The Dubious Art of the Book Trailer

Has anyone seen a book trailer , much less bought a book because of a trailer?

I’ve made a bit of a study of them (just query book trailer in YouTube).  They range from movie-worthy acting and special effects (see Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters) to, well, mine concocted on my Macbook Pro with I-movie (at least I composed and played the music, oh well…)

I recently joined the affiliated writers group on Linkedin and jumped right into a discussion about book trailers.   I was assured that it was worth the price of having a professional ($3,000 or so) make your book trailer. The professional ones sure looked like movie trailers because some of them were.

My thought is that a book is a more personal and individual experience than a movie. When you hear an author interviewed about her book you might get a reading of a passage but most of the interview is about the author and ideas behind the book.  You would never see an interview with the poor all-but-forgotten writers of a movie in a movie trailer.  No, they are different beasts.

And here lies part of the problem…books trying to be movies.

I doubt that there is an author that doesn’t imagine his words put to action up on a screen with the lighting, music, special effects.   You don’t have to describe a facial expression or a mood because the actors are portraying them.   But then it’s time to go back to the page and return to the laborious process of painting a scene with words.

So how does this work with book trailers?  A bit of a hybrid if you can afford to turn it over to a professional crew who will perform the same type of interpretation as a movie would.   Or you can do it yourself and look as clumsy and amateurish as your writing is polished and professional.   I mean why don’t you try painting a portrait or conducting a symphony?  The point being that it’s a different art form for which you’ve spent no time learning or polishing while what you are trying to portray is the result of countless hours of practice, struggle, and polishing.

What’s an author to do?  If you have the bucks or your publisher will pay for it go with the big production – it can’t hurt…just stay out of the way as you would if your work was being made into a movie.

Or do it yourself and try and create a personal expression that matches your book.

But in the end, professional or amateur, you’re left with the same question, is anybody going to read or not read your book because of this trailer?  I still doubt it unless you can get Jay-Z  to rap in it.


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