Category Archives: Gemma Burgess

On… BookBrunch

BookBrunch is THE must-read daily news and information site for the book industry. I wrote a little piece for them about the making of The Dating Detox trailer.

Check out ‘Lights, Camera, Traction’ or read it after the jump.

When her agent suggested she make her own trailer, novelist Gemma Burgess (left) thought she’d give it a go. Launched last Friday, in four full days it has enjoyed 4,188 uploads on Vimeo – including one in Albania

Every author is her own bookpimp these days. Self-promotion is inevitable and compulsory.

Since my first book The Dating Detox came out in January, I’ve blogged, Tweeted, Facebooked, created promotional postcards, invented a “Name That Bastard” competition for my second book, A Girl Like You, sent newsletters, telephoned independent bookshops across the country to ask them to stock it and, of course, placed my book front and centre in every London bookshop I see.

This is all pretty standard, even for a tiny rookie author like me. There are hundreds of us, all shouting in the same space for the same attention. Then a few months ago my agent, Laura Longrigg at MBA, forwarded me a couple of links to some YA trailers and suggested I make one.

Book trailers are the Wild West of author self-promotion. There are few standout success stories. They vary wildly, both in concept and production values, from digital animations to a reading over a montage of images, or even an author reading the book aloud, looking pleadingly into the camera. I immediately decided that animations and montages wouldn’t engage my target audience of easily-bored, humour-hungry young women (I know them well – I am one). And I was positive that there is nothing interesting about watching me read.

When I love a novel, I feel involved. I can’t put it down, I love the characters, I feel what they’re feeling. I realised that, if possible, I wanted people to form a similar – even if fleeting – emotional involvement with the trailer, to wonder “what happens next?”

I also wanted to communicate the spirit of The Dating Detox; the sharp silliness of the humour and the quirky appeal of the protagonist. The storyline needed to reveal the plot in a pacy and entertaining way, and as a standalone piece be compelling enough to watch all the way to the end. It also needed to be worthy of maybe, just maybe, forwarding on to friends (the holy grail of any digital campaign). Lastly, it all needed to be as near to free as possible, no longer than five minutes, and not look too home-made.

I decided to make a film-style short of one chapter. (Ignorance and enthusiasm are ever my friends.)

I wrote a script and called a TV director friend, Sam Eastall, for advice. He thought it sounded fun and agreed to direct it for free. Through six degrees of separation, we found the actors, including Daisy Aitkens, who happens to be brilliant and look exactly like the character. We applied for filming permissions; Sam bagged us a recording studio for the voiceover and via Tomboy Productions found a director of photography. Friends agreed to be extras in return for free wine.

We hired the Canon 5D Mark2 camera equipment (the only cost, apart from the wine) and filmed it outside The Only Running Footman in Mayfair on the Saturday and Sunday over Easter. There was a minor post-filming hiatus as I buzzed off to get married, then we edited it and scored it on Sam’s home editing suite. You can watch it here.

My digital seeding strategy relies heavily on people forwarding it to friends, so it’s a million-to-one chance that more than a couple of hundred people will ever see it. That’s just the way it is.

Self-promotion isn’t easy. It can be intimidating and draining, particularly for a debut author. I think the ROI is probably poor, especially with regard to social media, which can take over your life. But at the same time, it’s fun and interesting. And fun and interesting goes a long way.

Will it sell any more copies of my book? As with all self-promotion, who knows. A few months before I was published, someone very smart told me to think of myself as a fishing boat, and all my book promotion ideas as fishing rods. Not all the rods will catch something, but you never know what the fish might bite. You have to keep trying or, well, you’ll go hungry.

PS I’m in the trailer, as the girl crying on the phone. We were short on actors, I threw some tearstick in my eyes and off I went. Self-promotion literally brought me to tears.

Watch THE DATING DETOX trailer

Press play! Watch the trailer! (If it’s stalling, please just reload. That’s Vimeo for you and you know there are like thousands of people watching it right now. Yah.)

The Dating Detox Trailer from sam eastall on Vimeo.

Like it? Check out the proper trailer site at

On… the trailer (yet again)

Yep, the trailer is done. If you enjoyed it, and want to know more about making it, and whether I have a cameo, or the answers to any of other many questions I’ve received since the trailer came out, read this post.

First of all, The Making Of story.

My agent Laura and I had been talking about trailers. It seemed like it might be pretty easy (oh, silly me). I did some research and realised there are a lot of book trailers out there, but most are pretty dire and even the best just wouldn’t be compelling to the woman who might read my book (and I know her well, because she’s me – humour-hungry, short attention span, professional woman type of thang).

This was the brief: the trailer needed to be sharp, glossy and funny. It needed to communicate the spirit of book; the sharp silliness of the humour and the quirky appeal of the protagonist. The storyline needed to reveal the plot in a pacy and entertaining way, and as a standalone piece be compelling enough to watch all the way to the end. It also needed to be worthy of maybe, just maybe, forwarding on to friends (the holy grail of any digital campaign). Lastly, it all needed to be as near to free as possible as I was paying for the entire thing myself; not take up too much of my time as well, I had another book to finish and a wedding to plan; and not look too home-made.

I wrote the first script in February, my friend Sam is a TV director and thought it sounded like fun, through friends and contacts we got a full cast and crew together, we had some rehearsals, had a shot list worked out and hired very high-spec cameras. Sam is the reason it’s so professional-looking: he treated it as a short film. (With no budget. Ha.) All of this took weeks, but it was all pretty organic.

