Thursday, August 02, 2007

Book Videos, Part Two

It wasn’t until I started looking into this new promotional phenomenon that I realized there are actually several different categories of book videos. They range in cost from less than $500 up to and beyond $50,000.

The most elaborate—and expensive—involve live actors dramatizing a scene or scenes from the book. Some of these videos run to four or five minutes or more. At the other end of the spectrum are thirty-second quickies that basically involve panned shots of the book’s cover, sometimes with a voiceover and music, sometimes not.

I spent several hours wandering around looking at these things, visiting both the sites of the companies that make them and offer examples of their productions on their sites, and the websites of various authors I thought might have them. My reactions? Mixed.

For one thing, I realized that when you’re not a book’s target audience, it’s pretty hard to judge how effective its book video is. Many of the videos struck me as laughably silly—but then, the books they were pushing struck me as laughably silly, too. So maybe if I were an eager reader of those genres, I’d have found the videos enticing.

Yet even when the video was pushing a book that might have appealed to me, I found I did not like those videos that used actors doing live dramatizations. Why? Maybe it was because most of the actors basically weren’t very good. Almost without exception, the “dramatizations” just looked lame. Once again I found myself thinking, “This is silly.” This was true even of examples such as the book video for Dean Koontz’s THE GOOD GUY—and you know that, at least, was a high-end video made with reasonably competent actors.

Some book videos are just basically author interviews. Now, I generally enjoy listening to authors talk about their books, but for some reason these didn’t seem to work very well either.

In general, the ones that I liked the best tended to feature either stills or short, generic footage of things like planes taking off or aerial shots of Paris or whatever. And the shorter the better. I bore very easily and anything over 30 seconds generally lost me. My vote for the best video company? But then, their most successful book videos were funny. When it comes to book videos, I think funny is a lot easier to do than serious. My vote for the authors with the best book videos goes to Douglas Preston and Lincoln Childs—but then, theirs were made for TV, so of course they’re good!

Ironically, I found that most really “big name” writers don’t seem to have book videos on their sites (although of course, some do). Book videos seem to be most popular with romance writers. Some of the examples I found under “What you get for $20,000 to $50,000” were done for romance writers—and some of those writers couldn’t be making more than $5-10,000 a book. That’s crazy.

Do book videos help sell books? I suspect that depends on a book’s audience. As more and more people get more and more of their information from the Net, I suspect we’ll be seeing more book videos. Am I going to jump on the bandwagon? Not for $20,000, especially for a live-action video I'd probably find silly anyway. But for $500?

The jury’s still out.


Kate S said...

Ok, I'll say I've bought two books based on the book videos and my feelings about the books were mixed once I'd read them. They didn't quite live up to my expectations, though I wouldn't say either of them was bad.

As for blogs, I have bought and plan to buy, a number of books just based on finding and reading the author's blog. Yours and Charles' are two such examples, and I can think of several others.

I think a parallel could be drawn between how I feel about author blogs with how I stay connected with a story through a novel's protagonist - I become invested in the person and want to see him/her triumph in the end.

Interacting with authors on their blogs, learning about them, experiencing their senses of humor, their triumphs and fears, makes me want them to succeed. Hence, I'll buy their books. :)

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, that's an astronomical cost considering the rate of return. Sigh. I wish for the days when just writing the damn books was enough.

And thanks to Kate. I feel much the same about blogs. They are written. I like to follow folks taht way.

Sphinx Ink said...

Ditto what Kate said.

Chap O'Keefe said...

. . .And yet another cyber-promotional twist is described today by Michael Allen at under the heading "The New Intimacy". I recommend it as "additional reading" for anyone following this interesting thread. Don't miss reading the comments, too!

David said...

I think everything has to start from the audience. The most basic thing is does you audience respond to book videos? The authors I know have had very poor reactions to book videos compared to even the most simple guerrilla marketing campaigns.

Steve Malley said...

*sigh* And here I am still trying to sort out the website thing...

Farrah Rochon said...

I'll admit it, I caved and did the book trailer thing. However, I refused to spend any money whatsoever. All my trailer cost me was about eight hours of my time.

I visited the French Quarters and an area hospital to take stills, and I had my cousin, who is a jazz musician, to send me a .wav file of some of his music. It's very basic, but I've heard of authors spending upwards of $1500 for "basic" trailers.

Will it bring me a few new readers? Who knows. For the time and effort it took to make it, I'd say it's worth it just to have something new on my MySpace page.

I know my video was already picked up by another website, so at least a few people are taking notice.

You can see it on my MySpace page: