Daniel Nayeri’s innovative collection of novellas for teens, Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow — written entirely on an iPhone — will be published by Candlewick Press on October 25. A native of Iran who has worked as an editor, filmmaker, librarian and even a pastry chef, Nayeri tackles a different genre in each novella, from mystery to science fiction.
Using his background in film production, Nayeri has created four “commercials” to promote the novellas — and, yes, he calls them “commercials” not “trailers.” Take a look at the commercial for the novella “Brick House,” a detective story that features a squad of “wish police” and a team of unlikely detectives:
Obviously, Nayeri elected to do something quite different from most book trailers (you can watch his other three commercials after the jump). We asked the author to tell us more about his approach, which he calls the “Geico method,” after the famously appealing insurance company commercials. He obliged with a guest post for Book Case readers.
The underlying problem with book trailers
Guest post by Daniel Nayeri
I’ve become fairly convinced that there is an underlying problem with book trailers. First of all, it’s a video trailer that’s usually made by people who have never made a video trailer before. But there are plenty of people in the book world who have film experience, or they make fantastic videos, so it’s not just a practical issue. I think there is also the theoretical side. Book trailers as they are now, try to cram 300 pages of story into 30 seconds of video. And since they have the word “trailers” in them, most people expect them to show–in some way–the core elements of the story.
I think that’s impossible. It’s hard enough for video editors to take two hours of amazing summer blockbuster footage and turn it into a coherent Hollywood trailer. It’s downright Herculean to have zero footage to begin with, zero budget, and a massive story that spans hundreds of pages. But that’s what trailers are.
So we end up warping the medium to our needs. We make videos that scroll text all over the screen (mostly just the description copy from the back of the book). And we place interesting imagery behind it.
To put it another way: Any decent author probably needed all 300 pages of the book to finish the story. And the best way to experience the story is to sit down in a little reading nook with some hot cocoa and a bunch of cushions, while it rains outside, and . . . you get the idea. The worst way to experience the story is a truncated version in a 2 x 3 YouTube window while you’re scanning Facebook. And the most horrible aspect is that people think they have a good idea of the book based on this artificial experience.
Now, a lot of books have such a brilliant premise that all you need is for someone to describe it in a YouTube video. But that doesn’t exactly take advantage of all the amazing things commercial filmmakers can do. They’re shoehorned into a very tight space.
When it came time to beg a few colleagues of mine to create the Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow trailers, I was still puzzling over this idea. I told them that I don’t want them to retell the stories in video form. I don’t want them to even think of calling them trailers. They were commercials. And this may come off as blasphemy, but I wanted them to think of the book as a commodity. That way, they’re never tempted to rehash the story in a medium that isn’t suited for it.
For example, you can’t give people the experience of soap—the smell, the feel, etc.—through a TV screen. You just make a commercial with beautiful waterfall imagery, or a funny Old Spice guy bit, or whatever, and then you show a picture of the soap. No one gets the artificial feeling that they’ve experienced the soap.
That was our approach. We called it the “Geico method,” because, well, Geico makes crazy off-the-wall commercials that have nothing to do with insurance, but everyone knows them, and likes them for some reason.
Each of these commercials tries to give a sense of the tone of each story. I tried as hard as I could to keep my nose out of it. The Plywood Pictures guys are pros. They’ve done this for companies WAY bigger than me. So I said my peace and got out of their way. I love what they came up with. I’d love to see more book commercials, instead of trailers. From a writer’s perspective, they didn’t mess around with a story that I spent years laboring over. They made their own thing.
Thanks, Daniel! Readers: Does the “Geico method” work? Watch the other three commercials he created for Straw House, Wood House, Brick House, Blow and let us know if they make you want to read the book.
Commercial for Straw House
A Western sizzling with suspense, set in a land where a rancher grows soulless humans and a farmer grows living toys.
Commercial for Wood House
This science-fiction tale plunges the reader into a future where reality and technology blend imperceptibly, and a teenage girl must race to save the world from a nano-revolution that a corporation calls “ReCreation Day.”
Commercial for Blow
A comedic love story told by none other than Death himself, portrayed here as a handsome and charismatic hero who may steal your heart in more ways than one.