Book Trailers, a New Frontier

If you haven’t noticed, books are making an interesting comeback.

I suppose it was bound to happen given that since the early 20th century, writers have been making their books more cinematic by taking specific cues from motion pictures (slow motion, dissolves, a greater emphasis on dialogue).

A writer’s ability to select a word or two to convey in a sentence what their predecessors would have spent paragraphs on (and in some cases, pages) have led us to where we are today: book trailers.

The two words shouldn’t fit together at all, but they do. Most of us get our news from the Internet and music videos often make their premieres online. So too, do book trailers.

Publishers have figured out that to really reach a wider audience, you have to go to that audience. That makes sense, but I still would say that those who read more than three books a year (let’s call them bookworms), are predisposed to spending fewer hours away from the computer if possible, given most of us work on computers all day.

I’m not sure that these trailers are aimed at traditional bookworms. Rather, they are primarily targeted to the e-generation; those who, either through the aid of a smart phone or Wi-Fi connection on their notebooks, are constantly plugged into the online universe.

I think book trailers are a great idea – in theory. Would they have been scoffed at 15 years ago? It’s likely. But 15 years ago we didn’t have Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. There’s also Barnes & Noble’s e-Book reader, the Nook, and’s Kindle, which are proving that there truly is a market for paperless books.

How effective is a book trailer?

Time will tell. Or perhaps more to the point, sales will tell.

We’ve seen movie and TV trailers get our family and friends excited, but you’re not talking about staying within a visual medium, you’re actually crossing from one platform to another, a narrative medium that will require more than two hours of your time. Movies are dates (and one night stands). Books are relationships through and through.

Will a really cool trailer get little boys and girls to read? Not most of them, but I’d wager a few might be curious enough.

Maybe book trailers are pushing the idea that stories are stories in whatever medium they appear, and let’s face it, most of the best are from books; words on paper altering the mind. For many, a book trailer might be the closest they’ll come to a book.

Following are some of my favorite book trailers.


Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, By Jane Austen and Ben H. Winters


Haven’t read this, but the book is on display at both Borders and Barnes & Noble. It seems to be very popular. Also, this trailer really pushes the boundaries of what a book trailer can be (or should be). You’re almost disappointed that it’s a book and not a movie.


 The Strain, By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan


Strangely, it was the book trailer that made me want to read the book. Though I love the concept, I found it hard to get past page 50. I didn’t find it very well written. The story, though, seems solid enough. Del Toro wants to take the sexy out of vampires and make them scary again. Given the book’s premise (this is the first of a trilogy), I think he has succeeded.


The Graveyard Book, By Neil Gaiman


Didn’t need the book trailer to get me interested in reading this one. In fact, I read it the first week it came out. “The Graveyard Book” was recently awarded the Newbery Medal and a Hugo, for good reason. This is Neil Gaiman’s best book to date. It even exceeds “American Gods,” perhaps because of its emotional heft. I’ll be really mad if someone makes a movie out of this. “The Graveyard Book” should be experienced on the page.

 Under the Dome, By Stephen King


Entertainment Weekly has the exclusive trailer for Stephen King’s latest book (to be released next week), “Under the Dome.” It’s really quite good – the trailer I mean. At 1088 pages, some early reviews have compared it to “The Stand,” in that it is epic in scope (the mass paperback version clocks in at about 1141 pages). The jury is still out on whether King has achieved something approaching art. Though I am mostly a fan of his early work (’70s and ’80s), King has managed to stay relevant.


 The Way Home, By George Pelecanos


I love this man’s work (he wrote for the HBO series “The Wire”) and read the book well before I discovered the book trailer. The trailer almost ruined the images I had in my head of the characters. I think the best book trailers don’t use actors at all. Images, yes. But keep those faces obscured. Don’t even give me voices. I want to hear it all inside my head.

 Vertigo Crime


Crime comics are growing in popularity. With major crime novelists writing comics and comic writers exploring film (Ed Brubaker immediately comes to mind), it was inevitable that a trailer for the launch of Vertigo Comics’ line of original graphic novels would get not only some ink, but the visual treatment as well. Apparently this trailer is currently airing on BBC America.


Star Wars: The Old Republic


OK, you got me. I know this isn’t a book trailer, but “Star Wars: The Old Republic” is a series that only exists in the comics and novels of the “Star Wars” expanded universe (and of course, video games). This is one of the best video game trailers I have ever seen. It delivers what many of us had hoped the prequels would deliver – some real “Star Wars” action. Seeing this for the first time reminded me of my first experience seeing “Star Wars: Episode 1: The Phantom Menace” trailer. Got some serious goose bumps.


            More next week.






From the Web