The Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make cinematic book trailers for Monica Drake, Matt Bell, Scott Dominic Carpenter, and Jason Ockert was successfully completed a couple months back. Since then, three of the four book trailers have been shot, and one trailer has been released.
Neighbors of Nothing, The Short Story Collection by Jason Ockert
Today we shipped a large order of Kickstarter perks to our campaign donors. Boxes filled with signed copies of books by Matt Bell and Monica Drake, as well as additional books provided by their publishers piled to the sky, and these were only a part of the perks we’ve shipped in the past few weeks!
Behold, the fourteenth wonder of the world!
Be sure to watch out for Matt Bell’s book trailer for In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods, to be released in the next two weeks.
At Red 14 Films, we often compare the role of the cinematic book trailer in publishing to the role of the music video in the music industry. A good music video, like a good book trailer, can create a lot of exposure for the artist. It also emphasizes the themes found in the music in a fun, visual format.
We’ve been posting a lot lately about the various types of cinematic book trailers that have emerged in the past few years. In our research, we found ourselves asking what happens when a musician writes a song inspired by a book, then shoots a music video about the book in question? The answer: the music video book trailer.
We came up with a working definition about what makes a music video a book trailer:
Music Video Book Trailer, noun.
1. A music video book trailer is a collaboration between a musical artist, a filmmaker, and the original text, that directly promotes the text. It may only indirectly promote other adaptations of the text, such as feature films.
Nowadays you are most likely to see a music video book trailer only because it is featured on the soundtrack of a movie. A true book trailer is derivative of the source material, which is why we have included the following video created for The Hunger Games film franchise.
In order for a music video to count as a book trailer in its own right it must not contain any footage from other existing adaptations. Music videos that directly promote a specific film adaptation become just another form of a movie trailer, not a book trailer.
A music video book trailer can also contain thematic imagery from the source text, if not actual footage or other animation to “set” the video in the world of the book.
If an author has not sold the rights to their book, then rights are not a problem- yet. The legality is dubious of a band basing a song and music video off a copyright protected work of literature without the permission of the author. There is no issue when the author gives permission, obviously.
The 1980’s were the wild west of the music video, since no rules were set in stone there was frequent experimentation with the form. The Cure’s video for Charlotte Sometimes is perhaps the most faithful example of a music video book trailer. The video was made on its own accord, not due to some cross-promotion with a film adaptation, and both the lyrics and music video take place in the world of the novel. Plus there are some great 80’s special effects and hairstyles!
Kate Bush’s music video for Wuthering Heights may not feature Heathcliff, yet Kate is certainly dancing on the moors that make up the landscape for Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and the awesome chorus for the song is enough to show how inspired by the book the lyrics are.
Here, Tom Petty takes a book that has been adapted countless times, and instead of relying on any one adaptation, makes something completely different for his music video.
Most music videos that only include footage from existing adaptations that you will find on youtube are fan-made using copyrighted footage set to a copyrighted song. Fans of a successful movie franchise will do this without any prompting, as a way to engage with and share a story that they love. Leave that to the fans!
There’s no reason for movie advertisers to produce a fan-quality video for their own film adaptation of a well loved book. Having a musical artist create their own independent video that takes place within the world of the film, instead of using recycled footage, creates a much more dynamic and mutually beneficial strategy to promote both the film and the book!
Award winning writer Jason Ockert has released a new book of short stories out on Dzanc Books. Jason, along with Matt Bell, Monika Drake, and Scott Dominic Carpenter, was one of four authors to participate in Red 14’s successful Kickstarter campaign in August.
Neighbors of Nothing, Ockert’s second book of short stories, happens to be the first of the four book trailers to be released!
Influenced by absurdism and the southern gothic, Neighbors of Nothing examines characters who find themselves looking for new identities in a world they no longer recognize.
Oftentimes when producing a book trailer for a collection of short stories, Red 14 Films asks the author to pick one of the pieces in the collection to focus on. The result is a concise, and concentrated short film style trailer that packs a powerful punch, much like a short story itself.
Jason Ockert is the author of two collections of short stories: Neighbors of Nothing and Rabbit Punches. He has received awards from The Atlantic Monthly, Mary Roberts Rinehart, the Dzanc Short Story collection contest, and been nominated for a Shirley Jackson Award. His short fiction has appeared in New Stories from the South, Best American Mystery Stories, Oxford American, storySouth, Ecotone, The Iowa Review, One Story, McSweeney’s, and Post Road. Jason serves as fiction editor of Waccamaw and is an associate professor at Coastal Carolina University.
