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At the Book Trailer Park: Hater, Mortal Coils, and Amberville

Violent Crimes, Devil Children and Teddy Bears, oh my! These describe the trio of books represented by the following book trailers>

Questions for the reader/viewer:

  1. Does the book trailer help explain what the book is about?
  2. Does it positively or negatively affect your decision to purchase the book?

Hater by David Moody:

Mortal Coils by Eric Nylund:

Amberville by Tim Davys:

BONUS: Borders has an un-embeddable trailer for Drood by Dan Simmons.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

8 Comments on At the Book Trailer Park: Hater, Mortal Coils, and Amberville

  1. I want to find the marketing pinhead who pull the concept of the “book trailer” out of his methane port, and the other one, who pushed on the concept until it became the phenomenon we are seeing in this post, and I want to strangle them both with each other’s entrails.


    These things are unendurable.  Fergawdzakes, why do they keep making them?

  2. weyland yutani // February 10, 2009 at 11:12 pm //

    I couldn’t agree more.    These are perfect examples in how NOT to market books.   Long-winded, un engaging, boring short films.    I feel bad for the authors.  If they approved it themselves, I feel worse.

    Seriously, who invented the “book trailer” as a concept?

  3. To play Devil’s Advocate to Weyland  and Woodyatt:

    How would *you* market books, then, in an atomized, saturated, and fractionalized media environment? Sure, media savvy is not a prerequisite for success, lightning does strike (Dame Rowling, for example), but such hope is NOT a plan.  Even good authors with good books get lost in the shuffle, and wind up getting squeezed out.  Mr. Nylund himself, for example, started his career with a couple of interesting fantasy and SF novels.  They didn’t sell well and so he wound up doing HALO media tie-in novels to pay the rent.

    Book Trailers are at least an attempt at trying a different strategy to get people to try a book.


  4. >>Book Trailers are at least an attempt at trying a different strategy to get people to try a book.

    That a great point, Paul.  I think there’s no harm here to avid readers – nobody is looking at these and saying “I’m so not buying that book now.” are they? And there is the potential to reach more viewers, though I’m at a loss to see how that can be measured.

  5. The question is who is watching them, and the answer for SFF titles is people like us who hear about them on sites like SF Signal that cover books. Nobody else is really stumbling on them on YouTube unless an author makes a book trailer so star-studded or unusual that it gets talked about in the ether. So are the book trailers an effective way to sell to us, the fans online who are most likely to see them?

    For me, the David Moody Haters trailer was no good. It looked like high schoolers playing with film. It told me the book was a horror novel about people going mad and violent, but it wasn’t horrific, interesting or otherwise informative. The Mortal Coils trailer was an interesting structure to it, effectively compiling some acting with voice over narrative, but the voice over was full of a lot of complicated information. It would have worked better and been more interesting if they tried to do something more like a movie trailer. And the bonus trailer for Drood shows all the problems inherent in making book trailers.

    But the Amberville trailer did make me laugh and get my attention. I did check it out to see if it was actually about stuffed animals. It left me aware of and well disposed toward the book, though that doesn’t mean I’ll buy it. But I might mention it to someone else, which helps the author. So that one was silly, but it’s for a book with a satiric premise, so it worked okay.

    But did it work enough? Are book trailers, which are either costly or boring, really drawing in enough interested fans? Can they be done in such a way that non-fans will want to watch it, along with the cute hamster on the piano video? That I don’t think we’ve seen yet, and may never see.

  6. weyland yutani // February 12, 2009 at 12:10 am //

    “If not this, then what?” is a fair question to ask, and if I knew the answer, I’d have a pretty good marketting gig.  All I can say is that an excellent book being represented by an amateur, middling film is not going to attract a reader and may actually push a potential reader away.  It is akin to the old adage about an art portfolio only being as good as it’s worst piece.  

    Like commercials, the best ads are the ones that entertain and spark.  Compare that to an infomercial and you have a great comparison for what arouses curiosity.  If a book trailer is going to be made, it should be concerned with quality first, as it is the first face of the novel and it should be a teaser (or commercial) at most.  

    Film trailers highlight some of the best scenes from the film.  Unless you can do that for a book, you are failing at the visual medium. 

    A nice compromise example of something that might work for a book is the extreme teaser that was originally used for Ridley Scott’s Alien.  An egg, some nice sound FX, an eerie crack, and a very nice tag line – “In space, no one can hear you scream.”  Wow.  Simple and very effective.  I would order that book right then and there.  Book trailers need to be this smart.

    The problem is that I don’t see any money going into these trailers.  There are hungry filmmakers out there  that have  talent that needs a format to be taken seriously.  Of course, eventually, money is going to have to come into play.  In a media saturated world full of visuals, if a book trailer wishes to be taken seriously, it needs to compete visually.  Compete or die.  If competing isn’t an option, book trailers need to be left for dead.

    So, ideas:

    In the book trailers that I see, the ones that work the best are those that are done for graphic novels.  Novel trailers should take notes.  The illustration format allows for exciting ideas and imagery to be shown without being extremely cost prohibitive.   Good visuals equal good visuals.   Great art and smart, static animation can be the key to unlocking a reader’s curiosity.   Look no further than the famous UPA film for Poe’s Tell Tale Heart or, more recently, the limited animation found in MTV’s series for Sam Kieth’s, The Maxx, as two examples of how an interesting film can get made with static imagery.  Good art does cost money, but that is the price paid for choosing to compete in the visual media.

    As a last thought,  the illustrated work will not alienate the reader’s own imagery when reading the book.  Budget live action video will just plant that half-baked imagery.  I’m not sure why any author would want that.   I just can’t figure out whay a book like Mortal Coils, that very probably has some great imagery involved, would allow it to be represented by two kids talking, and talking, in a  bedroom for 2.5 minutes.  Like great writing – show, don’t tell.




  7. Smart and effective; I couldn’t agree more.

    It has to drive pre-release awareness and conversation. It has to be fun, funny, unique, memorable, sharable… it has to uphold their personal brand. And anything over 2 min is dangerously long.

    Google “book trailer trademark” and you can find who coined the phrase. I’m afraid they don’t know how to harness the format yet.

    I’ve been swamped with emails from authors searching for better options than these. It’s new territory, but I think with the help of more creative minds –– as you’ve mentioned –– we’re seeing some amazing results: http://www

    Lindsey J. Testolin



  8. Better late than never. These guys do amazing work.

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