Book Trailers And Acting Lessons For Authors

My last video was so lame that I thought I'd dedicate a post to professionally produced videos for publishers and authors. The subject initially came up last week when I "did lunch" with a friend who's gone on to become a professional actor working in NYC, and I asked him if he knew any acting coaches who work with authors trying to build an online presence. No, I'm not interested in acting lessons myself, I just thought it would make an interesting topic for a blog post. He didn't know anybody off-hand, but didn't think the idea was far-fetched.

Then this morning I saw a new subscriber to my publishing videos, who turned out to be none other than Circle of Seven Productions, a pioneer of book trailers and the owner of a registered trademark for the term "book trailers." A brief aside on trademark law. I've been informed by both lawyers and by a friend who's been involved in trademark litigation that trademarks formed from common English words that express the plain meaning of those words put together are "weak" trademarks. Trademarks, like patents, are easier to file than to enforce. But then again, I'd need more than a few acting lessons to convince anybody that I understand anything about the law:-)

In any case, I'll let Sheila Clover English, the CEO of Circle of Seven, explain the book trailer concept:

I watched a number of the book trailers, quite a few seemed to be about vampires for some reason, but maybe vampire romance novels make up the bulk of contemporary fiction. I like how they use zooming, panning and a sound track to introduce life into what would otherwise be still images and captions, like the Ken Burns style of documentary. The trailers all tended to the short side, around a minute, the longest one I watched didn't exceed two minutes. The more popular trailers also tended to show a lot of skin, giving them something in common with movie trailers.

I'd heard of book trailers before but I'd never taken the time to watch one, so it made for an interesting half hour break from working. But I'm not sure I would be in a hurry to advocate videos about books as a marketing tool for the simple reason that they seem to require marketing themselves. In other words, if you make a video about your self published book, nobody is going to go and watch it unless you have a way of telling them to go and watch it. If the video has a sexy enough title and delivers on that promise, maybe it could garner interest on YouTube, but there's a tremendous amount of competition in the titillation business.

Otherwise, the only way the author would have of drawing attention to the book trailer would be to promote it. Whether promoting videos about a book is a more efficient form of marketing than promoting the book itself is doubtful, but it's true that a trailer can promoted in video related forums where book promotion would be misplaced. For authors who are putting all of their eggs in the social networking basket, a book trailer may turn out to be a useful egg. For authors who have already made their bones, book videos may be the equivalent of the image ads corporations run just to remind you that they exist. I'm trying hard not to say anything conclusive because I just don't have the facts in hand. It does appear that my publishing channel on YouTube draws more viewers than I directly send from my site. If anybody who's had any direct experience with book trailers as a marketing tool for self publishers wants to enlighten me, I'm all eyes.


COS Productions said...

I'm currently finishing up an eBook that specifically looks at book video utilization, performance and effectiveness.
Now that technology allows us to track video through analytics it's easier to see how a video performs, and it allows the video to become a greater tool.
COS has done many book videos for self-published authors. Please do stop by our website and check out the testimonials.

Our videos are picked up by booksellers such as Borders, BNN, Powells and some independent booksellers. Distribution has become a key element in making these promotional tools effective. COS has over 250 online distribution sties. We do a limited amount of distribution for each video we create as part of our package.
The trademark thing is tricky. And your friends are right, it's not an easy trademark to police nor do we try at this point. But, back in 2002 when we Googled the term "book trailer" there were zero returns on it. So our wildly clever attorneys (bless their little shark hearts) were able to get us the trademark.
And though it would be tough to enforce the trademark, we're still able to claim it and it serves as a way to prove that we've been around longer than any other book video producer. Plus, it got us noticed by Newsweek Magazine and NPR so it was money well spent in order to get the trademark.
We do support authors who make their own video. Not everyone has the money to pay someone to make one. So, we put author made videos on Reader's Entertainment TV for free. We subscribe to author's YouTube or MySpace and will give encouraging comments on their videos.
I hope more and more people see trailers as fun, exciting entertainment and that they relate that, not to COS, but to reading.

Morris Rosenthal said...


I did enjoy your trailers and would be interested in having a look at the ebook when it's done. Using the trademark's supplemental register to gain publicity is an interesting strategy, and apparently it worked for you.


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