Watching and Waiting: Book Trailers and How They Help You

If you’ve been following book promotion and marketing trends on the Internet, then you know that one popular way that authors resort to is releasing book trailers. Book trailers are essentially what it says on the tin: short clips that capture the gist of a book, the visual version of the wordy blurb you’d see on the back of books. Or, yes, like trailers for movies.

Book trailers, as Marisol Dahl says in her article for The Write Life, may depict different things. You, as the author, might be talking about your book, for instance. Or a scene from a book is depicted visually – whether through animation, or a series of illustrations. What is important is that the book trailer accomplishes what it’s meant to accomplish: communicate what your book is about, and communicate it in such a way that your viewer would want to read it. It’s a good way to publicize your work, and if done well, could very well be one of the causes of your book getting spikes in sales.

Of course, making book trailers are attractive — but they’re also not quite easy. There are a lot of book trailers, especially given how social media and video streaming sites like YouTube are very accessible to the public. It can be difficult to get your trailer to stand out. So a professionally-designed, well-crafted book trailer would certainly gain the advantage – but it may also cost a significant amount of cash, depending on who you are and who you hire for your video.

So what am I really saying here? Should you or should you not have a book trailer produced? As with many other questions an up-and-coming author should be concerned with, the answer is not exactly black-and-white. Instead of asking that question, what we can ask is, “what exactly are the benefits of making book trailers?” Once we gather answers for that, then you can decide.

There are certainly a lot of benefits that can come from making book trailers. In this article for The Creative Penn, Joanna Penn asks Book Frenzy Studios’ Jerome McLain why video plays an important part in marketing your book. And the reasons that McLain gives are great ones: video is shareable and can be shared on different social media accounts; video is cost-effective, and; video’s popularity ensures that a lot of people will be able to see your book trailer, which may, in the process, garner you new fans. One excellent reason that McLain points out, however, is what the book trailer can do for the relationship between author and (potential) reader:

Video can foster deeper connections between authors and their readers by increasing the KLT (Know, Like, Trust) Factor which is critical to book sales.

Book trailers can give the readers an idea of who the author is, making the author not just someone who wrote the book, but someone with whom the readers can connect to. Needless to say, the article itself is worth reading in its entirety (it has data showing you how book trailers can boost sales), and highly informative.

The possible benefits of putting out book trailers has been outlined, and can be summed up with one idea: trailers lead to exposure, which leads to more readers.

Of course, the benefits are there. But actually making a good book trailer is another issue. One doesn’t even have to stray too far from common, everyday examples. Take movie trailers – they’re everywhere, aired on television, sitting down your social media newsfeed, popping up on the “Recommended” section of video streaming sites. People become the judge of whether a trailer is good or bad – and often this manifests itself in whether or not individuals actually go out and watch a movie because they thought the trailer was good. Whether or not the movie itself is actually good is something else. What matters is that the trailer essentially sold the movie.

It’s not so different, with book trailers. Good book trailers can convince readers to buy your book. But, as Marisol Dahl again points out, there are reasons why book trailers may not be the best option. Beyond potentially costing a lot in terms of how it is produced – especially if you want a good book trailer – there’s the risk of producing a not-so-good one. And, as Dahl says:

A poorly made book trailer sticks out. It can damage the image of both you and the book, and it can hurt sales.

Because they’re so memorable, book trailers that miss the mark can turn into painfully public marketing failures.

So the formula sounds simple enough: make a good book trailer and leave a positive, lasting impression on your readers. Make a not-so-good one, and risk hurting your book’s sales.

This is, after it all, much easier said than done. Marketing books can always present risks, and the book trailer is just another dimension. Done well and done right, it can help.

So, back to the first question: should you, or should you not, make a book trailer? As you can see, we still haven’t arrived at a definite answer — only you can arrive at that. It will be helpful to ask other authors who have already marketed their books with the use of book trailers, or ask those who specialize in book marketing for advice. You can also do some research as well – find book trailers that you think are good, and take down notes, see what you can glean from them, and have a set of pointers for when you believe you’re finally ready to get your trailer made.

So, with all that’s said and done — happy book trailer making!

A Few Relevant (and Possibly Helpful) Links:

  • The link’s already way up there, but just in case you missed it, you can check out BookFrenzy Studioswhich specializes in e-mail and video marketing for authors.
  • Arielle Ford’s article “Why Make A Book Trailer” on The Huffington Post offers tips and notes on what makes a good book trailer – definitely something worth checking out.
  • Finally, if you’re getting started on looking at examples of good book trailers, this article by Shirin Najafi for The Rumpus rounds up a couple of great book trailer examples. You might want to take notes.