Then we filmed it over Easter, then I was away (wedding, honeymoon – yah, the usual), and Sam had other projects with his company Preditor, and we did about six or seven different edits and fiddled with the music, the sound clarity, building the trailer home page and so on. And now I think it’s – maybe – just about perfect.

And now, the answers to the most frequently asked questions:

Why make a trailer?

Well, why not?

First of all, it was interesting and fun to make, and I’ll do pretty much anything if it’s interesting and fun.

It was also a damn fine learning experience. I’m writing a screenplay for The Dating Detox, so the trailer was a chance to flex my screenwriting muscles; figure out how to introduce characters; use tone of voice in a different way, etc. The trailer is one particular chapter in the book, but I introduced a couple of asides she says elsewhere to get across the reasons behind the whole dating sabbatical thang. It was interesting. We could chat for hours about this. But let’s not.

And of course, I hope it will help my teeny tiny little minnow of a book get a bit more exposure. Because it’s really good. Honest.

Am I in it?
Yep. I am the crying girl. The girl we’d earmarked for the role had a hangover and didn’t turn up, so I threw some tearstick in my eyes and off I went. Apologies for the overacting. I’m a guy-behind-the-guy kind of person.

Why does the cover not look like the trailer?
Because the cover is wrong. Wrong colour hair, wrong colour bag, wrong everything.

Do I want to make a real THE DATING DETOX movie?
Yes. And no, I haven’t sold the rights yet.

Do you really think this will make a difference to book sales?
I don’t know. I hope so. If nothing happens, if everyone hates the trailer, and thinks I’m jolly silly for even trying, and the whole thing fizzles like a wet match then, well, tant pis. You play with the bull, sometimes you get the horns.


The title for my second book, out December 2010, has been chosen.


(Cool, huh?!)

As you know, I’ve been waiting for Harper Collins to give me a list of their suggested titles for Book Deux. (My suggestions – The Late Starter, The Dating Virgin, etc – weren’t exactly setting the world on fire.)

Then on Tuesday morning I was thinking about titles (again), and thought, what do I really want the title to SAY to readers?

And the answer was: I want to say that this is a funny story about a girl like you.

So I rang my editor and said ‘What do you think about ‘A Girl Like You’?’. She said ‘oo!’ in an excited voice, discussed it with her team today, and just rang me and that’s the winner. So there we have it! I am thrilled.

You know what else? It’s a tiny homage to Kingsley Amis, who wrote a wonderful book called Take A Girl Like You. Yes, I know he was apparently a dreadful misogynist. But he was very funny. So there.

A GIRL LIKE YOU. By Gemma Burgess. Out December 2010. (Woo.)

On romance

What do you want in your chicklit?

My needs are simple. I want to not think the heroine is a drip.

I want her to have a life and a brain. I want her to have friends that I’d hang out with. I want to fancy the dude. I want to find their conversations compelling and surprising and real.

I want to not want to miss a single word because the whole thing is crafted so delightfully.

I want, oh my GOD I want to laugh. And of course, I want an emotionally satisfying, optimistic happy ending. (With most chicklit – mine included – you can usually guess she’ll end up happy in some form or other. I don’t mind knowing the destination as long as I enjoy the journey.)

What I don’t particularly want is romance.

You see, I forgot my book on the way home to London from Cork last night, so I had to pick one up at the airport. I wanted a chicklit book, but there wasn’t much choice, and I’d read quite a few of the good ‘uns, and finding one that I thought would do all that… God, it was a nightmare.

I spent what felt like hours picking up book after book with covers jammed with flowers/hearts/stars/shoes/jaunty foot kicks/script font/cartoons (I try to look past the covers now, for reasons that are a whole other blog post and probable shitstorm), and turning it over to read the blurb. Every single one boasted about romance. And that’s just not what I’m after.

Perhaps I’m callous. Maybe I’m the only one who wants a little bite with her chicklit, who doesn’t want something overtly sentimental. I’m not a particularly romantic person. I don’t like long walks on the beach, slow dancing or the opera. I didn’t love The Notebook*. I will never watch Marley And Me. I don’t like Audrey Hepburn films, especially Breakfast At Tiffanys, or teddy bears holding hearts or surprise picnics with chilled white wine at dusk on Hampstead Heath. That sort of romance is just too contrived for me. It’s predictable, and a bit annoying. Surprise me with a romantic picnic and about three minutes later I’ll be bored, dying for a wee and the grass will be making my legs itchy. I’d much rather go to that bar around the corner and have a real drink.

Romance is boring.

But love is awesome.

And I do want to read books about love. I LOVE love. Real love. Falling in love, and love at first sight, and second-chance love. And I crave books about that giddy, exhilarated, almost unbearable full-of-joy feeling that you get when you realise that the person you know and love more than anyone else in the world knows and loves you even more.

Why is that so hard to find?

The morning after our wedding last month we lay in bed, ate smoked salmon and cream cheese bagels, and gossiped about the night before whilst half-watching A Fish Called Wanda. (Kevin Kline! So awesome.) It was brilliant and funny and silly and intimate and deeply satisfying. Everything I think love should be. But was it romantic? Fuck, no.

In the end I bought Jane Fallon’s Foursome, by the way. The blurb said nothing about romance and someone on Twitter said it was funny.

*I did, however, cry at The Notebook, but not at the romance bits. I do cry at quite a lot of things. Brothers and Sisters fucking slays me, every episode, even though I only started watching it when editing The Dating Detox as I thought it wouldn’t distract me. I seem to cry at Glee a surprising amount. And once I cried when I saw a very old man posting a letter. But that is different from romance. Oui?