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Sunday, 20 May 2012

Having blogged about books and publishing for six years now (you can look it up), I’ve been witness to the rise and establishment of the book trailer. And I still don’t see much value in them.

In the amount of time it takes to download and watch a book trailer, I can take in a lot more information about that book through, you know, reading. And that experience is probably a much better preview of actually reading the book than watching a short shoestring-budget movie about it.

I know of no market research that says online trailers help to sell books, or even particular types of books to particular types of readers. Then again, it‘s the publishing industry, and there’s practically no market research at all.

I cynically suspect that the main value of book trailers is that they keep authors busy between copyedit approval and pub date. Without having trailers to make, we’d be on the phone every hour to the Marketing Department asking if they’ve thought about sending an advance copy to Orhan Pamuk. No wonder Marketing Departments recommend that authors make trailers!

Tim Kreider, author of We Learn Nothing, expressed similar thoughts in this New York Times oped today:
The first time I’d ever heard that there were video previews for books was when I was told I had to make one. A few months before my own book was to be released, my publisher advised me that official book trailers were now routinely posted on YouTube as a promotional device. I was skeptical, but remembering how instrumental video was in advancing the career of Men Without Hats, I acquiesced. . . .

The sudden, insane hula hoop-like popularity of social media and mass dinosaurian die-off of print has publishers panicked and willing to try anything, and so writers, typically reclusive types who are used to being able to do their jobs without putting on pants, now find themselves shoved on camera and hawking their books like mattresses on Presidents’ Day. . . .

The sympathetic audience for complaints about the terrible problems associated with having your book published turns out to be small. So I will just say that this is not a part of the process that most kids who sat at typewriters dreaming of growing up to be Authors ever fantasized about. Most writers are closet exhibitionists, shameless only on paper, and having to perform and promote themselves is a kind of mild custom-designed torture, like forcing the theoretical mathematics faculty to come up with something for skit night.
All that on a Sunday is my way of a running up to the trailer that Marc Tyler Nobleman and friends made for his upcoming picture-book bio Bill the Boy Wonder. Illustrated by Ty Templeton, the book tells more fully than ever before the life of Bill Finger, co-creator of Batman and Robin. What do we learn from the trailer? Well, it does look like it was fun to make.

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