Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Book Trailers and Our Visual Society

I got a Droid phone for Christmas and went from practically the Stone Age into a vision of an amazing future. I can scan barcodes and shop for the best price in town, use my GPS to find the latest trendy restaurant available by voice command, and even read books off my phone using a kindle download app for free. But the reason I’m blogging about my phone and the latest book trailer I had made for my first Young Adult book – In the Arms of Stone Angels (Harlequin Teen, Apr 2011) – is a cool app that I want to share with you.

A QR code looks like a Rorschach test. It is square and you may have seen them on pages of magazines, on signs, busses, business cards, etc. It works like a barcode and can be scanned like the stores ID their inventory at cash registers, but this code can be made by ANYONE using the hyperlink I posted above. It can be scanned via smart phone, like the Droid, with the right reader app. You can insert a secret message in text, insert contact information, or it can make a connection to a wireless network or link to a web page that opens on the phone’s browser. You can make the QR image play the part of a secret code made available only to winners in a contest or the code can direct a reader to your latest book trailer. Instant gratification for our visual society and a cool app toy!

This QR Code can be downloaded into a jpeg file that can be printed onto your latest bookmarks or made into stickers, whatever floats your boat. Anyone with a smart phone and a QR Code scanner can read your message. And in one swipe off your bookmark (or any other promotional material), a reader can be looking at your trailer in an instant. How cool is that?!

My contact at “Trailer to the Stars,” Misty Taggert, gave me the heads up on this app. It’s hard to quantify if book trailers actually sell books, but I sure love making them. And using a professional company like Misty and crew really made this effortless for me. I’m on deadline and they made the collaboration easy and simple, for my part. For them, not so much. I’ve done trailers myself before. It takes time and way more skill than I possess to do a trailer like this.

It’s hard enough to encapsulate your story into a short film of a minute and a half. But add a script, voice over talent, production music and action videos that fit, and movie animation effects for mood, and the process can get very complicated. And way above my paygrade.

For Discussion:
1.) What do you think of book trailers as a promotional tool? I was particularly interested in doing a trailer for YA. My target age for this book is 13-18 years old. And since Amazon and Barnes & Noble host trailers on an author’s book page, it’s great to have the opportunity to post a trailer at the point of sale.

2.) Have a great phone app to share? If you have a new phone and a great app to share, I’d love to hear about it. Hearing about new technology really stirs the creativity in me when I think of writing new books. Imagine an app that gives you Bluetooth capability, but also sends subliminal and subversive messages to your brain. Or picture an app that protects and backs up the contacts on your phone, in case it’s lost or stolen, but all the information for loved ones and friends (addresses, photos, phone numbers) make them a target for a dangerous predator unless you do exactly as they say. No one is safe. Anything can turn into a conspiracy with the right dose of paranoia.

3.) Want someone to indulge you? Hmmmmm, Basil? If you’re like the always inventive Basil Sands, you may want someone to invent an app just for YOU. What kind of phone app would that be?


  1. I actually never watch book trailers. Fellow authors sooner or later make it a point to share their book trailer link on a writer's loop but I just press delete.

    But then I'm a neanderthal.

  2. I won't say I don't watch book trailers, but I seldom watch them. The ones I do watch are usually pretty corny and I have yet to set a book trailer for a novel that has persuaded me to purchase the book. I actually prefer videos of the author sitting in a chair talking about the book. I won't say that I would watch those any more freqently than trailers if they started showing up everywhere, but they do seem more effective at persuading me to purchase a book.

  3. Very Professional product, Jordan. Good luck with the book.

  4. Nice trailer, Jordan. I don't know if these sell any books, but as one more slice of the marketing pie, they can't hurt. Good luck with In the Arms of Stone Angels.

  5. Cool trailer! I have an older type phone--if there are any apps on it, I don't know how to use them. But if I could invent an app, I would have one that would let me enter what I'm looking for (like a navy jacket), and it would pop up a list of local stores that sell navy jackets, with pictures and prices.

    That's probably way too ambitious.

