Monday, July 24, 2006

Those boring book trailers

Lately I've been seeing an awful lot of book trailers, which means I've seen a lot of awful book trailers. What's a book trailer? Nothing more than a 30-second hyped-up slide show with a soundtrack. Lots of publishers and authors are excited about this Great Innovation, but take it from an internet junkie: the only people thrilled by these things are publishers and authors. If the trailers are getting lots of hits, that's because every publisher and author with an internet connection is running over to have a look at the competition. Perhaps quite a few readers are viewing the things, clicking over via publishers' and authors' websites and blogs. But those people already know about the books, don't they? So how is this good marketing?

If you've never seen a book trailer, take a look at this one for a Harper Collins book. I was intrigued when the first image showed an astronomical observatory because in my wild youth, I dreamed of becoming an astronomer. (I grew up to write romance novels, instead.) But the trailer was confusing and downright silly. And I was disgusted by this "dramatic" line: "I'd grown accustomed to things measured in light years. Then the night brought her...and before I knew it, light years became seconds."

They should have run that script by a fifth-grade science student. Then they'd have learned that light years can't be compared to seconds because a light year is not a measure of time, but of distance. They might as well have said, "...and before I knew it, miles became seconds." Stupid, right?

I'm getting off track, but that's no wonder because the subject of book trailers is boring. Listen, I'm no marketing expert, but I am a bookbuyer, and one who uses the internet daily. That means book trailers are aimed at me. So when I say they aren't impressing me, maybe some of the authors and publishers who are so excited about the things ought to pay some attention.

Book trailers are slow-loaders even on a broadband connection, meaning that dial-up users--who still make up almost half of all internet users here in the U.S.--are excluded from the potential audience. And I have yet to be pointed to a book trailer except by that book's author or publisher. Frankly, the trailers just aren't clever enough to induce anyone to link to them and make them go "viral." As I mentioned earlier, they're just slide shows. They suggest movement by jiggling the photos and spinning them and zooming in and out, but those of us with broadband are used to watching real video clips on the internet, so we're a hard bunch to impress. I have yet to see a bulletin-board post or a blog entry (by parties other than the publishers and authors and those connected to them) raving about the latest hilarious or scary or intriguing book trailer and urging everyone to go take a look. And if ordinary people like me aren't talking about and linking to book trailers, perhaps those advertising dollars would be better spent elsewhere.

If you would like to rag on or rave about a book trailer, please leave a comment here. And be sure to give us links.


UPDATED JUNE 2, 2007

This post is still getting daily hits from Google, so I thought I'd better update it. Taking a lesson on what not to do from all of the boring book trailers I've seen, I recently created one of my own. You can view it at this post.


Technorati Tags: , ,

41 comments:

Kristi said...

have to agree...and I'm probably going to annoy someone who has a book trailer and thinks it's the best thing since sliced Wonder Wheat bread...but I don't get the book trailers, either. I don't even get movie trailers and they've been around for decades. I don't watch much tv and the stuff I watch is usually taped...so I skim right over commercials. The only time I *watch* movie trailers is at the movie theater. Now if some publisher/author went out of their way to hook a book trailer to that type of movie, say, a hot romantic comedy and bought up a bunch of those movie ads to play it before said hot rom-com (or drama, action adventure, sci-fic) flick...it might make them some bucks. Never say never (especially since I'm currently unpubbed) but I wouldn't invest anything in a trailer.

Kristin said...

I have 2 comments on this. First, I watched one book trailer that used REAL people in the trailer. It was disconcerting and slightly creepy. Plus, the people weren't all that attractive (since I am sure it was a friend or relative of the writer), so it made me actually want to read the book *less* than if I had just read an excerpt or back of the book.

Second, books are for READERS. If you like to read, you probably enjoy the written word and have some apprecation for it when you find a good book. I choose books by reading the back cover or reading the first few pages to get a feel for the voice and story. A book trailer doesn't do that.

In fact, a book trailer begs comparsion to high-quality movie trailers...and the book trailers just don't stack up. They are usually cheesy and amateurish-looking.

Just because the technology exists, doesn't mean you should use it!

Katy said...

The publishing industry always runs to catch up to new technology. Movie trailers have been around forever. How flattering is it to the industry that marketers have just thought of using them for books? It's the same with blogs. Blogs have been around for 10 years at least. But they're all the rage in the publishing industry now, as if having a 'blog' is advanced web design. Please. It took them 10 years to catch up. It's no surprise. I just roll my eyes and click on through.

Katrina Stonoff said...

I love them (she says with a wry smile).

