Case Study: Author-Initiated Book Trailer


Book Trailer Case Study: The Book of Spam

Some book trailers are sponsored and developed by the publisher; others are done entirely by the author. Witness this glorious book trailer by Dan Armstrong and Dustin Black about The Book of Spam: A Most Glorious and Definitive Compendium of the World’s Favorite Canned Meat. (Atria Books, 2007)

“What luncheon meat is found in over forty-five countries, available in ninety-nine percent of supemarkets and corner shops, and sells nearly eighty million pounds every year? It’s SPAM. From the 20,000-member SPAM Fan Club to Monty Python’s Broadway sensation SPAMalot, after seventy years of canned-meat greatness, SPAM has become a pop-culture sensation with a devout following, and The Book of Spam is its Bible.”

First and Second Campaigns

It doesn’t sound like a book that could inspire greatness in a book trailer. But the authors were committed to helping publicize and popularize their book, especially with online efforts. Their first offering was a song, “Theme from the Book of Spam.” It was followed by a series of humorous book trailers called The Pig Diaries, in which the pig is ignorant about all things MEAT. It’s a kitschy sort of trailer with plastic farm animals and humor that almost falls flat. By now, there were two websites: and

Third Campaign: Toastvertising

But Dan and Dustin weren’t finished. Enter Toastvertising.

Dan said, “We picked toast because of it’s close connection to SPAM. Plus it was a media that was unexplored in the world of animation. And it was downright delicious.”

The idea was to do an animated video using a series of pieces of toast; it’s much like a flip book, except the images are dark outlines made by laying a stencil over a piece of toast and torching it until the image is dark.

As you watch this clip, listen to the script. Play it several times, just listening to the script. The script is brilliant.
(YouTube: )

Dan said, “I wrote the script and did the voice over and sound editing. Dustin built the set and flambeed each and every piece of toast. Once we had everything ready to go, the shoot took us about 10 hours. Dustin ran the still camera, I ran the toaster. His sister was nice enough to go get us lunch.”

A ten hour day, 9 days of toast smell, 13 loaves of bread, 220 pieces of bread, a $10 toaster, 9″ of snow outside, bright light inside–it’s a long hard day, but look at what they had at the end, a 1 minute, 11 second piece of Toastvertising, which is, of course, featured on its own website.Even more fun than the Toastvertising trailer is the trailer about making the Toastvertising trailer.

By the end, they had done a song, computer wallpaper, three websites, and The Book of Spam Blog. And they had snagged a great special sales: The book was featured on the Spam can and Hormel was making The Book of Spam available through a special promotion.

Lessons to Learn

  • Make book trailers part of your overall plan of publicity. You can’t rely just on a book trailer to create a demand for a book, but it can help.
  • Don’t give up. Be willing to do two, three or more “campaigns.” This third campaign for The Book of Spam was the most successful, earning it a mention in Publisher’s Weekly.
  • The most successful trailers start with a great concept: animation with toast was quirky and appropriate. Followed with great execution, it was a winning book trailer.

Dan said, “Our advice to an author that wants to do this themselves is “yes.” They should do it. Promoting your own book is the only sure-fire way to get it done. To your publisher, you are merely one of hundreds of books they’re thinking about and promoting. With the age of the internet, you don’t need tons of cash invested in traditional advertising. Do something that gets noticed for cheap. It’s a win-win for everybody. The book got exposure. We had fun making it. And our publisher saw that we had mad fresh marketing skills.”

POLL: Would you like to see in a book about book trailers?

This poll is to find out what you would want to read about in a book about book trailers. It will run from March 22 to April 22. Please leave comments with any other suggestions. Privacy: We will not store or use any private information.
(For those who read this by email, you can find the poll here:
[poll id=”5″]

Comments are closed.