When Book Trailers Attack

That is to say, what happens when a publisher teams up with an “up and coming” filmmaker to make a book trailer for a new fantasy novel? Well, we’ll find out in a minute. But first, what about book trailers? They’re basically what they sound like, a trailer for a book like the trailers for movies. Except usually more sedate, or boring as I saw referenced somewhere.

Anyway, here are a few links to book trailers for books you might be familiar with. After these links, I’ll put up the one I reference in starting this post.

Harry Potter and Imagination by one Travis Prinzi.

Hogshead Conversations by Travis Prinzi.

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.

A Dance with Dragons by George R.R. Martin.

And now the “book” trailer for The Black Prism by Brent Weeks.

Okay, you’ve seen the trailer, possibly several times. You might be thinking what my wife and I were thinking upon first seeing this, “That’s a book trailer?! When’s the movie coming out?!” So, what are your thoughts? On book trailers in general or on this trailer for Weeks’ book? Would it make you want to buy the book? Has anybody read any of Weeks previous work? Chime in with whatever’s on your mind. Here’s also the original news release from the publisher.

And now for no apparent reason: Jedi Kittens

20 thoughts on “When Book Trailers Attack

  1. I think the choice of music is essential. The (Bach?) violin piece (prelude?) accompanying HP and Imagination did not work – too stark and unadorned for the subject, which I think requires more ornamentation. The Baroque piece accompanying Hogshead Conversations on the other hand seemed better suited to the material (of course the familiarity didn’t hurt). The dramatic music accompanying Mockingjay also seemed to suit the subject and actually paralleled the story: the haunting, single instrumental, building up to an ominous crescendo. So that worked for that book. And the heavy percussion and clanging of cymbals worked very well for Dragons which is that kind of book.

    As for Black Prism, well, what can I say that revg and his wife haven’t already said: when’s the movie coming out? There is no sense that this is about a book. Rather it seems to be about a B fantasy movie with a really derivative plot. And it would be a poorly made trailer if it was a movie trailer.

  2. Just wanted to add: there really are book trailers, you know. Some authors who are writing a series of books about the same character(s) will add a preview chapter from the next book in the series to the end of the current book. Charlaine Harris does this with the Sookie Stackhouse books, and so does Tess Gerritsen. And others whose names I can’t recall. It’s a nice tidbit which gets you hungry for the next installment. My only beef with the practice is that the “trailer” is added to the paperback version of the book. So if you’re impatient enough to buy the book in hardcover (as I’ve been known to do), you have to go out and buy it in paperback just to get the “trailer”.

  3. I had no idea there was such a thing as a book trailer, other than what Red Rocker mentioned: the first chapter of the next installment in the paperback version.

    I would much rather read a review or synopsis of a book, or even better, a few pages, to decide whether I’d like to read it. Honestly, it felt like wasted time to watch these book trailers on a screen. I get so tired of the overabundance of things to watch on screens in our world. These felt like just more of the non-stop advertising and violence that I wish I could shut out.

    Most of the restaurants where I live now have televisions going continually. Even the Post Office has a television going for those waiting in line. (Arrrgggh!) I have noticed, now that so many people have “smart” phones, that I look around at people anywhere and most are staring down at their screens, at least where I live.

    The trailer for The Black Prism would have decided me definitely not to read it, if I’d been considering it. (I have not read any other of Weeks’ books.)

    I apologize for sounding so complaining, but to be truly honest, this was my reaction.

  4. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I love the world of books because it’s still a place of the written word, where my imagination comes into play, and the visuals and sounds are not given to me.

    I’ve always had ambivalent feelings about books I love being made into movies. From childhood, I’ve almost always felt that the book was better than the movie. Sometimes I still love the movie, though. I do love the Harry Potter movies, even though I have to see them more than once to be able to get over what parts of the books they messed up or left out.

    Maybe promoting a book with audio visual is a way of trying to draw in a person who is more oriented to television? It seems superfluous for those of us more oriented to the written word; we’d naturally be drawn to a written review, I would think.

  5. I sympathize with you, phoenixsong58, especially over your dismay with seeing so many people “plugged-in and tuned-out.” They very often nearly run into me during commuting hours, seemingly not realizing that there are real people in the world around them who could get injured if they were not to look up from their precious screens and slam into people–the ones who are paying attention and dodge in order to avoid what I call the “pod-heads.” And those ridiculous large-screen TVs everywhere also get under my skin (is there a blow-up-the-set button on the remote?). (This is my inner-Luddite coming out.)

    This phenomenon is eerily like Fahrenheit 451 predicted….

