Friday, September 3, 2010


My guest is a favorite of mine, Kate Laity. She's written some wonderfully entertaining stories under various names, including tales of magic, myths, and legends, as K. A. Laity. 

Branding and promotion is something of interest to authors. We talk about both quite a bit and you see resulting conversations on many blogs. Another aspect of promotion is what I call gadgets. Really, they are various promotion tools used to capture the interest of potential readers and can include everything from bookmarks to booktrailers.

Like websites, booktrailers visually solidify your brand as an author. There are professionals out there that will produce both. Many writers choose to make their own. So how does one go about creating a good, eye-catching booktrailer? How much is too much? Not enough?

Kate shares some of what she's learned in the making of booktrailers.  

Like most writers, I worry about spending too much time promoting what I write rather than simply writing it. It's the central issue of 21st century publishing: now that the whole wide world can be in publishing, how can readers find the stories they actually want to read?

So we do blogs and webpages and guest slots and give things away and run contests and now: we make book trailers. Well, some people pay to have them done which is good if 1) you have that kind of money and 2) they are actually good (ooh, have I seen some stinkers!). Most of us end up making our own with variable results (NB: I use iMovie to make mine).

I'll admit it: my first couple of trailers were not so good. Far too wordy, awkwardly connected, they are kind of painful to look at now (so, no – no links for you). Looking at movie trailers, I became more thoughtful about what a trailer needs to contain. Never mind that there seem to only be two companies that cut Hollywood trailers now: one that gives away the entire story and one that makes every movie look the same (I'm sorry that Don LaFontaine died, but the homogenization of trailer that began around his voice has continued.

But it turns out that what makes a trailer good is the same thing that makes a pitch good, especially that elusive "elevator pitch" that editors love. How to sum your story up in a short, pithy sound bite? Get the hook, find the tone, and give the essentials. First example: my trailer for Pelzmantel.

The work I had already done for the back jacket copy provided the narrative hook for the trailer. The gorgeous cover by Ruby provided the eye candy. Between the two there was enough information to let someone know what kind of book it was, yet still remained intriguing. The music gives an ambience of yearning and romance: I was lucky that my pal Paul gave me permission to use his band Reticents' song Bee-Sting Lips for the trailer. Next I threw in a couple of impressive pull quotes ("don't take my word for it!") and then ended with links to my page, my publisher and my musician.

On a slightly different tack, here's the general trailer for my works. The challenge here was a bit different and touches on the idea of "branding" which I know has been a hot topic here at Sia's too. I'd been quizzing folks at my blog on what they thought my brand was. Jokingly, I came up with "hard to spell, easy to read" which provided a kind of handhold for this trailer, which was really a showreel.

The basic task was the same: weave that message between pretty book covers with convincing pull quotes to suggest that readers really will like these books, despite the strange titles and widely varying genres. My pal Gerry Henkel supplied the Finnish kantele music, which highlights the theme of my collection Unikirja, inspired by Finnish myths and legends. My photos from Finland provided a palette of unusual images that I hoped would intrigue viewers.

I've also made a general book trailer for my pal C. Margery Kempe and one for her novel, Chastity Flame. I used royalty-free music for these trailers: many musicians are eager to have their music heard by new audiences and only ask that you link back to their sites (everybody needs promotion!). It's worth looking around for royalty-free images as well if you want to mix up the visuals and don't have art of your own.

Software makes the task a lot easier. You don't really have to be a filmmaker (although I used to make films: my blog is named after my first student film, Un Amor Peligroso or The Wombat's World), just look at some good movie trailers for models. Make trailers when you need to rest the writer part of your brain and do something else creative.

Do they help? Beats me. It’s one more tool for the PR effort, and who knows who might stumble across it on YouTube or BookBuzzr? They can be fun to do—but never forget that writing is job #1.

  • Have you created a booktrailer? Feel free to share tips and experiences.
  • What impact, if any, do booktrailers have on your book buying?

Pelzmantel--And Other Tales of Medieval Magic

A woman who's a fox—a kitchen maid who's a princess—and a walnut with a wardrobe!

Princess Hallgerd hides where no one will be likely to find her: working as a cook's dogsbody, lighting fires, peeling potatoes, and toting kettles. Her only friend is Nanna, her family's longtime caregiver. On the plus side, she's found out that 'Nanna' is really Carae Mná, a centuries-old Irish witch. On the minus side, they're both in hiding from the witch's oldest enemy, a mage who has taken over Hallgerd's father and her land. How can Hallgerd win back her home and Nanna her human skin?

And what about that wardrobe in the walnut?

