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Book Trailers Don’t Have To Raise Your Cholesterol

“It’s too long”, the message began. “There’s too many words.”

“I love the parts where people are talking to each other,” another explained. “The other description stuff not as much.”

“Book trailers shouldn’t be like movie trailers,” one friend offered. “It should have actors reading the parts out.” (Don’t read that again, it’ll make even less sense the second, third and just don’t think about it.)

And this is where all your problems start…

Authors and marketing firms have been producing book trailers for the last few years, without the benefit of any consensus of what a “book trailer” is even supposed to be. Some consist of hushed voice over reading contextless passages accompanied by the sort of dismal piano music that used to be a calling card of first-year student short films. Others are shot live action, for upper-five or six figure budgets, on sets with actors wearing wardrobe and camera ops hoping the AD is going to call lunch soon.

I’m glad I only bothered to ask for opinions after I’d put the first trailer for “Stockholm” out, for better or worse.

Otherwise I’d still be hunched over my computer, trying to figure out how to please “people” (not persons, you understand, but the imaginary collective mass lacking individual tastes, judgment and desires that so many of us claim to hold special insight into) with my well-intentioned plea for attention.

I mean, everyone knows what to expect from a movie trailer: foreboding shots quickly fading in and out over a pulsing, low-frequency drone, some scattered dialogue, then five of the most expensive, juicy and impressive shots (that’s why the studio asks for at least three “trailer shots” in the script stage) cynically heaped together like a Denny’s Maple Bacon Sundae. Designed to feed its empty, pulsating calories directly into the pleasure-centers of our brains with two and a half minutes of footage so awe-inspiring that we forget we’ve just seen all the best parts.

$17 (plus parking) later and posting “sucks” on Twitter hardly seems like recompense. And unlike the Denny’s Bacanalia Menu, you can’t just stick your fingers down your throat and expunge the acidic backlash souring the still-savory chunks of hickory smoke-choked bacon, vanilla ice cream and maple flavored corn syrup stuck in your teeth.

I don’t mean to beat up on movie trailers. They’ve become an artform unto themselves over the last decade. Plus, how else are we supposed to figure out what to see now that newspaper critics have become solely relevant to each other?

Unlike movie critics, you should listen to those who criticize you back. You might just learn something valuable your friends and family aren’t direct enough to offer. Anyone who bothers to type out a few words and hit “send,” be it over email, message board post or a barely-linguistic Youtube comment is offering you something valuable (unless it just says “First”, then just bang your head on the nearest right angle until it goes away) because of the source – it’s coming directly from “people.” The same “people” who you worried wouldn’t like your work in the first place, and you put that out, didn’t you?

This is just a trailer, for god sakes. Everyone knows trailers lie and only show you the best parts. I wrote about it above in paragraph three, in case you’d already forgotten, seeing as how you’ve been checking your texts, updating your ‘status’ and paying your utility bill while skimming through this post looking for your own name. And that’s all anyone wants – information relevant to them.

And how do you know what’s relevant to people? As a person, use your best judgment. A boring trailer with poorly recorded voice-over narration and royalty-free music is better than none at all, the simple act of clicking on your link sends a subconscious message to the brain suggesting that “this may be relevant to my interests.” How else did so many people pay to see that awful, travesty of a regurgitated ’80s action figure franchise last weekend? Someone made a trailer for it.

(this blog post was originally written for stockholmbook.com)

  • http://writingcycle.wordpress.com Catana

    People can argue about book trailers all they want, but when it comes right down to it, they’re superfluous and irrelevant. Movie trailers at least are a visual promo for a visual medium. Book trailers are a visual promo for a verbal medium. I’ve only watched a few book trailers. They told me nothing useful about the books and certainly contributed nothing to my decision to read or not read them.

  • http://www.sweptbook.com Torre

    I’ve actually sold quite a few books with my trailer. If you manage to successfully capture the essence of your book though visuals and music, it offers an alternative way to hook readers in.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_qAoQth9Wk

  • http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/members/teosocrates/ Derek Murphy

    amazing book trailer, amazing book cover. :)