Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Are Book Trailers the new Blog?

First we had websites. Any author who wanted her publisher to take her seriously (and renew her contract) needed a website—the more extensive and frequently updated, the better. Then came blogs. More personal than websites and constantly updated, blogs became the new, “must-have” tool for bookselling. Now, we have book trailers. And so the pressure begins.

I do think websites are useful. When I hear about a new writer, one of the first things I’ll do is look up his or her website. I don’t think I’ve ever bought a book because of a website, although there have been quite a few times I decided NOT to buy a book because of what I’ve seen on a website (more information isn’t necessarily a good thing). But I suspect I’m unusual in that. Romance readers in particular seem to love interactive authors’ websites.

The self-promotion frenzy that typifies the romance industry also helped drive the proliferation of blogs. How effective are they at attracting new readers? I suspect that, at first, they did work. Now there are so many blogs that I have to wonder who’s reading them all. Certainly, given the time involved, they are a sinkhole. Yes, they’re a way of saying to your publisher, “Look, I’m self-promoting!” (Are you sensing a theme here?) But beyond that? I suspect that with few exceptions, only people who already read an author’s book read her blog. I blog because I’ve found I enjoy it. I enjoy practicing what is essentially a different kind of writing from what I do all day, and I enjoy exploring ideas with other bright, interesting people from around the world who so often open me up to new ways of looking at various things. But how many people actually read my blog besides my sister-in-law, my friends, and my ex-husbands? I don’t know.

Now I find myself coming under pressure to do a book trailer. No, my publisher hasn’t actually said anything to me yet. But when the newsletter for Novelists, Inc, arrived yesterday with a long article about book videos, I felt pressured enough to spend most of the evening cruising the net and looking at examples. Since this is already getting long, I’ll save my thoughts on what I saw for another posting. But did I see any book advertised that I wanted to buy? No.

10 comments:

Leena said...

I suspect that with few exceptions, only people who already read an author’s book read her blog.

I think that depends on both the blog and the reader. Writers' blogs that are informative about publishing are interesting to vast numbers of aspiring authors (like me). Blogs with a writerly angle on books - reading and writing thereof - are especially interesting to bookaholics and book bloggers (like me). Blogs that are very, very funny don't fail to catch the interest of those who love good comedy (like me). And so on. In other words, the blog has got to offer something the reader wants in the first place. I suspect only the very famous could get away with keeping a blog of the look-how-interesting-my-life-is variety.

I read your blog without ever having read your work (yet!), and I've already bought several books I wouldn't otherwise even have noticed just because I've liked the authors' blogs. The more I like the blog, the more intrigued am I by the book: and so far I've found that writers with fascinating 'blog voices' tend to write good books as well (though I don't think bad bloggers necessarily write bad books).

As a reader, I'm completely baffled by the idea of book trailers, though. Unless they're extremely original - which I doubt most of them will be - how do they differ from newspaper ads? And aren't newspaper ads supposed to be an ineffective way to sell books?

Steve Malley said...

I've also heard whispers of a swing in attitude: that maybe an author's time is best spent, well, writing. I dunno.

I also hear one important rule of the book trailer is never to show the protagonist's face. I think the idea is that creating one concrete image will mess with reader enjoyment or something. I can see the point, but I can also see a lot of clumsy, homemade editing making a good book look rotten...

Chap O'Keefe said...

This looks like it could shape up into quite a debate. I also figure it will be inconclusive. Self-promotion can end up boring to the promoter and everyone else. The secret is to enjoy what you're doing (as Candy suggests). Blogs like this one succeed, I think, because it takes the "writerly angle" etc that Leena mentions.

My own promotion efforts are based around my publisher's line and the western genre in general. It's time-consuming, I've no evidence it pays off in added book sales -- but I reckon it's fun and I hope most others find it so, too. In the next edition of the ezine, out in a couple of weeks' time, there will be an interview with a cover artist, a panel discussion on covers with three authors, and a short history of the Schofield revolver. Plus 15 brief news items and a list of the latest batch of Black Horse Westerns.

Sphinx Ink said...

I think the book trailer has become
prevalent because so many people now prefer TV-viewing and online reading to reading hard-copy newspapers and magazines. Book videos are aimed at people who will still read hard-copy books, yet no longer read (or seldom read) traditional newspapers and magazines.

Although I still receive and read a daily newspaper myself, I know many other people who stopped subscribing to it because they "just don't have time to read it." More and more people are getting their news online; a book video advertisement gives them something to click on to learn more about upcoming releases from publishers. A smart publisher keeps looking for new ways to get book buyers' attention when the old ways no longer work.

cs harris said...

You're right, Leena; I read blogs I find interesting, usually by people who are interested in writing but many of whom aren't even published yet.

Steve, I haven't heard those whispers!

Chap, you managed to sell two books to me!

And Sphinx Ink, I think you've hit it--book videos are aimed at those who get much of their information and entertainment from the net.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've seen a couple of book videos and they were well done. They had no impact on my liklihood of buying those books, though. And I generally find the idea of advertising a book with a mini-movie kind of silly. Books aren't movies. They do different things. I don't care for movies typically. I love books. But I know that I'm not typical in this. At least blogs have a "writing" element to them. Book trailers are visual and many of us who are "writers" will probably have a hard time with them.

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