personal branding

Little Films – are book trailers a crime against imagination?

October 15th, 2014 by Miriam Owen | Posted in Blog | Comments Off on Little Films – are book trailers a crime against imagination?
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Recently there seems to be a trend, particularly shared on social media and at book festivals, of authors having book trailers/book videos. What is the purpose of a book trailer? Initially, on the surface it would appear to bring the flavour of a book to the attention of readers but they also promote the author’s name and perhaps highlight the name of the publisher. If a book trailer does this then it may be helping to keep readers active whilst allowing the medium of books a link to the ever growing reliance on video and visual imagery, particularly online and hence helping to keep the medium of books fresh and current. Do they pique your interest when you see them? They have been around for a while but seem to be becoming a bit more main stream now and of course they fit in nicely with the increased use of social media for marketing and promotion. Here is a slick example from 2009 for James Ellroy’s book Blood’s a Rover.

I recently watched one book trailer that actually put me off buying a book I may have otherwise bought. The trailer looked too violent for me. However, I have seen others for books I probably wouldn’t have considered buying but may now pick up if I see them on sale. Author David Hewson’s (The Killing) book trailer for his new work published by Pan Macmillan ‘The House of Dolls’ was shown as part of a presentation he gave at Nordicana in London this year and I am sure will be shown at most of the author’s appearances at book festivals around the world, a pleasing visual treat at the end of a more spoken word based event:

There seems to be quite a lot of variety with the trailers. Some promote the writer more than the book, others have very obvious music and may also promote a song by a particular band in a similar way that car companies have done with TV commercials in recent years. Some are very atmospheric and it is unclear if the trailer is for a film or a book until the very end, others use a large amount of text and the link to a book is fairly obvious. Some feature the author reading. Some mention rave reviews of the actual book similar to what you may see on posters and signs in bookstores such as this one.  Some trailers are quite long and some are brief. Readers may recognise the Scottish location of this trailer.

Then you have this which is a unique collaboration between publishers, authors, artists and record labels.  A song and a book released on the same day. Publishers asked Anton Axélo to write a song to go with a book and he came up with ‘Three hundred and sixty-five.’  The song was inspired by ‘Black Dawn’, the third book in a mystery thriller series of books sold in 27 countries. The books are written by Swedish crime fiction veterans Cilla and Rolf Börjlind.   Cilla and Rolf Börjlind have previously written screenplays for cinema and television of the Martin Beck series by Sjowall & Wahloo and also writing for the Arne Dahl’s A-group series and working on Wallander. In 2004 and 2009 Swedish television showed their crime series The Grave and The Murders, written directly for SVT. These shows were an immediate success with critics as well as with the audience.

Jo Nesbo has quite a few book trailers such as this and this.  You may notice some similarities in style with Nesbo’s book trailers.  In terms of branding and publicity he is a great example in the industry and has great consistency in terms of book covers, publicity material and personal branding giving him a strong presence in the crime fiction genre.  I would love to meet his marketing and PR people one day and discuss their work!

Book trailers can be inserted into websites.  Australian publishers Allen & Unwin use them in their online shop particularly in the kids and young readers sections.  They are used in education particularly to encourage reluctant readers to engage with books and literary promotion projects such as World Book Day use them to appeal to children on their website. Here is a particularly spooky example.

The flip side however is to ask if book trailers remove part of the imaginative process? Do they hint at the desperation of the publishing world to drag itself into the 21st century?  Does using a moving image intertwine comfortably with the written word? Personally I am a fan of a visual image although I have to admit to being the kind of person who likes to read the book before seeing anything at all. Some people need a visual spark to be encouraged in their literary exploration. If trailers encourage people to pick up books then I think they serve their purpose however if they encourage people to bypass the book and wait for the movie then I am not so sure.

Miriam V Owen