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An Introduction to Slipstream

It’s been pretty quiet on CreativInfluence lately, and we’re not going to make any excuses for that. But as a sort of comeback post, it seems appropriate to discuss one of the “newer” genres of literature – “newer,” because it’s less of an actual genre that has surfaced and is negotiating its own generic boundaries, and more of something that has been pieced together from existing genres. Which, one may argue, is basically the case for a lot of genres in writing. But I digress.

What we have here now, folks, is a neat thing called slipstream, which sounds like a pretty slick genre. A quick look at the Wikipedia page on this subject gives you this:

Slipstream is a kind of fantastic or non-realistic fiction that crosses conventional genre boundaries between science fiction, fantasy, and literary fiction.

The given definition doesn’t sound quite as helpful as it should be, as it still does sound rather vague. How does slipstream cross “conventional genre boundaries” between genre fiction and literary fiction? In fact, we exist in a world where writing has become experimental in terms of genre identity. What defines science fiction? What defines fantasy? There are things we call science fantasy, even, and military fantasy, to name a few. How tenuous are the so-called conventional genre boundaries of these genres, and how does this tenuousness affect slipstream’s attempt to challenge these boundaries?

That may be a story for another day. The answer for the penultimate question in the previous paragraph, interestingly, may just simply be slipstream. We are already questioning genre boundaries anyway. Are science fiction texts defined by their settings, their features – aliens, space, the like? Likewise, fantasy fiction? How can genre fiction be literary? Slipstream tries to answer that. There are texts that are elusive enough that they cannot fit a single genre, and so have to make one “new” genre to encompass that.

Slipstream falls between speculative fiction and mainstream fiction. While some slipstream novels employ elements of science fiction or fantasy, not all do. The common unifying factor of these pieces of literature is some degree of the surreal, the not-entirely-real, or the markedly anti-real.

The main thing about slipstream is that it has to be unreal. So perhaps one can also consider it magical realism. Or fantastic literary. A lot of names and words can be used to describe slipstream, but one cannot truly feel what it is until one is given a sampling of the genre’s texts. British writer Christopher Priest (who is, apparently, and incidentally, a slipstream writer himself) offers his own list of top ten slipstream books, and the list is marked by names like J.G. Ballard, Angela Carter, and Jose Luis Borges. Priest also gives Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale – a dystopia that does not necessarily carry the traditional elements of science fiction (incidentally, it won the 1987 Arthur C. Clarke Award, which is a prestigious award given to the best science fiction novel among a list of nominated texts) – as an example of a slipstream text, and cites authors such as Haruki Murakami and Gabriel Garcia Marquez as slipstream authors.

If it gets a little confusing, that’s alright. The authors mentioned, as well as the texts given, all test boundaries of the genres they’ve been fit into. They go outside of their generic boundaries – J.G. Ballard’s Crash, for example, is not necessarily science fiction, but it carries elements that invite your suspension of disbelief – and define their own settings and content. If you can’t define slipstream with a clean definition, you can at least get a sense of what it is through the authors and the works associated with it. Here is a great article called Slipstream 101 by the Science Fiction Research Association, and introduces you to the basics of slipstream. You may want to look at that post and read through all of it.

What one can get from slipstream, though, is this: that you can also test your writing boundaries, or the boundaries of the genres that you know. Let elements of other genres bleed into your own writing, because that can add zest and flavor to your piece. And not just your own piece – it’s amazing what you can find when you run through a list of books and read through them, the common feature of all these texts being that they refuse to be confined to one specific genre. This allows for the luxury of experimenting with the text. Try to expose yourself to slipstream – it might yield some interesting results.

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Myth Madness: Books On Myths and Legends That You Should Experience

Myths and legends make up a good chunk of any nation’s cultural foundation. We’ve got the Norse myths, the Greek myths, Japanese creation myths, Egyptian myths, among many others. Everyone’s familiar with at least some of the members of the Greek pantheon, and certainly you must have, at the very least, heard of Egypt’s Ra. Marvel, in particular, has assimilated Norse deities Loki and Thor in its pop culture hero ensemble, along with heroes like The Hulk. Then, of course, there’s the ever-present, all-powerful, and legendary Disney, whose magical work over the decades include retellings of myths like Hercules. With a more kid-friendly, good-versus-bad, good-triumphs-over-bad approach, of course.

