The Book's Not Out Yet, but the Movie Is


NEW YORK Viewers of the new Star Trek movie will first sit through a bleak, moody trailer for something called Odd Hours, in which a bruised and bloodied hero leaves town with only his backpack and dog.

The trailer, replete with a  voiceover which intones, “I once dreamed of living out my days in the peace and tranquility of Pico Mundo, my hometown. I can wait. In the meantime I see dead people. I try to help them when I can,” looks like another new thriller destined for the theaters in coming months. But Odd Hours isn't a movie. It's the latest book by Dean Koontz.

The ad is a trailer for a movie that doesn't exist or, as some in publishing have started to call them, a “book video” (akin to a music video). Visit Koontz's Web site and there's a whole selection. As video becomes cheaper, more authors are making them, erasing the need for readers to imagine the characters on the printed page.

Authors like them because they have complete creative control, unlike their movie or TV projects. “If he'd said, I hate this, you can't make this, then that would be the end of the project,” said Carolyn Schwartz, vp/director of Koontz’s marketing at Bantam Dell Ballantine in New York. Plus, they're cheap. About $3.5 million was spent advertising Koontz’s various properties over the last two years, per  the Nielsen Co.

So far, book publishing advertising is a small slice—just $144 million—of the entertainment and amusement category, whose ad outlay Nielsen pegged at $11.7 billion in 2008, a 4 percent increase over the previous year. Most of that spend went to movie advertising, a segment that didn’t exist until 1975 when Universal’s Jaws became the top-grossing movie of all time (though it was soon eclipsed by 1977’s Star Wars) partially on the strength of a $750,000 TV campaign.  Meanwhile, the Book Industry Study Group reports that revenues for the U.S. book publishing industry rose 1 percent in 2008 to $40.3 billion.

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