Getting book trailers right?

On Monday I posted the first trailer for the novel Glimpses of a Floating World, which didn’t include any speech. Some of you questioned the wisdom of this approach, while others thought it was OK. This is the second trailer I made, and is basically a reading from the second chapter. At the moment, the plan is to keep the two trailers separate, rather than splice this one into the video screened on Monday, or ditch it – but, once again, criticism is welcome.


~ by yearzerowriters on February 18, 2010.

43 Responses to “Getting book trailers right?”

  1. Larry, I’ve seen this a few times now, and it’s still creepy as hell. Your voice is perfect for this kind of material – you have just the right amount of control whilst conveying that something dark and explosive is always present if not always seen.

    • Thanks, Dan. I suspect we all have doubts about whether our voices are doing the job – I know Oli thinks there’s a case for employing professional actors.

      • That’s from Larry. I was still logged in.

      • Yes, it’s one of the things he and I disagree about 🙂 I would write screenplays if I was interested in getting actors involved. For me, writing is only half the task. Delivering it to the audience is the other half of what I, as a storyteller, have a responsibility (and a pleaseure in my case – I know I’m lucky to enjoy it – perhaps my audiences are less lucky that I like reading aloud so much) to deliver – and part of that delivery is face to face reading.

  2. Wonderful Larry, this is exactly what I was talking about re your other video, though it does not obviate that one – rather the two would work very well in tandem.

    I think your voice works perfectly – I only went down the route of a professional actress, because my mc is a woman – I can deal with this in front of a live audience, but less so with a video which is fixed.

    One query and I really am in two minds about this myself – in the ‘credits’ might you consider putting where the book is available from?

    There were a couple of points where the images were slightly behind the words – the gale blown sapling being one and the eyehole another.

    But to me this is superlative and exactly what a vid should be doing to promote a book.


    • I like the idea of using these in tandem – one to give an overall ‘feel’ and one to zoom in on a specific area of content. It is out of sync as you noted – I need to address that! It’s irritating.

      I know you have several vids in preparation, and I believe Daisy will do one (she has already posted the brilliant trailer for Brick Lane) and maybe Dan. I’d like to encourage all Zeroes to do one – we could have a page for trailers on this site? Also it is worth considering adding your vids to Blazing Trailers [] because of all the links they provide.

      • Larry, I think I’ve got a list of about 5 or 6 sites in addition to YouTube. I will post mine and report back with their URLs for everyone to consider for their own. But I have no idea of when since I am not doing the editing, so am not in control of the process re time.


  3. I would LOVE to do one if someone is prepared to do the actual filming (I don’t have the kit). I would warn people that I am a TOTAL CONTROL FREAK though – I know EXACTLY what I want for Songs. I am happy to send anyone a script if they would be up for it.

  4. I posted on this yesterday, but my computer froze up before it was registered.

    2 thumbs up. The other video was nice and flashy, but I think I like this one better.

  5. I love this one, Larry. Reminds me of listening to my Burroughs box set.

    • Hey thanks Daisy – Burroughs is important to me. Towards the end of his life, he teamed up with Alan Ginsberg and the Tibetan lama Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, and taught at Trungpa’s Nalanda Institute in Colorado.

  6. Dan – division of labour makes for efficiency, we all know, but you lose something too – and I can’t help thinking the Zeroes are a bit like the Arts and Crafts pioneers – multi-talented people handling every stage of the process, as you did with SKIN BOOK, when you produced the book itself. Reading (or performing) is the last stage in this process?

    • yes, I would certainly feel like the work was losing something if it never got communicated to the audience by the author in their own voice – when I think about it I almost end up with an animist view of the story. And as an author i would feel I’d lost something. Kierkegaard says of music that it is unique amongst the arts in embodying love (and, a fortiori, I think he means the human condition) because like love each performance is new, whereas other arts grow cold on the page or canvas. I think reading does that for stories too – and I think for those of us whose writing has a confessional edge, it’s essential that WE read.

      Daisy – I’d love to know what you think on this, but my take is these are my words, this is my life (almost mass-like, HOC est vita mea/corpus meum?), no one is taking them from me – if they do they’re no longer mine they’re just so many hollow strings coming, like everything else in life, from the outside, leavingmy inside empty.

