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The Curious Case of the Book Trailer

August 6, 2012

I don’t usually like book trailers. Even as someone who, in the course of my work life, often helps to make them.*

Granted, I’ve seen quite a few that work, and work wonderfully. So I’m convinced that a video trailer, albeit for a thing that is not a video, can be effective. But I’m not convinced that every book needs one, that every book can support one, or that producing a trailer is always an effective way of spending what’s usually, let’s face it, an extremely limited marketing budget. Especially when so many of them exhibit eye-gougingly low production value.

Reservations aside, here are a few types of trailers I tend to gravitate towards, and which, in my experience, tend to work well. (You’ll notice there aren’t any slow-pan-over-broody-windswept-actors-with-dramatic-text varieties. Super sorry if that’s your favorite thing.)

*Of course, the ones I work on are perfect. C’mon, guys, let’s be real.

1. The Mockumentary

I’ve seen the “mockumentary”-style trailer for nonfiction books more often than novels, which is a severe inversion of my own reading habits. But I’m likely to watch one of these trailers if I have even a passing familiarity with the book’s subject, whether or not I intend to read it. And once or twice, I’ve been swayed…

Here’s a mockumentary-style trailer you may have heard of. I’m guessing, based on its ridiculously high number of YouTube views.

Okay, I guess if you’re tragically burdened with an author who can’t call in a favor from James Franco, you could end up with something more like this trailer for Mary Roach’s Packing for Mars:

Man, do I love me a retro NASA logo.

2. The Tangentially Related, Informative, and Also Funny Video

You see these a lot with cute animation and infographics. I’m not sure they really qualify as “trailers,” even, since they don’t tease or recap much of the book’s plot or content. But they are that holy grail of all marketing—attention-grabbing. Not to mention the holy grail of online marketing—shareable, because they’re only tangentially tied to a specific book.

Oh yeah, before I link you this one… SHOUTY ALL-CAPS DISCLAIMER: I WORKED ON THIS VIDEO, which is for the side-splittingly hilarious Louise Rennison’s latest series. It includes a cheeky guide to some common British words, and some that are, er, unique to the world of Rennison.


 *LIKE I SAID, all the trailers I work on are perfect. ;)

 3. Guys. GUYS. We Actually Have Graphics—Call the Animation Guys!

I have a weak spot a mile wide for graphics-heavy, CGI trailers—when they’re done well. They neatly sidestep the issues of corny acting, for one thing. For another, I suspect my love of book art is deeply rooted in my love for bricklike tomes with maps on the endpapers.

At least, when it comes to this trailer for Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone, I know it is:

Of all the trailers I’ve seen over the past year or so, this one is my favorite. It does so many things well. It has a gorgeous and coherent visual style that (a) suits the book and (b) doesn’t require bank-breakingly state-of-the-art CGI. It reminds me of the Game of Thrones opening credits, which can only be good. It’s well animated, for which this trailer producer is worth mountains of gold. And, clocking in at just under a minute, it doesn’t ever feel slow—whereas it does feel epic.

Not all books can pull that off. But then, not all books should. When it comes down to it, if you’re going to do a trailer—as with most things in or out of the book world—do it well. Don’t do it because everyone else is. Do it because you have a fun, funny, original, interesting, or otherwise great idea—that works well on video. And if it doesn’t translate well to the screen? That’s why we have books.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2012 12:20 AM

    Honestly, I generally avoid book trailers BUT I love the one you worked on. ;)

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