The writer finds that with books being bought off online bookshops, book trailers are becoming big

Once upon a time, marketing a book meant book readings at a dozen or so bookshops and the occasional interview in national newspapers and magazines. No more. Marketing efforts are an increasingly elaborate affair, with multi-city book tours, use of Facebook and Twitter to interact with readers, and more recently, book trailers.

Audio-visual trailers for books, similar to those for movies, are gaining popularity as a marketing tool for novels. A Guardian article pegs the first book trailer to have been released in 2003, and in the decade since then, hundreds of book trailers have been released. Some are homemade productions, created by the authors themselves, others are cinematic productions shot with a professional crew. A handful even go viral — Gary Shteyngart’s hilarious, satirical trailer for Super Sad True Love Story garnered over 200,000 views on Youtube and was featured on Huffington Post and The Daily Beast.

Author KSR Menon says: “I had come across many trailers for books by international authors. As my book’s theme was international, I decided to create a trailer. Nowadays people are very busy but they are always online. So a trailer, I thought, was the easiest way to grab their attention.”

The book trailer draws on the interconnectivity of today’s world, where readers can view the trailer online before reading the book on their tablets or e-readers. Says Mukul Khattar of Inknuts, an Indian creative agency that produces book trailers: “Though a book trailer serves the same purpose as a blurb, its reach is far more. It has the ability to grab the limited attention span of readers, and engage youth hooked on social media. Publishers also play their book trailers at book launches, OOH and LiveMedia outlets, providing visibility to the book. Book trailers also serve as a great presentation tool, helping independent authors to make an impactful pitch and find a publisher.”

In India too, the trend of the book trailer has caught on, with publishing houses like Harper Collins and Westland releasing trailers for some of their major publications. Authors, too, are upbeat about the medium. Says author Ashwin Sanghi, “A trailer increases a potential reader’s awareness of a title and thus makes him or her more likely to purchase it when he or she sees it among several other titles on the racks of a book shop. The trailer I made for my book The Rozabal Line had over 50,000 views in a month. I think the trailer played a vital role in pushing awareness for the book.”

Mainak Dhar, author of Zombiestan, sounds a note of caution. “To be honest, I don’t think a trailer can realistically get lots of new readers on its own — it has to work with other elements of the marketing plan, The biggest role of a trailer is sometimes to provide a more immersive experience for a potential reader who has seen the book in a shop window or online, so they can get a more multimedia sense of what the book is about.”

Authors play a major role in the conceptualization of book trailers. Says Dhar: “The author plays an important role in terms of working with the producer on the theme, key ideas, visuals etc.” Sanghi concurs. “In both Chanakya’s Chant and The Krishna Key, the central shloka from the book was used as the soundtrack. Once we have a soundtrack, I personally develop the storyboard that would convey the key elements of the novel while not giving away too much. The storyboard and soundtrack are passed on to the agency which has the task of putting together appropriate visuals.”

Creation of a book trailer goes through the same steps as creation of any video production. Mukul explains; “In the pre-production stage, we meet the client to understand the gist of the book and the aspect they want to highlight in the trailer. Based on input from the publisher and the author, we create the script and decide whether we will use stock footage or a custom shoot. The production stage involves animation work done by our computer graphics artists or a proper shoot with lights, camera, costumes etc for cinematic trailers. In the post-production phase, the trailer is edited, special effects are applied and music/voiceover is laid to match the mood of the trailer.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a good trailer is worth a thousand copies sold. With the glut of books being published every year, authors and publishers are looking at new ways to grab readers’ attentions and get people talking about their books, and trailers seem to be just the way to do that.