Book Trailers: Ads, Lure, and Paradox

Watched any good book trailers lately?  No, not movies, books. Book trailers… they’ve been around since 2003. You might be aware that more and more publishers and authors are embracing this marketing tool in recent years.

If you type in the term ‘book trailers’ on YouTube, you can find many of them cater to the mash and morph generation. Quirk Books, publisher of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, has produced some popular trailers of their modern takes on classic works. Amazon named their  “Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters” book trailer as the best book trailer of 2009.

Now, I don’t want to digress and start talking about the morphing of the classics with contemporary culture, or things like getting the news from The Colbert Report, I’ll leave those to another post. But since book trailers have piqued my interest lately, let me show you their more recent release: The Meowmorphosis, a contemporary twist on Kafka’s classic. Here’s the book trailer (If you can’t view the videos on this post, click on the link to watch them on YouTube. And, do come back):

But of course, book trailers are for all. When you spread your net, you want to catch as wide a multitude as possible, don’t you? Look at this one promoting an upcoming book by the popular crime fiction writer Michael Connelly:

You probably think you’re watching a movie trailer. And that’s what I speculate, book trailers just might well be prompts for potential movie adaptations. Film option, anyone? And for Connelly, he already has two of his books turned into popular movies: ‘Blood Work’ (2002, Clint Eastwood), and ‘The Lincoln Lawyer’ (2011, Matthew McConaughey)

But really, book trailers are an attractive bunch, most of them. They appeal to the digitally savvy and visually driven. While some readers may not appreciate the visualization of the literary, leaving little room for imagination, others welcome these dramatizations and animations. Their stunning effects can be just mesmerizing. Look at this trailer with over 1 million views, Going West by New Zealand novelist Maurice Gee:

What a marvel of video production, don’t you agree? Now, here’s a more important question: Will you go and buy this book to read after watching the trailer, or, are you more likely to just add another view count to the video and a click on ‘like’?

This last trailer just about sums up the apparent paradox: It takes the visual to sell the word. I’d held Lane Smith’s appealing hardcover children’s book It’s A Book in my hands in a bookstore, marvelled at its conception. Look at this adorable trailer:

In this eWorld of ours, we need a real hardcover book to explain to children what a book is… or used to be, if you take the apocalyptic view.  We’re told a book isn’t something you scroll, tweet, or text, and no need to charge up. But the fact is, those are the very functions you do to view and share the trailer.

And it’s a book trailer, with all its visual images and special effects, uploaded and viewed online and hopefully gone viral, that helps boost book sales. Another mash? Or simply an inevitable paradox nowadays?

And, speaking of paradox, can you imagine the eBook version of It’s A Book?


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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

15 thoughts on “Book Trailers: Ads, Lure, and Paradox”

  1. What a fun and fascinating post. I’d never heard of book trailers, the closest thing being a commercial where the author talks about why his new book — probably a thriller — is the next best thing. This is a much better idea, plus downright interesting and fun, too. I may have to spend a little time splunking!


    Well, here’s a whole new world of marketing for authors and publishers. Some are ingenious I think, like the third one here on my post, Maurice Gee’s Going West… I’m sure you’d find it appealing too, since you’re into paper and mixed media art. But… it’s a long way though from a book about going back 40 to 50 years ago in time and space of Auckland, NZ.



  2. I have been completely oblivious to book trailers until just last year and came across one for a book I’d read. I thought it was a movie trailer. I’m not sure how I feel about them implanting images before I get to imagine them.


    You’re right about “implanting images before I get to imagine them.” In a way, it’s “a priori”, an intrusion, unlike a movie adaptation, which is, if one has read the book, after the fact.



  3. I’ve never heard of book trailers. I try to be open-minded and receptive to what’s New! and Cutting Edge! in the digital universe, but this is just beyond me.

    I’ve seen “It’s a Book”, and even posted it in a discussion on another site – but I didn’t recognize it as a trailer for a “real” book. I thought it was a stand-alone video.