    I get a lot more out of reading the blurb for a book than watching a trailer for a book. For me at least, visual trailers are best suited for films, where the medium matches up more clearly. I strongly prefer to conjure up my own visuals before and while reading a book, so I avoid clicking on book trailers that would spoil that for me.

  6. Ah ye – not Luddites, but of short memory.

    In the Middle Ages, scribes illustrated manuscripts with drawings to decorate them – and give a visual image to more strongly convey the meaning.

    Back in the 19th century, books used to have frontspieces which illustrated a key moment from the story, as well as pen and ink drawings scattered throughout. The most famous of these – that I know about anyways – were in the books of Dickens, which were illustrated by Mssrs. Cruickshank, Browne and Leech. In the thirties, Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were wonderfully illustrated by Garth Williams. Wilder’s words were evocative – Williams’ pictures made them even more so. Closer to our times, Arthur Ransome, Roald Dahl and Antoine de Saint-Exupery were amongst authors who drew pictures to acccompany their work, so people would have a better idea of their intent.

    How about e-books? There are versions which seem less “screeny” but they are not paper and ink. How about audio books?

    My point is, there has never been that sharp a divide between the written word and images (and more recently, sounds) that deepen the meaning along the other dimensions. The problem with the Black Prism “trailer” is not that it uses moving pictures, but rather than it make a false promise. Most people looking at it will expect to see a movie, not a book. Perhaps the intent is to attract non-readers, and if it does that, more power to it. But I don’t think that it will work. The last few years have shown unequivocally that what prompts non-readers to read a book is a well-told story, interesting characters, and themes which relate to their own lives: friendship, love, courage, coming to grips with death. That kind of thing.

  7. You raise very good and historically rich points, Red Rocker. And I’m especially intrigued by your point about good illustrators working with an author to help convey better the author’s intent–gives me something to think about….

    My personal history with books, though, is that fewer and fewer books beyond lower grade school (say, grade 3 or 4 in the U.S.–around ages 8-9) came with illustrations in them. Many still had cover art on the front, but increasingly many had plain covers.

    I never read e-books (there’s been lively debate over at the forum in the past about e-book versus print version, with my being one of those preferring the latter), and I’ve tried and do not like audio books. I love to read the printed word, re-read paragraphs while reading, hand-write in the margins, feel the texture of pages in my hands, smell the lovely pulpy smell of books, etc. Between my husband and I, we own between 5,000 and 6,000 books–our apartment is like living in a library! And we do read and re-read most of them, so they really don’t go unused.

    I think you’re spot-on about what prompts non-readers to pick up a book: it promises to engage them in something that matters to them.

  8. Red Rocker, you are right, of course, that there has never been a sharp divide between written words and images. And before the written word I’m sure when a story was told in the oral tradition, there was accompanying acting, facial expressions, voice tone, and probably music. Plays, musicals, movies, and operas all tell stories (and introduce them) with movement and sound.

    For my taste, though, there are way too many short clips advertising things, on screens, that are constantly in my face, everywhere. They are loud and intense and have wild action and often violence. (I’m not against violence in a story, but I don’t want to see it as often as I am forced to by the aforementioned televisions in public places!)

    A book with beautiful illustrations is a joy to behold, and it can be picked up and enjoyed at one’s leisure. Books are a great pleasure, a relief, to me, from the world of screens, and I personally would rarely choose to watch a book trailer, from what I saw in the samples above. I would rather read about a book. It wouldn’t be a hard and fast rule, but I know what I gravitate to and what I try to escape from.

    By the way, I do love having a screen to have these conversations with all of you about books!

  9. Cbiondi, I just wanted to tell you that my feelings about and the way I experience and interact with print books are just as you described. I write in them, reread paragraphs, love the feel of them, etc.

    I occasionally listen to audio books, but it’s not my reading method of choice. I imagine in your past discussions on here all the pros and cons of each have already been covered, and the difference for each of us is probably due to personal taste.

    I do love trees and I know that some day electronic books may be the more environmental choice. For now, as far as understand, that is not yet the case, so I’m sticking with print books as long as I feel okay about that.

  10. The frontispieces are gorgeous, Red Rocker! Thanks for sharing that! I saved it so I can look them over later when I have more time.

