Pride and prejudice and book trailers

How Quirk Books puts book trailers to use and measures their success.

In a recent post on Mashable, author Rye Barcott talked about the experience of making a trailer for his book “It Happened on the Way to War: A Marine’s Path to Peace.” Though literary curmudgeons may cry “sacrilege!” at video promotions for books, Barcott said a book trailer can act as a bridge to new readers:

We live in an age where fewer people are reading, and more people are watching. That reality has driven the rise of book trailers. My skeptical friends argue that these trailers simply contribute to our increasingly short attention spans. Having just gone through the process, I have a different view. My hope is that book trailers like ours help bridge the divide and draw more people to the beauty, substance, and transformative power of books.

You can view Barcott’s book trailer here.

For a more detailed look into the business behind the book trailer, I turned to Brett Cohen, vice president of Quirk Books. This is the company behind “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” and a publisher that’s produced a fair number of book trailers.

Our interview follows.

What is the target market of book trailers?

Brett Cohen: It varies depending on the book’s audience. Certainly, it appeals to an online demographic. And, the viral nature of a YouTube video is working at its best when others share it with their friends via Facebook or Twitter, or post it on their blogs. Some of our viewers watch the trailers embedded onto other sites, like the Huffington Post, Techland and io9. That type of syndication expands the audience for the trailer and the book. Our most-viewed trailers have definitely appealed to a younger, pop-culture-driven audience.

What makes for a good book trailer?

Brett Cohen: For us, a good book trailer speaks “the language” of our target audience. Our Quirk Classics book trailers mimic the production value of big-budget movies, with exceptional special effects. We’ve created other trailers for humor books that are more irreverent. For non-fiction titles, we’ve taken a more author-driven, information-based approach. Overall, we feel that it’s very important to be true to the book so that it can translate into sales.

What production companies are doing it really well?

Brett Cohen: We’ve worked with a few different production companies and have had great experiences with them all. Amazon named our “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” book trailer as the best book trailer of 2009 — and essentially launched the “big budget” movie-style book trailer trend. That video was created by Ransom Riggs and has been viewed more than 290,000 times. Our “Dawn of the Dreadfuls” trailer was created by Dirty Robber and has had more than 250,000 views. This past fall we worked with Epic Image Entertainment on our “Night of the Living Trekkies” book trailer, which has more than 160,000 views.

How do you measure the success of a book trailer?

Brett Cohen: Essentially, we are creating a marketing asset that we want others to enjoy and share on the web. So, the success of a book trailer can immediately be measured by views and channel subscribers. It can also be measured in how many times it was embedded on other sites and viewed there.

Ultimately, though, we want it to help sell books in the same way that a book review or advertisement can drive sales. While that is tougher to track, we have been able to see trends. We do see an early spike when the trailer launches, particularly in online sales. And the trailer stays on our channel forever, so, frequently, a new site will embed the trailer at a later date and we’ll see another bump.

At the heart of this though, is the fact that publishers create content — in Quirk’s case, it’s entertaining content. And if we can entertain a viewer through the medium of video, ideally it will encourage them to check out our books.

Here’s the book trailer for “Jane Austen Pride & Prejudice & Zombies: Dreadfully Ever After”:


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