Book Trailers

Posted by on July 10, 2008 in business of writing, uncategorized | 30 comments

Yesterday, a friend sent me a trailer for her book (which will be released in November.)  She asked me to watch the trailer and to critique it.

I explained that I don’t completely buy into book trailers.  I rarely watch them.  I’ve never made a purchase decision based on them.  I generally don’t find them effective.  (There was one, for a suspense novel that started with a kidnapping, which very effectively used the ringing of a phone to heighten tension, but I don’t even remember the name of the book.)

There’s been a lot of talk lately about book trailers, on a number of blogs (GalleyCat has embraced the topic, as have numerous individual authors.)

What are *your* thoughts?  Do you watch trailers?  Do you like them?  Do you choose books to buy based on them?  What is the best trailer you’ve ever seen?

Mindy, who had some *good* things to say about her friend’s trailer, in addition to some more critical thoughts


  1. Honestly, I think trailers are much more effective for the MG/YA market. My publisher made a trailer for the first Hallowmere book that went over really well w/teens* (although it terrified one teen in Malaysia, apparently). We also had a trailer contest for teens to make their own Hallowmere trailer to win a Wii for their library. I had a blast seeing what they came up with and what scenes they chose that they thought were illustrative of the book.

    The adult trailers I’ve seen have been less effective b/c they seem to strain credulity; the trailers’ functionality is limited by the very nature of the adult audience. Perhaps another medium or way of translating the book into images would be better for adults?

    *The trailer is still up on Youtube if anyone wants to peek.

    • Interesting – I hadn’t thought about this in terms of market segments. Rather, I’d thought about it in terms of *markets* (books vs. movies vs. video games, etc.) I’m going to do some more digging, for some YA trailers. (And I love the idea of having your readers create some!)

      • It’s a little ironic, isn’t it? In terms of your standard worries about stereotypical teens not reading enough…

        Stereotypical Teen turns on the TV, because they prefer TV to books. On TV, they see a trailer for a book, which leads them to read the book.

        Says books to TV: two can play at that game!

  2. I like a clear divide between reading on the web and audio/visual material. I never listen to audiobooks and I never watch video clips or trailers in my browser unless it’s something of particular personal interest.

    Watching adverts for books? No thanks!

    • I’m tired of advertising in *everything*. We were watching SportsCenter the other night (an evening program on the sports network, ESPN, recapping the days’ athletic news) and *every single item* was sponsored by some company, usually a company selling beer. Sigh.

  3. Trailers are for movies.

    I’m a little more out there than you…I’ve never watched one, and I certainly wouldn’t be likely to buy a book from one.

    If an author has written a good book, then that’s all I really need to buy it. Good writing sells itself.

  4. I like them, and I think they are gaining prominence for exactly the reason friend Simon (halspacejock) dislikes them – they bridge the divide between the written and the visual, and tap into the generations who have grown up with this sort of mash up their entire lives. So many kids today don’t read unless it’s onscreen – what better way to try to tap them than with something they recognise from another form? I agree with tltrent, I think they work well for the YA books, but only if they’re well made – production value is essential.

    • Yeah – I think that lousy production values have torpedoed the device, for a lot of authors. I also think that trailers appeal to the shorter media attention span of a younger audience.

  5. Talk at the last Novelists Inc conference (all genres, but mostly romance) was that they had seen their day.

    • I have watched about three book trailers total, and bought one book because the trailer featured animations made with Lego. That’s a degree of artistry I fear I could never reach when making a video.

      Most of the time they’re kinda tedious.

      • “Gotta have a gimmick”. And Legos are as good a gimmick as I’ve seen!

    • Was there any discussion of a successor device?

      • I would need to go back and look at my notes. Nothing brand spanking new–I seem to recall that blogging! and websites! played a role, but I could be misremembering.

  6. I made one, but it was more for the fun of it than anything else. I can’t say it added to sales, but my editor loved it. Apparently it was played many times in the office the day I posted it online. *grin*

    I do have another in mind. Since I’m using my own equipment and my husband is the editor, it costs me nothing, so I can do it for the fun of it.

