Can a video of a bunch of cute bakery counter workers rocking out to Joan Jett sell a cookbook? What about a clip of a beautiful woman in a tight dress gutting a fish? With book trailers now the norm for authors of commercial fiction, mystery, suspense and even some narrative nonfiction, cookbook authors are finally starting to realize the potential of short videos to promote their works. Although cookbook authors have done videos presenting cooking demonstrations for years, a few this spring are going far beyond simple demos and have created what are essentially music videos for their cookbooks.
Erin McKenna, author of BabyCakes: Vegan, Gluten-Free, and (Mostly) Sugar-Free Recipes from New York’s Most Talked-About Bakery (Clarkson Potter), has certainly set the bar high for cookbook trailers. Her 1 minute, 58-second video shows McKenna dancing around her bakery with her coworkers to the tune of Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Do You Wanna Touch Me.” McKenna and her cohorts, all sporting aprons and adorable haircuts, pour cupcake batter into muffin tins, drizzle icing over coffee cake, slice thick pieces of cake in slow-motion, all the while bouncing up and down to the beat. “When the first copy [of my book] arrived at my doorstep, I hurried it on over to BabyCakes the bakery, sizzled up the juke and started going very nuts,” McKenna writes. “Then all the other girls joined in.” The film, directed by David Mettler, filmed by Jonathan Miller and edited by Justin Gallaher, is basically a recreation of that spontaneous dance party. It has been getting “crazy pick-up” online, says McKenna’s publicist, Carrie Bachman. “It’s so cute and fun and not a boring cooking demo.”
A little less fun and somewhat more seductive is Suzanne Pirret's trailer for her book, The Pleasure Is All Mine: Selfish Food for a Modern Life, which Morrow pubbed this spring. It opens with Pirret, dressed in a slinky cocktail dress and stiletto heels, gutting a whole fish to the tune of a rock version of “You Better Come On in My Kitchen.” Over the course of the three-and-a-half-minute video, Pirret dons a few other numbers, bakes a cake, glugs champagne straight from the bottle, and picks up a slice of cake and eats it with her hands. Galloping Gourmet it’s not.
McKenna's and Pirret's stylized trailers might suggest that in order to create a cookbook trailer that’s going to get some buzz, it helps to be young and good-looking. “Of course being beautiful and perky like Erin helps,” says Bachman. But more traditional cookbook authors are making trailers, too, but they tend to favor cooking demos. David Hawk, publicity manager for food and drink at Chronicle, says his cookbook authors’ videos have ranged from short clips shot on a flip cam to ones made by professional production companies. “We’re finding for a lot of the books, it gives the author a way to get their voice and persona across in a more dynamic way.”
Whether a video is a stylish clip meant to get the viewer up and dancing (hopefully to the bookstore) or into their kitchen to see just how easy it is to cook Japanese food at home, it should generate media buzz, too. Liz Hartman, marketing and publicity director at Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, said book trailers can help garner media attention for a book, depending on the journalist. “It really depends on who you’re talking to. Some people want to see print stuff, but more and more people are clicking” for more information on a book. Sarah Burningham, associate director of marketing at Harper Studio, said she uses cookbook trailers to pitch the media for TV segments, but also has another goal: to make the videos “go viral”--which is exactly what McKenna told PW over cupcakes at her bakery last week. Stay tuned to see whether or not going viral translates to bestsellerdom.