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To Trailer or Not To Trailer

. . . that is . . . well, it’s a question, anyway. Actually, it’s a question I wanted to ask all of you. As some of you may or may not know, Failstate: Legends, the sequel to my debut […]
| Feb 27, 2013 | No comments |

. . . that is . . . well, it’s a question, anyway.

Failstate Legends - FinalActually, it’s a question I wanted to ask all of you. As some of you may or may not know, Failstate: Legends, the sequel to my debut novel, is releasing this Friday from Marcher Lord Press. Yeah, I know, I haven’t spoken much about it. Bad author, bad! I should have been rattling people’s cages and getting the word out as best I could. Sad to say, but marketing is not one of my strong suits. You can ask my agent. We have long chats about this. A lot.

But one of the things that I did in preparation for this was put together a book trailer.

When Failstate came out, I actually did more than one. I planned a whole series of trailers and even included a contest. I asked people to submit videos of them in costume, auditioning for the superhero reality show in the book, America’s Next Superhero. If you look at the stats for the video announcement, it was viewed a whopping 400 times. And it garnered exactly . . . zero entries.

Insert sad trombone sound here.

Undaunted, I trimmed down my trailer release schedule and wound up releasing five. You can watch them below:

I went all out the first time around. I recruited two of my youth to play Lux and Failstate. I cajoled my alma mater, Concordia University in St. Paul, to let me use their stage, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun.

This time around, I didn’t have the time or the energy to bust out the costumes for another live action trailer. This time, it took me about two hours and this is what I came up with:

Of course, I’m not the only author that does this. For example, Jill Williamson recently released a trailer about her upcoming book, Captives. I think it’s mostly put together with stock footage, but it’s a lot of fun:

About a year ago, I found this trailer for Christian author Conlan Brown and I wound up drooling all over my keyboard:

So a lot of authors do this. What I’m curious about is this: what’s your opinion of book trailers? Do you watch them? Has a book trailer ever made you want to buy the book (hint, hint)? What makes for a good book trailer? Let me know in the comments.

And if you’re not interested in this discussion, by way of apology, I offer two non-book trailer videos: me playing Slender: The Arrival late at night (warning, it’s a little scary) and Taylor Swift singing a duet with a goat.

You’re welcome.

John W. Otte leads a double life. By day, he’s a Lutheran minister, husband, and father of two. He graduated from Concordia University in St. Paul, Minnesota, with a theatre major, and then from Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. By night, he writes unusual stories of geeky grace. He lives in Blue Springs, Missouri, with his wife and two boys. Keep up with him at JohnWOtte.com.

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Krysti
Guest

John,
I like book trailers, and I think they’re worth creating! 🙂 I liked yours. I think you did a very good job on the book trailer, and you ought to post it to Tumblr, Pinterest, Good Reads; all the usual suspects. 🙂
I hope you sell a lot of books…
Happy hunting!
Krystine

Gillian Bronte Adams
Member

I’m a huge fan of book trailers. I think it’s a great way to spread word about a book in a visually oriented world. There are several books I’ve bought after watching the trailer–Failstate may have been one of them!
As for what makes a good book trailer?  I think good music is a must. If it’s live action (and it doesn’t have to be–I’ve seen plenty of compelling trailers that weren’t), the acting, film quality, and sound should be decent.

Galadriel
Guest

I take the opposite view. I rarely watch book trailers–what I want to know is what’s happening in the book, and I can find that much more easily in a paragraph on the back cover.

Lauren
Guest
Lauren

I’m afraid I fall into the same category . . . In fact, I rarely even notice the trailer. I’m a sucker for book covers. (I can’t lie, I have picked up books purely for their lovely covers!) But the back cover summary is the all important thing for me (and reviews, of course). I’m always so frustrated when I flip the book over, and there’s nothing there but some random recommendations from supposedly famous people, and one short quote.
 
Then I’m raving in the aisle, tearing the book apart, going, “It must be in here somewhere!”
Okay, actually, I just try to read a few pages 🙂
 
That’s just me, though. I think for some people, trailers could be an integral part of choosing a book.

Yvonne Anderson
Member

I don’t watch many movies or TV anyway, because I don’t have much interest in the medium. So I suppose I’m not a good person for including in this poll. However, since you asked…
I can’t stand book trailers. When they first became popular I watched a few but probably haven’t clicked Play on one for over a year. (My apologies to the hardworking authors who go to the trouble and expense creating them!)
My objections are threefold: 1) These are books we’re trying to sell, not movies, and it makes no sense to me to try to take a video clip from something that’s not a video; it’s like showing a picture of someone singing instead of playing  the song;  2) Many book trailers are annoyingly tacky (all the ones I’ve seen were, but I haven’t seen many); and 3) I seldom play videos on my computer of any sort, so don’t bother sending me links to your YouTube favorites. Perhaps it has something to do with my slow internet connection or maybe I’m just warped, but it seldom seems worth waiting for them to load.
 