My personal favorite is this one: http://www.vidlit.com/orthodox/
But since it's promoting a play rather than a novel, you could argue it's more visual by definition, hence better suited to a trailer.

Deborah LaBlanc has a movie trailer I really like too (but you have to download it to watch it):http://www.deborahleblanc.com/books/HouseDivided/Trailers/

I have posted about them in my journal a couple of times, but I suppose it's true that I haven't sent out an e-mail that says "OMG, You HAVE to see this!" to everyone in my address book. On the other hand, I never send those.

I will also agree that I've watched many that leave me cold (actually, I only watched the first few seconds of most of those).

(Does anyone else find it odd that everyone who commented it is a woman whose first name starts with "K"?)

pacatrue said...

I agree with katrina that it is rather odd and somewhat amusing that every commenter for this post has a K name. If you allow that Coulter starts with a K sound, then the whole post is 100% K. I hope no one comments who doesn't have a K name to ruin-

Oh, crap.

Nice move, paca.

Gina Burgess said...

Well, you're not the only one Paca...

I have watched a total of 2 trailers. Disappointed in both so I don't watch them. We live in a microwave world and the time it takes to download, I can eat two donuts and drink a cup of java... well, not really, but for one, I did go to the bathroom.

Brenda Coulter said...

Well, I wondered if it was just me being cranky, but it appears that you folks aren't impressed with book trailers, either.

Thanks for taking the time to comment, all you K's...and Paca and Gina.

Alison Strobel Morrow said...

I haven't ever seen one of these--and I'm practically a full-time web surfer! Where are they? Not that I actually want to watch one--the whole concept is just dopey. And one with real people...oh my, that is creepy. And a little bit sad, in a way.

-Alison
blog.alisonstrobel.com

Brenda Coulter said...

Exactly, Alison. Book trailers are being produced by the score, but we're not seeing them because they're getting no buzz. They don't deserve any buzz because they're so--as you say--dopey.

So what if authors send their website visitors to look at their trailers? Unless and until book trailers go "viral"--and that means people like you and me talking about them and linking to them--they're never going to sell books.

Anonymous said...

With the decline in overall sales of books it's no wonder that publishers and authors look to any kind of new idea in promotion.
With the general population evolving into such visual creatures, leaving book reading to compete with blockbuster movies, special effects television and video games for all ages, it's a wonder that Book Trailers weren't used long ago to entise those people seduced by a visual medium to come back to books for their entertainment.
There is even a Love-Inspired book that has a video that Harlequin loved!
Some may be boring or even counter-productive, but companies such as COS Productions, have created processes in which the author gets to be directly involved and can ask for changes to ensure that the author feels the video reflects the book in a positive light.

There is indeed a great deal of "buzz". There have been articles in Yahoo!Business, PR Web, Newsweek Magazine, Publisher's Weekly and National Public Radio featured the COS Book Trailers recently.

COS Productions has a "Back to Books" program and offers the videos for free to public libraries, and they are a member of the American Library Association. The program also helps schools who are having students create trailers to help them feel more interactive with the stories.

The evolution of book promoting may or may not be book trailers. But, the incredible number of online views we see for each video has started to translate into sales, which is why many publishing houses are starting to take notice.
I would hope that, before someone makes a generalized statement, that they would be open to watching a few of them, by different companies, on different genres.
There are some Christian trailers here-
www.myspace.com/coschristian

and some videos here (this site doesn't have a lot of wording, so it should be easier to glance at)

www.myspace.com/booktrailers
Thanks for the chance to share!

Sheila Clover English
COS Productions

Katrina Stonoff said...

OK...I looked at the trailer you linked to, Brenda, and I agree: it's lame.

But my son just watched one of TV--yes, watched a book trailer on TV. a href=http://www.jamespatterson.com/media/video/JudgeAndJury60.mov

It's a decent trailer. Granted, it's James Patterson, and Nick at Night...but it's a start.

Brenda Coulter said...

I would hope that, before someone makes a generalized statement, that they would be open to watching a few of them, by different companies, on different genres.

I have in fact watched quite a few book trailers--every time one of my author friends gushes about just having had one done for her latest book--and I've seen nothing that has changed my mind about them.

There is indeed a great deal of "buzz". There have been articles in Yahoo!Business, PR Web, Newsweek Magazine, Publisher's Weekly and National Public Radio featured the COS Book Trailers recently.

