Friday, April 1, 2016

Why seeing my work on the big screen was one of the greatest moments in my life as an author- but I'll never do it again...

Well, it's been a week since the book trailer for "For Every Action" began playing before all movies rated PG or higher in select theaters. To say it's been a big week would be an understatement, and on Friday the 1st it played for the last time.

Seeing my work up on the big screen has been a lifetime dream, and so the wife and I decided to make last Friday a special occasion. We got a babysitter, she got a mani-pedi, I left work early and we put on our grown up clothes for a nice dinner out. Then we headed over to the AMC Theater at Newport on the Levee here in Kentucky.

I was nervous as hell, and excited. The good people over at NCM let me know that I had gotten lucky, and that the trailer would play at some point during the "sweet spot." Apparently things that show in the last ten minutes leading up to the actual movie get the best response. We managed to find excellent seats despite it being a sold out showing of "Batman vs Superman", and I politely asked those around us not to call theater security when we recorded one of the trailers. I got more than a few strange looks, but they all laughed and were very supportive when I explained. After all, it's not like I was going to sue myself for copyright infringement.

When the moment finally came, I have to be honest - I cried. It's a pretty overwhelming thing to see when you've poured so much of yourself into something for so long. The writing of the Quantum Mechanic series is not something I took on lightly. It was the culmination of years of thinking on a variety of subjects and a way of expressing some things that I feel are very important, and often overlooked. I've given up a lot of time with my family to sit in an old recliner and tap hundreds of thousands of words out with my thumbs. Unfortunately, the first book took the life of my old Asus Slider tablet, and so the second two were birthed through a Nexus 10. It's a crazy way to write, I know, but I haven't found anything else that keeps me productive. After all, three novels amounting to more than a million words in two years is a lot to ask of a guy's thumbs.

Aside from my crying, I noticed something else happening when the trailer played. The theater fell almost completely silent. Before that there had been a general murmuring with the occasional shout or laugh. Typical pre-movie stuff in a big theater before a sold out show. But the second the trailer started all of the noise stopped and it stayed that way until the last five or six seconds. Then a collective stirring went over the crowd, as if they had all murmured "whoah", or "huh" under their breath. A second later it was over and a couple of minutes after that the movie started. So I didn't really reflect on the whole experience until later that night.

The reaction I saw that night had me eagerly anticipating a massive upsurge in book sales. After all, every piece of research out there shows that in-theater advertising is currently the most effective way to reach a targeted group of consumers. Unlike TV, you have a captive audience, no one is going to make a run to the bathroom or to the kitchen for a snack. Plus, there is a strange effect marketing researchers noticed... when we are at the theater we are far more attentive to what's on the screen. We're there to be entertained and so we suspend a lot of the frustration and resentment we feel about commercials.

But it didn't happen.

Here it is a full week later and the net result has been extremely disappointing. After an initial upsurge in readership last weekend, the numbers fell right back to normal and stayed there. A lot of time, effort, and yes - money, went into that trailer and getting it up on movie theater screens. Money that I am now wishing had been spent differently. So for all of the other authors out there contemplating in-theater advertising as a way to get your book moving towards the best seller list, don't do it. The return on investment is just not there.

As for me, although I have to admit that after seeing the numbers on Tuesday I seriously considered committing hari-kari via spork in the office kitchenette, I haven't given up hope. They say that in-theater ads pay off over the long run, and almost never generate massive sales up front. In the coming weeks, months, and possibly years, people who pick up their e-reading device and start thinking about what book they might want to read will remember the trailer.

That's what I keep telling myself, but there's spork in my desk drawer now... just in case.

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