Revisiting Book Trailers

Book trailers.  Opinions on them range from adoration to bafflement to virulent hatred.  I’ve talked about them here before, voicing my confusion about why they’re out there, talking about the one that actually got me interested enough to buy the book (the one for Lili St. Crow’s Strange Angels).  And I’m thinking about them again now that I have my own work out there and because I was looking at some of the fan trailers done for Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments trilogy yesterday (which isn’t on her website and now I can’t find the link…).

Now I will say straight up that I am NOT the target market for book trailers.  The ones on TV I miss because I DVR everything and skip commercials.  And unless it’s by somebody I “know” on Twitter, I usually don’t even come across them to either be impressed or jeer.  But that doesn’t make book trailers useless.  I am not representative of the majority.  The fact of the matter is that there are hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people who prowl YouTube on a daily basis (my husband is one of them).  That makes it a venue to reach possible customers who might be interested in your book.

Same deal with MySpace and Facebook.  I hate, loathe, and despise both of these social networking sites.  But I’ve still got pages at both.  Why?  Because hundreds of thousands of people DO like it, and they are all potential customers.  It would be foolish not to at least have your name out there in case those fans either go looking for you or happen to stumble across you.  They should be able to find the name of your book and where it can be purchased.

Now do I think everybody should go out and make a book trailer?  No.  If you don’t have any skills in that area yourself, it’s likely to cost more money than would be sensible to spend, particularly if you’re a new indie author like me.  But if you know a guy…  Or if you DO have some skills to put together a little one minute something that hits the high points of your story with a montage of rotating still shots that will inform potential readers what the story is about, where you can buy it, ending with a listing of your website–well, I don’t see that as a bad thing.

One of the criticisms I’ve heard about book trailers is that books aren’t movies and why should they be presented as such?  And it’s true.  Books aren’t movies.  But most book trailers don’t use live actors.  Most are still shots, rotated, often to music, interspersed with text or possibly a voiceover.  The fact of the matter is that, for better or worse, we are a very visual society.  And while they may not have the same impact as a movie trailer, they DO stand to bring your book to the attention of somebody who might not otherwise have seen it.

And then you have the whole OTHER matter of fan videos of your work.  You see this a lot for uber popular books like Twilight (and there are some FUNNY ASS videos about Twilight).  But there are lots of them out there that were made by fans of other books.  Now that, I think, is just really darn cool.  That somebody loves your story enough to put in the time and effort to make a video for your book.  I mean, seriously,  that’s fan love there.  Even if the video sucks because the person doesn’t have the skills, it’s STILL cool because they TOOK THE TIME.  That lets you know that you connected.

Q4U: So readers, weigh in.  How do you feel about book trailers?  Yay?  Nay?  Confused?

5 thoughts on “Revisiting Book Trailers

  1. I’m ambivalent about the whole thing. To me, it’s just another commercial…and on the web, a banner ad would do the same thing without causing a web page to load slower. A book trailer would never convince me to buy the book – I have to read an excerpt before I’ll buy, so it’s just more noise on the page to my eyes.

    They are popular in certain circles, but I won’t be making any myself. Waste of time in my opinion – I can make a banner add or button with my cover and a quote with a whole lot less fuss. But that’s just me.

  2. The funny thing about this post is that I just read Zoe’s post this morning about how much she hates book trailers. LOL Personally, I wouldn’t do one because I don’t think the expense would be worth what you might garner in sales. Since I’m such an avid reader, I want to see something in writing about the book, not a video. I love movies, too, and I DO want to see a trailer on them. I guess I want the blurb to fit the medium in which the story is presented. But would I watch a book trailer? Maybe….

  3. My virulent hatred was softened by THIS awesome sauce book trailer:

    If I could have something that awesome, I’d do it. But my ire I think is over the idea that we should all jump on this marketing bandwagon regardless of whether or not the book trailer is as good as the book. To me if you can’t bring the same level of professionalism that competes with what NY pubs can put out for a book trailer, then you don’t do one.

    Just my opinion on that. Just like you want a professional website, and a pro book cover and interior layout, you shouldn’t just start throwing out crappy homemade marketing pieces because “everybody’s doing it.”

    Several book trailers have turned me off books. And the sheer number of crappy or mediocre book trailers have generally turned me off of book trailers. The Leviathan trailer made me see the point of a book trailer in general. Now if everybody could do that, we’d be okay.

    Also I think that trailer could stand to be at least 20 seconds shorter, but it’s not self-indulgent long.

  4. Book Trailers, when utilized properly, are a good tool to have in your marketing campaign. Does that mean everyone needs one? No.
    But, video, as opposed to say a banner ad, can increase your SEO and bring your overall online visibility up. It also has more utility than a banner ad. In addition to increasing your SEO, it can be used as an ad, on social networks, media networks, to help sell foreign rights, to increase orders from libraries and booksellers, branding, target audience expansion, cross-genre promotion, etc.

    Just having a book trailer isn’t enough. You need to know WHY you have it and what you need to do with it once you have it. If you’re not sure, you’re probably wasting your money.

    Book Trailers build readers. My company works with the University of Central Florida’s Digital Book Talk program which encourages a love of reading for middle school and high school students. Instead of giving a book report, the class reads the book together, sets up teams and create book trailers for it. Video is very exciting to this younger generation and it builds a positive experience for them. In addition, most of the YA book videos I’ve been involved with quickly bring in a community of young people who want to talk about the video, the book and generally hang out online and chat.

    When audio books started people hated them. It put someone elses voice into your head. They hated it when people tried different voices as they read, or tried accents. The idea was absurd to many, yet now we accept audio books. And the same will hold true to eReaders. Different platforms hold an attraction or repulsion to us according to personal preference.

    As a side note, the Leviathon trailer has a shorter version to it that played in movie theaters. I will admit to liking the shorter version a bit better. But it is a beautiful piece.

  5. I have never been swayed to buy a book because of a book trailer. But then my career was in advertising and I am easily bored by things I’ve seen done a hundred times.

    I don’t mind book trailers that entertain, but as a sales pitch, I think money can be spent better elsewhere.

    There are a few authors out there who have giant marketing machines backing them, like the trailer Zoe linked above, or publishing houses who pay live actors to be in the film, but come on, who but the very big authors can command that?

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