Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Modes of Marketing

There've been a number of discussions around the blogosphere recently about book trailers -- Romancing the Blog had one today and has had others in the past, and they've been a subject of discussion in other places as well. I've never seen a good one, but then I'll admit I haven't gone looking very much. Even granting that there are good book trailers, though, I still have to wonder how much correspondance there'd be between a reader's enjoyment of a trailer and their enjoyment of the book it's advertising.

Movie trailers work because the trailer -- a piece of video with bits of scenes out of the movie, dialogue from the movie, action from the movie, showing the actors who are in the movie, and playing music from the movie -- give the viewer a small sample of the experience they'll have while actually watching the movie. "Like this? Get more of the same!" is the message of a movie trailer.

Book trailers, though, present information in a mode completely different from that of the book itself. Even a well-done book trailer, with hired actors or custom animation rather than pans of stock photos, and with music appropriate to the mood of the book, is going to be presenting an experience which bears very little resemblance to that of actually reading the book.

So how valuable is the trailer going to be, from the POV of the reader? I love watching movie trailers because I can get a feel for the movie and decide whether I want to see it. It doesn't always work -- we've all seen trailers where it turns out that all the best parts of the movie were in the thirty-second trailer -- but if I like the chase scene or the effects or a bit of dialogue in the trailer, I'll probably like it in the movie too. Liking the actors or the music or the visuals in a book trailer, though, doesn't really tell me whether I'll enjoy the experience of reading the author's writing in the book. (Although it might suggest that I'd enjoy watching a movie made from the book.) And although a trailer can certainly present a short description of the plotline, which is more relevant, I can get that just as easily and without all the extraneous distractions by reading the back cover blurb of the book itself.

If I do buy the novel being advertised, I'm not going to be watching the actors act it out, nor am I going to have the music playing. I'm going to be reading the writer's words, and all the voices, music, action and animation is going to be provided by my own mind, as suggested by the text. It's quite possible that I might enjoy a trailer very much but not care for the book for whatever reason, because the experiences of each are very different and liking one isn't going to necessarily guarantee liking the other. So from my POV as a reader, how much benefit is there to watching the book trailer if, when it finishes playing, I'm still no closer to knowing whether or not I'd enjoy reading the book?

If a writer only has one book to sell, then I suppose this doesn't matter. If a trailer persuades me to buy the book, then that's the whole point, right? The writer can smile and bank the money (after paying the people who made the trailer) and there you go. But maybe I would have liked their second book, or their fifth book. I'm less likely to buy those books, though, because at this point I have personal experience telling me that liking Author X's marketing doesn't mean I'll like Author X's book. I thought the trailer was great but disliked the book anyway, so if I like the marketing for the next book -- even if it's a more traditional blog or magazine ad -- my experience is telling me that I'll probably dislike the book it's pushing, that Good Marketing = Bad Book in the case of Author X. Yuck.

I might be wrong about this, and it's possible that five years from now we'll all be scrambling to make trailers even for our short stories. As a writer, though, I'm not going to jump onto this bandwagon without a lot more data, and it'll have to show that there's a significant correspondance between readers liking the trailers and liking the book, not just that watching the trailer makes them buy the book.

As a reader, I'll stick with the written modes of marketing to decide whether or not to buy books. At least there I have some idea of what I'll be getting.



Charles Gramlich said...

I'm like you. Personally, I read books so that I can get away from the TV/Movie mindset. To advertise books via movie type trailers actually turns me off. I have in fact passed on books I might have bought because of the "trailer." But you and I may be just weird.

Bernita said...

I agree, both for your reasons and Charles's.

Sarai said...

From a readers perspective I do not like book trailers they do not appeal to me at all. If I need help determining what to read I would rather read an excerpt on the author's page.
As far as marketing from an aspiring author's perspective I think it would be a waste of time and money. First off unless you spend a lot of money they look cheap and then it involves a lot of your time to make. Time you could be using writting a great novel or editing.
Good post I'm glad to see others agree.
PS I tagged you! Dying to know what you will post back.
PSS your prize should be on it's way!

Ello - Ellen Oh said...

OK - I am more open to this medium and when it is done well, it definitely can be a plus. But when it is bad, shudder! But I see book trailers like book commercials that you sometimes see. A voiceover that tantalizes you with some interesting story idea and then the book cover. What's the difference between the commercials and the trailers? Well for one thing, some are really home made and bad. But the ones that have been great have usually had an animated portion to it that made it stylized and quite good. But that only works for certain genres.

Angie said...

Charles and Bernita -- exactly, I just don't get the correspondence or the attraction. [shrug]

Sarai -- yes, excerpts work wonderfully. They show you a bit of what the book's about, and how the author is presenting it, which is exactly what I want when I'm deciding whether to buy a book.

Ello -- definite agreement that the bad ones suck swamp water. But even the good ones don't necessarily tell me whether I'll like the book. If I like the trailer, all that necessarily tells me is that whoever made it (and if it's really that neato-keen, it probably wasn't the book author) can make cool trailers. I suppose I might come across one some day that's incredibly neato-keen and is able to get across a true flavor of the book somehow, but until that happens I'll stay skeptical. [wry smile]


COS Book Trailers said...

Book trailers have been around for a long time and there are stats on their effectiveness.
In a recent RWR magazine, Sue Grimshaw of Borders Group states that book trailers are indeed popular with readers. She even gives the two top trailers that had the highest click-throughs (watch-to-buy rates) they are Christine Feehan's Dark Possession and Cherry Adair's White Heat.
More and more booksellers are taking trailers as content, not co-op. Why? Because the trailers sell books and the booksellers see that.
Even Amazon.com who just a month or two ago was charging $2500 to put a trailer on their site, now takes them for free and even encourages authors to put them up on their Amazon/Connect account.
In the interest of full disclosure, I am the CEO of a book trailer production company. So, though that may make me seem bias, it also puts me in the "know" for stats, effectiveness and utilization.
My company has over 300 booksellers who now take our videos as content. I have a meeting tomorrow with Books A Million and hope to add them to our distribution list soon.
Over 5000 (yes, thousand) libraries get our videos. And starting April 1st, our videos will play on screens in buses in 5 major cities. We were asked to supply book video as content for this. We don't pay anything to have our videos shown. The buses represent 10 million impressions per week.
Granted, my company has been making trailers since 2002 and we have created a great deal of relationships with publishers and booksellers. But, our distribution is made successful by the people who view and buy, not by where we place the videos.
Here are some videos that I think represented the books very well-
The Price-

Irish Devil

Lessons of Desire

Hot Ice

The Lady of Serpents

I tried to give a variety there.

You can find others at-