Pelzmantel spins a tale of medieval magic where people and things are seldom what they seem to be on the surface. Infused with genuine magical lore and history, this inspired retelling of the Grimm Brothers' "Allerleirau" uncovers the seldom-glimpsed world behind the glitz: the hard work that keeps a castle running and the secrets lives of women in the Middle Ages. This edition includes three additional magical stories (one never before published) and an essay on medieval magic.  Pelzmantel Excerpt 

K. A. Laity is the author of Pelzmantel and Unikirja and a whole lot of other stories, essays and a comic called Jane Quiet with cartoonist Elena Steier. Her serial novel, The Mangrove Legacy, will come out later this fall from Tease Publishing under the "nom de plume" Kit Marlowe.


~Sia McKye~ said...

Kate, a warm welcome to you my friend. I like your article. I've helped with trailers before and getting the right balance between the right visuals, music, and most importantly, hooking your reader to the story.

My drool worthy Scot is willing to play butler. Just look out for that devilish twinkle and flirting.

"Would you prefer tea, coffee, or perhaps..."

A bit cheeky, isn't he?

tonya kappes said...

Hi Kate. I do think that if one person buys my book and loves it, then all the promo I did was worth it. I don't think that trailers necessarily sell the book like a book blurb, but I think it helps put some images in the readers head.
I did my first trailer and it took awhile to do, but once I got the hang of it I was okay. Since then I've had two author friends ask me to do theirs, so I guess it wasn't so bad...

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I'm glad I didn't have to create my book trailer, although when my publisher sent it to me, I was afraid to watch. Nobody wants their trailer to suck!

Judi Fennell said...

I did two trailers for the First Chapters Romance contest on Gather and I had a blast doing them. But I have to wonder if we're "preaching to the choir" by having them - does the general public even know such things exist and if they do, are they going looking for them? Do they help sell a book? From watching a bunch of trailers (since I'm in the industry and know most of the authors who've paid for them), I can honestly say it hasn't made me buy the book. The back cover copy and first few pages do that. They did before I started writing for publication, and they do now that I'm published. I just don't know if the time and money spent on trailers is a good investment for the return.

But they sure are fun.

K. A. Laity said...

Hi everyone! Sorry I'm late to the party, but I was just being fashionable (and talk about glitches today -- can't get into my email!).

Sia, thanks so much for hosting me! I'll take a lovely cuppa of your gorgeous butler -- yum! Tonya, you're right -- any avenue that reaches the reader is a good one. Alex, I'm envious! I'll have to take a look at yours. Judi, well I linked to one of Doug Clegg's trailers and he seems to have reasonable success with them among horror fans who are more movie oriented. That's the thing about YouTube -- people search for one thing and then get a set of recommendations based on the video they click; your trailer could turn up in a lot of places.

Whew -- let me draw a breath and then see what other fire I might need to put out!

~Sia McKye~ said...

I try to link the trailers here, when I know the author has one.

I'm amazed at the hits Christine Feehan gets. Hundred of thousands and this was 4or 5 years ago.

I see her as sort of a pioneer in trailers for para romance. I think I'd read maybe her first two Carpathian books, when they first came out, and then found her website. I saw the *movies* of her books. Then she did a screensaver/trailer for Sea Haven, I loved it and yes I downloaded it. It intrigued me. I thought, what GREAT idea. She's had them on her website almost from the beginning. Granted, I'm an auto buy for christine Feehan and have been since her second book, but I will say, her trailers grab you.

Honestly, I don't go looking for book trailers, but if I shopping for a new author to read (or feature here) I do have a look at their trailers.

K. A. Laity said...

Well, that's the thing: in the vast and ever-expanding sea that is the internet, it's hard to get someone to crash upon your shores, so to speak. Any port in a storm (all right, ran that metaphor into the ground).

~Sia McKye~ said...

Yes, Kate, and the thing is, while many of us AREN'T used to looking for or deciding on a book based on the trailer, this generation is much more visual. Authors want to get the attention of those readers too. So we can't dismiss booktrailers as a promotion tool.

But I do think authors need to remind blog owners they have a trailer and to please link to it. If someone reads that blog, you don't think they'll also look at the trailer?

Dana Fredsti said...

I don't know if trailers help or not - I haven't made any for my books (lack of time and resources over the last two years), but I appreciate a well made one when I see 'em!

K. A. Laity said...

Hey, Dana! Thanks for dropping by. Yeah, well made trailers make a difference. I know I've seen some cringeworthy ones for sure. I cringe a bit to think of my earlier, inept ones, but they weren't embarrassing so much as too long and rambling. Tight focus is a must!

VA said...

Well. I read and purchase book, approx. 4-8 per month. I don't watch book trailers. At all. The thing I like about books is that I imagine it; I take the author's vision and see it through my lens.

It can be like watching a movie and thinking, this isn't what I thought. To me, it breaks the integrity of the author/reader relationship. This is why rereading a book can be such a magical experience.

