Sunday, April 25, 2010

do unpublished manuscripts need book trailers?

Over the past month or so, INTERN has been shocked by the amount of work she's found herself doing to prepare for her book's** release. Between printing rather superfluous flyers, making a book trailer, and setting up a ridiculous website, the time she spent writing the actual book has become a faint, innocent, candy-coated memory.

But it all pales in comparison to the amount of work INTERN has seen tons of writers do to promote their book—before they even have a book deal.

Over the past year, INTERN has seen it all: writers who make a blog from the point of view of their fictional protagonist, book trailers for books that are actually half-finished manuscripts, sample cover art printed on glossy paper at great expense and submitted with the query or book proposal, custom-made stationary featuring a quote from the book, links to twitter and facebook accounts for a manuscript or character—pretty much everything short of feature-length films of the unpublished manuscript.

As someone who is pretty aversive to doing anything on a computer except writing, it boggles INTERN's mind to think of all the hours of labor that go into producing this mountain of manuscript-related media. It further boggles INTERN's mind that anyone would willingly spend time making all that stuff unless there's a publicist or agent threatening to beat in their skull with a cricket bat if they don't. It must be fun or useful or rewarding in some way, because more and more people are doing it—and after all, aren't authors supposed to build a platform at any cost?

But which of these endeavours are worthwhile? And which ones will actually help pave the way to a published book?

INTERN has a childhood friend who spends all her free time on the internet looking at wedding dresses and printing sample invitations. She's never had a serious relationship (probably because she spends all her time on the internet looking at said wedding dresses and forgetting to leave her apartment). Too much promotional material for unpublished manuscripts feels a little like those imaginary wedding invitations—cute, until you ask when the actual wedding is and things get awkward. As an intern, INTERN never witnessed an editor being even mildly enticed by any such bells and whistles (it's about the writing, silly!) And there's a big difference between producing a lot of promotional stuff and building an actual platform.

All these Negative Nancy-isms being said, INTERN thinks manuscript-related blogs and videos and image galleries can be extremely useful—to the extent that they help writers get deeper into their characters' minds and imagine the world of their books more richly, thus allowing them to write better books. INTERN has seen a few truly magical media creations yet-to-be published writers have made—not for the express purpose of promoting their manuscripts, but to explore their stories more deeply, clarify their ideas, and use those insights to make their characters more believable, their worlds more finely detailed—and their manuscripts better.

This is where, in INTERN's opinion, the real value of all these creative side-projects lies: in improving the manuscript itself (or, in very rare cases, building a huge and ravenous following who will demand more fictitious blog posts and tweets, pronto). And, oh, also the fact that lots of people apparently find it fun and interesting to make media related to their manuscript, which is a wonderful reason for doing just about anything.

INTERN wants to know: Have you ever made media related to your (fiction) manuscript before it was published? Was it fun and interesting? Did it help you write or revise your story? Did it help you in other ways? Would you do it again for future projects?

Have an ecstatic Monday!


**For those who missed INTERN's confession in a previous post's comments section that her book is NOT, in fact, about funky senior destinations in the Midwest, INTERN hereby confesses that that information is completely erroneous and apologizes for her treachery.

35 comments:

  1. I made a book trailer for an old WIP - which was essentially a chapter long at that point and I've made mock covers (of the virtual non expensive I love flicker way too much variety)

    Nothing to do with promotion or improvement, tis all about the procrastination :)

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  2. I confess, I have no intention of making my own book trailer. That task will be left for the publisher I expect to have soon! I am trying to build a more ravenous list of followers but they seem to be a little slow...

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  3. I haven't created a book trailer or covers, but when I signed with my agent I did start a blog. I also have business cards printed, but those are more for people I meet in the writing world at workshops, conferneces or through my MFA program. They don't promote my book, but my blog site is on there. I think my blog has helped the most in keeping me sane while my book is on submission. I have readers now who offer advice when I have questions about things and keep me sane when I think I can't handle waiting to hear from the world of publishing.

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  4. Um, no. No I have not designed a cover, a trailer, a soundtrack, or any other such ambitious project. I have written thousands of words that I never intended to include in a WiP from alternate POVs to figure out ancillary character's motivations and personalities, but that's about it.

