History Precedes Book Evolution of Book Trailers

For generations, moviegoers have been seduced into buying tickets for upcoming attractions by watching those all-important movie trailers, alluring previews that generate the ‘impulse buy,’ pulling you back into the theater for more.

These 30-second trailers are elaborately produced, intended to incite in the viewer a visceral reaction. I think of them as Hors d’oeuvres, whetting your appetite for the main course. In fact, I often make my decisions about what movies I see based upon trailers, which ideally give you the flavor and texture of the story without giving the plot away.

While movie producers have banked on the power of trailers for years, it’s only in the last few years that the book industry is finally catching up, borrowing the concept by producing so-called “book trailers”– video advertisements for new releases that can be acted out using flash videos, animation, or simple still photos set to music (with optional narration), designed to build advance interest and sales.

If you’ve written a memoir and want to promote it on social media–YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc.–you’re going to need a book trailer, which is like putting the cherry on a sunday. It’s fun to do and really works.

In fact, it’s hard to believe that the first book trailer wasn’t produced until 2003! And it wasn’t until 2005 when user-generated online video upload became more popular that such trailers become a common reality on sites like MySpace, YouTube and iFilm. The cost of such trailers to promote your memoir range from the bare bones low-end of $1500 to $15,000 and up depending on productions values. But such trailers turn out to be invaluable as an author can use them on social networking sites, in their press kits, in presentations to book chains, on commercial sites selling books, at Book Expo America, and at book readings.

The Final Book Jacket Design

When I learned all this about a year ago, my goal was creating a book trailer of my own. After all, KATIE UP AND DOWN THE HALL is an emotional, highly-visual story that takes place along the Hudson River–with a very photogenic dog (Katie), an adorable little boy (Ryan), and a charismatic matriarach (Pearl), so I envisioned a book trailer that could capture the color and mood of the story.

Glenn, Ryan, Pearl, and Katie

The best book trailers are really like poems with music, consisting of three major elements–an inspiring message (the script), beautiful images (in my case, a montage of photographs that illustrate our family story), and atmospheric background music that matches the mood of the story.

Pitiful As A Puppy

To collect the visuals for my book trailer, I combed through 20 of my scrapbooks, choosing the most expressive pictures I could find. I eventually wound up with 300 “finalists,” that told the entire story of our 16 years together. From this pool of photos, I eventually narrowed it down to 65 pictures to tell the story of KATIE.

Finally, I needed to find background music that would match the mood of the story–and hopefully evoke in viewers an emotional reaction. One night, I found a great movie on cable titled “My Dog Skip,” and as soon as I heard the film score, I knew it was perfect for my story.

And now, with all three elements chosen, I needed a video and sound editor to put it all together. That’s when I turned to one of my best friends, actor Brandon Williams, who not only did the voice-over narration but the  editing as well, matching the meaning of the script to the image, creatively panning and zooming on pictures, coordinating the final look of the trailer.

Brandon Williams

The final result speaks for itself. Just click and see.

I have to tell you that I’ve screened this trailer for many people–kids, seniors, businessmen, dog lovers, and those not even interested in dogs–and the reaction has been startling. Almost everybody who sees it cries! Why? I think it’s because each of us has a child, or a grandmother, or a best friend, or a dog in our lives who we’ve bonded with deeply–and who we’ve ultimately lost, due to the inevitability of death or separation.

Judy Judy arriving with me at the book party, complete with a book trailer playing for guests

Judy Judy arriving with me at the book party, complete with a book trailer playing for guests

Well, there you have the story of my book trailer. When you’re memoir is all written and ready, trust me when I tell you that producing the book trailer is a very enjoyable part of the process. So think about your story, collect all the visuals you have, work with your ghostwriter to create a dramatic script, start listening to all your favorite iTunes, and soon enough you’ll be on your way to producing the perfect book trailer that fits the content of your book.