In the last decade, the quantity – and quality – of book trailers has increased exponentially. Nowadays, chances are pretty good that a new release will have some sort of video trailer. A video search for “book trailer” on Google, for example, brings up more than 10 million results!
Some book trailers are magnificently produced and quite entertaining – like the ones for Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Sweet Far Thing by Libba Bray, and the recently released Professor Gargoyle by Charles Gilman, to name just a few.
Just check out this "quasi-silly but awesome" trailer from Night of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson and Sam Stall – arguably the funniest book trailer I’ve ever seen.
But do readers actually seek out and watch book trailers? And are book trailers effective in what they’re created to do – promoting and selling books?
Some of the book trailers I watched on YouTube had impressive view counts – the trailer for Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith, for example, had more than 2 million views but others like the trailer for Sorry Please Thank You by Charles Yu barely had 2,000 views.
In today’s world of social networking and search engine optimization, book trailers – in theory – are an intriguing concept. A good book trailer could expose a new release to a virtually unlimited audience through Facebook shares and Twitter retweets.
In an article in The Wall Street Journal a few years back entitled “The Insane World of Book Trailers,” esteemed journalist Christopher Shea described book trailers as “strange cultural artifacts.”
“Is there anything that more pungently demonstrates the desperation and confusion within the publishing industry than book trailers? These short video previews of books, often featuring a chat with the author or a dramatic depiction of the plot, and typically posted on YouTube, are truly strange cultural artifacts: They’re painfully obvious attempts to adapt to technological change, but they’re just as obviously off-key, not quite in step with whatever they’re chasing.”
I do agree with Shea to a certain extent but I’ve seen more than a few book trailers that are exceptionally well done and definitely not off-key.
But, again, I ask the question – does an entertaining book trailer translate to book sales?
Maybe I’m “old school” on this topic but the thing that most influences my decision whether to read a book or not, aside from reviews, is cover art. The number of books I’ve read solely because of cover art is easily in the hundreds. A perfect example is the creepy cover of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – yeah, the book trailer for this release was great but it was the cover art that made me seek out and read this novel.
What do you think? Do book trailers really work? Are book trailers worth the time and effort it takes to produce them?
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. You can follow him on Twitter at @paulgoatallen and get all the latest Barnes & Noble book news from @BNBuzz.