Filled with videos of pretty much everything imaginable, book trailers fight to make their presence known. Yes, I said book trailers. But unlike a movie or TV show, you won’t find these playing at your local movie theater. Until I decided to pick this topic for my weekly musing, I’d never even seen one.
Book trailers can be constructed in a variety of ways. Many cast actors to recreate scenes from the book. Others cobble together images that may or may not actually be related to the book’s subject matter. Some simply show lines or have a voiceover reciting passages from the book while images are displayed.
While researching this subject, several questions popped up. Who watches these? How do people know about them? Do they work? Do we need them?
In researching who watches book trailers it appears the overwhelming majority are viewed by teens and librarians. I was surprised to learn that many school and public librarians use book trailers on their websites as a way to introduce a book to potential readers. It wasn’t, however, surprising to learn teens are drawn to book trailers. This is probably why most of the book trailers I found and watched were for middle grade and YA books.
Trying to figure out how people discover book trailers was trickier. There are some websites dedicated to book trailers like Book Trailers for Readers and Slime Kids both of which are geared toward younger readers. Many major publishers also have book trailers for upcoming releases although I noticed it was only for a handful of titles. The biggest resource for book trailers seems to be YouTube. What this tells me is book trailers are still an unknown to most potential readers.
This leads me to my next discussion point. Just how effective are book trailers? Articles and opinion pieces I read indicated having a book trailer really didn’t have much of an impact upon book sales. With authors increasingly being asked to act as their own marketing and publicity department, even if they aren’t self-publishing, spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to produce one seems risky as this article from 2011 argues. That being said, a book trailer may be beneficial if you’re a YA author since they may sway teen readers.
While the publishing industry constantly changes and evolves, it was incredibly difficult to find more current articles on the subject matter. Even the pro-book trailer articles I read were from the early 2010s. I was only able to find an incredibly small amount of current articles on the subject matter. This lack of enthusiasm, if you will, causes me to think book trailers really aren’t effective.
In an effort to make sure I was doing due diligence to you, the reader, and myself I searched YouTube to see for myself. I did searches by famous authors and lesser known authors and the results returned very little. If the author did have a trailer they weren’t for current books even though the authors I searched all have had recent releases.
Many of the “popular” book trailers I found on YouTube had been up for years. For example, the most viewed trailer had over 5,000,000 views in the 3 years. Sounds like a lot, and it is something to be proud of, except when you realize the most popular cat video on YouTube has over 78,000,000 views in 2 years. Yes, there are other book trailers with over 1,000,000 views, but if you look at when those trailers came out, it’s anywhere from 3 to 5 years ago. In a world where people’s time and attention spans are fleeting, taking years to get that many views probably doesn’t translate into big sales.
Which leads me to my final point. Are book trailers needed? Books have been around for thousands of years. TV and movies, on the other hand, have been around for several decades. It seems odd to me to try and convert a print medium into a visual in an effort to encourage people to buy the paper version. Um, what? Also, a book is a quiet activity designed to allow the reader to use the author’s words as a jumping off point to imagine another world. A book trailer takes this away by shoving someone else’s artistic vision of the book onto the reader.
Personally, I’ve never thought about using YouTube for a book recommendation. That’s what friends, the library, Amazon, GoodReads, walking through a physical bookstore, etc. are for. While watching several book trailers, not a single one made me even want to read more about the book let alone propelling me to purchase it. Maybe because I’m kind of a grump most annoyed me as either being poorly acted, pretentious, bizarre, or boring. Never have I had a friend say “Oh, my god, did you see that book trailer? I gotta have that book. You should go watch it right now.” Nor have I ever heard random people say this to each other.
So in a world where we are saturated with endless trailers filled with ominous BONG!!!! sounds (please, can we retire that?), let’s leave the trailers to their proper home; on the big screen and our TV sets and away from our books. You want a reader to pick up your book? Write an exciting, interesting blurb but most importantly, write a good book. Word of mouth still matters and is still one of the most effective ways of spreading a book’s praise.