    I continue to be amazed and intimidated by the folks who have the time, skill, and drive to build these phenomenal websites to a book that hasn't been queried yet. I secretly pray that they are more gifted in html code than actual writing.

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  5. Yes, the main character in my novel has a blog. No, it's not a public blog; I've only shared the link with a couple people. It's fun, it takes very little time or energy, and it helps me stay in the head of the character a little, which will be useful if (when!) I finally get an agent/publisher and have to start editing again...

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  6. A video editor/director who happened to have a couple of weeks free was interested in creating a trailer for my unpublished memoir, THE UNDERTAKER'S WOMEN. It was my 8MM footage of 1950 and 60's America that caught his imagination. I recorded the VO in a professional studio, made available by another friend. It was quite astonishing to weave the chapter excerpt into the visuals and follow through with music to set the tone. It taught me a lot about my writing. I would most definitely do it again and hope to when I complete my next book. You can see it here:
    http://www.katemayfield.com/

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  7. Like a lot of people, I enjoy drawing my characters. Having made book trailers for other people's books (I'm in library school, and want to be good at promoting books to patrons), I admit it can be tempting to make a book trailer for my own, but I think I'd feel silly. Anyway, I prefer to spend that free time, when I get it, writing.

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  8. Okay, so, where's the website?... THE REAL ONE! And if you fib, all the words will fall outta your newly to be published book, scamper away, never to be put together again!

    Haste yee back ;-)

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  9. Very interesting post. Just blogged about it. Thanks for the food for thought!

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  10. This post is great because so many people are telling unpublished novelists to build followings before publishing. It's tough for writers to know exactly what that means.

    My novel is almost done & I recently started a blog to learn some social networking skills so I'm ready when I need to be. It's a lot of work, though. While I enjoy some meeting other writers, I don't enjoy the amount of time it takes. And I'm suspect about whether or not it's worth it.

    I don't have any materials like stationary or trailers. I come from a video game marketing background & all plans backed up from the release date. Without that, there was no point in marketing.

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  11. I once tried make a trailer for my unpublished book, but not because I thought it would garner me any attention. Just because it was fun. I think the appeal of a lot of those promotional efforts is that it FEELS like you're being productive when you're really just screwing around and procrastinating the real work. With the added bonus of actually thinking about your novel at the time.

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  12. Last night, I got bored and made a hypotetical cover. It doesn't live outside of my computer, though. It was helpful in that it made me realize I hate my working title.

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  13. I honestly don't get the book trailer thing. I cannot imagine that creating sock puppets for all the characters in my book and then acting out scenes from said book will increase readership (or more importantly, buyership). Unless the trailer is overly serious and therefore unintentionally funny, which might cause it to become an overnight sensation on You Tube for fans of trainwreck irony.

    The notable exception to this would be a book about funky old people in the Midwest and their quest for stylish, elasticized clothing. THAT I would watch.

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  14. I don't do the "media" thing as I am an ancient, fossilized old fart. BUT, I do as you suggest -- use my blog to build character, background, atmosphere and setting until I can see it and feel it as if it were really REAL. Until I read this, I didn't know anyone else even THOUGHT of doing something like that.

    If you're interested in seeing what I've done:

    http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/

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  15. neat comments, everyone! INTERN suspected it had more to do with "fun and interesting" (+/- "good for procrastinating") than anything else. that's great.

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  16. Nope. Never done it and never will. (Okay, I might do a few sketches, BUT THAT'S IT!) I'm not even a big fan of book trailers for published material. And covers? *shivers* Leave it to the experts, in my opinion.

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  17. Media can always be used to promote self-published work if they lose all faith in the big 6.

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  18. Please INTERN, more on the making of a book trailer. I can manage the blog and the twitter and the webpage and the facebook page, but the book trailer looks like a different beast.

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  19. My WIP is about a girl who uses images on her website it as a voodoo dolls. I created her site and the process informed the story. HTML and computer graphics are my hobby, so, yes, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

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  20. Nah. It'd take too much time away from writing--and I've got enough going on with that. Maybe when I'm finished. But I'm old fashioned. When I get behind the computer to write my story, I'm already in my character's head. I can't see diverting that energy to something that I'm not even finished writing. That...and that I'm really too flipping lazy...

