Outreach, Part III: The Book Trailer
Two weeks ago I watched a work-in-progress version of Josh Hanagarne’s book trailer.
It’s one of the best I’ve viewed. Why? It tells a story—and left me with something I wanted to share.
That thing that stuck with me the most? His mentions of those people who wouldn’t let him fail—those friends and family members who encouraged him to move into today. AND: the images of him bending nails.
In the June 2011 post “Do Book Videos Work?” I wrote:
We don’t need videos—but they do help.
If I was writing the post today, I would amend that line:
Book trailers aren’t a requirement—but they have the potential to help.
In 2010, Barry Poltermann (full disclosure: I’ve been working on and off on projects with Barry for years) wrote the post “The End of Interruption Advertising.” Within the piece, he wrote about interrupting viewers with commercials, those same viewers wanting to be free of commercials, and the advertisers who didn’t understand the changing landscape:
Why did our captive audience want to be free in the first place? Didn’t we have a good thing going? We told them something we wanted them to hear, they heard it. What’s wrong with that?
It seems so obvious in retrospect. They wanted the content of what they were watching—a zippy one-liner, a criminal is brought to justice, Jordan dunking over, well, everyone. And all we did was interrupt them and force them to watch our marketing message. . . .
Force them to watch our marketing message . . . The publishing industry has been slow on the uptake with this one. They’re print people, not video people. And too many of their videos have come out looking like a forced imitation of what they think a book trailer should be—often with a focus on viral instead of effective.
A few years back, I watched one that looked like the sequel to The Blair Witch Project. It was a series of quick cuts, from one scary scene in the woods to another, and then the title flashed on the scene. That works for some films, because people will watch something on scare factor and special effects alone—even if the story is lacking. With a book, you have the story and the readers’ imaginations. You can’t rely on special effects to carry the story.
Time to confess. I was trying to be positive, but . . . I knew what it was when I saw it then. Hindsight is just salt on the wound . . . It fell into that imitation of a trailer for a thriller flick category. It didn’t match the tone of the book—and as Jeff Sexton wrote in the comment section,
“I really felt like it didn’t do the book justice.”
And if a video along the same lines had been created, which did capture the book, would it sell the book?
Another quote from Barry, this time from his 2010 post “Viral Video and the Death of the Clever Idea.”
Even if you produce a video that “goes viral” and a million YouTubers watch it, that doesn’t mean you’re helping move product, sell widgets, or repair a tarnished brand. It just means that a million people watched it and then probably forgot about it. It’s not a marketing strategy. It’s not a lasting positioning of your brand. It’s not U2, it’s Orchestral Manuevers In The Dark. It’s a one-hit wonder. It’s a flash in the pan that ultimately won’t help you beyond a small, short-lived spike in awareness or sales.
Viral is nice, but it shouldn’t be the first goal. Focus on creating a piece that encourages conversation and action.
Barry offered up Gary Vaynerchuck’s Wine Library TV as an example of videos that work:
Vaynerchuk, the author of Crush It!: Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion, started making podcasts about wines he liked, disliked, loved and hated and then moved into video and built his brand and sales around the series. Again, it was a series. An on-going series. And it was (is) accompanied by Gary’s non-stop efforts in social media to support his show, and thus his brand. None of his videos would necessarily be considered “viral” if your definition is a million views. Yet aside from becoming something of a celebrity and best-selling author, his wine business has grown ten-fold as a result of his campaign, his series of videos.
For Steve, though they aren’t videos, I’d say he’s seen some of the same through his Writing Wednesdays series. They didn’t start as a campaign, but they’ve introduced more readers to all of his projects. How? His personality comes through. He shares real stories—often personal—that resonate with readers.
That’s one of the pieces I like about Josh’s video for his new book. I identified with some of what the video shares and there’s a sense of who Josh is—including the strong-man showing—that hooked me.
Josh’s book is non-fiction, a look into his life, so it makes sense that he’s talking about himself. So how would that work for fiction?
Back to The Profession video. There’s a back story to every book Steve has written. Same for other writers. Rather than a production, I would enjoyed seeing Steve talk not about the entire book, but about some of what he faced writing it—a Writing Wednesdays-style post on the book, but done via video. Give me the back story—something I can learn from or that pulls at one of my interests, and I’ll share it today and 20 years from today. I still read the Robert Giroux’s intro to Flannery O’Connor’s The Complete Stories every time I pick up my copy. If it had been a video, I would be sharing it that way. I love the look behind the book.
The message shared in Josh’s video has that same timeless feel to it. The experiences shared will resonate with me twenty years from now. For today, though, he’ll have to push upstream as a first-time author, facing readers who might not jump to a story about him the way they would to a story about their favorite long-established authors—one more reason for tightening the focus on what makes the most sense and to tell a story instead of forcing interruption advertising.
UPDATE: Within the comment section, Jeremy Brown mentioned the 405 lbs bar in Josh’s video. That’s another reason I liked it—that Josh didn’t have to say everything, that there was a certain amount of showing. AND, via that showing, he caught the attention of others with similar interests. You never know what’s going to draw someone in, make them watch every minute. I’m not calling for one-man-band performances, smashing in as much as possible, but a few added dimensions? Why not?