Call it market research, call it a need for a change, but this time I decided to do a search for “book trailer autism” and discovered this trailer for A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism By Laura Shumaker.
First, I’ll say that the name of the author sounds familiar, even though I can’t quite place it. While I’m sure there are many people and books I’ve never heard of, never read, never interacted with concerning the topic of autism, there are many people and books I have heard of, have read, and have interacted with—but that doesn’t mean I remember them all. I do know, however, that I haven’t read this book and I haven’t heard this story before. So, that’s my disclaimer.
Now, I’ll point out that I’ve recently been asked to submit a proposal to a publisher for my story, Embracing Chaos: Discovering Autism and Neurodiversity. While I was planning on publishing this book myself, this publisher contacted me and this publisher, upon reading a short synopsis of my story and my reasons for writing the book, liked the idea and asked for the proposal. So, I’m finishing it up before I head off on vacation, turning the marketing plan and outline I’d been working on for my own purposes into a proposal for a publisher. So now, with the possibility of independent (slightly different than “traditional”) publication in my future, I thought it was time to shift gears and explore what makes a book trailer successful for a nonfiction book.
So, let’s take a look:
There are some very strong points about this trailer and it proves there is some carry-over between a successful fiction book trailer and a successful non-fiction book trailer. For example, this trailer makes good use of supportive quotes or testimony from reviews. That works with any kind of book! It also does a great job making the subject matter feel real to the viewer, with the pictures and the author (presumably) telling her reasons for writing the book by telling us a little about her story, which is another thing you can do in fiction (and should, as far as the making it feel real part goes). The music has a reminiscent, hopeful tone to it, which fits the book very well. And, as we’ve discussed, a good score can make a big difference.
On the other hand, the trailer runs by rather slowly. This would be a much bigger problem if it was a fiction book instead of a memoir, but even so it has a bit too leisurely of a pace. The impact wears a little thin by the end. Remember, the optimal length for a trailer is 30 seconds to 2 minutes. This one clocks in a bit long at nearly 3 minutes.
There are also some significant variations between a novel and a memoir. A novel may have a theme, and the theme may be a big part of the novel, but the novel shouldn’t be about anything other than the story; whereas, with a memoir, the book has to be about something more than the story, and the story has to do justice to that something more. Autism memoirs, in particular, need to have more, because there are so very many of them. Now, my answer to this is that my book wasn’t supposed to be an autism memoir, and the only reason it became one is because people (i.e., my current readers) demanded my story again and again, in different formats, using different portions of my story, and most especially when it came to using portions of that story for the book I wanted to write—“No,” they said, “we want your story.” So, I’m giving them that story and using it as a platform for an abbreviated version of the book I wanted to write.
This author takes a different approach. Within the memoir style, Shumaker does a great job addressing many of the issues facing parents of children with autism (and the adults with autism, too), even in the scope of the trailer. The words that still resonate through my mind are: “Would he still be Matthew?” That’s a thought—pertaining to my own lovable autistics—that has resounded through my mind in response to others’ desperate search for a cure time and again. She’s not hostile, she’s not hurtful, she’s not mean and nasty—she’s honest, loving, and considerate of others. And that scores some pretty major points with me and will help lure others, who might be a bit more resistant to her stance, to her story. In a topic as divide and conflagrant as autism, that kind of balance and poise is essential.
Finally, it worked, because I do want this book!