Paul Lee
Member

The problem I have with book trailers is that it feels like trying to promote a novel with random scenes from an imaginary, low-budget movie.  This feels a little weird to me.
 
I have a lot of respect for the medium of film/digital video, and I think book trailers provide a great opportunity for amateur filmmakers to express their craft.  However, as Yvonne Anderson implied above, low budget acting and sets can make a book trailer seem cheesy.  The audience shouldn’t judge a book based on its fake movie.
 
That said, I did watch the Failstate trailers, and I thought they were entertaining.  The premise of the reality show interview helped immensely, because the home-brewed look was all part of it.  It’s a shame that no one participated in the interview video contest.  I believe I was taking my applied media aesthetics class, and I briefly wondered if I might be able to make a Failstate interview video with my sister using a signed-out camera.  Unfortunately, I didn’t follow through with the idea.

Saoirse Langley
Guest

Book trailers are fun, even if they’re just the author doing a voiceover telling about the story in a dramatic voice. If it sounds like they have good storytelling skills it draws me in, and it’s just cool to hear what the author sounds like. Ones with acting are okay, too, but they don’t have to be live action to be interesting.
I liked the trailers for Failstate. Doing them as reality show audition tapes was a cool idea. 🙂

Alassiel
Guest
Alassiel

love movie trailers, but rarely get into book trailers. I’m not sure why. Part of it may be what some other commenters were saying: they tend to be a bit tacky or cheesy. Also, they tend not to tell you what a book is about as well as a blurb does.
I have seen a couple of well-done book trailers that I enjoyed. However, I don’t think I’ve ever been inspired to buy a book because of the trailer.

Kessie Carroll
Member

I’m with Galadriel and Lauren–I’m looking at a book to read a book, not watch a movie. It’s like that quote, “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.”
 
The last ones I watched were Ted Dekker’s fairly high-budget trailers, and I was disappointed to get to the end and go, “Wait, this is just a BOOK? Not a MOVIE?”
 
My mental images of the characters and the special effects are way better than a movie. Plus, the trailer can’t get me inside the characters’ heads the way a book can. Just give me good back cover copy. Why do I need a slow, high-res pan across the cover I’ve already been looking at?

Joanna
Guest

The only ones I really liked are Ted Dekker’s for “Immanuel’s Veins.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cmh5DMC8Do0) and “The Priest’s Graveyard.” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1dpDWGtGxMw).
 
While I could have done without out the endorsements, I liked the sort of moving book feel. They didn’t feel like they were for a movie — but for a book that had come alive. The sparse, artsy feel also left more to the imagination, just like the book would.
 
If you can’t capture that sort of feel, then it really doesn’t work for me.

Emma Engel
Guest

I’m on the fence when it comes to book trailers. Part of me agrees with the comments that books and films are two distinct entities and shouldn’t cross into each others’ territories. (Which helps when it comes to movies adapted from books. They just become two different things that happen to share the same title and character names.) However, I think that more and more visual media is becoming a way of attracting attention and drawing people to a book. That said, I do think that quality really matters. I’ve seen some really off putting trailers for really good books. If you can’t do a polished production filmed on something other than an iphone, I think it’s probably best to stick to pictures and voice overs. However, the other things I’ve seen that works well are trailers that acknowledge they can’t live up to something seen in theaters and run with that fact. I saw one trailer for an epic style fantasy novel that was just a bunch of teenagers in a backyard. But they were totally making fun of themselves, posing heroically on a plastic kid structure, riding one of those little spring horses into battle, ect. And I decided to check the book out just because I liked the tongue in cheek attitude of the trailer.

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

I can’t stand book trailers. When they first became popular I watched a few but probably haven’t clicked Play on one for over a year. (My apologies to the hardworking authors who go to the trouble and expense creating them!)

My objections are threefold: 1) These are books we’re trying to sell, not movies, and it makes no sense to me to try to take a video clip from something that’s not a video; it’s like showing a picture of someone singing instead of playing  the song;  2) Many book trailers are annoyingly tacky (all the ones I’ve seen were, but I haven’t seen many) […]

Yvonne stole my comment from my brain. 🙂

E. Stephen Burnett
Admin

In that case I would suggest it’s the back-cover copy that’s really selling the book, and not the stock footage or glowy fonts or any voiceover, well-acted or otherwise. (In the Captives trailer it’s the apparent back-cover premise that does the best promotion.)

A. D. Smith
Guest

Wow. Looks like it’s about even on to trailer or not to trailer.  Well I didn’t like them either until I was put on to a talented young man by the name of Caleb Rexius.   We got together and he produced a trailer for my book, ‘The Assigned’.  It’s like X-Men meets the Bible.  Even if you don’t like my book, I’m pretty sure you’ll enjoy the trailer!