The Internet is full of great advice about how to sell a book, but what about after the sale? When my first book came out, I found it was surprisingly hard to find answers to some basic questions. Like most authors, I learned most of the answers through trial and error. And so in anticipation of the launch of my new novel, The Night Gardener, I’ve decided to write down everything I learned so I don’t make the same mistakes twice!
AFTER THE BOOK DEAL is a month-long blog series detailing the twenty things I wish someone had told me before entering the exciting world of children’s publishing. Each weekday from now until MAY 20, I will be posting an article on a different blog. Follow along and please spread the word!
Day Four: A Night at the Movies
Yesterday, we talked about using social networks to spread the word about your book, today we’ll be discussing the ins and outs of book trailers.
Book trailers are a strange animal. Many casual readers don’t even know they exist, but within the book industry they can be extremely effective at building buzz. Case in point: super-librarian Mr. Schu has built a huge online following from sharing and spreading book trailers … if it’s good enough for Schu, it’s good enough for me!
Who’s Going to Make It? – before you embark on a book trailer, you’ll probably need to figure out who will be contributing the money and time to make it happen. Some possibilities …
Publisher: If your publisher is paying for a book trailer—congratulations! That’s a rare thing, and you should enjoy the support. For the vast majority of authors, however, book trailers are considered the domain of the author. (Whether this is fair is an entirely different question… which I’ll talk about in week four.)
Homebrew: If you like a challenge, you can always make your own trailer. Sometimes this takes the form of a talking-head video (easier) or a full-blown mini-move (hard). In the case of Peter Nimble, I decided to learn Adobe Flash and animate my own trailer which you can watch here. If you’re interested in this route, you might want to check out my blog post Five Things I Learned from Making my own Book Trailer, which goes into detail of the technical side of flash animation.
Going Pro: I get weekly emails from companies that produce book trailers for authors. The fees range anywhere from $500-$5000. I’ve seen demos from many of these companies, and have never been impressed with the product. While book trailers have some value, they do not justify this sort of expense.
Cheap Labor: Author EE Charlton-Trujillo recommends that authors get help from film school students—many of whom need a final project to graduate. Here’s an example of her most recent trailer for Fat Angie. While a good technique, I think it requires some serious know-how on the part of the author (lucky for EE, she’s a filmmaker herself).
Other Thoughts – Once you’ve figured out who will make the trailer, you now need to figure out what you want in your trailer. Some considerations …
Audience: Book trailers are perhaps even more valuable for younger readers. Not only are they internet natives, but some of them are reluctant readers—the excitement of a book trailer might be needed to help them get over reading anxiety. Take a look at your specific market and see if the books that succeed have trailers.
Length: Having watched a lot of book trailers, I would strongly recommend that your trailer fall under one minute. Usually after the first minute, trailers start accidentally giving reasons why not to read a book.
Timing: The ideal time to release a book trailer would probably be 2-3 weeks before launch. And don’t just uploat it to YouTube and wait for the crickets. Instead reach out to a blogger you respect and ask them if they will do an “exclusive” release of the trailer … turn its release into an EVENT!
Art: If you have an illustrated book, a trailer is much easier to make. Just use iMovie to throw together a little music, text, and floating images and you’re good to go. In this case, I would definitely say it’s worth your time. (The master of this technique is the brilliant Dan Santat.)
Interest: This may seem obvious, but don’t waste time and energy on a book trailer unless you will ACTUALLY ENJOY doing it. If the thought of making a video makes you suicidal, then skip it. Many books succeed despite having no trailer.
Final Thoughts – Making my own book trailer for Peter Nimble was a huge pain, but I was glad I did it. It has 14,000 views, which is a lot of impact for the time and cost. Moreover, I have found the book trailer to be an invaluable tool for school visits (more on that in Week four).
So what about my Night Gardener book trailer? You’ll have to wait and see!
JONATHAN AUXIER writes strange stories for strange children. His new novel, The Night Gardener, hits bookstores this May. You can visit him online at www.TheScop.com where he blogs about children’s books old and new