Back in my day, before book trailers were in color and had all those new fangled recorded sound effects, there were silent cinematic book trailers, complete with dialogue text, degraded film, and my Uncle Horace playing piano. Uncle Horace is no longer with us, but book trailers still are, thank the lord.
Now get off of my lawn, with your YA novels before I spray the hose on you, you darn kids!
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.
A new novel by Joshua Kornreich, the author of “The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars.”
Because no one ever fended off a robber with their iPad, McSweeney’s presents The Best of McSweeney’s just in time for our fifteenth anniversary. Perfect for fighting crime, making friends, finding love, and learning a great deal about the recent history of American literature
There are some neighsayers who think that book trailers are just a flash in the pan, and that in ten years the whole thing will have blown over and the publishing industry will revert back to what it was before. How did people react when the first illustration was put into a book? Book trailers have carved out new potential in digital book marketing, as well as a an opportunity for cross-media collaboration, given the rising quality and attention book trailers are now getting, it’s very hard to see them going away anytime soon.
There have been fantastic book trailers made for books written by TC Boyle, Elizabeth Gilbert, JJ Abrams, James Franco, and John Hodges, book trailers starring celebrities such as Paul Dano, Amy Poehler, Aziz Ansari and the other members of Parks and Recreation, Zach Galifianakis, and Paul Giamatti. There is even a music-video book trailer collaboration between Taylor Swift and The Civil Wars for The Hunger Games soundtrack.
The Young Adult crowd has grown up with the internet, both at home and in the classroom. Teachers now show book trailers in class as a way to spark discussion on a novel, and even assign students to make their own book trailers inspired by what they have read! Needless to say, the strongest market for book trailers at the moment is with Young Adults. But the young have a bad habit of not staying young forever. As these readers age, they won’t suddenly grow out of book trailers. In ten years time, it stands to follow that book trailers for all age ranges will be seen as a standard marketing practice.
When a book trailer is made, it immediately creates a cross-media collaboration. The book’s story on the written page has now been drawn out, represented in an audio-visual fashion on a digital platform that can be accessed from millions of electronic devices around the world. Concepts and ideas are now being thrown through a variety of different artistic mediums, each with their own strengths and weaknesses that add depth and nuance to the original story. Cross-media collaboration is a new and exciting aspect of literature. It can start with a book and a book trailer, and lead to so much more.
Naturally, publishers have created many not-so-fantastic book trailers for their high profile authors such as Dan Brown, Stephen King, and Dean Koontz using flashy text, stock images, or low-quality video. The only thing that is going to go out fashion for certain are these poorly made book trailers, falling to the wayside as a prototypes of the more fully realized, cinematic style.
Because in reality, the only new concept about a cinematic book trailer is that it aims to promote a book. People already enjoy short films, viral videos, and book-to-film adaptations of great stories. None of these forms are passing trends. The book trailer, when done right, puts the best aspects of these visual formats into one medium in an effort to get people excited about the written word. When created with these intentions, it becomes hard to believe that book trailers are just another fad, soon to be forgotten. The book trailer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
“They Don’t Work”
Many authors won’t invest in a book trailer, because they don’t see book trailers as an effective form of marketing their book. When undergoing any sort of investment, it’s only natural to check, double-check, and triple-check that the investment will pay off in the long run. Why would book trailers be any different?
But what many authors may not take into account is the growth of the book trailer market in recent years, the different kinds of book trailers that are out there now, and the more intangible benefits that having a well-made book trailer can bring about.
From pre-conception to execution to the finished book trailer, a multitude of decisions that have to be made very carefully. If someone is going to spend all of this time on the book trailer alone, then it logically follows that the book itself warrants this attention. A quality book trailer suggests quality writing, and can be used as a form of brand assurance, since the author’s story is the very reason the trailer was made in the first place.
Say you have already released your book and it’s been well received. Your fans are begging for a movie. If you are ever pitching your novel to producers in Hollywood, they can easily picture a visual interpretation of your work. Here’s a list of YA novels optioned with book trailers. A good book trailer can work much in the same way as its film equivalent: the “Sizzle Reel”. A producer might have hundreds of pages of one sheets to scour through, trying to find the next Hunger Games or Harry Potter, your cinematic book trailer will stand out from the rest.