    I would love to quote at length a passage from Annie Dillard’s The Writing Life, but it’s far too long. I’ll just add a few of Dillard’s words about the relationship of the written word (books) to films, tv &, by extension, videos:

    The written word is weak. Many people prefer life to it. Life gets your blood going, and it smells good. Writing is mere writing… It appeals only to the subtlest senses – the imagination’s vision, and the imagination’s hearing – and the moral sense, and the intellect…

    Films and television stimulate the body’s senses, too, in big ways…The printed word cannot compete with movies…and should not. Novels written with film contracts in mind have a faint but unmistakable, and ruinous odor about them…

    …people who read are people who like…what books alone have…People who read are not too lazy to turn on the television; they prefer books. I cannot imagine a sorrier pursuit than struggling for years to write a book that attempts to appeal to people who do not read in the first place.

    All of which is to say these trailers engage us differently than does a book. We watch videos; we read books. That’s one reason I’m so cautious about using a video in a blog post. It’s hard to do without diminishing the post, and I somehow fear these trailers will diminish books.

    But what do I know? I don’t even have a Kindle!


    1. Linda,

      I’ve appreciated your Annie Dillard quote: “…people who read are people who like what books alone have…” Yes, and I’ve gone through a few posts already showing that books and films are two different art forms. Anyway, I think here is not just a visual representation of the literary, like a movie adaptation, but advertising. ie In this visually driven, digital age, we’ve to concede to let high tech, visually appealing images on digital devices to promote low tech literary works, which is a paradox in itself.

      I’m also a recent discoverer of book trailers, to be honest. And, I’m more amused than anything. I mean, if it takes a YouTube video to sell a book, ok, so be it… at least you can get more sales. So, this is the direction marketing has to go in order to be effective nowadays, and has been for years actually. It’s just I’m questioning how effective they are: will the viewers just marvel at the video production, or be enticed to go out and actually buy, and read it.

      Lastly, I just want to say… I don’t have a Kindle either. 😉


      1. Oh, do I have a true story for you! I went this morning to the Toyota dealership to take care of a minor issue with Princess. There were about 20 of us in the service department waiting room. Two were watching television, while the rest were on iPads, iPhones, laptops, etc, except for one child, who seemed to have some sort of game device.

        I was reading Annie Dillard – in book form. Something tickled me and I laughed aloud. The little girl asked her mother, “Why is she laughing?” Her mom said, “She’s reading a book”. The girl, about five or six, maybe, pondered that for a few seconds and then said, “Can I have a book?”

        Marketing at its best! And a reminder that however wonderful all the gizmos, we need to keep “real books” out there as an option. It doesn’t have to be either/or! (Even for me)


      2. Linda,

        This is just too good! You’ve all these real life episodes that can spice up one’s life. If there’s a security camera taping this, it’ll make an effective promotion for book publishers. And… Annie Dillard is LOL funny? I should reread her more often.


  4. I really do wonder how much of a marketing impact these trailers make. I’ve seen them around, particularly on amazon, and whilst occasionally the trailer is interesting or well done in its own right, I’ve never yet felt compelled to read a book because of one. And it doesn’t take much for me to feel compelled to read a book! I do love the quote that shoreacres posted there from Annie Dillard, and I agree that video and book are intrinsically different media, which may be why, for me, they don’t meet in the middle in the trailer. But I AM old-fashioned, I readily admit! And anything that promotes the struggling book market has to be on the side of the angels, ultimately.


    Well, some might think the trailer can be a bridge to connect the visual with the literary. But I say, a very poorly connection that is, from the one that I’ve seen. So I agree with you, “they don’t meet in the middle in the trailer.” They should be taken as they are: advertising and promotional materials. The best they can do is to get you out to buy the book. They don’t represent the book.



  5. Still haven’t entered the world of book trailers. Actually, I think the only one I’ve seen until the end was S&S & Sea Monsters. I see the marketing value, but personally I don’t take much from it. Like litlove, I also wonder about their impact – I’ve yet to meet someone who bought a book because of the trailer.


    Would you agree if I say: Book lovers don’t need book trailers… no need to preach to the converted, so to speak?



  6. That first one was great!!

    I am not a big fan of book trailers. I love the idea of them, but most are rather cheesy. They are getting better though!


    Personally, I think the third one is marvellous. I’m afraid it doesn’t move me to want to make a purchase though.



  7. “…can you imagine the eBook version of It’s A Book?” — ahaha! 🙂

    I’m not sure if book trailers influence my book purchases much at all. With most the trailers I’ve watched, I’ve already heard about the book and/or know the author online, at least a little. So my mind’s usually already made up about whether the book is for me or not.

