-op. Content. They named the two highest "click-through" videos, both of which are book trailers. Both are COS videos. Yeah...like MJ...had to get my plug in. lol

We have stats and facts that back up the fact that trailers work. We have self published authors, new authors, mid list authors and top selling authors who return again and again. Of course, our distribution is very extensive and comes with each product.

And while a $250 print ad lays cold and dirty at the bottom of someone's bird cage a couple of days after it was your big marketing tool...a book trailer will still be up on the internet...working for you.

If you'd like to know more about online digital video marketing here is a free ebook for you-
http://www.cosproductions.com/Resources/Index.html

Great discussion!

Alexandra Sokoloff

Oh, all right, one more thing, because Patrick asked what works. The thing is, it ALL works, to one degree or another - and it's the degree that is maddeningly unquantifiable. And none of us can do it all. You have to do what you can without cutting too much into writing time, stop doing things that don't seem to work, and hope for the best.

Tess Gerritsen is always saying that people have to hear your name (or your book title) six times for it to finally register that this is something they need to pay attention to. And it doesn't really matter what those six mentions are - word of mouth or print ad or internet or review (and that's why so many people say that even bad reviews are a good thing).

So the thing with trailers is - even if people don't like them or don't watch them, your name and the title of your book is out there in that many more places and it might just be that sixth hit that makes that many more people say -"Hmm, I've heard of that. I guess I should check it out."

Again, book trailers are targeted to a specific, bookBUYING audience that I wouldn't ordinarily reach, and that makes it worth it to do for me until I have evidence that it's NOT worth it.

David J. Montgomery

JD Rhoades wrote: "What it all boils down to, I fear, is that none of us really know what works."

Alex Sokoloff wrote: "The thing is, it ALL works, to one degree or another."

Those two statements go right to the heart of this discussion, I think. When it comes to marketing books, most things you try will work to one degree or another -- but what's nearly impossible is learning what degree that is.

That's why I urge authors to think long and hard, and to gather as much information as they can, before they commit to spending their time or money on promotional activities.

Someone will tell you, "You have to spend $5k on a book trailer" while someone else will say, "You've got to spend an hour every day blogging" or "You've got to visit every bookstore within a thousand miles" -- but as Dusty points out, we don't actually know if any of those things will work.

So I think it's important to question the "received wisdom" that gets bandied about so much in the publishing community. Not because a particular strategy does or doesn't work -- but because we don't usually have the evidence necessary to assess them. And thus a healthy dose of skepticism is in order.

Authors need to try to figure out what works best for them, given their personality, their skills, the amount of free time they have, their available resources, the nature of their book, the amount of support they're getting from their publisher, etc. They can't just write a check and hope for the best.

Semet Torres

I agree with Sheila C English. I am a reader and I like to peek at book trailers to see if an author has the kind of story I want to read..I DO make my booklist from trailers, I go to the COS MYSPACE site and look at the new book trailers posted, and from there I go to Borders, B$N, or whatever book store I choose. A lot of people who read romance, paranormal and mystery look at these trailers..if you see the site count you can see how many times a certain video was watched...and they get quite a few hits.
Just leaving my 2 cents worth, as a READER.
Semet

Keith

This conversation makes me sad.

Every artistic discipline is surrounded by people making more money than the artists, and emptying the artists' pockets in the process.

All these arguments make sense--as did the same arguments ten years ago when it was about websites and bookmarks. But now authors can make their own websites and bookmarks, so the people who want to suck the money out of our pockets have turned to a newer technology.

Once the authors know how to buy clip art, clip music, and cut and paste in Quicktime Pro, they'll start charging for something else.

Does it make sense from a marketing standpoint? Oh, sort of. Maybe. But it makes more sense from an author ego standpoint: We want to be able to say "I did everything I could for my book."

But as far as I can tell, nobody actually knows that the effort does much. We're sold these services on a platform of fear: What if you DON'T do these things? Doesn't your book DESERVE these things? Don't you care about your CAREER? Look at the OTHER people doing these things?

I guess the model is "Plan on taking a loss on your first half-dozen books, and getting ahead of your fellow authors by volunteering to shoulder a greater portion of the publisher's financial load."

In my subjective, half-baked, and limited judgment--which is about the same quality of judgment any marketing firm can bring to bear on this particular question--it takes about the same number of books to start being a name whether the author bought all these ancillary knickknacks or not.

