Caleb J. Ross's picture
Caleb J. Ross from Kansas City, KS is reading on the toilet by himself October 5, 2011 - 2:10am

Do book trailers work? Simple question. I want to know, what do you think is the marketing rationale behind creating book trailers? When does a book stop being a book and start to become a movie? Should video marketing be reserved for the miscellenea surrounding a book, rather than with the content of the book itself (author interviews, readings, etc.)?

Some authors do it well (see Max Barry clip below). Some authors do it in Hollywood fashion with plenty of polish (see Warmed and Bound clip below). Some authors do it sophmorically (see my Stranger Will "trailer" below).

Do they work?

Max Barry:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEN10axDJtA

Warmed and Bound:

http://vimeo.com/26754347

Caleb J. Ross:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTOhER4-ZIQ

Nathan's picture
Nathan from Louisiana (South of New Orleans) is reading Re-reading The Soul Consortium by Simon West-Bulford October 5, 2011 - 2:20am

Are you asking us? I say yes. I already had your book before I saw your trailer -but I remember it vividly -isn't your book walking up to known classics, fighting with them and trying to get some of the spotlight? It was hilarious. Sent that along to a few of my friends trying to convince them to buy it. 

In this day and age, I say do anything and everything to promote a book. If youtube can make an ordinary random citizen a superstar over night, then how can it possibly hurt a book or a book sale? Unless of course the costs of these trailers are more than what's coming in from book sales.

If that's the case, only the author can really tell us if he's eating more steaks after releasing trailers. Otherwise, publicity on any level is better than none. Especially when you're competing with the internet and video games, and shit, why not use all that for promotion, right? Wouldn't that be cool? A book ad in a video game -Then you'll see some sales. (Well if the people playing the game can read, that is). 

jjlmfay's picture
jjlmfay October 5, 2011 - 2:23am

I definitely think it's about making books appeal like movies do and in this way it seems to be dumbing down the medium of writing. Why read about a book when you can watch a trailer for it, right? It seems really odd and I'm not a fan of trying to replicate aspects of a book's content in an explicit form such as the visual because it has issues like interpretation of subject matter and showing it concretely. I can see a video of people or a butterfly, but I read the book to read how the author describes or shows the subject matter. Plus what if it's done cheaply and makes you cringe?

Overall, seems like a silly and inefficient concept.

EDIT: as Nathan said though, it's a good way to get publicity via something like youtube even if it's not as effective in showing off the book and its written content, but there exists plenty of written methods that are still popular such as tumblr and blogging.

Instag8r's picture
Instag8r from Residing in Parker, CO but originally from WV is reading Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy October 5, 2011 - 3:08am

For years people have been promoting movies with the printed word. Why not promote the printed word with movies?

Gareth's picture
Gareth from Melbourne is reading Franz Kafka October 5, 2011 - 5:25am

To be honest, I like book trailers.  I don't think they dumb down a book unless the trailers are done poorly.  If it's a great trailer that gets you excited then, why not?

If it's a bad trailer, then probably the people who watch it will be more unlikely to buy the book.  I remember the book trailer for James Ellroy's Blood's a Rover blew me away.  I was already a fan but I just watched the trailer in curiosity and I got very excited.  It just looked like they put a lot of effort into it.  Trailers can be just as much art as anything else.

Dr. Gonzo's picture
Dr. Gonzo from Manchester, UK is reading Blood Meridian October 5, 2011 - 5:37am

I've not seen many.  The first one that caught my eye--because I was interested in the product already--was the one for Imperial Bedrooms.  Why not use them?  What's the harm if done right?  We should do whatever we can to keep our work in the top tier of the the arts.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Acceptance October 5, 2011 - 8:18am

They work if they're well-made.  I've seen some terrifically awful book trailers in my day.

Mark's picture
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Mark from Lexington, Kentucky is reading The Chronology of Water October 5, 2011 - 8:39am

They work if they're well-made.  I've seen some terrifically awful book trailers in my day.
-Brandon

Maybe it's worth noting that a short video which promotes a book is a terrifically young art form.   It made no economic sense when you couldn't cut thirty to sixty seconds of high-grade commercial video for less than five thousand dollars.  And when a substantial media buy for broadcast television was the only way to get it seen.

I guess everybody knows that.  But I find it only encouraging that the Internet combined with the proliferation of affordable digitial cameras and editing suites makes the earliest forays in this terrain possible.  I see a lot of rushed and amateurish productions as an unavoidable phase and consequence of an overall good thing.   

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Acceptance October 5, 2011 - 9:39am

That's what's tough about it.  You can't really expect an author to be a director/actor/film editor but you could have said that about building websites five years ago.  Now pretty much every author I know builds and moderates their own site.  I think as they make film editing software more user friendly, you're going to see an overall improvement in the trailers.

Honestly, the ones like Max Barry and what Caleb just did really work for me.  I really don't need to see scenes from the book.  Leave that to the book.  

