Whenever I’m looking forward to a book release, I always monitor the message boards very carefully for any information—interviews with the authors, excerpts, reviews, etc. Lately, it’s been Smooth Talking Stranger, Lisa Kleypas’s upcoming contemporary romance, that’s been the focus of my search. I was quite excited when I saw someone had posted a link on the message boards. However, once I clicked on the link, I cringed—it was a book trailer.
I admit I don’t know how long book trailers have been around, or how popular they are; certainly there are other pre-release marketing efforts such as excerpts, that i anticipate more. I love reading excerpts of upcoming books. I love reading summaries. I love interviews. But I detest book trailers. Most of the time, I can’t even make it through the video, even if I’m excited about the book. They are, quite simply, painful to watch. There’s something just awkward and vaguely embarrassing for me to see a random collection of stock images of skylines, inanimate objects, and body parts put to elevator music, with text fading in and out on the bottom of the screen. It’s even worse for me when they hire someone to be the voice of one of the characters.
I’ve put some thought into why I despise book trailers so much (though it probably isn’t healthy to spend so much energy disliking something that has no effect on my life whatsoever). I’ve finally decided that my problem with book trailers is that they try to turn something from one medium into another. Most of the time, writing isn’t visual or auditory (with the exception of picture and audio books). Any pictures we see, voices we hear, or accompanying theme music, is all in our heads; and for me, my reading is rarely translated into images in my brain. I’m all about the words.
Writing can be translated into images. Many wonderful movies have been adapted from books. And of course, there are many, many romance novel covers that are little more than photoshopped images from some database. But, for the most part, both of these work. I like movie adaptations. I like cover art (well, sometimes). But book trailers fall somewhere in between the single stationary picture, and the acted movie—and do badly on both accounts. Trailers might make a bit more sense if they were the direct equivalent of their movie counterparts. However, the translation between book trailers and movie trailers isn’t even; excerpts are already the literary equivalent of movie trailers.
Book commercials on TV are also usually poorly done, as well. I remember seeing commercials for the latest James Patterson or Nora Roberts on television, and they were little more than a stationary, monochromatic screen, with a picture of the cover and the title and author and release date with a trying-to-be-suspenseful voice summarizing the book in a sentence or two. Not exactly attention grabbing.
The best non-print book advertisement I’ve encountered was a radio commercial that ran on my local hit music station over the summer. It was for a book for elementary aged students, though I forget the name and author. They had an actor read an excerpt of a particularly suspenseful section, only a paragraph or two long, and cut off on a bit of a cliff-hanger, with, “To find out what happens, read this book.” Yes, it blended two mediums—literature and radio—but it worked. It didn’t try to put images to the words, or translate it into something that came out awkward or uneven.
I’m sure there are many people who disagree with me, who love trailers and having pictures and music set to a book they’re looking forward to. But for me—I’ll stick to the writing, and not move too far away from that.