Why all these retellings and borrowings? It’s because myths, as they are, are timeless. There’s a lot of material buried underneath a culture’s myth-and-legend structure, and of course it’s always interesting to find out how a certain culture explains the creation of the world and of other things, through the lens of stories either written or passed down. I’ve been very much interested in myths myself, primarily of the Western sort, and have decided to list down a few pieces of fiction that one who is interested in myths should experience. I’m also going to be toeing a blurry line here. But to lay down a more concrete idea of what I mean by myths and legends, I will be quoting the website “Myths and Legends” for definitions.

A legend is:

a semi-true story, which has been passed on from person-to-person and has important meaning or symbolism for the culture in which it originates. A legend usually includes an element of truth, or is based on historic facts, but with ‘mythical qualities’. Legends usually involve heroic characters or fantastic places and often encompass the spiritual beliefs of the culture in which they originate.

A myth, meanwhile is:

a story based on tradition or legend, which has a deep symbolic meaning. A myth ‘conveys a truth’ to those who tell it and hear it, rather than necessarily recording a true event. Although some myths can be accounts of actual events, they have become transformed by symbolic meaning or shifted in time or place. Myths are often used to explain universal and local beginnings and involve supernatural beings. The great power of the meaning of these stories, to the culture in which they developed, is a major reason why they survive as long as they do – sometimes for thousands of years.

Okay so far? Alright. Here’s my list, and why they should be read/watched/played (whichever is applicable):

  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman. One of Neil Gaiman’s heftier works, certainly, though no less entertaining than his short stories and other novels. It isn’t my favorite of Gaiman’s works (that spot is taken – perhaps permanently – by Neverwhere) but it paints an interesting picture of a battle between the old and the new, beliefs long forgotten and newly-formed faiths, with a smattering of pop culture references here and there. Where does the myth fit into this? The myth seeps in everywhere. Odin, Anubis, Thoth, Anansi – just some of the mythical figures from different cultures all over the world. African, Norse, Egyptian, it’s there. And Gaiman blends it all into an interesting, compelling roadtrip.
  • The Mabinogion. I’m probably blurring a few lines here. The Mabinogion is a collection of Welsh prose tales, with the central tales revolving around a figure known as Pryderi. Welsh – well, Celtic – belief involved putting a lot of premium in the Otherworld and the supernatural, and The Mabinogion demonstrates Welsh interest of the setting through the prose tales. There’s also a lot of interesting stuff going on: dead bodies reanimated after being thrown into a magical cauldron, a man striking a deal with a figure from the Otherworld, and a woman being accused of killing her own son. The Mabinogion also contains early versions of the Arthurian legends, with the stories themselves revolving not around Arthur, but around The Mabinogion’s version of the Knights of the Round Table.
  • Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory. Of course, we are all familiar with the legend of King Arthur. Disney made The Sword in the Stone, a movie about young Arthur/Wart. Then there’s also the TV show Merlin. Lord Tennyson wrote the cycle of narrative poems, Idylls of the King, which retells the legend of Arthur. T.H. White wrote The Once and Future King, which is about Arthur (and White’s own beliefs, injected in the narrative). It goes without saying that the Arthurian legend has touched pretty much everything, but it’s interesting to look at one of the most influential foundational works about the legend. Le Morte d’Arthur collected the loose pieces of the Arthurian legend, and tried to make the entire thing into one cohesive narrative. There are a lot of translations, of course, and you’re free to choose which translation/version of Le Morte d’Arthur you’d like to read.
  • Mythology by Edith Hamilton. A no-brainer, of course. Hamilton’s Mythology is one of the most popular pieces on Greek myths – and Norse – to date, with Hamilton having painstakingly collected all the important stories (and there are a lot) and put them in one volume. I like to think of this as the Le Morte d’Arthur of Greek myth, and it’s certainly more recent a collection compared to Malory’s, but it does what Malory did for the Arthurian legend. That is, create a comprehensive, categorized, coherent collection (as coherent as Greek myth can be, that is) on Greek and Norse myth.
  • Celtic Myths and Legends by. T.W. Rolleston. A personal favorite of mine. Published in 1911, Rolleston collects myths and legends from Britain – that is, Wales, Ireland, England – and intersperses these short, condensed narratives with commentary and information on the Celtic culture.

There’s definitely a ton more on myths and legends that you should read. Fairytale and folktale collections should be right up your alley if you’re interested. I’ve deliberately left out the Eastern variety, as I don’t think I’ve read enough of the myths and legends from those places to be able to draw up a mildly interesting list.

I wonder, though. What are your favorite books on myths and legends, and why?


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