      • That word confessional again…

        Dan, how do you get past the issue of female voices in your book – yes a duet with Daisy may overcome that, but when all/ the lone voice is female, what then?

  7. Okay, I’ll rumble.

    Most authors I’ve ever seen do a reading don’t know how to read effectively. It’s amateur. It does not sound good. Someone like Bukowski could read his stuff and sound good because he hated reading and you could tell and it was funny.

    An actor who really gets your writing can do a far superior job to what the author can do because they have been trained to do so. And I think it’s a good thing to collaborate with other arts.

    I’ve never met anyone who’s cared whether or not it’s the author reading or not. They’d complain if it were some hack substitute, but they wouldn’t complain if you got an amazing actor/actress up there, would they?

    The only argument against using actors is that maybe the reading isn’t supposed to be outwardly dramatic, like a play, but i don’t know…actors can act pretty much any state.

    • I agree it’s great to collaborate with other arts – but I thik when we write fiction, and someone who’s an actor reads it, it becomes something other than the work we created it as – more like a monologue, or something written for delivery. I’m not sure on this I even care what the audience thinks – if an actor is reading it well, as I intended it to be,then they’re mimicking what I would have done – otherwise, it may be something great, but it’s not my piece – I think there’s room for both. But there’s NOT room for actors to nudge authors out. For me that’s censorship; it’s gagging me, throttling me, telling me to shut the f*** up. I don’t quite get why so few people see it that way – I guess possibly because I’m a self-deluded exhibitionist 🙂

      I hope you don’t mind me being robust, Oli – you know what I thin of you and your opinions on pretty much everything- I think you’re an absolute bloody genius, on of three or four people I think should go down as the great names of the start of twenty first century literature – and it’s one of my dreams to get you there. I also think you may well be right about aspects of this – but if you are, I’m exercising my right to produce something less good in the name of authorial authenticity, and – speaking frankly – the need to get the voices out of my head and as gfar away as I possibly can – which I can only do by performing my own stuff 🙂 – not to say I’m not planning on working on a screenplay of Songs -that’s a whole other issue!

  8. I dunno. I’m a performer from way back. I love to get up in front of audiences. I’m also a storyteller. But hey, I sure wouldn’t mind if Morgan Freeman were to read my book aloud.

    • Maybe our position on this depends on whether we see the author as story-teller? I am in the story-teller camp, and I like to hear authors read. Dickens devoted so much time to public readings, by popular demand, that it probably hastened his death. He travelled to remote regions to read – he even came to North Dalton, the next village to us. And actors don’t always get the author’s intention – as any playwright knows. It’s why you have to sit in on rehearsals. Having said that, I have to admit that a good actor would make a better job of the above video than I did. What I gain out of a live reading, and the challenge to communicate, is the feedback from a live audience, which hopefully will inform future writing.

  9. I don’t know which side of the fence I fall on here. One the one hand, I want to see the writers I admire reading their own stuff, even if they read like shit. Going back to Burroughs, I wouldn’t want to hear his stuff in anything other than his own nasal monotone. And I’ve heard actors reading On The Road, but they left me cold after hearing Jack read it himself on the Steve Allen show.

    However, I would love to have Sam Rockwell read my stuff. What an actor, what a voice. Would he do a better job than me? Definitely.

  10. I totally agree with Daisy. Who else could read Burroughs? And Kerouac on Steve Allen was classic.

    Rockwell, I can see that.

  11. Larry,

    You can watch it here.

    The entire Kerouac documentary is very good.

  12. The voice of the ocean waves crashing onto the shore? I loved that. A lot of people thought he had lost it. Hearing him read it live proved them wrong.

    I heard a recording of James Joyce reading from Finnegan’s Wake. That was amazing. Whenever someone is trying to read it, I tell them to read it aloud, and try to affect an Irish brogue.

    That crappy rambling mess about what I do? Thanks. The reading from Into the Night is much better.

