The Rise of the Book Trailer

Written by NY Press on . Posted in NY Press Exclusive.


Will trailers replace literary reviews any time soon? If the book and movie industries have their way, they just might.

By Ben Crompton

A gangster is shot down by his best friend, bullets fly, and liters of animated blood spill on the pavement. Movie trailer? Nope. Video game? Guess again. At the end of the clip, when the solitary gunman has his revenge, all is revealed: the trailer is for Daaku, a novel about South Asian gangsters.

When considering marketing options for Ranj Dhaliwal’s sprawling gangster saga, publisher Rolf Maurer of New Star Books opted to commission a book trailer.

“The industry is changing,” said Maurer. “Books have been migrating on-line and we wanted marketing for Daaku to reflect this change.”

Alan Cooke, ‘The Wild Irish Poet” chose the book trailer route as well for his recent Naked in New York— a love letter to the city that speaks in terms of love as well as lust. Cooke’s video is grainy, and his words are gritty and beautiful: “…my immigrant brothers and I, humbled here amongst the multitudes; scarred but so alive, their eyes full of light in my New York, our New York…The World’s New York.”

A quick and dirty survey of online trailers reveals a loose collection of experiments, dreck, and nice tries, with a few gems mixed in. One such gem is the three-minute trailer for Ben Winters’ — and Jane Austen’s — Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

A slick short with an arc of its own, the video tells the tale of an amorous young man in the process of wooing his beloved when he is rudely interrupted (and then devoured) by a sea monster. The publisher, Quirk Books, hired a real live filmmaker for the project and was rewarded with an Amazon Books Editor’s Choice Award for best book video.

Each of publishing’s “Big Six” — Simon & Schuster, Random House, etc. — has a Youtube channel and all commission book trailers. Even among these giants, many trailers look like an intern’s uncle made them with MS Movie Maker and then got his grandma to do the voice-over. Pro bono.

“It’s still a bit of an experiment,” said Rolf Maurer, publisher of the gangster novel Daaku. “I think we’re early adopters. Within five years you won’t be able to click on a book title or cover art without being linked to a trailer.” Maurer also sees a bump in quality as publishers begin to appreciate the value of a trailer going viral — the holy grail for any video.

“Soon you’re going to see production values rivaling movie trailers. Book publishers don’t just want to sell books, we want to attract the attention of the movie industry as well. What better way to do this than through a trailer?”

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