(Also posted at One Bite at a Time.)

This may be a sore subject, as I know a lot of folks who have produced trailers for their books, but this article in Slate got me to wondering about the key question regarding trailers:

Does anyone know if they work?

For me, personally, no. I can't imagine buying a book based on a video trailer. Part of this is because I can't imagine watching a video trailer, unless someone I knew asked me to check one out for him. If I wanted to spend my time watching television, I'd watch television. Books and TV/movies are completely different story-telling media. The video is a far more passive experience for the viewer than a book is for a reader. I have a suspicion those who watch a lot of videos don't read a lot.

It might be a cool thing for someone established in a certain kind of story (Stephen King, J.K. Rowling) to let fans know their new book is available, because their readers are looking for something of an extraordinary experience. (Using "extraordinary" to mean "beyond ordinary," not "great," as it is sometimes used. Not that their writing isn't great; their subjects are extraordinary.) Video might appeal to them. To me, not so much.

I'm a writer, so this might make me the oddball. (Okay, not just writing does that. I mean in this specific situation.)

What do you think? Do book trailers influence you? Has anyone ever seen any empirical evidence that implies they're wirth the time and effort?

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Comment by Dana King on November 21, 2009 at 1:58am
I hate the idea of the "high concept" story. That doesn't mean I automatically hate the book or movie that resulted, but there's an implication of a lack of depth or thought. Not always, as comparisons can be useful (I once described Declan Burke's writing as reading like Elmore Leonard working from an outline by Carl Hiaasen), bit that's not what's usually meant by "high concept." It's usually something along the lines of "Think Indiana Jones meets Jaws," or, "It's Pulp Fiction, but with dogs."
Comment by John McFetridge on November 20, 2009 at 1:06pm
I guess what I mean is I prefer "low concept" stories, not the kind that can be sold on a one minute trailer.

Now, there are trailers for my books, and there'll probably be more, but they really don't do much.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on November 20, 2009 at 12:53pm
But John, taking the story of small times crooks and giving that story a heavy dose of imagination--suddenly the story is captivating. Imagery (for me) is the fuel for great story telling. It should work either in a book or in a book-trailer.
Comment by John McFetridge on November 20, 2009 at 11:35am
I disagree B.R. For me it's much more in the telling than the story. I've been reading George V. Higgins lately and the stories aren't anything special - small time crooks screwing up, some desperate people looking for a chance. In another writer's hands the same material could be awful, but with Higgins it's fantastic. There's really no story in the world you can get across in a few sentences that would sell me on a book. On a movie, maybe, but not on a book.
Comment by B.R.Stateham on November 20, 2009 at 11:19am
Two things are needed to make a trailer impress a reader 1.) Imagination and 2.) the promise of an intriguing story. Fill those two bills and I think a trailer will do fantastic things for book sales.
Comment by I. J. Parker on November 20, 2009 at 8:08am
I should add that much depends on how many pople will see the trailer. Running it on your web site or your blog won't get you much attention. Running it on Amazon is better.
Comment by I. J. Parker on November 20, 2009 at 8:06am
I'm a very visual person. Theoretically, a good trailer could work for me. Not the one in the article of course. But I am influenced by book covers, and I agree that getting one's name out there as often as possible would help. My quarrel with Penguin, for example, was that they made my name very small on the covers and practically tried to hide it. The author's name is his brand. So, publishers can make all sorts of mistakes with your book, and authors making trailers may also make mistakes.
Comment by John McFetridge on November 20, 2009 at 7:49am
What did William Goldman say, "Nobody knows anything?"

There used to be a belief in advertising that people only bought something if they saw the name of the product enough times -- so the important thing was getting the name out as often as possible. Like everything else in advertising that seems baldly self-serving, but that's what that business is really selling - itself.

Maybe the question is, can a book trailer hurt sales? I would say for me the answer is yes. A book trailer that looks exactly like a movie trailer is a turn-off for me. But books that are too much like movies are a turn-off for me (I am in the minority in this, I think).

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