The Garden of Eden story is reimagined in this smart and satirical, contemporary fantasy, a metaphysical thriller set in the last days of the Cold War. “Season of the Serpent” is a thought provoking, multi-layered mix of history, mythology, science fiction, and Synchronicity.
BEHIND THE BOOK TRAILER
A Meditation on Personal Creativity
What is the purpose of a book trailer?
The very concept often suffers the pangs of an existential crisis. Can the video medium adequately represent the intimacy of reading a novel? Does it stifle the reader’s imagination or devalue the written word? Is it an expression of the writer’s creativity or a hastily-crafted marketing tool? Can a book trailer ever hope to compete against the multi-million dollar budget of a movie trailer – a David vs. Goliath matchup for public attention? No one has adequately answered the debate, and many authors and publishers seem to approach the idea of making a book trailer with profoundly mixed emotions (as well as a limited budget).
I managed to bridge the existential gap without too much hesitation simply because my day-to-day profession is Video Editor. For me writing is the hobby, at least in purely financially terms, yet a hobby that feeds my soul. Unfortunately, the soul doesn’t care too much about money. The mind and the body however do.
Why digress into talk of money? Well, because making a book trailer is a financial investment, even for someone who edits video for a living. There’s stock footage to purchase or shoot, graphics and music to create or buy, (and a video editor to pay). Certainly in the case of book trailers, cheapness shows. An amateur looking trailer might actually be detrimental to book sales. Of course, there’s little empirical evidence that book trailers move the needle on book sales. People surfing Youtube for information or entertainment are generally not in the market, or the mindset, to purchase your book. So I was skeptical about the idea of producing a book trailer four years ago when I published my first novel.
The mandate to create a book trailer is usually just another bullet point on a independent writer/blogger’s list of helpful advice to self-promote your self-published novel. These lists are scattered across the internet like treasure maps, as self-publishing ebooks became a cottage industry equivalent to the California gold rush. Unfortunately, all to often, very little gold pans out. So normally my advice to other struggling, self-published writers would be: don’t pay for a book trailer. You likely won’t see that investment returned.
I will concede that on another venue, via social media or a special-interest blog, a book trailer might be an effective tool to give readers a quick glance or first impression of your book, an impression they might not otherwise get beyond the book cover.
“The purpose of a book trailer, ultimately, is to bring attention and readers to a book and its author. So if it succeeds in doing so, one could argue it’s keeping the medium alive, not destroying it. Traditional media always flounders when it doesn’t evolve to meet changing preferences. If people need moving images to get excited or curious about something, then why not?” – SHIRIN NAJAFI (source)
So I had a change of heart about producing a book trailer this summer. Moreover, the first thing I did, before pulling the trigger on the production work, was to eliminate any expectation of financial restitution or sales bump from the equation. This endeavor was simply going to be a labor of creative love. So I set an out-of-pocket budget I could live with.
Some background is probably in order. I’ve been a professional video editor for over 15 years. I’ve worked on television shows, reality television, television commercials, political commercials, corporate videos, industrial videos, and documentaries, however in all that time I have never produced a single video solely for me. I have never used my technical skills for myself. That realization was eye-opening. Why wouldn’t I use every skill at my disposal to promote my novels? Why wouldn’t I use years of experience to create something just for myself, for its own sake?
Much of my hesitancy had to do with the fact that when you work at a job 40 (or more) hours a week you typically don’t want to spend more time doing more of the same, even if you enjoy it. Your creativity tends to get sapped dry at work, being creative on demand for other people’s projects, for other people’s agenda. Instead, I went home and did something creatively different. I wrote some novels.
I decided to make a book trailer simply because I could, for my own personal expression of creativity, to reclaim my skill-set, and to push those skills to the limit. The timing just happened to be right. Certain elements in my professional life aligned in order to make this project more affordable and sophisticated. In the process, I ended up learning even more about motion graphics.
The project began with a piece of music – a beautiful, haunting piece of stock music I discovered several years ago. It inspired me the moment I heard it. This was the soundtrack for my idealized book trailer. From the music track emerged the pacing, emotion, and visual design.
Then I set out upon a laborious quest for affordable, professional stock footage that would offer glimpses of the strange worlds set in my novels – no easy task. The goal of the trailer was not to retell the story, but rather to tease the experience of reading the story, to incite curiosity, emotion, and imagination.
Finally, the extended process of assembling the video, not being perfectly happy, choosing to reassemble the video differently, getting the timing just right, color correcting the footage, writing and adding titles, compositing layers of images, adding additional elements, lens flares and special effects.
When it all came together, I was delighted with the result. The final trailer exceeded my expectations. It flowed together flawlessly only by the slavish devotion to pursue my original inspiration – yet another reminder of what I am already painfully self-aware of – I only feel truly alive when I am being creative. My soul is only fulfilled when I am creating something. It’s not quite enough to create something for someone else, to serve someone else’s vision. The untapped joy of pure creativity comes from that spiritual place deep within ourselves. So the best advice I can think of to give is to go forth and create, for creation’s sake.
As for the book trailer, will it succeed in enticing new readers? I was both delighted and discouraged by my friends’ reactions – they commented that the trailer made them want to see the movie! Oh well, at least some of them have already read the books.