  13. I like rambling messes. I like the personal, vulnerable nature of them.

    • Loved that vid. Thanks again for putting me on to it – and the vids of Burroughs on the same page. And Kerouac doesn’t read smoothly, as an actor might – it’s vulnerable, raw, personal. It’s like the difference between listening to – say – St Louis Blues, sung by a concert singer and by an old blues singer?

  14. @Larry: I did the same thing after I graduated. Kerouac was a big influence. But the biggest influence on my travels was Woody Guthrie. I read Bound for Glory several times by the time I graduated.

    @Daisy: Thanks. I think it was the bad camera work I didn’t like.

    • Life-changing books. Not easy to say why – if I knew I’d be a better writer.

      I never read Woody but everyone I knew played his music – including, although you’d never guess now, Rod Stewart, who played American folk/roots music on a 12 string guitar.

      Wish we could all sit round a table now and exchange stories.

  15. I don’t know about Dan, but it is possible to put a soft feminine twist on your voice without sounding ridiculous. Remember, in Shakespeare’s day, all the parts were played by men. And I’m so glad that isn’t the case now.

  16. My internet is so screwed up the video preview won’t even load. It’s just this blank white box. I wish I could weigh in on the trailer! It seems like I’m always missing out on the big discussions.
    I agree with Daisy on hearing authors read their own work. No one else knows it as well, and no one else can do a truer reading. Sure, maybe one that sounds better, audibly, I guess, but it might not be the same piece of work. It’s another filter, you know, the person reading it.
    Then again, I’m not adverse at all to having my work read by other people. It’s like feedback, really, finding out how they read it and tell it to themselves. And I hate the sound of my own voice, so I’m not keen on reading. Though I do enjoy acting. I know, I make ridiculous amounts of sense.

  17. Being able to express what you’ve written is the job of the actor. We are not actors [unless any of you are?]. I’ve done amateur acting, and I’ve acted from my own script, and I know someone professionally trained would have done a lot better, and no one knew my words better than me.

    This is not censorship. You’ve already written what you wanted, now it’s time for interpretation, and sitting down with the right actor and telling him your ideas, just like in the theatre.

    If Morgan Freeman read my work, it wouldn’t be right. Like film, the actor has to be right for the material. I’m not suggesting just using anyone, I’m saying I would use someone who got what i had written.

    • I DO get your point – really I do. I guess I just get nervous if I feel you’re telling me I have to do my stuff a certain way – which you’re not. I thik it also has something to do with what we were brought up on – I have Auden reading Night Mail Train etched into my mind the same way Daisy has Kerouac, then at college it was Benjamin Zephaniah and John Cooper Clark – so I guess I grew up thinking of writers reading their own stuff

      More important things – did you get the link I sent you to the Platonov article?

      • There are very few Coop-Clarkes, Zephanaiahs and Kwesi Johnsons – (all interestingly are poets). Some of us have rather boring voices, that’s why we have to put on a show in other ways for a live audience. My dyspraxic son taught me this, he is so verbal and gobby, you don’t notice that he’s struggling to do the buttons up on his shirt. It’s what the magicians/ conjurors call ‘misdirection’.

  18. I mentioned Morgan Freeman simply because I love his voice. I’m not sure he would be the right one to read my stuff. Really, I have a hard time hearing anyone else read it but me.

  19. Dan, you can do it your way. I was just giving the counter-point that no one else was, I guess. And maybe it works well for Year Zero as a group? I don’t know. Do a lot of authors still do readings?

    Personally, I think getting the actors involved is much more interesting. Though I’ll concede it, perhaps novels themselves aren’t meant to be read out loud?

    Yes, I saw the Platonov thing. I don’t know if he’s that great, but I liked ‘Foundation Pit’ – the praise of his use of the “proletariat” bear is a bit simplistic though…they make it sound like he was the first one to mix reality and metaphor this way…writing in 1924, he surely wasn’t, was he? And the praise for his description of the kulaks being put ont the rafts and sent down river…first the article says it’s an amzing literal reading of communist agenda… ‘liquidate the kulaks’…and then he says it actually happened that way, meaning it was just a description of an actual event…

    In other words, Platonov is good, but he’s not good enough to deserve this kind of bullshit praise.

    That’s how it read to me anyway.

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