    • When I read your comment, I clicked on the link. It was a bit slow to load (my computer was doing other things, so I went upstairs to fix lunch.) All of a sudden, I started hearing the *oddest* noises coming from downstairs! I’d forgotten about your trailer, and I honestly considered grabbing a carving knife before going back downstairs! Then I remembered, and I laughed πŸ™‚

      • *laughs* I’ve done that kind of thing before!

  7. Honestly? This blog is the first time I have ever heard of “book trailers”. And, my initial response would be, if there is a trailer, I’m expecting a movie, not a book.

  8. I’ve never bought a book based off a trailer.
    Trailers are for movies, not books.

  9. I think they’re so often done badly that they’re not worth doing at all, unless your publisher is doing it for you, which is another story. I don’t watch them, unless it’s a friend’s book. A video doesn’t affect my buying decisions, either.

  10. I’ve always been really torn when it comes to book trailers. On the one hand, I like to see books advertised to a wider audience that might not, normally, hear about them. But on the other hand, every book trailer I’ve ever seen was really kind of hokey and looked like someone with no experience in advertising or graphics got ahold of it (not to mention the melodramatic narrators. I might have seen one, in my whole life, that was good, but like you I don’t remember what book it was about.

    If I ever saw a really good book trailer, I think I’d be jazzed. But it’s difficult to do since there are no visual images to go along with it. I mean, it IS a book and not a movie/tv show. And I doubt publishers would put the sort of budget into it that would allow for more visual trailers, so…I just don’t know.

  11. I’ve never heard of them before, honestly. But when I read your post, the first thing that came to mind was Scrooged. Bill Murray makes an ad for Scrooge that features murder, acid rain, and all sorts of other apocalyptic imagery. Very funny stuff. I was thinking of something like Pride and Prejudice done in that fashion. Hah!

  12. Don’;t watch them. Would rather read a review–quicker, and less hype.

  13. I watched a few of Christine Feehan’s trailers on her “Game” series and was so glad I read the book first because they were so … words cannot describe the mind blowing combination of embarassed horror for her and outright laughter that choked me. Then too, I was glad to have read Sherrilyn K’s books before realizing she had some small sound byte mini-interviews with characters. The voices sounded nothing like what I pictured in my head, in fact one sounded like some WWF reject on fight night.

    Books are all about the reader’s imagination. Period. Making the three sentence synopsis into a trailer just insults anyone who enjoys reading for the chance at individual escapism.

    • That’s interesting – the notion that a trailer depletes the reading experience for the viewer. Thanks for the insight!

  14. I’d never even heard of book trailers until reading your post, so I guess that makes it pretty obvious that I don’t use them for book-buying decisions.

    For favorite authors, there’s no decision to make! I just need a little reminder when the book is finally in stores.

    For new-to-me authors, I rely on friends’ recommendations of what they enjoyed. Most of these recommendations are on line in blogs, email lists, etc.

  15. Until reading this post I had no idea that such a thing even existed. Amazing!

    So, obviously, I have never watched one, and have never bought a book based on one, and can’t answer the other questions. Sorry πŸ˜›

    Mostly, however, I buy (or get from the library) books recommended by trusted friends, and books by people I know (or know online). Occasionally I decide to read a book after reading a few pages over someone’s shoulder on the bus (although not often, because most such books don’t appeal to me, and a significant number are not even in languages I can read. Oh, and also because reading over people’s shoulders is very, very rude. Ahem). I suspect I wouldn’t buy a book based on a trailer, but you never know.

    • Sometimes, when I’m reading a book with sex or language, I hold it very close on the subway, just so that the shoulder-readers don’t judge me! πŸ™‚

      • Hee :^)

        I see some books with extremely racy-looking covers on the bus sometimes, but they’re always in Russian or Polish, neither of which I speak, so I never get to find out whether they’re as exciting as they look ;^)

  16. Book trailers were really under my radar until this year’s Romantic Times con. The hotel had them streaming on their in-house television channel. The concept sounds really cool, but honestly, the hubs and I ended up Mystery Science Theatering them until the next workshop.

    All of those trailers were from the same company, though, so I don’t think I really got a good sample.

    • I love it – we need a new verb “to MST”… We certainly do that enough around here…