  6. BK---Your comment cracked me up. I can just see a neanderthal hitting a delete button with a club.

    I think why I like trailers is that they appeal to the frustrated film director in me. Even when I was a kid in HS, I did films for school projects or for personal summer entertainment. My whole family did and we competed or collaborated on them. I was always behind the camera, but my twin sisters always got coerced into the starring roles. That made them the hams they are today. And if they had become authors, we might have seen a book called SISTER DEAREST.

  7. Hey Tim--I watch some of them, but generally the books have to be something that already interests me. A plot I want to read anyway. So like any other way to make a decision on a book, I read the book summary, maybe read the first few pages, and if it's got my attention, I watch the trailer as an added bonus.

    As long as we're wishing for APPS, I wish there was an app for quantifying the effectiveness of book trailers. HA!

  8. Thanks, John & Joe--I thought they did a great job. My publisher was really really happy. And my agent is using it as a promo tool to stir up a film deal.

    I heard yesterday that we have a few countries on board for translation. And I suggested to my editor that the trailer could facilitate sub rights sales or more foreign sales. Since I came from a marketing career in energy sales, before I quit to write full time, it is hard to ignore the marketing potential, even if I can't quantify the effectiveness. As long as the cost is reasonable, I will have an interest in doing these. And with my book launch into a younger readership and YA, it's even more important for me to test the waters.

    It's a theory.

  9. Hey Kathryn--I LIKE your app. And you'd be surprised, but I think creators are close to inventing it. That's not so far-fetched.

    I can scan the bar code on a book or some box at Walmart on one app, but on the google shopper, I don't need the bar code. I can just scan a cover or an image off a box and it picks up on one feature. And in seconds, I'm shopping online and across town, including maps how to get there.

    I've been watching the science programs on NOVA. And there was a program called Digital Nation. If you get a chance to see it, it is filled with plot ideas. One notion was that people who spend time in a virtual world begin to think that their experiences in the virtual existence actually happened to them in real life. It's like the Matrix. And the drone pilots who wage war in Iraq go home to their families at night--and have real problems with the normalcy of that life when they do what they do during the day. Scary stuff.

  10. I was just out on YouTube and noticed that some of the more popular YA books have reader fans who've created their own trailers. A very popular series, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, had a fan create one that got 1.2 million hits.

    YouTube may not quantify actual book sales, but the hits at least document that your name and book are being exposed to potential readers.

    But maybe this is more of a generational thing.

  11. Actually I have been working on some Android Apps and since I've been called I guess I will have to come clean on it. Projects in the works include

    In progress:
    1. eBook trailer app: reads ebook automatically then creates book trailer video using built in cgi characters. Pros: makes book trailers quickly and easily. Cons: presently only works with characters from the BBC series 'Shawn the Sheep'

    2. Bacon scented app: press a button and the scent of bacon floats blissfully from the microphone port on your phone. pros: This was very important to me since I am allergic to pork but love the smell of bacon nonetheless. cons: causes unresolvable bacon induced seizures, drooling and mumbling.

    3. SETI array app: contact aliens in the privacy of your own home. pros: Alien contact. cons:Invasive surgical procedures in which stuff gets put into places typically reserved for output only...and they don't even say they love you...cuz they don't speak English...ok so maybe Alien contact ain't so cool after all, this app was kinda scary actually

    4. Brain Mail app: transmits email directly to your brain via bluetooth implant. pros: read emails instantly inside your head and respond via thought just as fast. cons: can't seem to get the frequency right. It runs okay but the emails tend to come out in weird fonts depending on the person's mood. Using a microwave while the bluetooth implant is downloading a message causes severe and embarrassing incontinence and potential loose bowels....a hard price to pay for reading email in the breakroom.

    So there you have it, my project list. Who's ready for a bacon scented alien sheep implant?

  12. HA!!! Love those apps, Basil.

    On your SETI app, are you required to wear a foil hat?

    And on your Brain Mail app, it scares me to think of a REPLY ALL function. Imagine trying to stop yourself from sending your brain mail to the ONE PERSON who shouldnt see it.

    And does the incontinence count as an attachment?

    Your bacon app cracked me up too. In my latest YA, one of my characters has BACON as his super power. Oy!