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Step 3. Select Approach

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Page: http://bt101.info/step3

Trailer Approaches

One of the first design decisions when creating a book trailer is to select the approach. Studying trailers, I have found the following to be a fairly complete list. Selection of the approach is driven by the mood of the book, as well as the key focus item. As an example, if the most interesting thing about a fiction book is the protagonist, then a character trailer may be best. A trailer is not meant to educate the user about the book; its purpose is to interest the viewer enough to at least visit the book website for more details or to order it.

Some approaches refer to the style, such as humorous or cool; some the look like cinematic, with actors; and some refer to target of children's or teen. Study your building blocks from step 2. An approach may jump out at you. A plot line approach is the most common.

Below is a list of the most common. A trailer may use multiple, but usually one will be dominant.

Click on any title to see the trailers that use that approach.

Authorial

Definition: Authorial trailers focus on the author's popularity and reputation. The trailer stresses the author's fame, expertise, skill and/or previous published work. These books are often asked for by the author’s name rather than title.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

  • Inferno – Dan Brown - This 25-second video is a pure authorial approach trailer. It relies on Dan Brown's reputation and name recognition. If the viewer is a Dan Brown fan, then knowing there is a new book by him out called Inferno is enough. If the viewer does not know Dan Brown or did not like his last book, then there is nothing to entice the viewer to get more information. The total trailer narrative is "From the bestselling author of The Da Vinci Code... Dan Brown... Inferno. One Hell of a Read." There were no longer-length trailers for Inferno made.
  • An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth – Chris Hadfield - This is a humorous (2:22) trailer for Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield’s book. I can imagine people asking for “the astronaut book” at the store. The Hadfield trailer uses an authorial approach with humor, showing an astronaut in his spacesuit trying to do everyday things on earth, in contrast to the book content, which involves everyday things in space. Unlike Inferno, this trailer uses Hadfield's popularity but also builds a case for viewers who are not Canadian so may not know who Chris is.

Example Trailers:


Character

Definition: Character approach trailers focus on and generate interest through one character.

Used in both fiction and non-fiction, but more common in fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach: Ghostman and Blackbirds/Mockingbird are pure character trailers as there is no mention of the plot line, situation or challenge.

  • Ghostman – Roger Hobbs - This 56-second trailer is cinematic in appearance, but focuses purely on the antagonist. It never mentions the plot, setting, situation or challenge. The trailer creates an atmosphere of intrigue and wonder about the main character.
  • Blackbirds & Mockingbird - Chuck Wendig - This Mini-Radio Drama trailer uses a story written just for the trailer to introduce the main character, Miriam Black. The other character in the trailer dies in the end, so is used only to interact with and illustrate Miriam as a character. Like Ghostman, no mention is made of setting, plot or challenge.

Example Trailers:


Cinematic

Definition: A cinematic approach is visual and creates a movie-like experience, i.e. the cinema. Cinematic trailers often present acted-out, movie-like scenes. A key challenge with cinematic trailers is if they are not well done, they come across as cheesy. Well done cinematic trailers can be used not only to promote the book but also to show the potential as a movie script.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

  • The Whipping Club – Deborah Henry - This (3:26) trailer is pure cinematic. It is pure custom video using a select scene from the book to set the plot line. The risk with such a movie-like approach is the viewer asks, “Where can I see the movie?” rather than “Where can I buy the book?”
  • The Bleeding Land – Giles Kristian - This (1:09) cinematic trailer works on three levels with one scene the loading and shooting of the musket while an audio voiceover scene is a parliamentary meeting discussion. On-screen titles present praise and setting.
  • Monument 14 – Savage Drift – Emmy Laybourne - This (1:43) trailer illustrates a trailer used to promote both the book and an upcoming movie. It feels more like a movie trailer than a book trailer, including the use of CGI attack scenes at the beginning.
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Tips from Rocco Rivetti, Associate Producer, of red14films.com, one of the leading cinematic trailer film companies.

Example Trailers:


Cool

Definition: Defining “cool” is like defining “obscenity” – “Tough to define, but I know it when I see it.” As I discover a cool trailer, I can feel the smile on my face form. Interestingly enough, cool does not equate to expensive to produce. Cool comes more from unusual and new.

Originally, people were cool if they remained calm under stress. What is cool can be very age specific. Cool to a teenager is something their peers accept, but their parents reject. Winning is cool, but winning at all costs is not. Cool does not conform, is not predictable and takes reasonable risks.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

  • Bookmans Bookstore - This (0:47) bookstore trailer is not only cool, but also illustrates you do not have to spend a lot of money. While the trailer took many hours to set up and create, the shooting and editing are simple.
  • Where Good Ideas Come From – Steven Johnson - This (4:07) non-fiction trailer uses an unusual white board approach to create a complex chart demonstrating the book's content.