If I'm right, then pocketing most of the advance, spending a little of it on networking, and getting the next book out there is at least as effective, more profitable, and doesn't require the author to put on tap shoes.

Doug Riddle

What I meant by preaching to the choir, is that we here are not the average reader, as Dusty pointed out, and therefore we seek out the sites where trailers are available to us.

How many "average readers" go online and look at author's and publisher's web sites?

The idea of putting trailers on buses and kiosks I think is a wonderful, if a little Orwellian, idea. I don't think we will ever know the impact of trailers on readers until trailers are brought to the reader, rather then the read having to seek them out.

Carolyn Jewel

Well, yes, authors can do their own websites. But unless they have actual design and coding skills, a DIY author site is generally quite awful. Lots of authors are already doing their own book trailers, at least among Romance authors anyway. Same result, by and large. Without any real gift for video design, many of those trailers are not very interesting.

An author needs to present a professional appearance and that means recognizing when DIY may be too cheap.

I want my website to have enough interesting content to keep visitors (agents, editors, booksellers, librarians and readers) engaged and willing to check back. A book trailer is probably one of those things.

My current agent visited my website before she offered to represent me. I know that librarians and booksellers also visit my site because I hear from them.

A book trailer is not solely a sales tool. It's also a representation of me as an author. I've stopped being surprised at the ways readers find me.

I do disagree that book trailers are merely a method of separating authors from their advances. The authors I know are darned aware of their budgets. If I were to think of a trailer as solely a sales tool, then I probably wouldn't see them as cost-efficient. But they're more than that and as long as I don't spend more than I can afford (and don't do it myself) I don't mind allocating money toward them.

I am going to be doing a trailer for the first time, for my August release.

Very interesting discussion here. I've enjoyed reading this thread.

Keith

I agree that a professional appearance is needed. I'll also plead guilty to posting while crabby. However, I don't want to see my real point dismissed because of it.

I think Lee Child's comment in response to the post after this one nails the only really good reason to do all this stuff. It's probably not going to substantially increase sales; it's probably not going to significantly raise your visibility in a way that even indirectly recoups what you spent on it. I think people in the business who imply that it will are painting from the extra-rosy tube. But I do agree that it can make you a more attractive investment when you're up against your peers for a push to the Next Level.

That's the real value of all this: Spending yourself into looking better to the MBAs than your less-spendy peers.

Jean Watkins

As a reader, I have to say that thanks to some of the book trailers I have seen, I have "discovered" new writers that I personally may never have picked up otherwise.

While shopping in a bookstore, reading the blurbs on the back of a book, I still tend to stick with the names I know; the "proven" authors in my limited world because who wants to "throw away" hard earned money on an unknown I might not like? But because I watched a book trailer, I became interested enough in the author's book to not only pre-order the book, but I also checked out (and bought) her first two books that were sitting on a shelf I wouldn't have otherwise looked at because the authors I regularly read, their last names don't begin with "L". (Just one example.)

As for the concerns of who to trust with your marketing budget and whether or not to try book trailers, that's going to always be a personal opinion. You just have to do the research yourselves, check out other clients to see if they're satisfied with the service, and decide who will give you the biggest bang (best deal) for your buck...pretty much like every other major decision you have to make in your life.

Terrill Lankford

With today's technology, book trailers do not have to cost an author a lot of money. They SHOULDN'T cost a lot. A little creativity can go a long way. And the promotional value, like with print advertising, will always be impossible to determine in hard numbers. But with all the promotional nonsense that goes on in the book pushing world, this seems like a very odd thing to argue against. It reminds me of all the ridiculous comments I have read over the years arguing against print ads. "I've never bought a book based on a print ad!" The wise ones always say. It seems that the book business is the only business in America that does not believe in print and television/video advertising. And do you know why? It costs money. And publishers don't want to shell out money for advertising. Much better to make the authors think it should be their responsibility to get in their own car and drive across the country (on their own dime) to every bookstore in the land to glad hand the 22 year olds working in the chains.

Of course, I'm a little bit biased on the subject. I've been shooting these things for Michael Connelly for five or six years now. I'd hate to think we were wasting our time with it all. Would he be a best seller without these videos? Absolutely. Have they been worth the time, effort and money spent on them? You would have to ask him and the execs at Little, Brown. All I know is that I just finished shooting seven more of them for his new book, THE BRASS VERDICT, which started out as a simple job of two spots and before we were finished they had requested five more. So they must think there is some value to it.

