Rye Barcott is the author of It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace and co-founder of the non-governmental organization Carolina For Kibera.
It felt like I was letting go of my child when I packed the final copy of my book into a box and shipped it away for final publication. I had spent nine years living and writing the memoir about the melding of social entrepreneurship in one of Africa’s largest slums — Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya — while serving in the Marines. That time included a year of full-time writing after graduate school, and months of shifting, tweaking, and tightening with a team of talented editors from Bloomsbury publishing, my “house.”
So I was a bit surprised to learn that in the long birth of a book, there were still a lot of things to do before it would appear in print five months after I had sent in the final edited copy. My “to-do” list ranged from launching a social media platform, to getting endorsements, figuring out how to earn income during the tour, and creating a book trailer.
Book trailers are relatively recent additions to the literary world. Most of the authors I know detest the very idea of them. We pour our souls into creating a book, a piece of work that can take people deep into places, problems, and things that matter. The experience of reading a book unfolds over hours, and sometimes days. It takes time and commitment to draw knowledge and meaning from narrative, and the pay-off of such an investment can be enormous. Some books change lives.
Can a few minutes on a screen really do justice to such a rich experience?
I don’t think so. Yet I realize that book trailers are important to me as a reader. I watch them when they appear on Amazon or B&N.com, and for books I don’t know much about, the trailer often influences my decision to buy.
When I began exploring how to create a great book trailer, I discovered that there wasn’t much reliable information on the web. In fact, two of the sites that I landed on searching for “book trailer awards” gave my computer a virus.
Eventually, I found a few companies that produced short promotional videos. Unfortunately, these companies charged $5,000 – $10,000, and none of them appeared to have any particular expertise in how to differentiate a book trailer from an ordinary advertisement. I was not going to let my book be the subject of an average trailer. It would either be exceptional, or it would not be.
Fortunately, the non-governmental organization that I co-founded 10 years ago with two Kenyan social entrepreneurs is producing a documentary to follow on the release of my book and our 10th Anniversary. The documentary producer Beth-Ann Kutchma offered to make a book trailer at no cost. Beth-Ann is a friend and long-time volunteer to our organization. She had been an advance reader of the book’s manuscript, and we had years of archived footage from Kibera and even some film from my time as a Marine in Iraq to pull from. If I could write a compelling script, we could create an exceptional book trailer together.
Capturing a 120,000-word book in a hundred words is hard enough without thinking through images, sound, and timing. I didn’t know where to start. So I spent a weekend combing through book trailers online. Some looked like Hollywood productions (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, above). A few were beautifully simple (Kelly Corrigan’s The Middle Place). Most felt either too long or too short.
Some social media gurus urged us to limit our book trailer to 30 seconds. They argued that most modern attention spans would not last longer than that. Maybe they were right. But we chose instead to create something that would last a few minutes and convey some of the depth of the book’s dueling narrative between military service and social entrepreneurship.
The draft script that I came up with inspired Beth-Ann’s husband Jason — the lead singer of the rock and roll band Red Collar — to write the song “Arms Around the World.” “He literally read the script and recorded the song that evening,” Beth-Ann recalled. “After that, the editing was a piece of cake.”
The book trailer the Kutchmas produced has had over 1,100 plays on Vimeo. Seventy percent of people who played the video watched it until the end. That’s not bad considering that the average abandonment rate for videos over a minute is 44%.
Article Provided by Mashable. To view the entire article click here.
Will a book trailer broaden your audience?
I don’t know the answer to that good question. We live in an age where fewer people are reading, and more people are watching. That reality has driven the rise of book trailers. My skeptical friends argue that these trailers simply contribute to our increasingly short attention spans. Having just gone through the process, I have a different view. My hope is that book trailers like ours help bridge the divide and draw more people to the beauty, substance, and transformative power of books.