When an author says book trailers “don’t work”, the first question that needs to be answered is what kind of book trailers are they talking about? Is it a homemade trailer or your average run of the mill Stock video Book Trailer? We interviewed author Steven Brust, whose book trailer falls into this category. He admitted that “there’s been a lot of enthusiasm among friends” yet he has “no reason to believe it’s been seen by anyone else.”
This article is NOT meant to criticize these types of trailers nor the authors that have them; there is certainly a place for them in any author’s fandom. You know you’re doing something right when fans connect with a book so strongly that they create their own book trailers!
But Red 14 Films! you might exclaim, what about low-quality trailers that have massive viewership on YouTube? To that, look at the comment section on those videos, which have become impromptu discussion boards for existing fans of the novel. These trailers will not win any potential readers over, they are preaching to the choir.
This article just aims to make it clear that usually the homemade or pre-fabricated trailers are the types that “don’t work” when it comes to marketing a book to an undiscovered audience. If your book trailer isn’t tailored to your book and has poor production values, then no wonder it won’t increase book sales!
If made right, cinematic book trailers will reach people who have never heard of the book in question, that is why it’s necessary for the trailer to have a level of integrity in keeping with that of the author. A cinematic book trailer does not just create exposure, it entertains the viewer and encourages them to find out more about the book.
Stay tuned for the final book trailer misconception!
"Book Trailers Are Ruining Literature!"
The widespread belief that a film-adaptation of a novel somehow degrades the source material has been around as long as film adaptations themselves. Writing a novel is such a solitary act, that it’s understandable to be wary of anyone else getting their hands on a story that comes from such a personal place.
Common complaints that arise:
Film adaptations don’t play out the way a reader pictured in their head.
People won’t read the book if there is a movie
Visual mediums can’t fully capture the essence of the book.
This belief has been transferred to the book trailer, particularly the more cinematic book trailers of recent years. Some people view cinematic book trailers and film adaptations as synonymous, but they forget that book trailers have their priorities in a very different place than the big-budget studio-system novel-to-film releases.
First off, book trailers are almost always made by filmmakers working directly with the authors and publishers who commission them, or are produced by fans of the author’s work simply because they loved the story. Because of the direct-collaboration occurring, many fears of misrepresentation can be dealt with by simply communicating effectively during the initial planning process for the trailer.
Book Trailers are made with the intent to spur interest about the book in question, not to draw attention away from it. No one is going to watch a two minute video clip condensed from a novel, enjoy it, and not investigate the novel, in much the same way that no one has ever satisfied their urge to watch a movie by just watching the movie’s trailer.
When interviewed, John Lyde at the book trailer company Mainstay Productions offered his advice on how to make a book trailer that doesn’t give too much away:
“I think the biggest trick is to still allow readers their own vision of the characters and feel of the book without being tainted by what is in the book trailer.”
Julien Deka, one part of the filmmaking duo The Deka Brothers, elaborated on the importance of “needing to keep [the book trailer] abstract enough, because we don’t want to stick images too deep in the viewer’s mind about the story.” Filmmakers like Julien Deka understand that “the whole pleasure of reading a book is the way you envision and imagine it.” Do you fear for the sanctity of literature with such filmmakers at the forefront of the book trailer industry?
Revealing major plot points, twists, and anything about the ending of a book is certainly a no go, and there are filmmakers who will violate the readers’ trust, but they should be contextualized as standard growing pains for any burgeoning industry. They are the outliers whose practices will fall to the wayside as the publishing houses and authors begin to trust more in the expertise of professional Book Trailer Producers, like Red 14 Films.
The collaborative aspect of putting your hard-earned story in someone else’s hands can be daunting, but cross-media collaboration can add a lot of depth to a story. This is all the more reason to be discerning when selecting the filmmaker to produce your book trailer. The right person with a good visual eye can make a book live and breathe in a visual medium without competing with the source material.
Creating a trailer that is faithful to the tone of the book, entertaining to watch, while still not giving too much away is a difficult feat to accomplish, but when done right, as Ben Deka told us in his interview that “[Book Trailers] create an interesting cross media relationship between the potential reader and the author.”
There is no way that a cinematic book trailer can completely capture an entire book-length set of moments and ideas, but that isn’t the point. Approach the entire process with the mindset that this is a collaborative act, that this trailer isn’t the defining brush stroke to your book, but just another artist’s take on preexisting material in an effort to engage with new audiences. This way it becomes easier to see that instead of ruining literature, a good quality book trailer can add another level of engagement that previously didn’t exist.
