Jun 18, 2012

Thoughts On: Book Trailers

I've been ranting about book trailers during my features of them for quite some time.

A lot of publishers -- or maybe it's the people who create the book trailers? -- still don't seem able to understand the concept of what a trailer is. It's video. It's voices. It's action.

A lot of book trailers are flashes of video with lots of text, or static photos with lots of text, or a mixture of both. They're long and boring to follow.


I feel like it's not difficult to grasp what it takes to make a good trailer. Book trailers, in my opinion, aren't meant to explain the whole story. It's a flash, kind of like a cover -- meant to show you just enough to draw you in and make you want to read it.

Just like when I look at a cover, I don't need the entire plot explained to me in a book trailer. I want the trailer to entice me in, make me want to go look at the book on Goodreads or pick it up when I see it in a bookstore. I don't want to have to sit and read a trailer.

What was the point of a trailer if I was reading it?

In my opinion, a book good book trailer should be short and sweet. Give me one that's 30 seconds or less. Give me video, voice-over, not something that explains the whole story but something that gives a hint of where the action begins.

Random Books got this right with their trailer for Jennifer Donnely's Revolution.

It's 15 seconds long. In those 15 seconds, we get awesome video, a quick bit of narration to give you the overview of a story, and... that's it. The only reading we have to do is the tagline at the end (acceptable) and the actual reading of the book when it's presented in the last second.

If I hadn't already known about this book, I would have gone and looked at it based on the trailer alone.

Penguin is another one that got it right, with John Green's The Fault In Our Stars.

Is there a little reading? Yeah. But it's matched with a great song, the visuals are dynamic, and it manages to give a brief hint of what the story is about (romance -- they're on a swing -- and somebody's sick -- the heartbeat monitor). Another one I would look at based solely on the trailer alone.

And even though the Penguin one is clearly a higher quality of video than the Random Books one, both manage to do the same thing -- get me interested in a short amount of time without me having to read anything.

And isn't that what a good book trailer should do?


  1. I totally agree. I'm getting ready to do a trailer for my book and the word we keep using is teaser.

  2. I totally agree with you on this! I LOVE the trailer for The Fault In Our Stars so much!

  3. Great post! This topic is often under-explored on the web. Just curious: what are you views on the effectiveness of a book trailer, aside from whether it is good or not? Meaning -- would you think it was worth the investment, say, for a debut author, or only worth pursuing if one has a series or prior publication history or some other web-based following that can (somewhat) guarantee it will be seen?

    1. I think if it's an author AND a company who embraces the use of social media, it could work. A lot of the times trailers go unnoticed because they're not Tweeted or blogged about, or it's only done once; they have the potential to be effective if the author and publisher are willing to make the effort.


    This is how I've always felt about book trailers. I think the word content appears more than the straight-up video content because of budgets, honestly. I don't know what else would really prevent that.

  5. Cool, the 15 seconds one really worked for me too! I didn't think such a short shot could do it but your point about having nothing to read is totally spot on.

  6. Dont underestimate the power of creating visceral reactions. We've all seen & forgotten the usual Hollywood "two jokes, two action scenes, one cliffhanger" movie trailer, which is why something like this...


    ...works so well. I always think the mood-poem approach is better than giving the entire plot away, regardless of whether its a book or a movie being advertised.

    1. "Mood-poem," yes, what a great way to describe what book trailers should be aiming for! And great example. That GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO trailer is so excellent that it makes us want to see the movie, even though (a) we didn't care for the book, and (b) we heard the film was only so-so. :P

    2. You heard right about the movie, which is unfortunate. Fincher is too skilled to make something genuinely bad, but the weird pacing and plot undid it. Its kind of astonishingly boring, especially considering the graphic sex and violence every three minutes.

      I'm a big fan of movie trailers in general, especially when they're treated as a piece of art independent of the final film. Its always interesting to see someone experiment in such a formulaic medium, regardless of what they're trying to advertise. The last trailer for Nolan's new Batman movie is another good example….

  7. Love this post. This is definitely one of my upcoming areas of study as I await my book's 2013 release. Thanks for the food for thought.


  8. I see what you mean but I don't mind slightly longer trailers. I really enjoyed Kagawa's 'The Iron Knight' trailer even though it sort of narrates it. I'm one of those people who doesn't usually mind a few spoilers. If the author has written it effectively enough, I will enjoy it nonetheless. I remember when my friend told me who would die in the last ever Alex Rider book and I still couldn't believe it when it came down to it. But short and snappy can be good for a book trailer. You really don't want to give too much away.


Send me some comment lovin'!

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.