How to Make an Effective Book Trailer
Inverted-A Press: Staff Proofing Books
The first truly effective book trailer that I ever saw was one for a book by K.M. Weiland, Behold the Dawn. It was just like a trailer for a movie, and it made you feel that you knew what kind of book it was, that you could almost taste it, without ever having sampled a single page of the author's writing.
Here it is embedded below. What do you think? Is it an effective book trailer? Does it make you want to read the book? And if so, how does it achieve this effect?
Behold the Dawn by K M Weiland
K.M. Weiland: Behold the Dawn
Many of the best book trailers are quite brief. It often does not take more than two minutes to get across to the potential reader what sort of book it's going to be, what kind of world it depicts and the main conflict that it seeks to resolve.
Consider this trailer for the new best selling science fiction novel The Galactic Mage by John Daulton.
Book Trailer for The Galactic Mage by John Daulton
Notice that the trailer for The Galactic Mage manages to make its point in a minute and a half.
When I started making book trailers myself, I had trouble keeping the message that brief, For instance, the trailer for my children's chapter book, Ping & the Snirkelly People, is over three minutes long.
Book Trailer for Ping & the Snirkelly People
Ping & the Snirkelly People
Handling Difficult Conceptual Issues in a Book Trailer
Coming in at three minutes and six seconds, the trailer for Ping & the Snirkelly People may seem a bit on the long side. After all, this is a children's chapter book. Why should it take longer to get across what the book is about?
The problem is that sometimes conceptual conflicts take a little more effort to explain. Learning language and the intellectual struggle that it entails, and then discovering that once you've mastered language, the cultural divide is still there is what Ping & the Snirkelly People is about.
Did the subject matter require a longer trailer? Maybe. Or it could be that it was my first book trailer, and I could have brought it in at two minutes, if I had been a little more experienced.
The next book trailer I did was for John Wheatcroft's book, The Portrait of a Lover.
Book Trailer for The Portrait of a Lover by John Wheatcroft
The High Concept Novel
The Portait of a Lover is a high concept, literary novel. Getting across the feel of thing is a little bit different from relating the story of a historical romance or a science fiction fantasy. The background music, a piece by composer Jackson Hill entitled "Magnolia Blooms" creates a somewhat disturbing effect. And the trailer is by no means short.
The next book trailer I made was for our upcoming book A Thousand and One Stories of Pericon de Cadiz, which is an English translation by John Moore of the flamenco classic by Jose Luis Ortiz Nuevo.
The music I used was played by the translator, and since this is an oral history by a famous flamenco singer, Juan Martinez Vilchez, the video features a recording of one of the stories in the book.
The length of the trailer, in this case, was determined by the length of the story and the musical accompaniment.
Book Trailer for a Thousand and One Stories of Pericon de Cadiz
My briefest Book Trailer: Vacuum County
The shortest book trailer I have made so far is for my novel, Vacuum County, which is coming out on April 19 of this year. Making this trailer was a major breakthrough for me. Not only does the trailer come in at little over two minutes, it also manages to skirt that difficult question: "What is this book about?"
The Vaccum County Book Trailer
What the Book is About
"What is your book about?" People used to ask.
"It's about commercial chastity," I used to answer cryptically.
This did not satisfy anyone, but I always felt I was lying when I just gave them a brief synopsis of the plot. The plot implied to their minds a genre that the book did not belong in. Now, if anyone asks what the book is about, I tell them: "Watch the trailer!"
Of course, the trailer can be misleading, too. One friend who had read Vacuum County many years ago, upon seeing the trailer, asked: "Have you changed the book?"
No. I haven't changed the book. Just the way I'm presenting it.
When Is Short Too Short? The First Trailer for Our Lady of Kaifeng
Our Lady of Kaifeng
When is a Trailer too Short?
In my zeal to keep all my trailers short, I kept the first trailer I made for Our Lady of Kaifeng, my upcoming novel, down to under two minutes. But then I got some feedback from someone who could not read the text in the amount of time allotted. He told me that with the Chinese-like font I was using he would need more time for each caption.
Watch it yourself and tell me what you think. Is the video posted above too short to understand? Is the longer video posted below easier to follow? Leave a comment with your opinion.
The Longer Trailer for Our Lady of Kaifeng
The Non-Novel: Transatlantic Lives
Some books defy categorization because they are somewhere between reality and fiction. One such book is Transatlantic Lives by Jesse Bier, coming out this week from Inverted-A Press. Somewhat of a memoir, it still has elements of fiction.
For the trailer of Transatlantic Lives, I used photos provided by the author that went well with the themes of the story. Since this is not a plot-based book, no attempt was made to spell out the plot, and a two minute plus video was the result.
Book Trailer for Transatlantic Lives by Jesse Bier
Complex Issues May Demand Longer Trailers
I'm not sure yet what the real solution should be or whether one size fits all. We can often boil down the plot of a novel into a succinct summary. For such a book, the shorter the trailer, the better and more effective it will be.
Other books do not have a plot, because they are not novels. For episodic memoirs, like A Thousand and One Stories of Pericon de Cadiz, highlighting a single episode by telling its plot may be a good way to go. But.some books are a collection of vignettes, like Transatlantic Lives, where the meaning of the book is more in the relationships of the characters than in the things that happened to them. In that case, a short video that sets the mood is better.
But for those books that have a story to tell with an unusual twist, maybe adding an extra minute to the trailer would not go amiss.
Theodosia and the Pirates Book Trailer
Theodosia and the Pirates by Aya Katz
When You Can't Have an Action Sequence
For some books, you want a cinematic feel, You want the people watching the trailer to feel as if they are going to the movies. But we can't always have actors to do the scene for us. However, if you have a beautiful cover drawn by a professional artist, then you can just take different shots of the same sequence, in order to get the feeling of going in for a close up.
This is what I did with my latest trailer, for the book Theodosia and the Pirates. The beautiful cover illustration by artist Lanie Frick came to life when viewed from different distances.
(c) 2013 Aya Katz
- The Problem of Genre | PubWages
Do you know what genre your novel belongs to? What actually is literary genre? How do you make sure your book falls into the right category?
Pericon de Cadiz Review
- Book Review: A Thousand and One Stories of Pericón de Cádiz
This is a book review of the new English translation by John Moore of Las Mil y Una Historias de Pericon de Cadiz
Review of Transatlantic Lives
- Book Review: Transatlantic Lives
A review of the Book Transatlantic Lives.
More by this Author
Everybody agrees that prejudice is bad. I have never in my life met anyone who was in favor of prejudice. There is such universal agreement on this topic that it makes us feel united. Except when it comes to actual...
What is the best way to become perfectly fluent in a foreign language? Many recommend complete and total immersion, but others are concerned about reducing anxiety in students and providing only a positive experience....
Some children start reading before they are able to hold a conversation. In a sense, they start to read before they can even talk. How is that possible? Reading can be broken down into two separate processes: (1)...