While we're at it, why don't we ask James Patterson what he thinks of print and video advertising? He came out of the ad business, spends at least twice on advertising as any author out there. And all I ever hear about him in the Mystery bookstores I visit are comments like, "Who reads James Patterson" and "How does he manage to sell so many books?" Maybe advertising works for him....

Videos and print ads are just another way to sell books. The one thing they have over leg work and convention hopping is that they continue to do their jobs while the authors sleep. People arguing against these things are usually people with no vested interest in the sales of a book.

Keith

And people arguing most pointedly for these things have, so far, been people with a vested interest in the continued production of trailers.

Connelly and Patterson are already recognizable brands. Advertising works differently in that case: Not only are you mostly just letting people know there's a new one out, but the advances and other publisher outlays are in a different ballpark than what has been under discussion here. Spending a small fraction of a large advance on half a dozen spots that push the latest installment of a known brand isn't the same thing as dropping a large fraction of a small advance on one low-budget, high-cheese-factor trailer as an attempt to create momentum or recognition where there isn't any.

My main point isn't "trailers are bad." It's "Oh, look. Yet another completely logical-sounding way to take money away from a writer and put it into the pocket of some service provider." After that, I suppose my second point is the potential cost/benefit looks pretty shaky to me when based on the average advance.

I've seen these kinds of arguments in too many artist disciplines, over too many years, to come to the conversation unjaded. Maybe this one's different--but I haven't seen it yet.

David J. Montgomery

I don't disagree with Lee Lankford that advertising works. I think it works very well. I think the idea of video advertising for books is potentially a fine one. On the other hand, I think that the way I've observed most authors and publishers using book trailers is a mistake. Talking about advertising implies a more active activity than the passive way in which book trailers are typically used. And that's where I think the system breaks down.

Terrill Lankford

Keith, let me be clear on one thing. I have no vested interest in the continued production of book trailers. Even though I do them for Mike, it is not the business I am in. You'll note I do them for no one else. I have one "client" and do the promos because of friendship, not money. I was reluctant to do the newest batch because I also wonder what benefit he gets out of it. His books are going to sell heavily with or without the promos. But both he and his publisher seem to think they are effective. Barnes & Noble, Borders, Amazon and Powell's all requested individualized spots, so I assume they also think there is some value to the excercise.

I actually think these videos are more beneficial to people who are in NEED of more attention for their books. I don't see a lot of argument out there against authors using blogs to promote their works, yet everyone seems to be doing it and I would say that the tangible sales that spring out of the blog world are just as hard to calculate as they are with other forms of advertising. I would think the time, effort, and money spent on a blog throughout the year is far greater than what one would spend on a video promo.

I think the big authors benefit in just a slighty wider exposure for their work and the clips are a bit of a giving back to their fans. Not everyone will be able to see Michael Connelly on his next book tour, but if they want to hear him talk a bit about the new book they will be able to log onto various sites and check out what he has to say. It's not a replacement for a personal appearance, but it's better than nothing for some of the fans.

I will agree that I've seen some lame promos out there and if it is costing the author a lot of money to sub this stuff out to a company for production, perhaps their money could be spent better elsewhere - like rent or groceries. But the fact is that any author who knows someone with a video camera could sit down for a few minutes and record something that could be put on youTube to help promote their book. It would cost next to nothing and could help in at least a minor way. It certainly shouldn't hurt them much. If it does, perhaps they are in the wrong business in the first place.

Sheila Clover English

"And people arguing most pointedly for these things have, so far, been people with a vested interest in the continued production of trailers."
Not to sound rude, but, this is an unfair statement. You have authors and readers on this blog who are in favor of trailers.

Books are products. Someone has to sell them.
It would be lovely if they just sold themselves. But, for the most part, they do not.
I can only speak for my own company when I say that we are extremely supportive of our clients. We go way beyond what any other similar company, that I am personally aware of, does. We have a support system in place for our clients and long after their video has been paid for we will continue to find ways to use it...at no extra charge to them.

I got into this because I love reading and I love writing. Our clients are valued and they know it.

I love what I do. Even when people are jaded and share opinions based on...well...opinion and imply that this is all about money.

It isn't all about money to everyone. Nor do I think it is about one-upping your peers. But that's just me. Am I the minority?