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  21. Well hey, now I know something that your book is NOT about. That narrows it down slightly, right?

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  22. I made a sketchy book trailer for a finished, unpublished work, yeah, in part because it looked like grand fun and in part because it helped me with the query. I'd been fighting my query for ages because I couldn't find a good, punchy, concise way to describe the book. I took it to a medium to get a fresh look at it. And y'know? It really helped.

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  23. Yes INTERN, I had four matte painting done to depict a very important underground Mayan city that takes a central place in my science fantasy novel, as well as work with a 3D artist to bring a special and very specific item to life so I could use it for a book cover (a special sword).

    It was fun, kept my mind fixed in my fictional world, and definitely helped me improve the overall feel of the novel.

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  24. http://ptolemymaps-meyerprints.blogspot.com/

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  25. Confession time: I've been working on my fictional world for over three decades - writing a book set in that world was more about investigating that world from an 'inside' perspective, a personal project alongside the map making and language creation rather than a stab at fame and glory.

    Now the book is written (and self-published - it has its own webpages and stuff - I now have to promote it: I need a dozen sales to cover the costs of self-pubbing. But how can people buy the book if they don't know it exists?

    I have a cunning plan which involved developing a Facebook app that will not only be Fabulous, but also advertise the book in the Best Possible Way. Lots of hard work, yes, but developing the app is turning into lots of fun, too. Much like working on my maps of invented languages ...

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  26. Heck no, all I do is cover art and fan art for my book, but those babies never see daylight. For now. =)

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  27. Right now, my characters and novel have nothing. I have a blog. I mention my writing. I mention my novel. I have KitKat contests.

    I'm creating a platform for me. This way whatever novel I end up going with WHEN I'm published, there will be people who are familiar with my voice and think about buying it. The novel that is, not my voice.

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  28. My writing partner and I had a great time imagining our books turned into movies. We picked out our favorite actresses and actors for each character and assembled photos together with quotes from each character. This was all assuming we had an unlimited budget and free choice of superstar actors, plus power over time and death. Little things. It was really fun.

    What actually helped get into our characters' heads was filling out those e-mail surveys from the POV of the character. It was fun to think about what their opinion of ice cream and winter vs summer would be; it was a little way to get into their head about things that wouldn't normally come up in the story, and flesh out their character a bit. But it was a bit of a challenge when the character's from a fantasy novel and the question is about what song is playing on your ipod right now ...

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  29. I have a blog which focuses on writing, but I don't mention my book(s) in it often. I feel like there's a small window where the author should do a media blitz, and that's a couple of months before the book is published.

    I confess I am a web geek though and have put together a website for my book that I run locally on my machine at home so no one can see it. I have also contemplated putting together a blog as the characters, but if I do, that will not be available for others to read, just me.

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  30. INTERN!! You made it on the Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites For Writers list! Congrats!

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  31. I started sketching comic pages based on one of my stories.... and now I'm making the whole thing into a graphic novel, rather than a work of prose. I found that I actually enjoy drawing my characters more than just about anything else. 400 pages in, the fun still hasn't worn off!

    I'm thinking of giving the same treatment to all of my other stories.

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  32. I did make a trailer for my book. It's not published yet--I haven't even started querying! But I had the BEST time making it. And, while it didn't help me dig deeper into my characters, it DID help me organize my thoughts for a hook for my query letter. (Not with what's on the trailer now, but for some of the things I ended up not using in the trailer...)

    My 1 min. trailer

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  33. Sherry: That's interesting! INTERN can't actually find her blog on the list....perhaps she is looking in the wrong place. Anyway, that would be rad!

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  34. I'm with Emily Cross, it's not really about promotion, it's just a fun way to procrastinate. The only thing like that I've made is a very horrible cover for my novel. I don't expect it to get me anywhere, it was just something fun for me to do one afternoon. (The book WAS completed at that point in time. Though revisions weren't.)I've always wanted to make a book trailer just for fun, but I don't really have the programs and know-how to do it.

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  35. I've considered doing a book trailer for my WIP, but have been too busy writing to take the time. I've seen some really amazing book trailers and some that really turned me off, and I absolutely plan on doing one once I get published and gathering the materials now has given me a head start.

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