External Resources:

Example Trailers:


Documentary

Definition: A documentary film is one that is factual, dramatic and usually presents a point-of-view. A book trailer is the same. These books often fall into the category of biography, history or autobiography.

Applies to non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

  • Hooked: When Addiction Hits Home - This (1:28) trailer documents life with an addicted parent or sibling. It focuses on coping and surviving others’ addictions.

Example Trailers:


Emotional

Definition: An emotional trailer tugs at your heartstrings. When used, it is usually the dominant approach.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

  • Room - Emma Donoghue - This (2:15) trailer is about a woman and her child held in a small basement room for seven years. This powerful trailer uses a child narrator and animation to introduce a tough subject as seen through the child's point-of-view.
  • To This Day by Shane Koyczan - This (1:46) trailer is based on a slam poem by Shane Koyczan, who performed at the Opening Ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympics. The message is delivered like a swift kick to the gut. Powerful trailer.

Example Trailers:


Humorous

Definition: A humorous approach trailer aims to provoke laughter, provide amusement or perhaps even evoke a snicker. Many humorous trailers use misdirection, but misdirection is its own approach. Misdirection does not always mean humorous. There is a danger in using humor, as people may take offense. Granted, they are probably not in your target audience, but don’t be surprised if some don’t like it.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Humor is a popular approach. In these examples, the humor supports the theme of the book.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

Example Trailers:


Informational

Definition: An informational trailer teaches. It introduces a topic such as a time/era.

Could apply to fiction, but more common in non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

Example Trailers:


Literary

Definition: Google defines literary as “concerning the writing, study, or content of literature, especially of the kind valued for quality of form.” Basically, a literary trailer is about a literary book. As the focus of such a book is “quality of form,” the trailer has a refined feel to it.

Could apply to non-fiction, but more common in fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

Example Trailers:


Mini-radio Drama

Definition: Radio Dramas are audio programs. While not popular anymore, they are an effective approach to a book trailer. A Mini-radio Drama could stand on its own as pure audio. The key is the audio portion of the trailer. The visuals support the story, but the audio can stand on its own. A key advantage is a lot of information can be packed in the minute vs. titles. Also, the cost of production is not as expensive as cinematic. Mini-radio drama has many of the advantages of cinematic, but is easier and less costly to produce.

Applies to fiction. An audio non-fiction would be a documentary or instructional.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

  • Blackbirds/Mockingbird - This (2:31) trailer shows Miriam's talent via a two-minute radio-like drama. I contacted the author Chuck Wendig, and he confirmed that the story in the trailer is not part of any of the books and was made up just for the trailer. The story introduces us to Miriam, “eyes like hot coals, hair like she French kissed a car battery… My name is Miriam Black and I bet you $50 I can tell you how you’re gonna die.” The story continues. The second character is irrelevant to the books, as he is dead by trailer's end.

Example Trailers:


Misdirection

Definition: A misdirection trailer leads you in one direction, then does an about-face. Often, this results in humor.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:
I love misdirection trailers. Two of my favorite examples are:

Example Trailers:


Off-the-wall

Definition: For a trailer to be off-the-wall, it has to be different. It may be humorous, but the stronger trait is uniqueness.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

Example Trailers:


Plot Line

Definition: Plot line is by far the most common approach. The goal is not to summarize the plot; it is not a plot synopsis. A plot line approach trailer sets up the plot.

A plot narrative consists of:

  • Exposition – Introduction of the characters/setting and sometimes the ordinary world
  • Inciting Incident – Introduction of the conflict or problem
  • Rising action
  • Conflict
  • Climax
  • Falling action
  • Denouncement

In a book trailer, the exposition, characters/setting and/or inciting incident are used to create interest. Basically, show the setting, characters and problem. A trailer may focus on one to the exclusion of others. If only a character is profiled, this becomes a ‘character‘ approach. A plot line approach must present more. The hook is usually how will the protagonist solve the problem?

Ordinary World – the norms and rules of the world. If the story is set in a dystopia, fantasy or paranormal world, then the reader needs to be educated in what a typical day is. These trailers often spend significant time establishing the norms. While this would be classified as a “plot-line” approach, the plot may not be revealed. It may be more ordinary world then the act-one crisis.

