Publishing Trends

Books on the Not-So-Big Screen: Enter the Book Trailer

As close as I can pinpoint, book trailers came into existence in 2002, just three years before the birth of YouTube. Around this time, the first book trailers appeared. They featured stills, photographs, and read-aloud sessions with authors.  Farrar, Straus, and Giroux took the book trailer to the next level with their trailer for Gregoire Bouillier’s The Mystery Guest in 2006, spending $10,000 to hire a director, professional actors, and to build a set for their one minute and fifty second spot.

I first became aware of book trailers while reading “Shelf Awareness” Professional, a daily newsletter for people in publishing. They select their favorite one daily, and after a while my self-restraint finally collapsed.

I still do not understand the point of book trailers. Or, to rephrase, I see the logical reasons why they exist–to increase reader excitement, to tap tech readers who watch YouTube more than they read The New York Times, and  to stand out from competing books and other forms of recreation.

Despite this, I have yet to find a book trailer which, in my mind, accomplished its purpose: to get me to go read a book.

I think this is because book trailers are still an art form in flux. There are some cute and funny book trailers. For example, today’s “Shelf Awareness” book trailer of the day  for The Importance of Being Wicked.

Or, the beautiful illustrated trailer for Wildwood, the children’s book.

Then, there are the intriguing behind-the-scenes book trailers, like the one for Blameless by Gail Carriger.

Many book trailers have entertainment value, but the magic formula still seems to be missing. Can it be done? I will not go so far as to say that it is impossible–that books and trailers are on two separate wavelengths. What is missing from book trailers are real hooks and drama which sends you racing from your seat to the bookstore to find out what happens next, all crammed into a short, professional video which lasts about two minutes.

Nonetheless, I will still watch my book trailer of the day every morning, hoping that one day I’ll find a video which sends me to the bookstore.

Care to share your thoughts on book trailers? Do you think you’ve found the fabled trailer?


~ Michelle


2 thoughts on “Books on the Not-So-Big Screen: Enter the Book Trailer

  1. You’re right. Book trailers never have enough of a hook to make me seek out the story. Some seem almost instructional, while others promise drama and action that sound too much like what I can find on the telly in the latest rerun of The Mentalist or name your Law and Order preference.

    It could be we’ve become so inundated by media that we no longer respond to the two minute anything unless it, A: Has a major star’s next big role blasting at us in a trailer at the theater. B: Makes us laugh so hard we spray things through our noses or C: Has a cat(s) which apparently we will click on and watch doing anything. I know, because I have, do, will.

    Perhaps if we dressed up our cats as major stars then had them act out scenes as characters in our book …

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