Lights. Camera. Book Trailer.

Early Morning Rain

Early Morning Rain

Awake early, like a child on Christmas morning. Rain patters on trees outside the open screened window. Twelve hours ago I put finishing touches on my first guest blog post, almost ready to send. Somewhat distracted by the overwhelmingly positive response all day to the first book trailer, which had gone live that morning. Phone vibrated on the desk, noting arrival of email. Copy edits of first novel Calvin’s Head. I wanted to tear into the task of perusal immediately. But the day had been long, busy, dinner with friends already planned. I was tired, screen weary, brain dead. Best to wait until tomorrow.

New day, fresh start. I am here, ready, manuscript beside me, Word document beneath this one, waiting for the starter pistol to fire.

Before I begin, a few words about book trailers. At the always inspiring Brooklyn Book Festival two years ago, an excellent panel moderated by agent Ann Rittenberg addressed the issue. A room packed with avid readers was asked if they had ever watched one. Every hand was raised. And how many had ever bought a book as a result of watching a trailer? Every hand was lowered. No one. The answer was clear. Book trailers were a waste of author’s valuable time and resources.

And yet, book trailers continue to be made and posted on blogs and YouTube. I’ve watched many in the last two years. Most are fairly interchangeable: text on screen, voiceover with music, still shots, and book cover. Simple, economical, dull. Some are more dramatic, cinematic, like movie trailers. Might not the reader be tempted to wait for the film version?

Notable Exceptions

However, I’ve also seen a handful of book trailers that looked like no others. Some authors were thinking outside the box and making short, entertaining vignettes that intrigued me and made me want to know more – about the author, about the book. Nathan Filer collaborated with an animator he met at a film festival. Matt Haig got fans to send videos of them reading short excerpts. David Pratt filmed the cover shoot with a charming, attractive underwear model. Each of their trailers captured the spirit of their books in unique and engaging ways. (Click on Authors’ names for links to these great trailers!)

Calvin's HeadI began tossing around ideas. With my past lives in theatre and radio, I should be able to come up with something different, something that suited the psychological thriller I’d written. I knew excellent filmmakers in both Amsterdam and New York who I could approach. A friend even had a dog that looked exactly like Calvin. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to stay away from any literal translation of the story. So no dog, no park or canal-house locations. So, what else could I try?

Honestly, I’m not sure when or how the final concept came to me. I let it bang around in my head and it got clearer, fine-tuned itself. By early May when I arrived in New Hampshire, I had decided to give it a go. I talked with my New York writer/filmmaker friend Kate McCamy. She liked the idea and was willing to shoot and edit it with me. She had a couple of location ideas and one turned out to be just right.

I wrote the scenario on a train to Philadelphia where I attended a day of writing workshops offered by Mystery Writers of America University (which I promise to write about soon!) We shot the footage we needed on Monday morning, took a bus to Kate’s country place in the Catskills, and spent two days editing. Viola! Yesterday the Calvin’s Head book trailer was up on YouTube. Will it sell any books? That remains to be seen when it is released in September by Bold Strokes Books. I just hope folks enjoy it as much as we did making it. Have a look and tell me what you think. I’m very curious! It may be raining this Fourth of July morning, but I’ve got a feeling it’s going to be a sunny day. The copy edits await…

2 thoughts on “Lights. Camera. Book Trailer.

  1. It’s fantastic and such fun to see you act again. As far as buying the book, well, mines been pre-ordered for some time, so I can’t speak to that. Hope it does,
    but it’s a cool idea and holds up all by itself.

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