Monday, July 27, 2015

WOLF WINTER by Cecilia Ekback - Great Story, Awesome Book Trailer


Sometimes you come across a book and a trailer that seduces you. This happens to be one of those books and one of those trailers. Everything about this trailer, the book cover, its title, its color, is quite effective and eye-catching. 

Turns out this is a debut novel and a good one at that. My main purpose for posting it here is to show how a simple video can help promote your book when done at this level. Whether it was intentional or not, I don't know, but all that white space helps this trailer stand out among the sea of dark trailers.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Your Book Trailer's Opening Scene - Which Way To Go

Outline Your Book Trailer with this Hollywood Trick:

Once upon a time, I was an aspiring screenwriter. (still am, but who cares) In fact, screenwriting was how I got started writing novels, so I've learned a trick or two from the pros on how to pitch your screenplay to Hollywood.

Novelists can use this same technique to fine-tune their book trailers.

Traditionally, screenwriters pitch a logline of their script, which is a brief sentence or two, or a short paragraph outline for the movie.

Titanic Logline:
A seventeen-year-old aristocrat, expecting to be married to a rich claimant by her mother, falls in love with a kind but poor artist aboard the luxurious, ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

This logline is all about the love story and along with  loglines, screenwriters also mock-up sample posters. The reasoning is, if you can't envision the poster, the movie won't work.

Think about this idea. A logline and a poster do one very important thing for your story: they help you define the core story question. In other words, Titanic is really about a love story between an aristocrat and a poor, starving artist. On a broader scale, it's also about social classes and its disparities when it comes to true love. But that only covers the genre: A love story.

You can write hundreds of love stories, but what sets them apart? It's always, boy meets girl, girl hates boy, and in the end, they fall in love and live happily ever after. Right, but what makes these stories unique? That's where your story question, the driving force behind your story, comes into play. In Titanic, the main conflict is all about The Heart of the Ocean jewel, a rare, blue diamond, and its whereabouts. Who owns it? Was it stolen, or is it lost on the bottom of the ocean floor?

But, the plot thickens, and that leads to a love affair, a feud for the lost diamond, and then a sinking ship, among several other subplots thrown in for good measure. Wow, what a powder keg this story sits on!  So how do you sort it all out and what opening do you choose for your trailer?

Let's see, James Cameron chose to frame this story within the context of this core story question. What happened to the Heart of the Ocean diamond? It's a fictitious tale, book-ended to frame the true history of the Titanic's demise. Why? Because without this "literary" device, the real story of Titanic is nothing more than a documentary. And that's not as exciting as a 3 hour movie with a complex structure and a myriad of intriguing subplots.

The poster, however, mentions nothing about the diamond. The poster focuses entirely on their love affair. Notice the imagery. A young couple in love, and a ship seemingly splitting them apart. Then the tag line: Nothing on earth could come between them. Really?  Not quite, because that's exactly what happens. That tagline does a tremendous job launching the main theme of the story: True love conquers all. That's really what this Titanic movie is all about. Everything else is context, subtext, and icing on the proverbial cake. And what a multi-layered cake it is.

So how does all this relate to your book trailer? Simple, you need a hook to launch your book trailer, a logline, of sorts, that says: here's the essence of this book. This is what this book is really all about.  And you need to show it with vibrant images, sound, and voiceovers if necessary. You need to pose a story question that sets the tone for the book and the trailer, from frame one. Think theme and think genre.

The official Titanic movie trailer runs long at 4:09 minutes. That's about twice the length of most trailers, however, this is a long movie with a rather complex plotline, but those digital shots of the Titanic are breathtaking and interesting to watch, so it all holds up.

Look at this way, the marketing folks chose to saturate their marketing with different points of view. Very smart because, why would you want to repeat the same message in the poster and in the movie trailer? That's redundant and a waste of marketing dollars. Instead, they chose to angle the poster as a love story, (after all, you must keep its message simple) and showcase the trailer with a historical POV, focusing on the rare diamond, the feud over its disappearance, and the race against time to save themselves aboard a sinking ship. Hence, a four minute trailer.

Whew! This is exhausting just writing about it. It's no wonder the budget for Titanic was about 200 million. Ridiculous, but most likely, necessary.

The bottom line here is that when you outline your book trailer, think about the story theme and the story genre. Because that's where most of the images and music comes from. Musical scores are all about genre. Images are also about genre, but they can be specific to scenes too, so you have to decide early which way to go. What's your focus? Is it theme, or is it a specific scene in the book? A scene that covers the main theme, or the opening scene, or hook. Your choice.

Once you pinpoint your short synopsis (logline) and envision a (movie) book poster for your book, you're on your way to finding the best way (which scene or images to use) to open your book trailer. Starting a trailer is a lot like staring at a blank canvas, or an empty screen with a blinking cursor. Where do you begin? What launches the story? What are the circumstances that set it off?

