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.