Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Spending Wisely on Book Promotion - series - Machima Book Trailers

(c) by Rhonda Kay

A hot topic for discussion in the writing community these days is marketing and promotion, and what the best options are for drawing attention to one's novel. I’m sure everyone agrees that the publishing industry has changed radically in the past few years. Ebooks are outselling print copy, and more people than ever have chosen to self-publish or become affiliated with a small, independent press.

I won't argue the pros and cons of these choices here; literally thousands of blog posts about this topic are disseminated across the Web. I can’t add a thing to that particular discussion. What I can tell you is that my experiments with a new form of promotional tool have been extremely promising. Book trailers aren’t unheard of—they’ve been around for a while. Most are slide shows set to music or amateur live action footage.

But what if a cast of virtual actors could give you the same kind of exposure that movie studios have employed for years? Real trailers with real action, your characters “alive” on the screen, speaking the lines you wrote for them in your novel.

I just finished producing my first "official" book trailer commissioned at an author's request. It's for Amanda Borenstadt's urban fantasy novel Syzygy. For this book, machinima animation was the perfect choice. For some novels it would never be. Anyone who hasn’t heard of machinima may need a moment to become familiar.

It is not Pixar-type animation. Nor is it produced using hand-drawn images and celluloid, where each frame is rendered independently, giving ultimate control over the images onscreen. Machinima is derived from video game technology and is traditionally filmed using game engines like Halo and Sims 2.

However, certain enterprising individuals have recognized the commercial potential of machinima and designed software with no other purpose but filmmaking. The platforms they created have no copyright stipulations, are one hundred percent royalty free, and any workproduct derived from them belongs entirely to the individual creator.

Some examples of this software are:

My personal choice is iClone because it incorporates keyframe technology as well as motion capture, with optional physics properties simulated in a 3D environment. More in depth explanations of machinima can be found here at Wikipedia and here.

Recently, some interesting new developments have emerged in the world of machinima. First, Google purchased a prominent machinima commodity. Then, Lord Of The Rings star Elijah Wood accepted a voice acting role in a machinima project.

It’s safe to say that machinima is gaining a very respectable audience.

Would a machinima trailer be right for your novel?
One factor worth considering is that, by its very nature and origins in the gaming community, machinima is “generationally weighted” toward a younger market. This does not mean only YA novels would benefit. It means that anyone who enjoyed and could relate to Twilight, Harry Potter, Lord Of The Rings, The Hunger Games, and Avatar will probably be hooked by a good machinima trailer regardless of their age. Anyone alienated by those themes or the imagery they conjure will probably not respond well to machinima.

So that leaves us with one burning question: how much of an advantage would a trailer actually give your novel in today's market?

The answer is ... I just don't know. I think trailers will become a hot ticket item, and I think they will sell books - especially ebooks -­ but it’s an untested theory.

At this point, people aren't accustomed to the idea of book trailers, don't seek them out, and may not be influenced to buy a novel because they watch them. Then again, book trailers might become the next viral sensation.

I think that ultimately it will be up to each author to decide if a trailer can reach their target audience and factor into their promotional strategy. This is true for all types of book trailers, not just machinima.

Amanda’s trailer for Syzygy is available to watch here at a nice, clear resolution. However, this video will not load for some people and has a lengthy buffering time for others. We’re not sure why yet (waiting on response from the hosting site’s tech support) but if you’re able to watch it, this is the better option. If not, the video is also on YouTube.

Rhonda is a member of Internet Writing Workshop.

"The Workshop is open to all styles and genres of writing: literary fiction, genre fiction, poetry, children's writing, essays, newspaper articles, scripts, you name it. Members do not need to be published writers, only to be serious about writing and about wanting to improve."
IWW also includes Writing, the list where members of all the above lists touch base to discuss writing-related subjects, and post "Yahoos."