After my week-long hiatus, I figured I needed something a bit different to kick things back into gear. The following trailer is a lesson in what can be done right with the right resources.
The first thing you’ll note is that this trailer breaks a bunch of “rules.” Okay, the first thing you probably noticed is that this trailer isn’t for a fantasy novel—it’s for a short story collection. Particularly, it’s for L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, volume 24.
That’s why they can break the rules and not only get away with it, but excel because of it. See, the first thing you need to ask when you’re designing a book trailer is: What makes this book marketable? For an unknown author, it’s all about the story, the characters, and the genre. For a bestselling author with a household name—Stephen King, for example—it’s about the author’s name. For a series that sells well—the Pern series, for example—it’s about the series, not the author, which is why when Todd McCaffrey took over (after co-writing several books with his mother, Anne McCaffrey), he can still sell Pern novels as long as they he stays true to the legacy left by the books that came before his. For this particular book, the most marketable factor isn’t the writer or the stories or the characters or even the series (or world) in which the stories take place. It’s collection/competition itself, the editors/judges of that competition, and the genre for which the competition is designed.
Let’s start with genre. Readers read for different reasons. When you’re a fan of speculative fiction, when you enjoy both science fiction and fantasy (and all the sub-genres in-between and surrounding those primary genres), you’re perceived as a certain kind of reader. This trailer is designed to appeal to that kind of reader. It effectively evokes the excitement, wonder, and discovery that readers who love speculative fiction come to expect. These readers want to be immersed in something new, something different. And this trailer plays on that very well.
This trailer also captures the hope that this collection offers the best of the best among upcoming writers. For writers in this genre, winning the Writers of the Future competition is an awesome achievement. Essentially, a purchase of one of these volumes is (often) not driven by the names of the writers chosen, but by the reputation of the collection and the editors/judges who select the stories for inclusion. You see the reputation in how quotes are selected and how the genre itself is evoked, along with the prominent use of the competition name. You see the “name dropping” of the judges. And it all works to the trailer’s great advantage.
This breaks the “rules,” because we learn little about the stories we’re buying—we don’t know the characters, the plot, the setting, or much of anything that we usually use to make a purchasing decision. And, we don’t need to. The most marketable aspect of this collection isn’t the individual stories—we don’t know these authors and they really don’t matter when it comes to making that sale. The trailer is all about the reputation of the competition and the promise of the genre.
So, how do they accomplish this? Let’s start with the opening. It might be a bit cliché, but it creates the impression that you’re being admitted into something secret, something exclusive—the future, for example. We’re shown images that evoke a sci-fi view of the future—space ships, space stations, foreign worlds, a mysterious land-based ship docking monstrosity that seems elegant but ominous—and you know what genre we’re talking about here. We also see some images that seem more fantasy based, inviting the wider speculative fiction audience in, too. Some of these are animated, so you’re not going to get the image with the book. But others are line drawings and cover art, so you know these images really do have something to do with the stories.
And then there’s the music. It’s not the kind of music I gravitate to, but it’s exciting. It evokes emotion, suggesting an edgier take on what we’re seeing. The adrenaline gets pumping. You want to know more. The text also evokes the genre, not just the words chosen, but the typeface, too. It manages to do it without losing legibility, even seeming more animated than “normal” words. And then there’s the name dropping. Maybe you haven’t read their work or maybe you have and didn’t like all of them, but chances are you know those names and the names of the person and magazine recommending the book. All the pieces work together in a consistent, cohesive appeal to speculative fiction readers.
What can we learn from this? You need to use your marketing strengths—what makes your work marketable. Use your artwork—the artwork readers will see when they make that purchase—whenever possible; which means you should invest in quality artwork to make your book more appealing. Cover art matters and inside art can’t hurt. Use quotes and recommendations whenever possible. Mix images, music, and text to achieve the emotional reaction you’re looking for—in this case excitement and wonder—and keep it consistent and cohesive unless the product demands a deviation. And make the next step as easy to act on as possible. You learn the title of the book and how to find it right in the trailer, and it lasts long enough and is noticeable enough for that information to really sink in. Yours should too.