Amanda Luedeke

January 30, 2014

Thursdays with Amanda: Viral Videos


2014AmandaAmanda 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. Today, it is on sale for $2.99…check it out!

Oh, the book trailer…The minute-long visual of stock photography that dances across the screen to the beat movie scores, voiceovers, and sound effects.

Publishers create them. Authors adore them. But readers?

Readers ignore them.

I get it. Having a book trailer is like this announcement that you’ve arrived. For most, it’s the closest thing to a movie trailer that the author will ever get, and so it’s special.

But it’s also a waste of money. Why? Because it’s a minute-long advertisement that is usually the equivalent of a locally made commercial. Just take a moment to think about those local commercials…when was the last time you watched one and thought to yourself, “I just HAVE to look up C&C Heating and Air Conditioning!”

Probably never. So if book trailers are similar to these local commercials, the likelihood of someone watching one and then becoming interested in your book is so, so, so, so low.

But still…



When done right, video can make viewers respond in positive ways. Let’s take the Oikos commercials with John Stamos. They’re a tad funny and a lot nostalgic for those of us who remember Uncle Jesse and obsessed over ER. So all in all, they’re decent commercials. But they are still advertisements.

How do you take an advertisement and turn it viral?


Viral videos happen when a video of any sort (whether a home video, a stunt, a performance, etc), catches on with the general public. Now remember, people aren’t enticed by run-of-the-mill ads. They want to be entertained. They want to laugh, cry, FEEL. They want to respond.

More and more, I’m seeing companies understand what it takes to create a viral video advertisement, and it’s clear that viral videos fall into three categories.



If scripted, the videos are elaborately thought-out. Oikos, for example, has stepped things up a notch and they have an entire playlist of videos that include not only John Stamos, but his Full House cohorts. These are meant to go viral, because who doesn’t want to see Danny, Joey, and Jesse hang out?

Another example of the scripted viral ad comes from Old Spice. They are constantly inventing crazy video campaigns that are funny, freaky, disturbing, and awesome.

But these are all major companies! What does a scripted viral advertisement look like when it’s just regular people behind it? Well, it looks a lot like that viral video that everyone was sharing this holiday season: Christmas Jammies:



Some horror movies have grabbed on to the idea of creating a rather elaborate practical joke, and then running the joke on complete strangers who are being videotaped.

You can see examples here:

Again, it’s a pretty ridiculous set-up. It’s expensive and time-consuming. So I was happy to see this ad pop up some weeks ago. It’s nothing more than some musicians, surprising a bus full of people. It captures the same results (everyday people who are on the receiving end of a “prank”) and just like in those above examples, it isn’t until the end that you find out it’s an ad.



Lastly, you have your category of completely random home videos, including ones that are entirely  unplanned as well as videos that are slightly planned but fully reliant upon the subjects coming through and delivering whatever was expected of them.

Dogs welcoming soldiers home after months of being away.

Kids who are on their way home from the dentist and are coming out of the drugged-up stupor.

Babies who do funny things in response to music or movement or pets.

These videos, like the ones above, can also go viral.



It’s time we think beyond the book trailer. It’s time we aim for viral videos within publishing and stop settling for book trailers that do nothing and go nowhere. Viral vids aren’t easy, and they’re rarely cheap. But they can be a more effective way of getting books…products…in front of thousands and thousands and potentially millions of people.

Viral videos do not have to be 100% random. They can be planned. They can be intentional. They can be thought-out and implemented. And over the next week or so, I’d like to take a stab at unpacking what goes into these videos in hopes that the figurative light bulb goes off and then you, my friend, end up with a hit.




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  • chipmacgregor says:

    We need to get Macklemore to do a video for MacGregor Literary…

  • Jaime Wright says:

    I want to see book trailers with the author infusing their personality into (assuming they have one). Not just movie trailers, but like … ok, the Monuments Men trailer has clips of interviews with the actors. Bringing it personal not just one dimensional. Love it. Must have.

  • I think the exception to the book trailer is for children’s books. I’m an elementary school librarian, and my kids love watching book trailers. Some teachers even have the kids create them as book projects.

  • Daniel Martone says:

    Have you seen anyone actually make a short film… not just a trailer loaded with stills, but an actual short film that related to their book? I wonder if you had an exciting scene (that had some kind of narrative on its own), and cast the right people, if you could get the audience excited to read the book?

  • Jessica Edgerton says:

    I hadn’t seen the Mom Song from Old Spice. So awesome! What Does the Fox Say? is probably my favorite one recently. My kids love to dance around the house and sing, “ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-ding.”

  • Rachel Leigh Smith says:

    The Devil Baby Attack cracked me up when I saw it. Christmas Jammies was flat out ridiculous.

    But the one I love best? Make It So, Make It So, Make It So. Which I saw *before* it went viral and was picked up by Nerdist.

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