Trailer Talk

Let me start right off the bat by saying no – I am not going to talk about actual trailers. And not about movie trailers either. I am going to talk about book trailers. What are they? Oh, I am so delighted that you asked, dear reader. Movie trailers have been around for ages but now publishers and authors are starting to utilize trailer-making as a marketing tool for new and upcoming books as well. Also known as cinematic book trailers or video-podcasts, book trailers can include scenes from the book performed by professional or amateur actors, they can be production trailers showcasing the process of creating the book, they can be flash videos or animations or even simple still photos with text and music. Authors and publishers are now posting all kinds of book trailers on their websites, uploading them on YouTube and other video sites as well as showcasing them on different display sites. They are spreading across the world although admittedly they haven’t become a huge success here in Finland, yet. And why should you care about all this? I do not think books trailers are going to be game-changers from a marketing standpoint but I do feel that they give a unique look into the world of the books. I know many people who have said that Harry Potters made them love reading. But if you do not want to pick up the book in the first place, how will you get to that same point? That is where book trailers come in – they show the magical world of the story for those people who like trailers; they showcase the complexity of a written world to the movie-goers who would not venture into a book store for any other reason.

There are many sides to promoting literary works with trailers: the videos can be motivating for the more reluctant readers, they can be a handy promotional tool for increasing sales but they can also have a downside – they might give out way too much information. Book trailers have to balance between showcasing the world of the book without constricting the reader's imagination because – let's face it – getting to imagine everything for yourself is a huge part of the charm of reading.

The Book Trailer for 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

An exciting book trailer, akin to action movie trailers, can obviously make a potential reader want to rush to the nearest bookstore to find the novel in question. But those trailers that have a writer, no matter how eloquent in speech, sitting in front of a picturesque scenery background going into a detailed account on the story of their book, are not pleasant to watch. Let’s be honest, they are a full-on snoozefest. Of course, one thing the maker needs to be mindful of is the cost. Book trailers can potentially cost a lot of money. And while a Hollywood blockbuster film might earn the money back, books are less likely to do so well. This is probably why many of the trailers seem to go for the flashy and aggressive route with the hopes of catching the viewers’ attention. It might work for people with short attention spans who get blinded by bright fonts and loud noises but those people might not be exactly the reading kind.

Book trailers are an interesting and perhaps a logical way of advertising books but how do the videos actually manage to attract views? If people search for a writer’s website they probably already know about the book. And if the trailers are posted on YouTube they might get drowned out by the multitudes of videos that are posted on the site every single day. The success of a book trailer seems to depend on the author’s and the publisher’s knowledge of the social media but also on mere dumb luck. Seems awfully risky to be spending a ton of money on. No wonder most of the trailers utilize free stock photos and unrestricted music samples. Bit of a conundrum, I suppose – you can’t get a great trailer without spending a lot of dough but can’t get a lot of views and hence a lot of money without making a superb trailer either.

So in the end, I’d say that book trailers can be a bit of a double-edged sword but personally I like them a lot when they are made well, and usually try to at least quickly google whether the books I’ve heard about have a trailer online. I’ll leave you with one of my favorite book trailers: 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami.

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