Book Trailers

I didn't know there was such a thing as book trailers until a few months ago. They're... weird. Let me explain.

First, some definition. A book trailer is like a movie trailer. It's an ad designed to get you excited about the book so you'll pay for it. The major difference, obviously, is that movie trailers have about 2 hours of existing footage to work with, every second of which accurately portrays the movie being advertised (because, obviously, it is the movie being advertised).

It's because book trailers don't have this that they're so weird. About the only visual both a book and its trailer share is the book cover. So they have to make do with stock pictures, movie soundtracks, actors playing out scenes expressly for the trailer... none of which are a part of the actual experience of reading the book.

There's another weird aspect to book trailers. Due to the ease of making videos and putting them online, there's a lot of amateur book trailers out there - both fan trailers for bestselling books and actual trailers done by midlist authors themselves. Some of them are pans and zooms of the book cover while the author reads the back cover blurb. Some use stock footage to help visualize the narration. Some piece together clips from actual movies.

Some of these amateur trailers are decent. Many are not.

I think the reason I find book trailers weird is because I'm comparing them to movie trailers. On the one hand, it's an unfair comparison - the mediums are very different. On the other hand, the comparison is demanded; most book trailers are trying to be movie trailers. They're even called "trailers."

Which brings me to my question: what should book trailers be? Should they be like movie trailers - a visual representation of the book? Or should they be something else (and what)?

I'm not sure there's one right answer to this. The better trailers I've seen are good more because of the production quality than because of any methods used.

I will say that I'm not sure about the movie-clips-as-trailer method. It looks cool, but I think it sends mixed messages to the viewer. Especially if the clips are from movies I'm familiar with, I get confused as to what's being advertised. Often I find myself, at the end, more excited about the movies than the book.


Natalie Whipple said...

It is an interesting concept. I'm not super on board right now. It seems like a "toy" to me. Not sure how useful it is, but sometimes they're fun...sometimes they're just silly. I've never seen one and said, "Oh, I'm so buying that book now."

MattyDub said...

I had never heard of these until the Anathem trailer, which was well done (I thought). I don't care for them overall - it's a pointless conflation at best, and a misunderstanding of the appeal of books at worst.