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.

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