Skip to content

Do Book Trailers Work?

Book trailers are all the rage these days.

It makes sense, I guess. The publishing industry takes a nod from the movie industry and uses short, one-to-two minute videos as a marketing tool.

But does it really work?

With movies, you’ve got actual clips from the movie. The trailer truly is a sample of the film you’re going to see—of course, with a little hype and marketing thrown in.

But book trailers? To me, it feels like nothing but marketing hype. It’s not like they can really throw a few sample sentences out on the screen–that’s not going to work. So what you get is a lot of marketing. And that’s okay, but it doesn’t really make me want to pull up Amazon or run to my nearest bookstore.

I’ve seen very few book trailers, but the ones I’ve seen haven’t made me want to read the book any more or less. And is it really any more effective than traditional marketing techniques?

I certainly don’t criticize any authors or publishers who have created book trailers, but I’m curious about their results. That said, I’m not a marketing guy. Far from it. But these are questions I ask.

Perhaps the most memorable “book trailer” I’ve recently seen is for Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. It’s memorable because of its unmemorableness (yes, I made that word up). You might remember Franzen from my review of The Corrections and my freshly pressed post about his writing rules.

In the trailer, Franzen expresses his “profound discomfort at having to make videos like this.” An author proclaiming his dislike of book trailers in a book trailer video–is that the definition of irony?

With that type of intro, it’s no wonder this book trailer is tedious and awkward. It must have been in the contract.

Do you think book trailers are effective?

About these ads
21 Comments Post a comment
  1. I believe book trailers work for the Young Adult market. I work as an assistant in a middle school library and kids this age are very influenced by this sort of thing. They haven’t yet learned the skill of discernment.

    June 23, 2011
  2. Gemma Sidney #

    Wow, that is awkward – I couldn’t even finish watching it!

    I haven’t seen any other book trailers. When you introduced the topic I immediately imagined they would be like a movie trailer – with actors playing out scenes as the characters. That would be terrible! When I read a book I want to be able to imagine what the characters are like myself – I escape into another world.

    But in fact, it seems from your description that book trailers are even worse than I thought. Interviews with the author or well-worn marketing phrases aren’t going to get me to buy a book. I go for books on recommendations, the merit of the author, on the book’s blurb and sometimes even on a whim.

    June 23, 2011
    • In Young Adult books, they are often like a movie trailer but they don’t give much away. Here is an example of a book I liked and a trailer I thought did a good job of hooking a 13 year old.

      June 23, 2011
      • Gemma Sidney #

        Thanks for the link – the trailer was rather well done actually. I agree with you when you say that book trailers have a better chance of working for a young audience. Kids are extremely tech-savvy these days…

        June 23, 2011
  3. Most of the books that I buy are either from authors that I have read before, suggestions from friends, and I occasionally troll the classic book section. I don’t watch a whole lot of TV and I don’t think I’ve seen many TV ads for books.

    The only time recently that I’ve purchased a book that I saw on TV was Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers.” This doesn’t really count though, because I was planning on buying the book no matter what, I was just waiting for it to come out in paperback.

    I think most book readers have different means of finding books to read, whether it be Amazon suggestions for books or wandering through bookstores. TV is probably not the best medium for advertising books.

    June 23, 2011
    • Most of the book trailers I’ve seen are internet-based, not TV.

      June 23, 2011
      • I guess I just haven’t come across any online, either way, I’ll still go by recommendations for books rather than trailers.

        June 23, 2011
  4. Teresa #

    Very ironic. Few newspapers review books anymore. I guess a marketer’s choices are getting limited. There was a story in the NY Times yesterday about independent book stores selling tickets to book readings … things sure have changed in the age of the internet and the eBook.

    June 23, 2011
  5. I am definitely not a fan of book trailers. I don’t even watch them. I would much rather read a well-written review than watch a mini-movie about a book. I don’t know. Something about them just doesn’t seem right to me.

    June 23, 2011
  6. I think a book trailer might work on audiences that normally aren’t into books, but prefer film. It might be an interesting way to link the two media. However, for people who take books more seriously, I think they might actually have a detrimental effect. The closest equivalent to a movie trailer for books, in my opinion, is the preview that Amazon or Googlebooks gives of the first chapter or two of a book. I’m much more likely to be influenced to buy or not buy a book based upon my own analysis of the author’s writing style.

    June 23, 2011
    • I’m with you. I much prefer a sample of the author’s work over a video.

      June 23, 2011
  7. If this is what book trailers are like, absolutely not!
    BTW, I read Freedom, and was underwhelmed.

    June 23, 2011
  8. I was wondering what other people thought of this. I think that book trailers have the potential to turn someone off from a book because they use imagery that may not match what you imagine while reading the book…..

    I think if depends on how they are done. The book trailers I’ve seen so far use some sort of background and then sentences from the book or back cover description. In some way it gives you a nicer visual experience of reading what the book is about rather than just black text on a page.

    Great topic.

    June 23, 2011
    • Part of the reason I don’t like them is for that reason. I feel like they try and fill in those visuals for you. And since, most of the time, you might see a trailer before reading the book, it can influence your “reading visual”.

      June 23, 2011
  9. I love it when someone else says it first – that is, I love it when someone else says what I’ve been thinking, which is: “this is awkward and seems kind of pointless.” I’m all for embracing new media to celebrate the old, but some things just aren’t compatible.

    June 23, 2011
  10. Patti #

    Book trailers just seem weird to me. A blurb makes so much more sense. The only “trailer” that makes any sense is possibly the author reading a selection from the book – and even that is just to satisfy people who have to have video and audio. I’ve seen a few and pretty much ignore them – but I guess I can see that they have some usefulness for teen series – just because it’s a promotional technique that the audience understands – which is the main purpose of a using a particular technique.

    June 23, 2011
  11. For teens, I think book trailers are very helpful. Adults…not so much. Personally, I would rather, you know, read the back cover or hear about it from someone. Perhaps that is too old fashioned. As a teacher, I do see value in creating book trailers. I had my students make their own this year and that worked really well.

    June 23, 2011
  12. Blair #

    I feel so awkward for him! But props for use of the term “bee in his bonnet.”

    June 23, 2011
  13. Good thing he is a writer and not a motivational speaker!

    June 23, 2011
  14. pamelascott30 #

    I find book trailers pointless. They would put me off. Unless the author was reading from the book and even then it wouldn’t appeal to me. Like others who have commented I choose books based on authors I like, recommendations from others, browsing in charity shops or just random browsing on amazon. Franzen’s book trailer made me really not want to read the book. I wasn’t interested in it in the first place but the trailer made me even more determined not to read it.

    June 29, 2011

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Your Search Questions Answered, Volume 2 | 101 Books

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 30,995 other followers

%d bloggers like this: