In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Book trailers and the cult of celebrity

Dear Aunt Debbie,

The book trailer you linked to in your last post -- by John Green, for The Fault in Our Stars -- is fascinating.  It's funny and energetic and strange, and I can see immediately why Green has such an intense teenage following.  My student Nicole, who I quoted raving about the book, got her copy signed, and it was clearly a Celebrity Experience.  Are authors, and YA authors in particular, our new rock stars?  Does this form of celebrity allow for a wider range of what celebrity means, given that it's so quirky?

Watching Green's trailer, and a few others linked to through the Adult Books 4 Teens site, made me think about the role of self-promotion in the publishing business at the moment, and the idea of book trailers in particular.  How common are they in the children's book world?  How much of an effect do they have?  Is this largely a YA phenomenon, since it's an audience that's likely to be online a lot?  What do you think of them?  Do you watch a lot of book trailers?

I know I'm asking a lot of questions here, but I'll confess I'm old-fashioned when it comes to finding books.  I'm sure I've watched fewer than 10 book trailers total; I like book reviews and word-of-mouth advice.  As someone who I'm sure is deluged by requests from people who want you to push their books in your store, what do you think of all this online, Author as Interesting Online Personality self-promotion?

A moment of self-promotion I recently enjoyed: Gary Shteyngart, author of The Russian Debutante's Handbook (which is, by the way, an adult book that might appeal to some teens) in a short film on his recollections of Stuyvesant High School, his (and my) alma mater, and the school where I now teach.  I, too, failed to excel athletically in that gym.  Even without the common experience, however, I can imagine myself being drawn to his work because of odd little films like this.

Love, Annie


  1. Annie, I'm a lot like you (except I was kind of a jock in high school) when it comes to selecting books. I read reviews. I take advice from fellow bloggers. And I hunt. I stalk books at book stores, watching who picks them up and who buys them. I read and reread the book jacket. Then, if I'm intrigued, I pounce on it and buy.

    We've had a number of guest speakers (including agents) at my regional SCBWI meetings who say that web presence and self promotion are a must for authors. Especially new authors. The basic message is - times have changed, and if you want people to read your books you have to change with the times.

    Love your blog!

    1. Thanks, Ali!

      It's interesting -- I've heard back from a couple of friends who say the same, but I don't know anyone who's actively watching them. Who's the target audience here?

  2. Hmm... I'm not sure I would call John's video a "trailer." He's a video blogger. It's a vlog. He makes vlogs with his brother multiple times per week, and he doesn't do it for the self-promotion (although I'm sure it's a nice benefit). As a nerdfighter (and having watched Hank and John's old videos), I know that they started vlogging just as a way to keep in touch. The community that developed around them and their videos is fantastic in a lot of ways. Perhaps the most prominent way is through having important discussions about how to make the world a better place. On another level, I've made a handful of friends through nerdfighteria, some of whom I still talk with today. When I was in high school, Nerdfighteria served as a place where I fit in; even though everyone at Stuy is smart and nerdy, I don't think anyone in high school thinks they "fit in."
    However, the vlogging format is one which allows and often centers on the vlogger's life. A part of John's life is that he writes books. Therefore, he shares that with his audience.
    When author's create an online persona for the purpose of selling books, they rarely succeed. People can tell why you're there - it feels like an advertisement, not a relationship. Vlogging and being a part of the youtube community is a lot of work; if you don't genuinely enjoy making videos, it's far too much work to be worth the time.

    1. Erica, I stand corrected! Also, increasingly interested. More of a response in my next post.