Thursdays with Amanda: Video Critiques
Amanda Luedeke is a literary agent with MacGregor Literary. Every Thursday, she posts about growing your author platform. You can follow her on Twitter @amandaluedeke or join her Facebook group to stay current with her wheelings and dealings as an agent. Her author marketing book, The Extroverted Writer, is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
I’d like to wrap up my series on book videos by taking a look at some videos from readers. These were submitted to me after my call for video submissions last week, and I have the authors’ permission to dissect them online…but still, I promise to be nice!
The first is a publisher-created book trailer from author Elizabeth Ludwig for her Edge of Freedom Series:
So this is a great example of the kind of video that publishers usually produce (though I was informed that Bethany House did NOT produce this particular trailer). It’s well-done, but it’s nothing but vague text, thrilling music, and random video clips. And what’s more is that when everything is put together, it tells a muddled story…
Because publishers don’t actually go out and film the clips that are used in trailers (they buy them off of stock sites), you end up with a product that lacks cohesion. Everything looks like it came from something else…and it did. So if you’ve ever watched a book trailer and felt lost or confused, it’s not you. It’s the mixture of all of the various clips that are trying so desperately to come together to tell one story while falling short.
When I watched, it took me awhile to figure out not only where we were, but what time period. The Celtic music and typography narrowed the possibilities. But then you have an almost viking-looking ship (circa 1100s), a shot of a modern-day handgun, medieval-like tavern and horse clips, and finally a shot of the Brooklyn Bridge with a relatively modern New York Skyline in the background. If I could take a wild guess, I’d say that the book is set in Revolutionary War-era USA. I chose this time period because of all of the old timey stuff that is shown, the clip of the man running with a minuteman-type hat on, and the fact that it gives a sense of OLD Ireland. (I’m sure another viewer would look at it and get a completely different vibe.)
But then I went to Goodreads and found out that the book is set in 1896. Boy, was I off.
This video illustrates wonderfully how difficult it can be to patch together a live action trailer. I don’t know how much the publisher paid for this, but on their YouTube channel, it’s received fewer than 100 views. An interview with the author about the series received nearly double that. I wonder, then, if for this series it would be better to feature the author talking about some really juicy historical tidbit that ties into the series? Do it in a way that mirrors the kind of video you get from Mental Floss and you’re golden. History buffs love that kind of stuff, and it would be a worthwhile watch for them. Just an idea!
The second video I’m going to analyze (mwahahaha) is a trailer for Seeing Through Stones by Rajdeep Paulus:
The cool thing here is that Raj filmed her own video clips and pieced them together. Time-consuming, yes, but this way she got exactly what she wanted.
For this critique, I’m going to focus on text and how difficult it can be to make the text communicate what you want. The first real tidbit in the video says “Life is sticky, and sometimes the sweetest love story starts with a simple act of kindness.” That’s a great start. But the way that we view it lessens its impact. The words move much too slowly and in the background we’re presented with a moving clip of…something. I didn’t really know what it is because the colors are inverted. I imagine this was done to make the text legible. Yet, it makes that entire beginning kind of confusing because I find myself waiting for the words to play out while also wondering what I’m looking at. Okay, moving forward…
After that opening hook the text says “Have lunch with me. L”
Because I know the first book, I know that this part is a note left on a sticky post-it. But I’m not sure unfamiliar readers will catch this the first time they view the video. So this could be confusing for new viewers.
Then, the text presents us with a fragment of a thought: “When you’ve spent nearly every second of your life…”
We don’t know the end of that sentence, because the text jumps to “How do you step over the gap?”
So despite being a bit confused at this point, I want to say that the live video that shows the “step over the gap” is BRILLIANT. Loved it. I could see an entire book trailer made out of words on signs that were shot with video.
After this, the video tries to tie in the story with the background song, which I’m not a fan of, but I did love the way the word “Hope” was creatively tied in. This was another one of those great moments that makes me wonder if the creator could do an entire video of clever stuff like that.
So there you have it. A closer look at how video clips can be complicated and text can be tricky.
Props to the authors for sharing these! Next week I’ll have a few more videos to analyze, but I’m curious to know what YOU think. What worked? What didn’t? What ideas do you have for these authors?
I kind of liked the first one, though I agree it was very vague and felt a bit pieced together. But the very beginning with the girl talking and the letter writing piqued my interest. I wish there was more main-character monologue to reel me in.
The second one was so confusing. I have no idea what the book is about, and that song has so many memories on its own for me (as I imagine it would for others, since it’s famous) that I found it very distracting.
Final, more technical, thoughts applicable to anybody: Please never use Comic Sans font when you want to be seen in a professional light. That’s like wearing worn sneakers to a black tie event. Appropriate in casual situations. Not appropriate here. And since videos are always viewed horizontally (on YouTube, on TV, etc.) please never shoot a film vertically. Turn your phone/camera sideways. It’ll make a big difference to the viewer! 🙂