I don't think we're talking about the same thing here. Press releases and chatter within the industry that hopes to profit from the trailers isn't what I mean by "buzz." What I have not seen is my reading friends become excited by book trailers to the point that they're linking to them from their blogs and sending "look at this" e-mails to their friends. Word of mouth is what sells books, so unless and until book trailers are talked about by readers, I'm not going to believe they're an effective publicity tool.

I realize you disagree, so I'll just thank you for reading my post and for taking the time to leave a thoughtful comment here.

Brenda Coulter said...

Katrina, I don't watch TV, but I imagine those trailers would tend to have a much higher production value than the ones made exclusively for the internet. But the poor quality of the trailers is only half of my beef--I am also concerned about the fact that so many internet users cannot or will not view the trailers because of long downloading times.

Katrina Stonoff said...

Well, there's no question the James Patterson trailer has a MUCH higher production value than others I've seen (and I am a fan of book trailers). And it's equally true that, given the sell-through rate of most books, the average production value probably isn't going to change anytime soon.

I also cannot argue with your comment about long download times. I live in the country, and we can't get DSL. We have satellite, which is better than dialup, but it's still really slow.

Hope the migraine lets up. I'm fighting one of those today too. Sigh.

Brenda Coulter said...

Thanks, Katrina. The migraine's gone. For now.

Alexandria Christine Sikorski said...

I watched a few of those here:
www.myspace.com/booktrailers
and I actually thought a few of them were good. Granted, I'm not that experianced with this but I think it's sort of a mix between acceptable and crappy. I have seen some that peaked my interest (noteably none of them had people in them) but I've also seen some that made me want to run-fast. All in all I think there are too many poorly made ones out there. Seriously, who wants to hunt around looking for the good ones. I'd hate to think someone might be turned off by a book just because a trailer they happened to see was bad when the book is actually good.

Gabrielle said...

Finally! I had made a post about this on a forum, but very few people knew what I was talking about. Yeah, I've been looking around, and most of the ones I've seen are pretty boring and come out cheesy. Hey, if there are some good ones out there, I'd be excited to see em, but most of these are just...painful. Books and television are two completely different worlds - no matter how amazing the book is, if you're going to thrust it into the visual world, it has to live up to those standards. As readers we might give a book a second chance and continue through it to see if it gets better, but as TV viewers, we are terribly impatient. If you're going to invest so much hope in a book trailer, why not go all the way and do everything you can (real actors, quality filming, make it look as professional as the actual movie trailers and not something from powerpoint) for it? Don't get me wrong, I like the idea of it, but if I ever get anything published that I'm truly proud of and decide to invest in a trailer, I'll do everything I can for it. And if I can't afford it, I won't make one. (Not to say that expensive = good trailer, but at least put enough thought into it so that it doesn't look like a school project.)

Brenda Coulter said...

Alexandria and Gabrielle, thanks for stopping by.

Anonymous said...

Not all book trailers are boring. Check out some of the links on the "book trailer" page on Wikipedia.

Real "book trailers" tend to be longer that the "book teasers" (which are defined these days as any book trailer under a minute in duration). They are usually less "filmic" than book teasers.

The Lemony Snicket one is a good example of what makes a good book trailer. It is interesting and impressive and so are the ones produced by the smaller independent publishers that are also listed in the links section.

Check it out for yourself at :
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_trailer

Timothy said...

Some book trailers are boring and some are not. I think a book trailer needs to tell viewer what the book is about and entice the person to see more. I have tried to do that with the one I created for Searching for Mom. I have seen some that were very affective and convinced me to consider a book that I would not have otherwise considered. That tells me that they are worth the effort of creating them. I think they are like putting text on the back cover. It isn't everyone who decides to read a book after reading the back cover, but there are some, so we stick text there in hopes of getting more people to buy the book.

Brenda Coulter said...

Anonymous and Timothy, I just now saw your comments on this post. Thanks for taking the time to share your opinions and the links.

Corey Burkes said...

Hi...I'm starting to work on Book Trailers for clients ... and I would like your opinion on our first: Butta' ... tell me what you think.

The direction I am trying to go is more of what advertising is all about ... to make the audience feel something about the book.

Our new site is:
Bestsellertrailers.com

Brenda Coulter said...

I just now got around to taking a look, Corey--hope you stop back by and see this.

The trailer was impressive. Good use of music and visuals, and the text was intriguing. The book doesn't sound like my cuppa, but I must say the trailer was classy. I'll go further and say it's one of the best I've seen.

desktopepics said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Corey Burkes said...

Thank you, Brenda ... I appreciate your comments

digigirl said...

I think of book trailers as just a fun, visual version of the blurb on the back of a book. If it gets one or two more people to pick up a book, it's worth it, in my opinion.