The trailer for Super Sad True Love Story remains my all-time favorite: YouTube

 

Americantypo's picture
Americantypo from Philadelphia is reading The Song of Kali October 5, 2011 - 10:42am

I think they're kind of cheesy, but if the book trailer is interesting, something that kind of works on its own, its something that can draw attention to a book. Its kind of how music videos change the dymanic of a song. If the song is ok but the video is interesting, people sort of build an association and will sometimes like the song more. If a video is just interesting and it turns out its related to a novel or a writer, people will probably check out that writer's work.

PrincessofPersia's picture
PrincessofPersia from Jersey is reading Ella Minnow Pea October 5, 2011 - 12:18pm

I've never bought a book based on a book trailer. In fact, the only books I ever catch them for are the types of books I don't typically enjoy. I don't have anything against them, but most of them seem to be cheesy (although that could be because of the book). 

I will say though that the ones for James Patterson's novels have a terrible narrator. He's like a bad parody of Don LaFontaine.

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Homeboy by Seth Morgan October 5, 2011 - 2:02pm

I don't like being shown what a specific character or setting is supposed to look or sound like (in fiction), but if a trailer can otherwise capture the mood or tone of a book, great. I find amateur production distracting, especially when the sound isn't done well, so I tend not to like many of the ones created by the authors themselves, because (fairly or not), it can cause me to judge the quality of the writing accordingly.

jacks_username's picture
jacks_username from Louisville, Kentucky is reading A Song Of Ice and Fire October 5, 2011 - 4:37pm

I think it would be an interesting and fun concept though. I would make one, even if I didn't show it to anybody. 

CJ Roberts's picture
CJ Roberts from Salem, MA is reading goodreads.com/cjroberts_dmm October 5, 2011 - 4:55pm

Mixed media messaging is the best and sometimes only methodology to reach any one outside the profiled (target) audience. From tumblr gifs to youtube, from pic gallerys to facebook applications we live in an age of distraction and you need to grab people with bright clear quick narratives. Businesses fail at this stage so often that they should be the guiding lesson for writers. Depending on the story people don't just want langauge they want an experience. They want to feel that you aren't just looking to 10 bucks but that you care enough to pull them in.

See innovative marketing strategies like Max Barry's nationstates.net. Never heard of him until this website and now I'm reading Company after reading Nation States and I've got two more on my shelf for afterwards.

See also Brenk Weeks's The Black Prism.

Passive and text marketing is going to get lost in the stream of integrated full spectrum experiences offered by other authors.

Across all social networks we tend to miss that one essential fact. People don't care unless you prove you care about what THEY want. THEY want tv AND books. They want games and intelligent discourse. Comics and cat videos. You will miss out on many opportunities if you focus on one over another.

Caleb J. Ross's picture
Caleb J. Ross from Kansas City, KS is reading on the toilet by himself October 5, 2011 - 6:06pm

I definitely think it's about making books appeal like movies do and in this way it seems to be dumbing down the medium of writing. Why read about a book when you can watch a trailer for it, right?

This is exactly one of the reasons most book trailers don't work for me. I don't want to be shown what a character looks like or what a setting looks like. I just want to get the overall mood of a book from the trailer.

EDIT: And what Gordon said:

I don't like being shown what a specific character or setting is supposed to look or sound like (in fiction), but if a trailer can otherwise capture the mood or tone of a book, great.

D Michael Hardy's picture
D Michael Hardy from Tampa, FL is reading Jennifer Egan's "A Visit From the Goon Squad" October 5, 2011 - 6:30pm

One of the best examples I can think of with book trailers: "The Average American Male" by Chad Kultgen. There were three or four hilarious videos on youtube that became viral and is pretty much the sole reason that book sold out it's first printing.

Yes, if done right, I think they can be very successful.

Caleb J. Ross's picture
Caleb J. Ross from Kansas City, KS is reading on the toilet by himself October 6, 2011 - 12:06am

Oh, I just remembered another series of trailers that worked really, really well. Douglas Coupland's collection of videos for The Gum Thief:

Here's a search with all of the videos. Definitely worth checking out for anyone interested in this sort of thing. The book is damn good, too.

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=gum+thief+douglas+coupland&aq=f

 

 

Laramore Black's picture
Laramore Black from Joplin, Missouri is reading East of Eden, by John Steinbeck October 6, 2011 - 12:27am

I actually started experimenting with this today coincidently.
It messes up at the end when the song slows down and it keeps going fast, but any feed back would be nice.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chHhmtQg8ks

Mark's picture
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Mark from Lexington, Kentucky is reading The Chronology of Water October 6, 2011 - 12:55am

The trailer for Super Sad True Love Story remains my all-time favorite: YouTube

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EfzuOu4UIOU

I concede:  Frigging hilarious.  More people should do mockumentary that well.

