BOOK TRAILERS: Selling Words with Images Part I of ?

The book jacket & key-art for Last Call for Caviar, a novel by Melissa Roen

I’ve blogged before in this space about book trailers as an extension of the “preview of coming attraction” phenomenon into the world of publishing. Book trailers, as I’m frequently asked, are pretty much like what you’d think they’d be: audio-visual advertisements created for a print medium, combining story details, publication information, author information, marketing language (a call to action, for instance) and an attempt to provide a visual correlate to the plot, characters and thematics of the written word in order to promote, publicize and market a book.

In earlier posts, I wrote as a curious student of the practice. Now, I write from experience, having recently produced a book trailer and an author interview spot, for which I supplied (or collaborated in providing) the marketing analysis, proposal, budget(s), client interface & management, concept, copy (scripts), story-boarding, special-shoot production, editorial supervision, sound and graphic design and post-production/delivery.

[The Book Trailer!]

My client, the author, Melissa Roen, has just announced that her book, LAST CALL FOR CAVIAR, is at long last available for sale, and the website, featuring the two a/v pieces I produced, looks terrific.  (Shout out to Todd at ZD Design in San Diego, and to Melissa for her uncompromising vision, hard work and talent!)

It has been a salutary if challenging endeavor, one in which I was able to compare my theoretical understanding of the process and craft with the practicalities of creating a relevant, focused and compelling piece of a/v advertising within a limited budget, subject to constraints of time, talent and opportunity. I’m proud of what we (my team) were able to do and for that I have no better authority than the appreciation of my client, represented in full-payment for services provided and some fulsome words of praise.

In today’s post, first of a contemplated 2 -3 part discussion of the subject, I describe the experience and detail certain issues of mission critical importance that might not be immediately obvious. In the next installment, I plan to adduce a list of best practices, guidelines and steps to streamline and rationalize what is essentially a puzzle with infinite solutions, not all of them equal.

I was asked in November of 2012 to produce a “professional-quality” (meaning that it had production values and marketing sophistication comparable to a theatrical preview of coming attractions) trailer for an author who sought to publish her book with the promotional support that might normally be provided by a publishing house releasing a new manuscript by a best-selling author. The marketing, publicity and promotional elements she contemplated included a website, social media publicity, a book trailer (for Youtube, Vimeo and the website), an author interview spot and, eventually, a publicist to obtain print and broadcast coverage for the publication and its author.

Referring my client to a well-regarded San Diego based web designer and social media specialist for those elements of the campaign, I focused my energies on assembling a trailer-making team, including editor, storyboard artist, digital effects supervisor, cameraman, lighting technician, audio-capture artist, actor(s), location scout and composer. No, I didn’t have 10 collaborators. Some of us wore more than one hat, but the above list details the skill-sets required and exploited.

I claimed the role of producer, copywriter, account executive and creative director. My cameraman provided lighting and sound package along with his video-taping equipment. My director drove the special shoot concepting phase and re-worked the original storyboards to prepare for the shoot day.  My dear friend, the actor, Michelle Lombardo, came off extended maternity leave, to do me a huge favor, inhabiting the role of the novel’s lead character.

For her part– and I have come to realize that this is normal and appropriate– my client participated actively in every phase of the production, from storyboarding to the special shoot day, to stock footage and music selection, copy language, and overall conceptual vision. Whereas with a trailer, the films director and writer are often the last persons one wants involved in the marketing, considering how close and invested they are in the artistry, with a book trailer, the author is the client and her creative and commercial contributions cannot and should not be denied.   In this case, although 1/2 of the materials involved were specially created for the book trailer and the author interview spot, finding appropriate and affordable stock footage to flesh out the story was a critical part of pre-production and my client was tireless and extremely effective in this capacity.

As a production team, we worked “virtually,” by phone, email, dropbox and text, with the occasional face to face meeting, as well as “in-person” break out sessions for concepting and editorial supervision. Of course, the special shoot day brought most of us together for a 15 hour marathon of set-ups, rehearsals and multiple takes.

Concepting and script approval expanded into the three month process, a process initially scheduled for 6-8 weeks. In retrospect, this was understandable, since the approach and scope of the project developed organically as we came to appreciate what was necessary to accomplish our objectives While I had initially planned for a special shoot, we turned away from that intention and instead explored the idea of reducing the complexity and cost of the project by working exclusively with stock footage.

When that proved unlikely to result in an emotionally resonant, compelling and professional calibre piece of marketing (for reasons I hope to explore in a future post), we regrouped, reconcepted and rebudgeted in order to exploit the opportunity that the client’s sudden interest in an Author Interview spot allowed.

Now, not only could we obtain material for a couple of (or more) author interview spots to populate the website and introduce the author to her audience, but on the same day and with the same crew and equipment, we could capture footage to provide a narrative through- line for our book trailer and a character with whom potential readers could emotionally identify.

This decision represented both a mid-course correction and a creative breakthrough. Indeed, it was the solution to a creative challenge that may have been intractable. Although deciding to produce a day of shooting required another review and enlargement of the budget, it ultimately proved to be an efficient and essential use of scarce resources, which is always a consideration, whether the client is a multi-national corporation with a nine-figure feature budget or an client seeking to market a first novel or independent film.

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movietrailers101 by Fred Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License

About Frederick Greene

Entertainment Copywriter & Visiting Assistant Professor, UCLA Dept. of Theater, Film & Television. I teach a graduate seminar in new movie marketing, which focuses on the history, contemporary practice and likely future of a/v advertising for motion picture entertainment.
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2 Responses to BOOK TRAILERS: Selling Words with Images Part I of ?

  1. Pingback: MOVIE TRAILER 101: The Making of the Book Trailer for Last Call for Caviar | Last Call for Caviar

  2. Hi,

    I’m looking for a review for my 3d animated book trailer, Marked, Soul Guardians which is in the running for the International Movie Trailer Festival’s 2013 competition. If you’re interested the trailer can be found here:

    Kim Richardson

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