Book Trailers: Why Are They Still A Thing?

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I’ve seen book trailers before, but the recent excitement and hype that has been created by the trailer for John Darnielle’s recently released second novel Universal Harvester (have a look for yourself Here) got me thinking about how necessary this unusual form of book advertising actually is.

Similar to their cinematic counterparts, film and TV show trailers, book trailers showcase a brief example of the novel in question, usually in the form of a reading, juxtaposed with various images and snippets of soundtrack designed to be provocative and both entice the reader and enlighten them on the tone and style of the book in question.

However, whilst film and TV shows are watched on television and in cinemas, books are primarily read, usually at home in privacy or in public, for example on trains where they are often used to avoid human interaction. Whilst the trailers for new films or shows can easily reach TV and cinema audiences, book trailers have a limited appeal and it must be difficult to reach the intended audience. After all, there are various, more effective, ways to publicise a new book; train station billboard adverts, blurbs inserted into the back pages of similar texts by the same publisher and even free extracts given away for free. Each of these methods is more conducive to targeting a reading audience and enticing them to seek out a new particular new book.

So why do publishers and authors continue to create book trailers? Well, for starters their success is easier to monitor. Click through rates and watch numbers are easy to harvest through service providers and website analytics, whereas finding out how many people actually read your extract or paid attention to the advert on the side of a bus is harder to accurately measure. In addition, the rise in popularity of audio books means that trailers can often hit two target markets at the same time, appealing to those who are looking to buy the book itself and those intent on listening to it, as most trailers for new books feature a section of the book read aloud in an attempt to offer a form of introduction to the work.

Also, within the literature market there remains a constant focus on matching and outdoing the film and TV industries. Publishers are constantly seeking to lure readers away from screens and cinemas with the latest craze or fad, such as Kindles, book trailers and weird riffs on literature festivals such as world book night or those book swaps that are sweeping social media.

All of this, in my humble opinion, is both unnecessary and just plain wrong. The market for reading materials will always be separate from that of films and television shows thanks to the marked difference between these two mediums. Whilst films and shows are easy habits that can be indulged both socially and alone, and require minimal skill but with instant gratification, the enjoyment of reading requires both a certain temperament, often honed through background, and the ability to read. Whilst many people have the minimum skills required to read books, a number of people simply lack the interest, and the solitary nature of the hobby means many people prefer to seek out others and watch films instead.

Within the reading market there are also a vast array of variations. Some don’t read for fun but read when something of interest appears, others are fanatical and will read anything and everything a certain author puts out. Whatever the situation, there is no right or wrong way to read (or not read). What matters is the fundamental differentiator between the two markets, and the fact that, therefore, visual marketing tools such as trailers are unnecessary and, frankly, odd for published books.

So, overall, it is my personal belief that book trailers are out-dated and pointless. Whilst I will watch them if someone else finds one on YouTube that they think is a must see, I do not actively seek them out, and I know few who do. I’d be interested in your thoughts on book trailers and whether you think they’re necessary or interesting. Are you a fan or do you think they’re pointless and a waste of money?

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