Stay tuned for Part 4 tomorrow!
"Great Book Trailers Must Cost a Fortune!"
There is another group of authors out there that recognizes the value of a good quality cinematic trailer, but believes that they are out of their price range. Since book trailers are in more and more digital marketing packages nowadays, it’s not uncommon for an author or publisher to bemoan the fact that they wish they had a quality trailer for their book, but don’t want to sell their first born child to make that dream a reality. This may lead to deciding to create a slideshow based trailer before actually analyzing the costs of a more personal, cinematic book trailer.
Some slideshow based book trailers, including all the bells and whistles, can run as high as $7000! These are trailers that only feature stock or low-quality footage, and use preexisting video-editing effects and content to try and spark interest in your original story. Oftentimes these companies produce trailer after trailer, each looking dubiously similar from the last, as a way to churn out money in their cookie cutter production factory. When digital media is unoriginal, it is uninteresting, and does not work. It’s the sweat-shop mentality; do not fall prey to these companies!
One route that WILL cost a fortune is hiring a production house in the commercial or music video industry. They make great quality material, but they are not in the book trailer industry. These production houses only make book trailers for supplemental income to put towards other projects, not to produce a stand-alone work of art.
The market economy is always your friend, finding a talented freelance filmmaker is always an option, and there are now companies devoted to producing the highest quality book trailers for the lowest possible cost. Red 14 Films is the first of such companies, but we hope that others will follow in our footsteps to provide a much needed service at a fair price to authors and publishers alike. Because, as Julien Deka of the directorial team The Deka Brothers said in our interview: “The cinematic book trailer art form will only reach a sort of maturity when more of them will have been done.” Their cinematic book trailer for The Boy Who Killed Caterpillars shows the standard to which all book trailers should be regarded.
This article is the second in a series of top five misconceptions about book trailers in the publishing community. The last three articles will be released next week!
”Quality Doesn’t Matter”
This is the mega-misconception that all of the others spring from. Countless author forums and blog posts about book trailers end with the general consensus that making a trailer is a fun way for an author to spend an afternoon, and that not too much thought should be put into professional quality of the trailer.
Because of this consensus, the slideshow trailer reigns supreme in the book trailer market. It isn’t very hard to find stock images that fit the characters and setting of a novel, and place them into iMovie with some semi-appropriate backing music. There are companies who charge a great deal of money for a product that a savvy author can come very near to replicating at home (and here’s a fun secret: most of these companies use cookie-cutter templates).
You might be asking, what’s wrong with a slideshow trailer? They’re easy to produce, and they serve the same purpose as a more cinematic book trailer. They get people thinking about the book that is being promoted. That’s what counts, right?
Nope. The internet is full of content, so much so that users have become desensitized to content that isn’t relevant, entertaining, and well made. Just look at the average view count on a Youtube slideshow book trailer.
Digital marketing at its best is a two-way exchange. A potential reader won’t give you their time unless it is worth their while. Asking someone to sit and stare at a few stock images flying across a screen for a minute about a book they’ve never heard of is expecting a lot. The most viewed book trailers, the kind that get exposure on web publications, have been almost indistinguishable from a well produced music video, short film, or movie trailer.
One purpose of a book trailer is to create excitement about a book that readers hadn’t previously been aware of. The best way to do so is to express the experience of reading your novel in a succinct and entertaining fashion. A good book trailer lets the writing do the work, like a visual-medium wingman there to introduce your words to a demographic expecting video content.
Some authors have picked up on this, and make homemade live action trailers using personal video recorders. These can be great, charismatic authors who have done some clever viral shorts with nothing more than a cellphone. These should be reserved for places like Vine and Instagram, where the cell phone quality is the norm. Where it gets dicey is when an author who has no experience with video production attempts to make a cinematic-style book trailer all on their own.
A poorly produced cinematic book trailer is rather like a poorly made business card. You get important information, but it doesn’t make a good impression. When professional quality is demanded and expected of book trailer productions, book trailers become an effective form of literary promotion.
To Be Continued in Misconception #2: Great Book Trailers Must Cost A Fortune!
There has been an upsurge in book trailer production in the past several years. What started off as a mere experiment in digital marketing has recently become its own brand of new media, offering a fresh and exciting way for new readers to discover books of all genres.