Keith

"But the fact is that any author who knows someone with a video camera could sit down for a few minutes and record something that could be put on youTube to help promote their book. It would cost next to nothing and could help in at least a minor way."

Absolutely. No argument here. I've been the one behind that video camera.

Sheila, not to be rude in return, but I didn't say "in favor of." I said "arguing most pointedly for."

I do think you're trying to have it both ways when you keep talking about selling and then insist it's not all about money. I didn't say your company was bad. It sounds as though your company is a good one--and congratulations on finding a niche market. But unless you've been on the other end of this, you just don't know how many drainage tubes keep trying to attach themselves to the bank accounts of authors (and musicians, and filmmakers, and actors, and...), and how little difference it usually makes in the long run. Most of the hope is nearly always false.

Next time I have a book out, I'll do video for it, and probably audio, and bookmarks, websites, podcasts, RSS feeds, blogs, opt-in email blasts, and whatever else I can think of. I'm not arguing against marketing campaigns that use these formats--but I can make them all at a professional level myself without spending much. All I'm really doing here is sighing about yet another completely defensible, perfectly reasonable-sounding artists' service industry that--if it's successful--makes more money exploiting artists than most of the artists will make off their art.

But then, though history, when hasn't that been the case?

As for one-upping your peers... it's an ugly phrase, but that's the definition of competition, Sheila. And you're the one flying the "compete more effectively" banner. Who do you think we're competing with? Penguins?

Sheila Clover English

I am an author. A published author. And I hate doing my own promo. And I struggle to figure out what's working and what's not.

There's a famous saying in marketing - "We know that 50% of all marketing works. We just don't know which 50%". lol

As far as who you are competing with...you are competing with other forms of entertainment.
If you (a collective you) keep competing for the same dwindling number of readers, what will the future look like?

But, if you compete in a way that can takes consumers of entertainment from other industries, that's a little brighter outlook for the future of publishing.

I guess I'm just more of a "support your peers" kind of a person. I think it builds a positive environment that helps everyone.

And I practice what I preach. If you go to any of our competitors (VidLit, ExpandedBooks, TurnHere, Scrap Fairies, etc.) you will find comment on their videos by COS people saying how great the videos are. We also post bulletin for them if they have something special going on (our MySpace has over 9000 people on it that are very active). We do favors for our competitors all the time, and in return they help us out. I may not be willing to share proprietary information with them. but I'm still willing to help them. Because in the end, the more people who learn about book video, the more a book video can help sell a book, the better we all will be.

Sheila
*and her half FULL cup of coffee*

Keith

Wait... you start a company that charges authors for incidental services that I think will probably make little to no significant difference, and when I object to my peers endlessly being dunned for money, I'm the one who's not a "support your peers" person?

Good luck to all of us, regardless of what path we take.

Onward.

Melissa

Personally I love book trailers, and I have found several new to me, authors through them. I think if the script is well thought out and written, your actors are strong and know their parts well, and the director and producers care about their product and know what they are doing that book trailers will be a big hit. Especially with places like myspaced and their like.

Mary Everett

I am one of those readers that Keith seems to hold in such low esteem. I have read all my life. As a child I encouraged all my friends and family to read.I still do, with varying success. Todays young people are obsessed with the visual (video) art.
To attract them to read a book through that medium only makes sense. I myself have chosen new authors because of their book trailers or videos. I have so many authors works that I follow it is hard to get me to try a new one. I am not an easy sell on a new Genre. Book videos have done that for me. Sorry to tell you but it wasn't the ones made by the author themselves and placed on their own website or blog.
most of those you would have to already know the author to see them. It was the ones that were out in public view that caught my eye. Authors tend to treat their books as if they were their children. They want the best start in life they can give them. In my grand fathers day that meant getting them through high school.My mother wanted to see her children through College. Now you need an advanced degree. Every time there is a step up it cost money. The same in sending a book out. I think that publishers do make more money on a book than the hard-working author does. They also tell you what cover your book can have and even what color hair the hero or heroine should have to sell. If you have the video made you have control of how your book is presented. You have control of so little else in the publishing business.
You can blow off my comment if you like, just remember I am one of the ones that will or will not be buying your books and there are many more like me.

David Montgomery

Mary, I'm not sure what prompted your comment, but I haven't read anything on here that would even remotely suggest that Keith holds readers in "low esteem." If anything, it's quite the contrary.

