One of the hottest things on the Internet right now is a one minute 20 second video of someone flipping through a children’s book. Pretty heady stuff in the age of Britney Spears and Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel. The bookish star of the clip is ABC3D (Roaring Brook/Neal Porter), an intricately designed pop-up by French artist Marion Bataille. Headier still, the title won’t even be published until October, but it has already hit the Amazon.com bestseller list and has enchanted booklovers, booksellers and design aficionados who have snagged a sneak peek via the widely shared video.
Necessity, ingenuity and enthusiasm were the catalysts behind the clip crafted by Roaring Brook’s associate marketing manager, Colleen AF Venable. “We created the video for the sales people at Macmillan since we only had two copies of the mock-up and nothing to leave behind with accounts,” she explained. “I made the video using a super-cheap camera and a super-free model—myself. We used my coworker Nancy Mercado’s desk and borrowed an old convention banner from our friends at Bedford/St. Martin’s down the hall. Kat Kopit, Neal Porter’s assistant, helped me tape a light bulb to a door, and we filmed me flipping through the book a few times.”
What was intended as a simple silent video for reps received a Hollywood-style makeover when Venable got “a little carried away” with what she admits became a pet project. “I sped it up, removed some frames to make it look a bit more old-fashioned, and put it to one of my favorite songs [“Roll On” by the 1930s trio The Boswell Sisters],” she says. As a result, viewers see a catchy blend of yesteryear flavor and very modern design as Venable’s hands showcase the intricate paper engineering on each page against a plain background. To view the video, click here.
A sneak peek of the book's interior spreads.
Feedback on the video from the sales force was so strong that in February Venable decided to put the clip online, on YouTube and on Blip.tv, where it was fed to other sites and was also made available for download on iTunes. But according to Venable, things really caught fire last week. “We started to get comments and noticed that a few typography and font blogs had found it on Friday [March 21],” she said, including blogs in German, Spanish and French. Over the weekend, “literally hundreds of blogs [Neatorama.com and Drawn.ca among them] posted the video,” Venable noted, all linking to YouTube.
By Sunday, Venable had received email from the promotions manager at MySpace asking to feature the clip on the user homepage, meaning every MySpace user would see it when they signed in. Since its March 22 posting, the MySpacetv.com clip has had 56,555 views while the YouTube clip has racked up more than 200,000 views in the past month. (Prior to this recent hubbub, “it had about 11 views, and most of those were me,” Venable joked.)
This burst of attention sent ABC3D sailing toward the very top of Amazon.com’s bestseller list—hitting as high as #12 on March 25—based on pre-sales of the $19.95 title. Though Amazon had initially been the only retailer able to accept pre-orders, ABC3D has just been added to the Barnes & Noble Web site and Venable says that some other retailers will follow suit. Roaring Brook currently has planned a 100,000-copy first printing.
ABC3D’s first champion at Roaring Brook was Porter, who acquired it for his imprint after seeing the book on the stand of French publisher Albin Michel at last year’s Bologna Book Fair. “It was love at first sight,” says Porter. “I hadn’t had that reaction since I first saw the first sample pieces of what became Robert Sabuda’s The Christmas Alphabet some 15 years ago. I think my exact words were: ‘If you sell this to anyone else I'll break your legs.’ ”
Roaring Brook certainly had high hopes for ABC3D before all the Internet fanfare. But now, thanks to a compulsively watchable clip and the astonishing global reach of video sharing, thousands of people are discovering the title and counting down the days till its October publication. Venable sums up some of those expectations when she says, “I really hope that all those people who marked this video as a ‘favorite’ are planning to buy the book!”