On writing

Would you or wouldn’t you buy a book based on a book trailer?

Janet Reid recently posted a blog on book trailers, in particular the trailer for Micheal Connelly’s latest novel, The Brass Verdict. She asks, “Are book trailers effective in boosting sales?” and isn’t really sure of the answer. Then she goes on to talk about the market for book trailers and expects that it will increase in future years.

So what is a book trailer?

It’s like a movie trailer except that it’s for a book, rather than for a movie.

I did an informal survey of my own with guests from a dinner party last night. All of the guests were avid readers, two of them work in libraries.

Book trailers? They had never heard of them. Would they buy a book based on a trailer? Why? A book trailer is a movie-maker’s interpretation of the book, not the writer’s. They want to know what the writing is like, not someone else’s interpretation of it.

These mirrored my own opinions.

We discussed it some more, in particular the writing/film cross-over. We all agreed:

  • That the film of a book is a totally different beast to the book itself. Just because you like a film doesn’t necessarily mean that you will like the book, and vice-versa. Ditto book trailers
  • You cannot judge the quality of a book from the quality of the film. You have to read some of the text before you know for certain whether you are going to read the book. The same can be said of the trailers.
  • Even if we see—and enjoy—a film based on a book, we seldom read the story the film was based on. We will do the opposite, however, and go and see a film based on a book we read and enjoyed. Likewise, we might view a book trailer —if we knew about it —because we wanted to see what they had done with ‘our’ characters.

If book trailers don’t do anything to make us read a book, why would anyone bother to create them?

It seems that the main reason you would do it is not so much a means to get new readers, as to remind readers of earlier books that the new one is out. Even Janet Reid said that she had read Connelly’s earlier book and would probably have read the latest one when she realised it was out —but she hadn’t realised at the time.

So it seems to be a form of publicity that targets existing readers, rather than new ones. And if the trend to more professional videos take off, it could be quite expensive marketing too.

It will be interesting to see if book trailers take off in this video age.

Meantime, if I can’t read a few pages of the book, there’s no way I’m going to buy it.

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