As to the quality - and there are a lot of poor ones out there - I think it's just due to lack of budget, and the newness of this activity. I've seen quite a bit of improvement just over the last little while, as the producers figure out how to get special effects done without big movie budgets, etc. As with any new industry, there's a learning curve.

My vote is wait and see. Why write them off? They aren't hurting anyone.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely loved this trailer and was salvating at the mouth waiting to run out and buy the book:
http://www.redhotinternetpublicity.com/trailers/cwl.html

Jennifer_H said...

I disagree with your comments about book trailers. I think they are a great way to advertise to potential readers especially the youth of our country. After all, these people are very technologically aware. I see 2 years old playing with computers and knowing exactly how to manipulate the mouse. Book trailers that are downloaded to ipods or viewed online are a great innovation for the future!

I found a great book trailer section at this site...Cleveland, Ohio's public library site:
http://www.voicesrisingcleveland.org/

Also, I liked this trailer for Markus Zusak's The Book Thief.

http://www.thebookstandard.com/bookstandard/events/teen_book_video/index.jsp

Scroll down and click the play button.

Maybe the book trailers started out amateurish, but IMO they are something to keep your eyes upon!

Sincerely,
a Future Youth Services Librarian

Orangelamb said...

I think there are certainly some questionable book trailers out there, but not all. I posted a trailer for Eileen Wilks' Night Season at http://youtube.com/watch?v=GZF_ZizBtow and I hope it's anything but amateurish. If you have any pointers or things you'd like to see in trailers please comment! We want to please the audience, but we don't always know what the audience wants!

John said...

I'd love to know what you think of my trailer for Tom Harper's new novel Lost Temple. You can see it at: http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=IO5mqvV63xg

Laura Benedict said...

So, maybe I'm just one of those incredibly naive, hopeful writers. But, really, I have to say that my trailer for my new novel ISABELLA MOON kicks ass--and I can say that because my brilliant web guys did it all, from concept to flash. (I hate to be bored, too! It opens when you enter the site....)

www.laurabenedict.com

Nick said...

As a company producing book trailers, I agree with some of the comments that using stills and adding motion to imply movement is a cheap and relatively low-budget way of creating a book trailer. Bu there are much more interesting and creative ways of doing this. Take a look at www.summersdale.tv, click on projects, to see what I mean.

I think it is great overall. Where a publisher is giving a key title a big release and some of the marketing budget can be allocated for innovative ideas and a bit of creativity, that can only be a good thing. From simply having an author doing a reading from the book and talking about the idea or concept behind the book, to a 'movie' style trailer, the possibilities are endless. And yes, video excludes people with dial up connections but that is not likely to be the case for long. We shouldn't fear change!

Tinisha said...

I guess it just depends. Book trailers aren't for everyone. I've personally seen some great ones and also a few not so great ones.

I'm really putting myself out there, but if anyone is interested in looking at my book trailer, it can be viewed at my website: http://www.tinishanicolejohnson.com

cathy said...

We had an author present a teaser/trailer at our school that looked great.

This was because the trailer was based on illustrations and had a catchy tag line to go with the story (read between the lies...).

The link is:
http://video.yahoo.com/video/play?vid=1010763

I think they can be effective, if done well. And I'm hoping to see more as they can be the spark to inspire reading...

Greg Trine said...

Dang, and I was just about to jump on the book trailer bandwagon. Now I'm going to have to rethink it. Thanks for straightening me out.

Greg

Brenda Coulter said...

Hi, everyone. I haven't been following this discussion lately because I've got my hands full keeping up with the conversations on more recent posts. But I'd like to thank everyone who has taken the time to read and comment on this page.

Anonymous said...

Well, it's funny. These kinds of trailers can be interesting, if you have some interest to begin with. As for viral, I don't see it happening short of a fluke.

However, it could push someone to buying it if they stumble upon it. Maybe if they heard the book was good. I did like the Lemony Trailers, Isabella Moon is damn fine and I've seen a few others here I thought were not bad.

Have a look at this one and tell me what's your opinion. I don't know if this one is good or bad...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ-_XAwSHrc

Anonymous said...

Sorry, it's better when it's a link to click...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ-_XAwSHrc

Anonymous said...

Maybe this one will work???

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aJ-_XAwSHrc

Anonymous said...

Try this... http://www.youtube.com/booktrailers

Brenda Coulter said...

Sorry, friends. I'm shutting down the comments on this discussion because I'm getting sick of deleting all the comment spam.

Best wishes to everyone.