June 21, 2013

Book Trailers: Yay or Nay?

Noir director Ida Lupino
Noir director Ida Lupino

by C. Margery Kempe

With a new release coming for one of my alter egos, Kit Marlowe, I revamped an old book trailer and put it up on Facebook before sharing with my publisher. Admittedly, I enjoy making book trailers because it reminds me of the fun I had making movies. In idle moments, I wonder if I was foolish to turn down the full scholarship for filmmaking (I never wonder that about turning down the full scholarship for engineering at General Motors Institute), though clearly it’s the words and storytelling that appealed to me.

I never would have looked as cool as Ida Lupino anyway.

Promotion always seems like a dubious endeavour; does any of it help anyway? There’s few chances to be assured of a direct effect. Mostly you just hope that there’s some kind of cumulative effect.

Book trailers are an odd outgrowth of social media interactions. Everybody swiftly shares the latest movie trailer for a hotly anticipated film, so (the thinking seems to go) surely a book trailer could have the same effect. Does it?

One of my pals mentioned that he hated trailers, in fact hated any kind of image about what might be in the story. I stuck my virtual tongue out at him first, then asked, ‘What about covers?’

We’ve all been told ‘not to judge a book by its cover’ but the fact is our industry is built around the concept that people are going to do exactly that. In short that means our covers have to do a job of selling a story in an instant without giving too much away. The most beautiful cover may not be the most effective because it doesn’t tell us enough about what’s inside. This particular book, The Mangrove Legacy, is a little trickier than usual because it’s both gothic and humorous, two things that don’t normally go together intentionally.

The cover took a lot of work to achieve that balance (I think I can see some of the hair Kem pulled out of her head!). There’s a little more room in a trailer to do that – even when it’s less than a minute long. But is it worth doing for anything but the fun of making a wee movie?

Do you like book trailers? Do you watch book trailers? Do they ever make you decide to buy a book?

See other trailers I’ve done for Pelzmantel and for Man City.

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  • LizEverly

    I don’t know how I feel about book trailers…I watch them when I get a chance, but they don’t sway me as a reader. (But I’m not the average reader, right?) As a writer, I wonder if they are effective marketing tools and I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing one. What program do you use to produce them? I really like this one a lot–it’s short and lively and gives a great sense of the book without overdoing it. I don’t really like the ones that go on and on and are dramatized, usually. Great post, Kate.

    Reply to LizEverly
    • Post authorcmkempe

      Thanks! I know my own short attention span means keeping it short. I use iMovie which is dead easy.

      Reply to cmkempe
  • Elizabeth Shore

    I’ve often thought of book trailers as interesting ideas that aren’t worth the effort. Whenever I watch a trailer I’m inevitably thinking that the actors portraying the h&h don’t look at all like how I would picture them. I’ve also never bought a book after viewing the trailer. I have, however, bought a book based on its cover. 🙂

    Reply to Elizabeth Shore
    • Post authorcmkempe

      So, better to spend the time and effort on a good cover?

      Reply to cmkempe
      • Elizabeth Shore

        It is for me, anyway. Even with e-readers going directly to page one, I still see the covers on various publishers’ websites before I buy and they do make a difference for me.

        Reply to Elizabeth Shore
  • julie

    Im a real cover lover, but with the e readers now, we dont stare at the covers. I really love book trailers, they are all so different. ive seen some dreadful ones and some that are amazing. but i love to see them all, yours too

    Reply to julie
    • Post authorcmkempe

      Thanks, Julie. I know my publishers now have to work with the knowledge tht a cover has o pop at thumbnail size. That’s a challenge!

      Reply to cmkempe
  • Marleen Kennedy

    I never, ever watch trailers, book, movie or otherwise. Part of the reason is that my internet connection is just too slow. So a one minute trailer can easily take five minutes or more to watch, which will frustrate me and not endear me to whatever I’m watching regardless of how exciting the trailer might be. But, I don’t think I’d watch them even if my internet was top of the range. I don’t want somebody elses idea of what the main characters look like in my head before I start reading. Covers are a different matter since I’m attracted to them, or not, depending on the atmosphere they project rather than any people featured. On a side note, my possessiveness about the way I imagine characters also means that I (almost) never watch movie or tv adaptations of books I’ve enjoyed.

    Reply to Marleen Kennedy
    • Post authorcmkempe

      I can understand that: I remember with horror my days of dial up access. It’s good to remember how fortunate some of us are.

      Reply to cmkempe

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