They Shoot Book Trailers Don’t They?

“You need a book trailer,” my agent said one crisp fall afternoon.“What do you mean?” I asked, “A trailer like a movie trailer?” “Yes, something short.” Books had movie trailers? This was news to me. Where were these things shown? I had just been to a Barnes & Noble and no book trailers were being screened anywhere. What would a trailer for a book even look like? “Are you sure psychology books have trailers?” I inquired. “Yes!” my agent insisted. “Just do something simple but fun.” I was still having trouble wrapping my mind around this concept. “Are you sure? Do Freud’s books have trailers? Some dude trying to sleep with his mother with a deep voiceover, ‘If you read about only one complex this year, read about Oedipus!’” “You’re not Freud,” my agent reminded me. “You absolutely have to do one. I’ll email you some examples,” she said. “Don’t stress out about it.”

An hour later, I got an email with links to a couple of book trailers. I watched the first one and immediately stressed out about it (click here to view it). I called my agent right away. “Um, that’s the kind of trailer you want me to do? It has special effects! I don’t have a budget for special effects,” I sputtered. “I don’t have a budget period.” “It’s great isn’t it? I think her brother is in the film business,” my agent explained. “My brother’s in the psychology business! Every picture he takes has his fingers in the frame.” “It doesn’t have to be that elaborate, just make it fun.” By then I had gone online and checked out a few non-fiction book trailers. Most of them featured the author sitting in front of a bookcase talking about their book, often in a monotone voice. No special effects, no lighting, no hair and makeup, no production crew. It didn’t seem especially ‘fun’ but was that what my agent was expecting? “Is sitting in front of a bookcase and talking about complaining considered fun?” “No.” “How about if I sat in front of a window and spoke about complaining?” “Not fun.” “What if the window had a great view?” “No.” “What if there was a window and a bookcase?” “Nope.” “Then I’m stumped. Do you have any ideas?” “Just that it should be fun.”

It’s not that I didn’t have any ideas for a great Squeaky Wheel book trailer, I had many. But each of them would require professional crews, actors, location shoots and a ton of editing. And as eager as I was to promote my book, spending thousands of dollars on doing a video trailer was simply not a possibility.

This of course, is why the ‘bookcase’ genre of book trailers is so popular among first time non-fiction authors. I just didn’t see how I could do anything but sit in front of a bookcase, put a camera on a tripod, point it at my face and talk about complaining.

But then, a few days later, I had an idea. I made a quick call to Raquel and Arthur, two friends who were ideally suited to the task. They were both stand-up comedians, good actors and most importantly, free during a workday, as we needed natural light. We scheduled a 3 hour shoot two days later.

Other than trying to get two stand-up comics to stop goofing around so we could film an authentic argument scene, the shoot went smoothly.

We used a stills camera that shot video, no special lights, no hair or makeup, and no production crew. I shot one additional scene a week later and sat with an editor for a few hours to put it all together.

As for my part in the book trailer: I sat in front of a bookcase and spoke about complaining.

And it was fun.

Copyright 2011 Guy Winch