Science fiction and fantasy                                            



When Book Trailers Go Wrong

6th July 2011

Not so very long ago book trailers were rare oddities. Then came the rise of websites like YouTube and Vimeo, and the ready availability of cheap camcorders and video editing software. The publishing world is cottoning on to the value of short promotional videos, and suddenly these trailers are multiplying like bacteria in a moist corpse.

Some of these trailers are enticing works of art that will have you sprinting to the bookshop, wallet in hand. But for every masterpiece of literary hors d'oeuvres there are several mutated little horrors that will have you galloping in the opposite direction. Let's look at a few of the different species of sucky trailers, and why they must be wiped out forever.

The Bad Actor

The trailer for Pirates: The Midnight Passage by James R. Hannibal won the 2011 Moby Award for the worst trailer made by a self-published author or a small publishing house. It's a stark example of the value of employing professional actors, or even talented amateurs. Or of the value of not casting yourself, your family members, or some random drunk you found in an underpass.

Some of the best trailers are ones where the characters talk and act out scenes, but if they're not believable for the brief duration of a book trailer, what are the chances that they will be for the whole of the rest of the novel?

The Blurb

A book trailer is not a blurb. I know, talk about stating the obvious. But the blurb trailer is the most common type of bad trailer, so it bears pointing out. So often trailers consist of static images, text lifted directly from the back of the book, and no voiceover. Sometimes the images are even stock. It's one of the cheapest ways of making a trailer, but it's also a dull, pedestrian, waste of an opportunity.

We can't yet put short videos on the back of books, so blurbs are all very good for paper. But they don't talk to you in the characters' voices, they don't have the atmosphere of a movie, and they don't give you chills when a ghostly hand reaches out to grab its next unsuspecting victim. Flat, 2D blurbs don't inspire like live action does.

The Effects Maniac

The trailer for Tryathon looks flashy and expensive. Someone must have gone to a lot of trouble to create all of those computer-generated effects. But at four minutes 21 it's about three minutes too long, and it leaves me cold. It's the perfect example of how more money does not equate to more interesting.

I'm too busy looking at the swirly, shiny graphics to pay much attention to the premise, and there isn't nearly enough information about the characters. I'd rather see their faces and hear them speak than watch any more of this soulless snooze-athon.

This trailer brings up the issue of duration. The most effective trailers tend to last between one and two minutes, and few can get away with going on for longer.

The Irredeemable

From the robotic voiceover to the gaudy colours to the pointless repetition, everything about the Partners in Slime trailer is wrong, wrong, wrong. I'd count the ways, but I lost the will to live about 10 seconds in. This should come in handy if you need to waterboard someone and you've run out of water and boards. Enjoy!

© Ros Jackson