Diane Mason

This has been an interesting discussion to follow. Everybody who has posted has valid points. I am one of those readers whose $$$ just don't stretch as far as they used to so I can't buy as many books as I might like. I have certain authors who are autobuys for me so I don't need to be enticed to buy these books. But I do love to watch the book trailers that are made for those books. For me, it's a way to get excited about a new release and it gives me an idea what is coming. I am also one of those readers who have found NEW authors (and purchased their books) because of a trailer/video that I have seen. And one of those new to me authors left a comment here earlier. I have to agree that not all book trailers and videos are created equal. Some are better done than others and the ones not so well done tend to put me off of whatever they are promoting.
As far as COS is concerned, I have found their book trailers to be very well done. As has been stated before, they have done their homework and know where to place their product for maximum exposure. Unfortunately, most people today spend more time in front of the television, on the computer or playing video games. Book trailers/videos just seem to be a logical progression for promoting books. A well done book trailer or video could have just as much success as movie trailers, providing it gets the exposure.

[Edited to remove promotion for a particular company. Let's try to keep to the topic more general and not push a certain company or their products. --DJM]

Keith

For historical reasons that maybe three people will remember, it's cosmically perfect that I was falsely accused of disrespect in this particular forum.

Karmic balance has been restored to the universe, and I'm bowing out. See you in the other threads.

Diane Mason

Sorry, I didn't mean to sound like I was promoting anybody. Maybe I should have used different wording but I was just trying to use them as an example. Pretty much everything I said had already been mentioned in previous comments.

Mary Everett

My comments were made because of references to how only "profesional" people used book related web sites and that readers only saw videos on authors sites they already knew.
that the videos that we like so much are boring and he seems to think we would be fooled by
and I add his quote------
"But the fact is that any author who knows someone with a video camera could sit down for a few minutes and record something"
Those sort of videos don't interst me at all and would probably put me off of a book and author. I am sorry that He feels he has been falsely. I did read every word he wrote. I read every comment. He may not have meant it like it sounded but he put it down in black and white.

Sheila

"Wait... you start a company that charges authors for incidental services that I think will probably make little to no significant difference"
This infers that I'm taking money from authors for services that don't make a difference.
First of all, "I think will probably" at least shows willingness to admit you don't really know. And you don't.
But your comments also infer that the authors who have said they felt these services helped them are either wrong, or don't know how to think for themselves or are ...what? Foolish?

My "opinion" doesn't qualify me to sit in judgment of things I really have no factual knowledge of. "Opinion" though interesting, doesn't qualify anyone as an expert on a topic.

There's a lot of "I think", "I feel" and "probably" going on here, which is fine. But there's also some discounting opinions from people with first hand knowledge and experience (including readers).

There was an opportunity here for people to rally and be positive. To agree to disagree, but to be open minded. To acknowledge the readers who came here to share their experiences. Is it too late for that?


Elaine Breault

I just wanted to put my 2 cents in because I was approached since I help out on several web sites in the book industry and do so voluntarily strictly NO PAY by the way. I just do it to help out whoever I can in whatever way I can online.

I was approached to help out on site to be a judge for Book Covers, Book Trailers and now another Award they will be judging on, to be coming soon.
So for me I am into it from the reader perspective first. I read voraciously and buy books from my favorite authors of course but I have bought books I might not have from trailers because I have been introduced to them by being a judge for this site and have also seen trailers from other sources as well.

I see authors are doing trailers for a variety of reasons and being acknowledged for them on other sites and places too. One more thing - this is GLOBAL not just here in the US - all entries are open the world over so we are getting authors we had never seen or heard of before and people can now be introduced to their books so I say trailers can and do work and many are author made also though some use companies to produce them. So the money issue is not important I have found for some authors... they make their own or pay to have it done and probably on a budget and if it helps that is good but the trailers are seen and hit on 24/7. Nowhere else can you have that for a great marketing concept in say a print ad. I am all for trailers and encourage authors to keep on what they are doing since it is getting sales and generating interest in people that might not have bought or seen your book otherwise. Anyway that is my 2 cents thanks.

Finnigan

Mary, that quote that upset you wasn't even by Keith. You said you read everything, but you obviously need to read a little more closely.

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David J. Montgomery is a writer and critic specializing in books and publishing. He is an emeritus columnist for the Chicago Sun-Times and The Daily Beast, and has also written for USA Today, the Washington Post, and other fine publications. A former professor of History, he lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.

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