    Then again, with trailers for books I *haven’t* heard of yet, if the trailer is well done and SHORT (I like them no longer than a minute — rarely bother to watch them if they’re much longer than that), and happens to appeal to my taste, it could influence my decision to purchase. But really, even though I’m very much an “online, plugged-in” kind of person, I’m not convinced book trailers are a significant marketing tool.


    Yes, as I’ve replied to Alex, I think book trailers cater more to the ‘non-reader’, or should I say, not regular reader. If you’re in the know, you don’t need book trailers, right? But then again, it’s a marketing tool for our highly wired society today… how effective it is, I don’t have data on that, but curious to know though.



  8. Ha! I might have to get It’s a Book for my unborn grandson. His parents are very tech-savvy, and no doubt his life will be rich with both books and technology. May the balancing play out in his life! As long as he has me for a gramma, there will be plenty of books.

    I am interested in how genres overlap these days, and I feel we should embrace them.

    Now Linda has me wanting to order a third book of Dillard’s: The Writing Life.


    Yes, I think both books are good to have, one for grandchild, one for grandma. And, about the ‘overlapping’ of genres, as I mentioned in my post, ours is a mash and morph generation, full of re-mixes and re-makes. Anyway, the blurry of borders seem to make us more flexible and accommodating. Maybe that’s how book trailers can work their magic.



  9. Nice post Arti. Love the It’s a book vid, and have seen the beautiful Maurice Gee one. I was aware of the book trailers but must say I hadn’t really given them much thought. I tend not to read reviews of books (before I read the books themselves) so am not really interested in book trailers. I like to come to books as fresh as I can … of course I can’t avoid hearing buzz about new books but I don’t really want my thoughts influenced any more than I can help.

    So, this all means that I have no real problems with the idea. I recognise they can be an art form in themselves (like the Gee) AND, anyhow, I don’t think there’s much point in railing against new uses of technology to communicate. I don’t imagine I’ll be seeking them out … but I’d look at any people send me because they think they are special, interesting, etc.


    Thanks… and for someone in the know, you don’t need book trailers to tell you which ones to read. I suppose you may be more interested in movie adaptations than book trailers. The visualization of what you’ve imagined may prove to be more entertaining. Also, I suppose Maurice Gee is a very popular author Down Under… Have you read any of his books?



  10. Quirk Books’ Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters was the first (and only) book trailer I’ve seen in it’s entirety. It was entertaining, but seems like a strange way to market books…. not much inclined toward classic mash-ups either. So happy to discover your blog today!


    Welcome! I’ve come across your comments on other blogs I frequent. Glad to get acquainted with you… thanks to Twitter. 🙂 As for book trailers, I feel Quirk Books’ S&S&SM looks like a prompt for takers on movie adaptations. Just a direct reaction as I watched it. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment!



  11. Well, I’m late but this post continues to work on me. I’d never heard of book trailers and as I’ve though about them and shared them with my husband, see them much like short shorts — a sort of art in their own right.

    I did end up buying “It’s a Book” for my youngest grand — a few days after your post. I do not credit the trailer for its purchase, but rather your review and endorsement — just as I purchased Keaton’s book last week (It arrived today) and considered waiting on Didion’s and Barnes until later. Though about the Barnes book, I have wondered if the opening of the journal by the main character would be like opening Pandora’s Box….?

    So, how will these trailers be used do you think? Will they come loaded on the front of e-books, much like movie trailers are front-loaded on DVDs of films? I suppose folks might venture over to Youtube to check out the trailers before buying — but I can’t see myself doing this, since I prefer information and honest reactions over hype and glitz.

    It will be interesting to see how they evolve. And in the interim, I’m glad to have made their acquaintance. Thanks for the introduction.


    You’re always welcome here. I’m glad you’ve got It’s A Book for your grandchild. In a way, it’s sad to see such a book needs to be written at all. And for the Keaton memoir, I’m sure you’ll enjoy it. As for Barnes, the book begins with his recollections of his school days, not really opening up a journal. Maybe because he didn’t keep a journal, that’s why his memories are so hazy. 😉 Anyway, that’s an intriguing read. You’re welcome to come back to share your view once you’ve finished reading any of these titles.

    As for the trailers, they are for promotional purpose. So you can find them anywhere, on YouTube, authors’ websites… As you can see, Michael Connelly’s trailer has already been pulled from my post. Meaning you’ll have to view it on YouTube or on his site.



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