To quote L. P. Hartley's novel The Go-Between (1953) "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." For authors of historical fiction it is important to ensure your viewer understands the trailer plot or hook. Ordinary world may be important to enlighten on the norms of that time and era.

Applies to fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:
There are so many trailers that use a plot line approach. Most plot line trailers focus on the ordinary world aspect.

  • Midnight Crossroad – Charlaine Harris - Most of the (1:41) trailer is spent describing the ordinary world - a day in the life of Midnight, Texas. I love when the population sign changes from 84 to 83, hinting of a disappearance.
  • Time Snatchers – Richard Ungar - The (1:00) teen trailer sets up an Oliver Twist scenario with time travel. The focus is the ordinary world, then on to the challenge.
  • Uglies – Scott Westerfeld - The (0:51) YA trailer presents the offer "We will make you pretty, you will be pretty" and then "you will be ours," hinting of the crisis. Tight strong setup for the ordinary world.

Example Trailers:


Reputation

Definition: A reputation trailer focuses on the reputation of the author, institution or brand of the book. The reputation can be of the:

  • Author's prior fictional work
  • Author's non-fiction expertise or experiences
  • Institution
  • Book brand (Example: Dummies brand)

Applies to fiction and non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

Example Trailers:


Serial

Definition: A serial approach trailer is a series of trailers released on a schedule. Like the old “Buck Rogers” serial films of the 1930′s which were released on a regular basis, each episode ends in some cliff-hanger.

Could apply to non-fiction, but I have seen it only used in fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

  • The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey - The 5th Wave is an excellent example of a serial trailer. The first trailer introduces the first wave of the conquest, the second trailer the second wave and so on through four. The 5th wave is answered in the book. The series was released on a weekly basis to gain exposure. A regular schedule is important so that users know when to return for more.

Example Trailers:


Skill

Definition: Targeted at a specific skill level.

  • Beginner
  • Advanced

Applies to non-fiction where the expectation is to learn.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

Example Trailers:


Subject

Definition: What is the book about?

Applies to non-fiction.

Trailers that illustrate this approach:

Example Trailers:


Age Specific - Teen/Children

Definition: The trailer is aimed at a specific age group. The word "teen" is used in a generic sense to refer to non-adult/non-child audience books including young adult. Specific age group audiences affect the trailer design including age-appropriate content, as well as intensity and tone.

Applies to both fiction and non-fiction.

Example Trailers:


Viral Characteristics

A major factor in the selection of an approach is whether the goal of the trailer is to be viral. Let's look at characteristics of a viral video.

  • Extreme
  • Completely unexpected, surprising, unique and unforgettable
  • Usually 30 to 90 seconds but there are viral videos that are over an hour with many millions of views
  • Universal appeal, relatable
  • Evoke strong emotional response

So if I shoot a trailer with these characteristics it will go viral? No. These are just common traits.

Shooting Style

TV's goal is for the viewer to not change channels. A viral video's goal is to get the viewer to share. The fancy shooting/editing style used on TV holds the viewer's interest while making them more passive. This distances them from the content. This is contrary to the goal of a viral video. Viral video is about the content, not how it was shot.

Types of Viral Videos

View Video Phenom: All Popular Near-Viral Viral

  • Everyone wants the viral video that millions view and CNN reports on. It is an advertiser’s dream, but creating a viral trailer is hard to do. It must include something interesting that has never been seen before. A second version of a viral video never goes viral. “Been there, seen that.”
  • Viral tends to use humor, misdirection, off-the-wall or serial.
    • A serial trailer is done in parts released on a schedule. One of the best examples is The 5th Wave. The campaign was released in four 30-second trailers, each a week apart. Part one explained the First Wave, part two the Second Wave, and so on. Great piece of work.
  • For non-fiction books an extreme advice approach can work as illustrated by Canon vs. Nikon as discussed above.
  • Check out Bookmans Does Book Dominoes for a fun bookstore video that was not expensive to make and yet has over 285,000 views.

External Resources

Interview on WhiStle Radio 102.7fm

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Page: http://bt101.info/vvint
Feb 10, 2015 3:00 pm EST
Tune in to Charlene Jones on Whistle Radio 102.7 fm February 10th to hear the fascinating Rich Helms discuss Viral Videos: what makes a video appeal to millions of people, what kinds of viral videos exist and what does that mean for your creative life.

  • Part 1
  • Part 2

WhiStle Radio 102.7fm

Step 3. Approach Worksheet

Approach Worksheet
Trailer Level:
1 Images, music, titles
2 + voice over
3 + live-action video
 
Approach:


 
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