  11. And here are the words of a man crazy in love with books:

    I still love books. Nothing a computer can do can compare to a book. You can’t really put a book on the Internet. Three companies have offered to put books by me on the Net, and I said, ‘If you can make something that has a nice jacket, nice paper with that nice smell, then we’ll talk.’ All the computer can give you is a manuscript. People don’t want to read manuscripts. They want to read books. Books smell good. They look good. You can press it to your bosom. You can carry it in your pocket.”

    and

    “The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.”

    and

    “Libraries raised me”

  12. Also, writing systems that used hieroglyphics – or maybe even some Asian character writing alphabets- books (or tablets or whatever) are image rich. I suspect that if we were native users of these systems the images would convey more meaning than just a phonetic equivalent.

  13. I agree that the trailer makes me *less* likely to want to read the book. Not sure why. Maybe its mere existence? Maybe because it’s badly made? Maybe because it prepares me for the wrong experience?

    As for reading physical books vs. e-books…. I recently bought and read the first book on my iPad. It was delightful, much more than I expected. I loved the shading on the page, as if it were a real book with shadows at the seam. And I loved how I didn’t have to prop it open or struggle to keep it open while I was reading and eating at the same time. I was absorbed right into the world of the book (and yes, it was still a book) just as I would have been if reading print. Not sure that I will stop reading real books, but for reading away from home (this was on a 9-hour train ride), my iPad is my new library.

  14. I wanted to post this last night, but just when I hit “send”, the site went down and I couldn’t access it any longer.

    I love books and I love movies, but book trailers are just … weird. Maybe they are aimed at non-readers like Red Rocker suggested, because I cannot see myself going to seek out a movie-like advertisement for a book. Not yet at least. Preview chapters at the end of books are fine, reviews are fine, authors talking about their books are fine, anything that includes words that can be read or listened to (without the need of a screen). I also love the “sample” feature on the Kindle, but watching book trailers doesn’t do anything for me.

    I guess I am just old-fashioned. Or maybe I am not. I listen to audio books a lot because I can do it while doing other things like cooking, ironing, or cleaning. They often add a new dimension to a book I have already read. I also love my ebook readers because they weigh less than a fat book and most of all, they let me enlarge the font. Ten years ago I perhaps wouldn’t have understood how important this can become, but small fonts (no matter how beautiful they are) have become a strain to read for me.

    I am in love with words and stories, not with paper. I have found out that the medium doesn’t matter so much for me as long as it is comfortable to read and the story carries me along. This doesn’t mean I will throw my (about 2000) paper books out, like some people suggest because I have now got an ebook reader and don’t need them anymore. My small apartment is full of books and I cannot imagine to live without my bookcases, but the thing is, they are mostly full. I do get rid of books from time to time, but just at the moment, I am not in the mood of getting rid of any of them, and since I still keep adding to my library, it has become sort of a problem.

  15. I think book trailers are a great idea. And I think over time they will become more sophisticated. They are still sort of in their infancy and the makers don’t really know what will visually trigger a person to buy a book – so they are relying a bit on movie trailers. But as time goes by I think they will resemble less the movie trailer and concentrate more on content. The movie trailer is such a concrete tool in an abstract trade that it can limit the imagination for good regarding a book. We’ve all seen first hand how a movie can override one’s imagination. So the less specific images for a book – the better. Like Travis’ first trailer – less is more.

    For me a book trailer is interesting because there really are hardly any book stores in my city anymore – and I live in a big city. I can’t walk up and down the racks of non-fiction, adult fiction, YA fiction – and just pick up a book. Nowadays I have to order it online (mostly Amazon) and rely on the reviews of those posted. So a trailer can be helpful in discerning whether I would like to read that book. But also one of the most helpful ways for me to pick a book is the chapter previews they have on Amazon. I can read a portion of a few chapters and that gives me an idea of how the author is presenting his ideas.

    I miss book stores.

  16. I live in a small city – large town – and while we’ve lost some book stores, the situation isn’t too bad. We used to have two or three independent book stores, plus the chain stores at the malls, and a handful of used book stores. Now we have two branches of Chapters/Indigo. There are stores which sell used paperbacks along with comic books and trading cards, but they’re not book stores per se. Costco and grocery stores and drug stores have a section selling books, but the selection is obviously limited. The biggest loss is the independents where you would see books the big chains wouldn’t stock.

    But I’m actually quite happy with the Chapters/Indigo stores we have. They have hardwood floors, comfy chairs to sit and read in, attached Starbucks, and a good assortment of books. The only thing that makes me nervous is the ever creeping addition of other merchandise. Stationery and birthday cards, ok. Pillows and throws and candles and scented candles, not so much. And hearing on the news that even the big chains are in trouble.

    However, if the worst does happen and Chapters does go out of business, it won’t be because I haven’t done my darndest to prevent it from happening 🙂

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