Booked and sold: How Bollywood-backed book trailers are taking over the literary world

Booked and sold: How Bollywood-backed book trailers are taking over the literary world
Author Amish Tripathi
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Etti Bali

The world of literature has always served as an active medium for readers, enabling them to visualise the plot. But this new trend, of book trailers, seems like the way to promote the written word, through celluloid. Earlier this week, a 2 minute-14 second trailer for author Chetan Bhagat’s upcoming book was released on social media and got many talking.
Directed by filmmaker Mohit Suri, the trailer runs much like the teaser of a film. What’s new though is that this is the first time a production unit, filmmaker and actors were roped in. Suri, who directed Half Girlfriend (2017), based on Bhagat’s novel of the same name, says, “The basic brief in the promo was to make a trailer [that was] not about people who are larger than life. You have to tease them [viewers] enough to buy the book.”
Compressing the book into a two-minute trailer was quite challenging, says Suri. “We actually wrote it like an ad, made it into a voice-over pattern, and then decided how to shoot it. We decided the music before we went to shoot as it decides how the promo is going to be perceived,” he adds.
Ask Bhagat how the idea came to him and he says, “A lot of youngsters are on their phones. I wanted to reach them through the mediums they are into right now.”
Author Amish Tripathi, who made a video trailer for his book, Immortals of Meluha in 2010, says, “A book is not just competing with other books; it is also competing with movies, web series… anything that takes away the reader’s time. The aim should be to sell the book. Bollywood is realising the power of a good story. You can’t run it just on the name of an actor. And if you have a book that has done well, then the work is done,” says Amish.
So do these trailers take away the reader’s right to create a world of their own imagination? “In a movie or series, there is no space for your imagination; you see the director’s imagination. A book is a much more active medium. The author fills in half the picture and then the reader fills in the other half,” says Amish.
Aman Arora, deputy general manager-marketing, HarperCollins India, says, “A book trailer has to be intriguing and subtle, and should give just the right amount of engaging details about the USP of the book. While making a video, especially for fiction, marketers should be careful to allow the reader scope for imagination and to put his/her own spin on the characters and situations.”
However exciting this concept might be, there is a flipside to it. Author Manu Pillai, says, “For non-celebrity writers, I am not entirely convinced that it really makes that much of a difference. From what I have seen, unless you already have a mass following, most such trailers simply languish somewhere on YouTube, with a few hundred views and clicks.”
So, the million dollar question remains: would book trailers become a trend? Author Ashwin Sanghi says, “There is a viral effect of a video trailer. It is more sensible to spend moderately on a video trailer in terms of production, but to spend a lot more money on promoting that video trailer. Ultimately, you need both organic and inorganic reach.”
“Planning the outreach of that particular video to ensure discoverability and create the potential for it to go viral also matters a lot. That said, one shouldn’t expect that launching a video would lead to an instant spike in the book’s sales, it should be a part of larger publicity campaign,” adds Arora.
Cost Breakdown:
The budgets for book trailers can start at a few thousand rupees and go upto lakhs, depending on what the author wants. For author Ashwini Sanghi’s first book trailer, he spent ?5,000 from his own pocket, and by the time he was on his third book, the budget had gone up. He says, “If it’s a new author, then of course the cost is borne by them. But if it’s an established author, then the cost is taken from the marketing budget from the publisher.”
Book Trailers in India:
1. Author Amish Tripathi released video trailers for his Shiva trilogy, Scion Of Ikshvaku and Sita: Warrior of Mithila.
2. Author Ashwini Sanghi released video trailers for his Bharat series
3. Author Ajitabha Bose released trailers for his books In Love with Shah Rukh Khan, and It’s My Love Story