What will engage the viewer and hold their interest for the next 90 seconds or several minutes? And how will those images, those questions, inspire viewers to keep searching for more answers?
Realize this:
 Your book trailer is an open-ended question, a curiosity that leads viewers 
on a quest for final answers, and consequently, closure.

Without this mindset, all your efforts, all your hard work will lead to nothing more than a slideshow of something that vaguely resembles your story. Apply these principles and techniques to your writing, to all your marketing, and to your book trailers, and see the amazing difference it can make in how readers perceive your book, its story, and ultimately, your book sales.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

STARSHIP BOOK VIDEOS - The Future of Your Book is Here


Book marketing is author marketing for the most part. Just the mention of some authors, Harper Lee, of To Kill a Mockingbird fame, in this case, and you instantly relate to her one and only novel, or so we thought, since her "new" novel, Go Set a Watchman is scheduled to be released this July, we'll soon have two books we can attribute to her.

Watchman, as you may already know, was the original Mockingbird, which her editor at the time, Tay Hohoff, suggested Lee skew in another direction, thus, TKM was born. This is interesting because the new book, was actually written before Mockingbird, and will now stand as a sequel to it.

Praise for clever editors, I suppose, although the big question remains; how much, if any part of this new book has Harper Lee re-written under the advice of her new editor(s) at HarperCollins? Some of it, or perhaps, none of it is safe to say based on Lee's mental health and rumors circulating in Monroeville. To a great extent that is irrelevant at this point. 

Based on Lee's comments regarding her publishing another book, we can assume she had little to do with polishing this version of her original Mockingbird manuscript. Lee has said that she didn't want any attention or publicity about a new book at this point in her life. Who's to say what's what? Except for Harper Lee, who thought the original manuscript was forever lost and has suddenly surfaced.

The real curiosity here is not only all the buzz surrounding Lee's reclusive life throughout the years, but we're all eager to know what her original intent for Mockingbird was, aside from what we already know. Lee says that her original story was about an older woman, named Scout who visited her hometown family and wanted to find out about her father's views about the world. Many of the same characters populate both novels in the fictional Alabama town of Maycomb.

HarperCollins will print 2 million copies of the new book and advance orders on have already pushed Watchman to number one bestseller status. Publicity is everything. Although, I'll admit that Lee's original story sounds interesting enough on its own. As its publisher, the president of HarperCollins,  Mr. Morrison asserts, "I've read the book twice, and it's fantastic," he said. 

Hopefully, millions of readers will agree.

However, book marketing doesn't always lead with the author as in Lee's example. If a story is of topical interest or controversial, it certainly has legs of its own to run on. Take JFK's assassination for instance. Enough said. How about a fictional tale such as, The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins was virtually unknown at the time of this book's publication, but the controversial story helped push it to bestseller status almost instantly, and then of course the movie did wonders for it thereafter.

Back in the 60's, Harper Lee's somewhat autobiographical story was not only topical, born right out of the Civil Rights Movement, but controversial as well, plus the movie, starring Gregory peck, was also a huge push. Never mind legs, this book had centipede legs right out of the gate.

Unknown authors take heart. There is hope if your amazing story has legs. Note the adjective. Yes folks, ordinary stories need not apply. Ordinary stories are the amputees of the literary world. They have no legs to run on. No fuel for the fire. No spark to ignite a fire for that matter. 

Stories need a catalyst. They need a strong hook and it helps if they are current and controversial all at once. All these factors create buzz, which leads to movie deals and consequently, more book sales. And let's not forget that if your story happens to be of social importance at the time of its publication, well, then you get to be featured in public schools and your story can live, and sell, forever.

Not a bad deal if you can write one. It is possible to conjure up such a story if you consider all these factors and if all the stars and moons align for you at the most opportune moment in time.

What about a book trailer you ask? Oh, right. That's what this article was all about to begin with. Yeah, you'll need one of those as part of your marketing mix these days. Book trailers are like a badge of honor. They give readers a glimpse, a taste of what your amazing story is about in 90 seconds or less. 

And when done right, book trailers arouse curiosity, help build author branding, and motivate readers to look into your story for answers to the profound questions raised in your book trailer.

Profound or profoundly amusing because nothing else will do.  Literature is not for the faint of heart or faint of spirit for that matter. 

Popular stories hinge on relevant concepts that ask profound questions, which in turn, demand provocative answers. We are curious creatures by nature and nothing arouses our curiosity more than images that awaken our deepest desires.
That being said, all stories are subject to individual interpretation on the page as well as on screen. And that's the beauty of literature and art alike, it is always in the eyes of the beholder.

Amen to that. Enjoy the Starship Trailer.