Thursday, January 30, 2014

Book Trailers Part 2 - The Mood Medley

Last week in the breathtaking earth-shattering grass-gnawing, teenager-angst enraging blog post I introduced the topic of the Book Trailer, that strange intersection between writing, film-making and social media. Because people like lists and I like people who like things, I broke down Book Trailers into these five categories.
  • The Blurb Spot,
  • The Mood Medley,
  • The Narrative Snippet,
  • The God-Awful Infomercial, and
  • The “Hey Looky Here!”
Last week, I looked at the Blurb Spot. It was a ruddy good blog post and set up the whole thing. If you didn’t read it, it’s okay. There won’t be a test, but if you want to, you can go here now and read it. I’ll wait.

See?  That wasn’t hard.

Now we’re going to look at the Mood Medley.

This category of book trailer is similar to the Blurb Spot except it doesn’t entice so much with textual description and as much as with raw emotion. Of course words are often used, but moving sound and music and provocative are the most important elements. This type of book trailer does not attempt to describe a book’s contents as much as it endeavors to re-create the mood of it. If done well, this kind of book trailer can be very impactful, resonating, and artful.

Let’s take a look at the this one by Cindy Sprigg for her book Composed in Blood.

(Here's the link:, short, evocative. Effective. And it cost Cindy five freakin’ bucks. True story. If you’re a starving artist you may already know about Fiverr. If not, it’s a good place to maek five bucks or in Cindy’s case, spend it. She sent the maker some graphics, a script idea and some money had got 22 seconds of internet presence.

I’m told that this particular video artist is no longer doing work on Fiverr, but there are others there who can help. Support a starving artist, for we are they.

With this next one, we’re going to wade out into deeper water with a larger press with deeper pockets and resources. (Mixed metaphors are my thing, man).

Heres the trailer for Richard Thomas’ book Staring into the Abyss.
Richard tells me he had minimum input in the creation of this trailer. All praise goes to George Cotronis at Kraken Press. Richard swears he is the author of the book the trailer is promoting, but the rest was handled by his publisher. (I know, right?)

This trailer epitomizes my arbitrary category, “Mood Medley.” It is a collection of impressions. Unsettling images and sounds are woven together with quotes from readers and critics. There is nothing of the actual text depicted. No plot or characters to relate to. No settings visited. It’s all just a feeling.

And that’s just right because this trailer is not promoting a novel but a collection of short stories by Thomas. These stories are all “dark fiction” some might say “horror” others “banana,” but don’t listen to those last guys. Since the united element of the collection is emotional, the trailer’s use of evocative sound and images is perfect. Further, rather than trying to cherry pick a story for an example, as might have been done, I applaud the use here of third-party blurbs. These are the textual impressions of readers, their emotional distillation of the whole. These fragments of praise become another layered element in the piece, shifting in and out of focus, stark and unsettling as the rest of the piece. My only criticism is that I think it runs a little long. Nevertheless, this is one of my all-time favorites. If you’re a fan of bananas, I mean, dark fiction and this trailer doesn’t get you clicking over to Amazon, you’re either broke or a liar.

Moving along, let’s check out The Missing by Sarah Langan.
Sarah actually has several trailers for this book. But we’re talking about this one, so pay attention.

This trailer was created by John Palisano. It was his first. This is a great example of artistic cross-pollination. John was not commissioned to make this video by the author or even the publisher (well maybe kinda’). He created this trailer for a contest. Yep, it was a contest entry and he won an award for it. Really - First Place. His prize was an iPhone.

It was filmed in Connecticut and John composed and performed the music himself. I’m not sure who the kid is. He probably just grabbed him from a school. I doubt he was paid. He probably got home safe. Probably. The spooky whispered words are actually from the book, but we won’t hold that against it and move it into another category. The text of the whispers is not important, the sound of them is. The boys and the bones, the trees and altered light and the sound – always the sound, make this a creepy and interesting book trailer. It’s also short which I think is a strength in this type. It’s an subliminal emotional commercial and it’s rather good, though I think the bones shouldn’t have been so white – but again, maybe it’s a plot point.

Granted, Sarah lucked out when John threw his hat into the ring for that contest, and also I guess, when her publisher ran the contest. And when she got that publisher. She probably has an agent too…. and a nice house. Maybe even a boat. Lucky lucky lucky.

Nevertheless, this shows how one artist can help another, creating new art together, and that, in and of itself, is cool. People like John are out there, entering contests, reaching out. If you’re an author or a publisher, you need only reach back and wonderful things can happen.

Richard Thomas turned me on to this next one. It’s for Matt Bell’s acclaimed book In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and The Woods. (Small titles are for small writers!) I don’t know Matt. He hasn’t responded to my Friend request, but he seems like a nice guy. He’s young and handsome, no grey in his beard that I can see. He publishes through Soho and has NPR and The Wall Street Journal giving him blurbs, so without the least bit of raging jealousy and envy, I present to you a very professional Mood Medley book trailer. Have a look:
Freakin’ amazing. Fantastic direction, suburb editing, top-rate sound design and execution. This could win awards. I don’t who made it. I contacted Soho Press for some info, but I’m sure they saw my name, assumed it was another submission query and I haven’t heard back.

But we don’t need to know who made it to appreciate it. We can assume there were many talented hands lending their labors to the trailer. From producer to key grip, top notch and slick.

This is a good one to end this post on because it begins to blur the boundaries between the Mood Medley and the Narrative Snippet. Though we see the familiar elements of other peoples praise with evocative images and haunting music, there is a story being told in the background. It’s about a guy cutting wood. A simple act which grows more tense and disturbing as it goes along.

Bell’s little book trailer here passes beyond the realm of social networking well into the world of commercial advertising. These 116 seconds of video were not cheap, were not easy to come by and not meant to languish as a link on a facebook page. The YouTube copy of it has over 13,000 views.

At this point (budget) the book trailer becomes another weapon in a professional publicists’s arsenal. It was distributed before the book launch like Advanced Reading Copies, disseminated across the internet as far and wide as an office full of promoters could manage. It’s perfect to proceed an author interview on a daytime television program or scare the shit out of misbehaving children. In short, this is beyond the reach of most of the authors I know. One day people, one day.

But is it worth it? Not knowing the cost of it and unable to calculate the impact of this slick trailer, how can we know if was a good investment? It’s a stellar piece of cinema for a top notch author, but did it really translate into sales? I honestly don’t know.

But here’s something to consider: at this level of professionalism a trailer like this says as much about the publisher as it does the author or the book it features. Soho is big league. Maybe not Big 5, but making noise. This video becomes a branding advertisement for Soho Press. It’s a chance for them to name drop – New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, Boston Globe, etc. Sometimes, it’s not what you know but who you know and Soho Press, who I desperately want to know much better (check your submissions inbox, Soho), knows some really big guys.

So we’ve seen some four Mood Medley book trailers today - some made for squat, others with much squats and they’re all cool.

Sorry for being so long winded today. Sorry also for all horror books. I guess I know a lot of creepy authors.

Next week: The Narrative Snippet - Bring you popcorn!

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