If there’s one thing we all know, it’s that reading is good for young people. Beyond the basic literacy skills development, books can inform and inspire!
I teach a completely online Library Training Certificate program for library technicians, and if there’s one thing we talk about in every course, it’s how to keep libraries alive and vibrant in the change of ever-advancing technology. What better way than a challenge?
Saskatoon Public Library and Regina Public Library are holding their second challenge for young people in their cities to create book trailers and enter them for judging. I was curious to see not only what books they selected for their trailers, but also, what kinds of things they put into their trailers.
It seemed logical to me that young people were likely to be adding elements into their book trailers that appealed to them in trailers they watched. Voila! A direct path to the minds of young people. What more could a children’s author want?
Here I am, ready to continue my exploration of book trailers used to sell e-books. Do trailers work? If they do, what makes a book trailer effective? If they don’t, what makes them ineffective?
How did I select this book trailer to use as an example?
Well, with the first trailer I looked at I went through sales figures in the Kindle bookstore and selected a title from the top 50 in the paid bookstore. The title I selected was Brad Thor’s Black List. It turned out, however, that the trailer had only been viewed by around 600 people, so couldn’t have impacted much on the best seller’s sales statistics.
This time, I reversed the process and selected a trailer based on views on YouTube and then checked to see how it was selling in the Kindle Store.
This was author Lauren Oliver’s first novel, released in March of 2010, two-and-a-half years ago. It was, however, the first in a long run as she now has four additional–very popular I might add–titles, including Pandemonium, which was the Best of the Month in Young Adult spotlight pick for March 2012 by Amazon’s editors (now, if you’d like good sales, this is a major contributor!).
All of Oliver’s titles are published with the traditional publishing house, HarperCollins Publishers, so the trailer and other promotional material have had a higher production budget than many indie authors can afford.
The book trailer for Before I Fall features a young woman’s life on fast-forward showing numerous images of things a typical young adult does–the speeding images are accompanied by a very professional female voice (an actress or professional?) giving a brief prologue to her own story, since she’s speaking as the main character. And then we find out she’s dead about 35 seconds into the 1:23 minute video.
Would you do anything different if you could? asks the main character, speaking directly to the listener, prodding for memories. Then, she answers her own question saying she would.
Our final image in the video is the book cover and publishing information, which appears at the 1:10 mark of the 1:23 video and stays onscreen for 13 seconds with no voice over.
Did the trailer work?
Yes, the trailer worked for me. In one minute I have an idea of exactly who the main character is, what her problem is, and the conflict she faces in the novel. I know I’ll be able to relate to her as everyone has things they’d change–even if they’re just small things–given the chance. Those things appeal to the “young” reader in me, while the exploration of what happens after death and the question of can we get second chances, draws me in as a mature reader.
The technique of using photo images, often blurred and hurtling by, acted rather like memory, so I found it to be more effective than a single scene or two of the main character would have been. I felt it also made the main character seem more three-dimensional before I’d even begun the book, because I’d observed her in so many different times and places.
Was there a relationship between the trailer and sales?
Reading an e-book on my e-reader!
The trailer had been viewed 88,000+ times when I examined it for this post. Before I Fall was listed in the Kindle store today as selling at position 3746 in the paid Kindle store; #16 in Kindle children’s books on friendship; #29 (general booksales) on children’s social situations and #30 in Kindle sales on children’s social situations.
I do need to note that the novel has accumulated an amazingly long list of accolades, reviews, and awards, so already has a very visible presence without a trailer.
However, yes, I’d still estimate that this trailer had some impact on sales.
Selling books has always been the hard part, whether it was the author or traditional publisher doing the selling. Today, with e-book publishing becoming mainstream, authors can jump into the self-publishing ring with little to no investment, so there are many of us out here in cyberspace looking for the best way to promote ourselves and our books.
How exactly do you go about selling e-books? Well, book trailers, like movie trailers, are one way to get the word out. So, for the next few blog posts I’m going to be examining some book trailers from YouTube to see what makes them tick, with the intent of incorporating some of the elements into my own book trailers.
Here’s the first: Brad Thor’s Black List:
Why study the book trailer for Black List?
I selected Black List for a few key reasons:
Today, August 14, 2012, this title is ranked #25 in the Paid Kindle Store; #1 in the Kindle store under political fiction; #1 under all books, political fiction; and #5 under all books, United States.
The author, Brad Thor, has a website with a (today) Alexa rank of 753,495, which is 78,498 less popular than this website’s current Alexa rank of 674,997, so it appears we have a similar reach with our established web presence.
Black List is genre fiction, which is what I’m also writing, although not the same genre.
Brad Thor has 18,419 followers on Twitter–I’m nowhere near that point, but I’ve never been a New York Times best selling author either, so I’m content to wait awhile.
At any rate, on with the examination of the book trailer and how it may or may not have impacted e-book sales for Brad.
Features of the Book Trailer for Black List
The first thing I noticed about this trailer is that it’s short, just 1:22. That, I figure, seems like a doable period for the publisher and the reader. As a YouTube user, I’d say less than one minute is pretty short to make more than a single point and more than two-and-a-half or three minutes loses my interest. But that’s me.
Like most trailers, the book is the first thing shown, which is a good branding technique. Also, of course, a lot of thought and work go into the book cover, so showing it immediately takes advantage of marketing work that has already been done.
The next image on the video is the author–against a black background–which works at setting a mood of political intrigue. One thing that surprised me, though, was that the author didn’t identify himself with any sort of introduction (verbally or on-screen), so I wondered for awhile if the speaker was an actor or publicist or Brad. His website does give a full photo of him, so perhaps the video creators assumed potential readers would recognize him.
Rather than introducing himself, the author tells listeners that all of Brad Thor’s books promise immediate action and intrigue, then goes on to talk about the incidents that gave him the idea for this book. He also tells listeners that it’s like he’s watching a movie when he writes his books, with the assumption, of course, that the reader will have a similar experience.
As well as a visual background, there’s also a low-key audio track playing that’s designed to develop the idea of intrigue and espionage–it enhances Brad’s voice, rather than detracting.
In his closing words, Brad tells us that readers always comment on the authenticity and action of his books, once again emphasizing the theme he’s carried from the beginning. The last 20 seconds of the book put the cover in front of us again, using that branding technique, with the soundtrack increasing in volume to build in an increasing expectation of tension.
Does this book trailer work?
The book trailer hasn’t drawn a lot of viewers in the two months it has been available online–just 651 until today. There are a few comments from fans, but with the limited number of views it’s likely a safe guess that the link to the trailer hasn’t been circulated to others.
I read thrillers, particularly techno-thrillers, although it’s unclear whether Black List actually falls into this category. However, there wasn’t anything in the trailer that got me interested enough to even check the cost of a download on Amazon, never mind click and buy it–okay, I had to go check it out and I can guarantee that I certainly wouldn’t buy it at the $18.57 Kindle price listed today.
So, since the book is a best seller in the Kindle store, my conclusion is that Brad already had a following of readers before this book trailer or book came out.
So finally, please feel free to comment here on what you think about this trailer. Does it work or doesn’t it? What can we learn from it that will help us promote our own ebooks?