Books and the Media: Book Trailers

9 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: Media Monday

One of the more recent additions to marketing campaigns is book trailers. We’ve all seen them around – some of you have probably even hosted them on your sites. But what exactly are book trailers, and what do they do to us?

According to Wikipedia:

A book trailer is a video advertisement for a book which employs techniques similar to those of movie trailers. They are circulated on television and online in most common digital video formats.

Okay, simple enough to understand. We’ve all seen thousands of movie trailers in our lives, and we know what they’re for – getting us excited to see the movie they’re promoting. So what does it mean for books, when we start doing the same thing?

We all know the old adage “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” Even so, we all do it, and what’s more, the industry expects us to. Just take a look at these recovers of old classics, released in the wake of Twilight. By making the books look like Twilight, publishers hope to bring in young readers again.

Twilight-ed covers

Nevermind that these stories aren’t much like the Twilight series, beyond the very basic retelling elements – many readers of Twilight would probably find the language in these books stuffy and boring and difficult. But, as long as they believe the cover and buy the books, the publishers will be happy, right? (Okay, inner cynic coming out, sorry. But these recovers really did bother me!)

The same basic concept applies to book trailers. Take a look at the trailer for Struck by Jennifer Bosworth:

As someone who loves to study what movies, and especially their music, do to the subconscious, I can tell you right off the bat, they’re doing 3 things to make you want this book.

1) Creating a sense of mystery – Have you ever noticed that a good trailer only gives you just enough information to pique your interest? So, for example, the trailer here tells you that Mia is a lightning addict, but nothing about what that means. They say, at the very end that the “fate of the world is in [her] hands.” But they don’t tell you what she has to do, or why. They don’t tell you that Katrina (the girl with the circle on her hand) is just as much a part of a cult as the creepy dude in white. And they don’t tell you pretty much anything about that either – you just get this creeped out feeling because the scene screams CULT at you. So you want to read the book because you want to know what the EFF is going on!

2) Creating a link to the narrator (aka main character) – By having Mia narrate, in a voice that sounds like it could be our next door neighbor, they are giving us a connection to the main character. Plus, the few “scenes” we see in the trailer make it clear that Mia is just as confused as we are from the sense of mystery I talked about in point 1. Because of the intimate way she’s telling us her story, we believe we could know Mia, be friends with her, and that makes us want to read her story more.

3) Creating a sense of urgency – You may not have noticed, but your heart rate sped up while watching that. I don’t know the physiological reasons for it, but studies have shown that when listening to music your heart rate syncs up with the beat. They chose fast-paced, driving music to accompany the action, and then varied it with moments of silence, of a kind of weightlessness that leaves us off balance, and desperate to know what’s going on so we can understand why. (Notice how the biggest case of missing music is while Mia is falling – we feel suspended, because the music is suspended, at the same time as she does.) We are manipulated subconsciously, through our ears, to need the closure we can only get from reading the whole story.

Everything I’ve just said makes it sound like trailers are these awful, manipulative selling tools. I suppose in one sense that’s true, but I don’t believe trailers are all bad. We have to decide what books to read somehow, and I will freely admit that I judge books by their cover quite often – I figure if the publisher thinks that a certain book fits into a genre and gives it a similar cover to something I know I like, then that’s a good place to start. But I don’t stop there. I do my research, read the back blurb, or find some reviews online. And that, I think, is the point. Book trailers are a great way to bring in readers, and create interest, but just like you wouldn’t want to judge a book only by its cover, don’t judge it only by its trailer either.

What do you think of book trailers? Do you use them to decide which books to buy/read? What is your favorite book trailer, and why?

Some other trailers that follow the same concepts: Shatter Me, The Immortal Rules, Touch of Power.

Disclaimers: I by no means have seen all the book trailers there are, and some of these concepts may not apply to all trailers. The trailers mentioned here belong to their respective owners and are only used for the purposes of analysis and discussion.

Leave a Reply

9 Responses to “Books and the Media: Book Trailers”

  1. I freely admit to not being a fan of book trailers. They just don’t appeal to me. I’m not sure why, though.

    • Anne says:

      I’m not the biggest fan either. I rarely, if ever, use them in my decision to read/pick up a book. But, at the same time, I find them a fascinating publishing/marketing tool, especially looking at them after I’ve read most of the books they’re advertising. I’m interested in them more from a film critic perspective, if that makes sense, because I spend a lot of time analyzing film for my research career.

      Anyway, they’re not for everyone, but thanks for reading anyways :)

      • No, I think this is a REALLY good topic, because there are a lot of people who love book trailers (I just don’t happen to be part of that group). A book is a book, so something visual isn’t going to convince me to pick it up, because I am in charge of creating visuals when I read the book (so why should I let a trailer do it for me?).

        From a marketing perspective, book trailers are quite brilliant, because many people are just oriented that way when it comes to entertainment.

        • Anne says:

          That’s exactly my point (though admittedly I took a few hundred more words to say it lol). Though trailers don’t really appeal to me personally, for much the same reasons as you, there are people they really do appeal to. And, I think it’s important for those people to realize what is going on in these trailers, and the manipulation that happens there, just like you and I know how publishers manipulate us through the covers of the books we pick up. Different format, same story :)

  2. Felicia says:

    I can honestly say that I hardly EVER watch a book trailer. I just don’t like them very much because often I picture the characters differently.

  3. Alissa says:

    Like Amanda, I’m also not a fan of book trailers. To put it bluntly, I don’t feel that they’re convincing/enticing/persuasive/informative enough. If I want to know about a book, I read its summary/description. The few book trailers I’ve actually watched did nothing more than pull snippets from the book’s description, anyway.

    I think maybe if they were like a movie trailer I’d be a liiiiiiitle, tiny bit more inclined to watch. If only for purely entertainment purposes. Otherwise, no. They just don’t do it for me.

    • Anne says:

      That’s true. The trailer that drew me to this topic was the one for Struck that I featured – it may have been the first trailer I watched, I’m not sure. I was really amazed at how much work went into it, because it is so much like a movie trailer. Anyways, when I went to do some research I found that not all of them are like that – and the ones that aren’t really flopped for me. For example, I’m really excited to read The Selection but the trailer just makes it look absolutely ABOMINABLE. So stuffy and lame! I didn’t include that one on purpose – I feel that so much more could have been done with it to make the book appeal to readers.

      They should probably have a blogger advisor on whatever committee comes up with the trailers – they’d be so much better then lol!

  4. […] What do we think about book trailers? This week, I spent some time looking at what goes into them, and why they’re such a great marketing tool (but also, why I don’t really use them). […]

Many older posts are currently under reconstruction. Please excuse the inconvenience.


Creativity's Corner is dedicated to fostering discussion among a community built around books. I'm so happy you decided to join us! If you have any questions please check out the Tips for New Readers page.

Creativity's Corner is NOT accepting any review requests at this time. Thank you for your consideration.