But I get the concept of appealing to a visual generation. All I can say, it doesn't do anything for me and I rarely click to start it.

An author has the best opportunity to make a sale by giving me a good excerpt. Here is where I think the internet has helped at least in my case, the Browse-inside function. I have purchased way more, like exponentially larger quantities of books due to the ability to read a section of the book. It gives me an honest view of the author's style and tone. Voice is a critical aspect of any purchase, I want to know I want to hear them for the next 300 words.

Okay, I am totally intrigued by the walnut. And it was the blurb, not the visual that caught me.

K. A. Laity said...

Hey, VA! I'm glad the blurb intrigued you -- I made that, too! That's why I think it's wise not to put all your expectations into one forum or format. Ebooks, print books, audio books -- I'm happy to have them all! And I try blogging, and chat and trailers, whatever it takes to get my stories into people's hands.

And yes, that's where the real magic happens. What a wonderfully intimate relationship that comes by means of words from one mind to another's. A sacred connection!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Vivian, you know I have been linking excerpts on my blog for that very reason. However, I couldn't find one for Kate and I should have asked her for a link--god knows, the woman loves links, lmao! I was so busy I didn't get a chance to ask Kate if she had an excerpt. I didn't see one on her website.

Olivia Cunning said...

I'm working on promo for my first novel now and have been thinking about making a trailer. I don't know if I'll find the time and as a debut author I'm trying out different things to see what works. Some people like visuals, and some don't. So I guess it's best to try to appeal to as many people as possible. Thanks for the info, Kate. It's helpful!

K. A. Laity said...

@Sia -- hmmm! I didn't even think about an excerpt. I was thinking there was one at Immanion, but I see there's not. I could make one and throw it up on Scribd as well as the website and blogs. Great idea!

@Olivia -- good luck with the trailer and other promotional adventures. These are the things you don't really think about while writing (well, most people -- I have seen people asking about how to market a book they haven't written, LOL).

K. A. Laity said...

Well, gosh this visit has already paid off: you can now read an excerpt of Pelzmantel via Scribd. Enjoy!

~Sia McKye~ said...

Oh, I love it Kate! You get the feel of sitting down at her feet and listening as the cold wind blows and the fire crackles and dances. Beautiful.

I didn't even know about Scrib. It's good to know because I do have some authors that don't have excerpts on their websites, but only a few. Most see it for what it is, a great marketing tool.

I'm going to have to go back and read more, after I post that in the article for the weekend crowd.

Dottie (Tink's Place) said...

Hi Sia and Kate!

Book trailers have become a hot topic around the blogosphere lately. Are they a useful tool? Should authors give them a try? The cost of the trailer versus the payoff from it?

Here's what I think of book trailers: 1) Great promotional tool, puts the name of the book and the author out there for the online community, 2) Gives the reader a taste of what's to come within the pages, and 3) Provides a visual, auditory trigger, a memorable presentation of the book.

Important because when the reader standing in the thousands of books in the romance/paranormal/urban fantasy section of your local bookstore, anything that makes someone take an extra look at your book is a plus. Also, deep pockets aren't always necessary, an author can make their own trailer (if they knew what they're doing). When I'm standing in the bookstore (as I do frequently), I look for the books I've seen in the blogosphere reviewed, on youtube, etc. If you're having a book reviewed, include a link to your book trailer if you have one, I don't know how many times I've stumbled across the trailer, now I just search to see if a trailer's available when I review.

Now of course, a trailer isn't going to be the only thing an avid reader uses when going on the next book binge (cough, just had one). Probably the most important thing for a reader looking at a new author is still the blurb, but a good trailer (which is usually from 30 seconds to 1.5 minutes long) should incorporate a bit of the blurb, give the authors web address, and include a few of the witty endorsements from other authors as well as the release date. That's quite a bit of information for the few seconds your book flashes across the screen, but in my opinion, it's worth it.

Anyway, that's my two cents.

Dottie :)

K. A. Laity said...

Hey, Dottie! I think your two cents has already doubled its value. Wise words! I completely agree: brief and to the point, better if it's witty and attractive.

Sia: Scribd is a great place to share things; I'm putting up mostly freebies, but I'm experimenting with an old novel that's for sale exclusively at Scribd. Who knows?

Louise Marley said...

Without relating boring details, the book trailer project for my novel MOZART'S BLOOD wasn't working out, so I used PowerPoint and purchased music to create a "virtual tour" instead. My readers seem to really enjoy it, and I had fun doing it. I just needed my webmistress's help to make it run on the website, but now it's a really easy click-and-play activity: I like it because it's a bit different from book trailers.

Yolanda said...

I found a wonderful website that offers video production of Book Trailers for a reasonable price. Very professional service and a high quality product! Here is a sample of one that was done for the science fiction thriller Exoskeleton.