D Michael Hardy's picture
D Michael Hardy from Tampa, FL is reading Jennifer Egan's "A Visit From the Goon Squad" October 8, 2011 - 2:01pm

My favorite book trailer for "The Average American Male"...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMFoAvnzxl4

 

Always thought this was a cool book trailer...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmNKewRPm7Y

 

This one's a little cheesy, but hilarious...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X58RPS665V0

And my favorite...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMFRuEnWZ50

 

Andrew Moore's picture
Andrew Moore from Belfast Northern Ireland is reading The Dark Tower by Stephen King October 13, 2011 - 6:17pm

Oh I just put something on twitter about finding good examples. Just for a little extra exposure for my own book I'm keen on making one, but weary of it being shite. Thanks for the examples, Caleb! Big help! 

Jay.SJ's picture
Jay.SJ from London is reading Warmed and Bound October 13, 2011 - 9:57pm

I really liked Ellis' for Imperial Bedroom, but maybe it wouldn't have worked so well if it wasn't based on a popular sequel / high budget or high priority.

Greg Eidson's picture
Greg Eidson from Los Angeles, CA is reading The Alchemist - Paul Coelho October 14, 2011 - 1:44am

I think a great way to promote a book would be to have the author read and have some sort of segment filmed or some kind of animation done over the narration. I've been thinking about doing that for a while. Once I finish the novel. 

Rancecassady's picture
Rancecassady March 28, 2012 - 5:03am

Seems like these things could be an artistic way to create a fan base for books.There's a company called Red 14 Films that does pretty amazing work. And all their trailers are like little movies.

 

Empty the Sun by Joseph Mattson

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1BNBOXEqWmw

 

jacks_username's picture
jacks_username from Louisville, Kentucky is reading A Song Of Ice and Fire January 13, 2012 - 3:23pm

I'm going to make one with stop animation. It will probably end up looking cheap and amateurish but who knows.

ReneeAPickup's picture
ReneeAPickup from Joshua Tree, CA is reading A truckload of books. January 13, 2012 - 4:11pm

I think it is a good idea, you have to reach the people in front of the TV and remind them (or convince them) that books are entertainment as well.

Just, you know, don't use "unputdownable" in your book trailer. *gag*

aliensoul77's picture
aliensoul77 from a cold distant star is reading the writing on the wall. January 13, 2012 - 6:51pm

I was thinking about making one for the anthology and putting it on youtube. Just weird imagery like decapitated doll heads and me reading pieces of stories from the book and maybe a clown with the head of a cat singing opera.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters January 13, 2012 - 7:05pm

^^^ no,please. 

I mean, make a video if you like, but no to the clowns. 

jacks_username's picture
jacks_username from Louisville, Kentucky is reading A Song Of Ice and Fire January 14, 2012 - 10:01pm

@Danny If there is readings in the trailer, if you make one, I think it should be a voice-over monolog type thing. Maybe like a synopsis for the book.

misskokamon's picture
misskokamon from San Francisco is reading The Moonlit Mind January 23, 2012 - 7:37pm

I have a thing for book trailers, but that's because I'm an animation major and have a love for that sort of thing. My favorite part of seeing a movie in theaters is seeing the trailers because I love analyzing how they're done. I find it a terrific challenge: How do you hook someone into reading your book without giving the good stuff away? How do you invest the reader in your character's plight without revealing who they are right off the bat? What do you focus on: the world, the people, the villain? What medium do you use? The possibilities are endless!

I plan on making my own once it comes out, if I have the time. I want to hire one of my artist friends to draw out certain scenes, then I'd go in and do some simple animations and effects.

If not, I'd like to keep the trailer simple. Variant had a great trailer--just some old guy talking about the school the story takes place in. Because my current WIP revolves around a phone with, erm, interesting functions to it, so I'd probably just have my trailer focus on it ringing or something. Mysterious!

But, yes... I think book trailers are awesome. 

EricWojo's picture
EricWojo from Livonia, Michigan is reading The Brothers Karamazov April 3, 2012 - 7:04pm

This one, is by far, getting me to place my order. And I don't even know what it's about.

Caleb J. Ross's picture
Caleb J. Ross from Kansas City, KS is reading on the toilet by himself April 3, 2012 - 8:41pm

This one, is by far, getting me to place my order. And I don't even know what it's about.

That is absolutely perfect.

Andrez Bergen's picture
Andrez Bergen from Melbourne, Australia + Tokyo, Japan is reading 'The Spirit' by Will Eisner May 8, 2012 - 9:18am

I recently did one for my upcoming novel (see below - it's my second book trailer; I also did one for Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat last year). Completely non-professional and more a bit of fun, since this is a hobby I do on the side (I also do hack videos for techno producers like Dave Tarrida & Bas Mooy).

Apparently not very popular, too - only 20 people have watched it since April 2nd. ;)

I actually don't watch other writers' book trailers - I'm not sure why exactly. Probably because (a) I don't have time, and (b) I'd prefer to read the book or the read the publicity blurb...