Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Question of Book Trailers

So, I've had people ask me, "What do you think about doing a book trailer for Thorn or Murder?"
And on some level, my reaction is intrigued.  This shouldn't be a surprise-- I have a degree in Film & Video Production, and I have a tendency to visualize things cinematically.  I could come up with the idea for an engaging video that would entice the viewer to the ideas behind the books.
Here's the problem:
I don't have the means to execute that video in a way that would match the level of professionalism that I hold my work to.  But more importantly, it wouldn't be a trailer for the books.  It would be a trailer for an interpretation of the books.
Let me unpack both of those here.  First the level of professionalism.  This a real problem with most book trailers out there, even the ones made by publishing houses, simply are not professionally done in the slightest.  I've watched many book trailers, and upwards of 95% are completely lacking in any sense of filmic language.  They are not visually interesting or engaging in the way a cinematic work should be.
Filmic language?  I'll explain. Imagine, if you will, a novel that opened with text that went like this.
Ummm... so, there was, you know, this... and I didn't, but... I, you know, each time I, it's just, and THIS GUY was all, you know, THERE, and I couldn't... but really, we should just... see, if you, like, KNOW, about everything that he totally, I mean NOT EVEN WITH HIS SHOES. Like, what?  Like, really, what?  And, um, maybe, then, we could, but then there's NO NOT EVEN and I had to... umm.  Wait, I'll tell... I, there... never mind.  You know...
And this goes on for twenty pages.
That's what sixty seconds of poorly made book trailer feels like to me.  
And other people profess this as a GOOD IDEA to promote your novel.
I have seen-- multiple times-- people give the advice to make a book trailer using stock photos and royalty-free music to craft your trailer. I need to tell you, this is TERRIBLE ADVICE.
This is like advising someone to write a story by copying-and-pasting sections of prose from public domain sources.  Sure, it's not violating anyone's copyright, but that doesn't create something unique that tells your story.  
On to the second point: Book trailers are not really good for advertising what books really are.  Movie trailers work because they take parts of the movie and distill it to, hopefully, it's most enticing.  Book trailers take something that is, at its core, not book-like, and try to use it to show the book as enticing.  
That said, I have a fine example of a book trailer that IS effective-- and that's because it does everything I'm talking about correctly.  It uses filmic language effectively-- it's always active and engaging.  It also uses the text of the book itself-- thus enticing with the actual content of the book-- and then uses the visuals to enhance the ideas of the text.

If you want to make a book trailer, then devote some time to learning the fundamentals of filmic language, the same way you would written language before writing a book.  For a good crash course of those fundamentals, check out Tony Zhou's "Every Frame A Painting" video series. 

1 comment:

Robert L. Slater said...

Great post, Marshall,
I've never felt good about creating one, though many have suggested it. As a theatre person, I knew I would not be able to get the quality I wanted. But the idea of not being able to really represent the book with the visuals totally rings true.