Author David Taylor has discovered another use for the oft debated book trailer: conference calling card. Taylor’s book Soul of a People: The WPA Writer’s Project Uncovers Depression America was an award winning Smithsonian documentary film as well as a book. With help from the film’s director, Andrea Kalin, he cut a book trailer using some of the film’s imagery. Once the first round of book publicity was done, he discovered that a book-trailer-as-calling-card just might win you a few invitations that would otherwise have been tricky to secure.
By David Taylor
I felt way out of my league as I met the keynote speaker and former president of the Organization of American Historians, approaching the daïs for the opening of a conference of around 300 university deans and presidents and professors on “The Arts and Humanities: Toward a Flourishing Democracy?” I would be speaking just before her keynote address.
That’s how I discovered that a book trailer, useful long after the book’s launch, can help you fit into groups you might otherwise think are beyond you. A trailer can help make your case to organizers of conferences and get you on their program.
I had done other events with my book: book festivals, library talks, even a talk at the Library of Congress, before groups of job searchers – the book is about unemployed people finding themselves as writers, after all. But those were all events for a new book.
This conference of the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) came two years after my pub date and didn’t have a built-in link to my book. But after delving into their website, I became convinced that their ideals and meeting themes fit so well that it was worth a shot. My book would speak to the conferees at the meta level: creative expression, the breaking down of divisions between history and literature, the importance of the arts in a democracy. I sent off an email with a link to the trailer and crossed my fingers.
Fortunately AACU organizer Karen Kalla got the connection immediately. She asked the keynote speaker, Dr. Nell Irvin Painter, author of the phenomenally creative The History of White People, if we could show the trailer at the opening event. That would also set up a session the next day.
So when the date came, I found myself onstage with Dr. Painter (feeling unstylish in my suit next to hers). Soul of a People was helping to frame the conference discussion, just as I’d hoped. Occupy Providence was right across the street, reminding us of the immediate importance of expression as a survival skill. Surrounded by college deans and presidents, I felt outclassed, but they applauded warmly.
It reminded me: Don’t be afraid of groups deeper than you (smarter, more intellectual, whatever). Your book may bring into crystalline focus issues and concerns that they share, in ways they haven’t yet found to discuss.
You can find author David Taylor on his blog Soul of a People.