Saturday, May 26, 2012

Will Chuck Woolery Do My Book Trailer?

It's tough world out there for the vast majority of authors, especially fiction authors. The roster of "traditional" publishers has shrunk markedly over the past several years, while the number of books independently- and self-published has exploded. The number of book stores, whether chain or independent, plummets without apparent end, while ever more books are published exclusively in electronic formats. More and more authors vie in an increasingly crowded marketplace for the finite attentions and dollars of potential readers incessantly bombarded by a burgeoning array of recreational options.

Even those fiction authors who choose to sign up with the handful of remaining"traditional" publishers soon learn that their publishers spend the overwhelming bulk of marketing money, time and effort promoting bestselling authors already famous the world over. (Incidentally, that's one of the causes of the traditional book publishing model's current malaise, but we'll revisit that topic another time.)

Writing a good book can easily be less challenging than getting that good book noticed.

Over the past few years, one of the go-to tools new authors have deployed in trying to create that invaluable buzz for their books has been the so-called book trailer. When my first book, Blood of the Moon, came out not too long ago, book trailers were still fairly shiny and new. They were labeled an indispensable marketing mechanism to give a new book by a new author sufficient gleam to attract attention and sales. Since then, YouTube, Facebook, Goodreads and their ilk are stuffed to the gills with countless book trailers that receive as little meaningful notice as the books and authors the trailers purport to promote.

It's coming to this: to get people to pay attention to your new book, first you have to get them to pay attention to your new book's trailer.

(As an aside, it's amusing to think about what kind of book trailers might have been produced for books published in times less electronic than now. Pick a favorite or famous book released before 2000, and imagine what its author might have put together for a book trailer. Forget about the movie version, if the book that comes to your mind was adapted for film. What would the trailer for J.D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye look like in 1951? Or the one for 1994's Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, by James Finn Garner? At this particular moment, I'm enjoying picturing a trailer for Donald Bain's cheesy fictionalized stewardess tell-all published in 1967, Coffee, Tea or Me.)

What's a smart way to get your book trailer noticed? Debut novelist Jennifer Miller pondered that very question for her publicity campaign to support the release a couple weeks ago of her new book, The Year of the Gadfly. Miller's story is about a teenage reporter at a posh prep school. It happens that Miller's father, Aaron David Miller, knows a lot of famous reporters from his tenure at the Woodrow Wilson Center, and his work before that in the U.S. State Department advising six Secretaries of State. So Miller teamed up with her dad, and spent a year getting in touch with some of his famous journalistic contacts, as well as at least one former Secretary of State. Some of them agreed to appear on video, reading selections from her book. The end result is a clever five minute book trailer, featuring excerpts of her book read aloud by renown reporters Christiane Amanpour, Sam Donaldson, Andrea Mitchell, and Brian Williams. In what I'm confident is an unprecedented coup for a novel's book trailer, former Secretary of State James Baker also contributes a reading snippet to Miller's promotional video.

For better or worse, we live in a celebrity-driven culture, so getting a few notable personalities to contribute to Miller's book trailer is a smart move. It will certainly gain her and her book some attention she might not otherwise have won with a more mundane approach. You want some proof? Exhibit A: Right now I'm writing about it, and you're reading about it. Kudos to Miller for that. We'll have to wait and see whether her shrewd book trailer strategy translates into sales for her novel. It definitely can't hurt.

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, and Miller's trailer has me thinking. I don't have access to the Millers' celebrity Rolodex, but I'd sure like to get a handful of willing glitterati to read selections from Blood of the Moon, or Trust and Other Nightmares. Miller has already plumbed the journalism ranks. Since I'm skeptical Jon Stewart, Chuck Norris or Mick Jagger will indulge me, I'm leaning toward eminent game show hosts. Game show hosts rule. I don't know any, nor do I think I know anybody who knows any, but I still think it would be awesome to do a book trailer with parts of my books stentoriously intoned by Chuck Woolery, Drew Carey, Pat Sajak, Alex Trebek, and Jeff Probst. Of course, one of my books is a thriller, and the other's a chiller -- not quite typical happy-go-lucky game show fodder. Still, you can't be a successful game show host without having maintained decorum and gravitas while witnessing many disturbing things. If these guys can't pull it off, no one can.

I already have book trailers for each of Blood of the Moon, and Trust and Other Nightmares. But, they're both fairly celebrity-free. So...

My kingdom for Chuck Woolery's direct dial number. Let me know if you can hook me up.

"The future is like a Japanese game show -- you have no idea what's going on."
~~Tracy Morgan~~

1 comment:

  1. This is such a good post. I had something very specific in mind for my book trailer. I knew my publishers 30 second text and photo trailer was not going to cut it for me. The production company I hired talked me out of my original idea and some how I ended up with the most famous voice over guy in the country..Perry Elliot. He voices Dancing with the Stars, Idol, NFL all sorts of stuff. He was beyond reasonable. For my original idea I wanted to use an Alan Parsons song. I e-mailed him and he said to go for it. I still did that video but use it more for sentiment. It doesn't hurt to ask. The worst thing Jon Stewart could say is no. Woolery might do it:) You can check both out on my site [up top in a folder] I would love your opinion.