Book Trailers and Videos

Electronic books are set to rival our beloved, dog-eared shelf-mates. In 2009, Amazon sold about 2.4 million Kindles and in 2010 the figure jumped to 8 million plus. I decided I might as well embrace the change and begin thinking about an electronic version of my book The Storm Leopard. Most e-books reproduce the printed version as accurately as possible but some companies are experimenting with interactive or enhanced e-books.  These include video clips and audio files and may for instance provide the choice of the text or the author reading from the text, with seamless interchange between the two. A suitably romantic way to begin the embrace, I thought, would be to produce a book trailer, or book video as it is sometimes called. This is a short video that introduces a conventional book, which is usually posted on YouTube, Google Video, MySpaceTV, Revver, AuthorsDen and other online media networks. It is still quite new but like e-books, book trailers are taking off right now.

So I started off with a bit of research on book trailers – mainly looking at examples and reading some of the online articles. The general consensus is that the aim of the trailer is to give the viewer a hint and leave them intrigued. If it is too explicit about the characters and locations, then the trailer will interfere with the reader’s freedom to create their own mental images. This is a design issue unique to the book trailer genre. In books, words on the page create an image that exists in our imagination. The skill is supposedly to find the right balance between cinematic over-production, which can be too prescribed and melodramatic for a book, and an uninspired series of stills and straplines (pithy statements). The voiceover in which the author talks about the book or reads extracts is a way to connect the viewer to the story and that is what the trailer is about – storytelling.

Book trailers are still in their pioneering phase with quite a lot of diversity in length and content. Most range between 1-6 minutes in length. The usual advice given is to keep the book trailers short as otherwise you are likely to lose your audience, and it is has been noticed that two and half minutes is the maximum length allowed by cinemas for their trailers. However some 5-minute book trailers, such as Patrick Watson’s This Hour Has Seven Decades are so good, I would happily watch them for longer. (Trailer links are given below.)

So far I’ve distinguished five styles. I’ve labelled the two dominant ones as ‘documentary’ and ‘cinematic’ and three less common ones as ‘story’, ‘animated’ and ‘artistic’. Some trailers share elements from more than one style.

(a)    Documentary – where the author parks themself in front of a picturesque (or not-so-picturesque) scene and talks about the book they’ve written and why you should read it, sometimes interspersed with graphics (e.g. Patrick French’s India).

(b)   Cinematic – movie style which shows the story happening in pictures or video-clips with either text or a voice-over of a short, intriguing synopsis. (e.g. the short trailers by Circle of Seven Productions).

(c)    Story – film that encapsulates a simple story (e.g. Allergic Girl by Sloane Miller).

(d)    Animated – usually in the form of an animated story (e.g. Northern Lights by Michael Kusugak)

(e)    Artistic – portrays the essence of the book artistically. Paulo Coelho’s trailer of Amor is the perfect example and in a league of its own really but then a book on love lends itself perfectly to this style.

Two popular techniques amongst producers of book trailers are the use of cliff-hangers which leaves the viewer suspended and wanting more of the action, and the creation of some feeling or emotion to draw the viewer in. Many examples of the former can be found in the trailers made by Circle of Seven Productions. An example of the latter is Jami Attenberg’s The Kept Man.

Here are a few more examples to illustrate the different styles:

Documentary
This Hour Has Seven Decades (Patrick Watson)
Highly amusing trailer about the serious subject of story-telling.
India
(Patrick French)

Cinematic
Five Seconds (Javier González)
Circle of Seven Productions: this company is winning the most Davey awards for book videos (as judged by the International Academy of Visual Arts). Most last about 1 minute and promote fantasies or thrillers.

Story
Allergic Girl (Sloane Miller)
The Kept Man (Jami Attenberg)

Animated
Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails (author Michael Kusugak and illustrator Vladyana Krykorka)
The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid (Bill Bryson)
Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned (Wells Tower)

Artistic
Amor (Paulo Coelho)
Lowboy (John Wray)

The best style probably depends on the type of book. Thrillers and fantasy lend themselves to the cinematic style; biography and travel lend themselves to the documentary style; books with a strong central theme may lend themselves to the artistic style. I hope to post details of a trailer for The Storm Leopard soon.

About Martyn Murray

Martyn is a writer, sailor and conservationist. His first book, The Storm Leopard, is a journey across Africa and into the heart of the environmental crisis. His second book, Origin of Species: Bite-Sized, contains the essence of Charles Darwin's greatest work - his theory of evolution by natural selection - in a text that is 15% the length of the original. His third book, Beyond the Hebrides, is the story of a sea voyage in an old leaking boat beginning in an Irish creek and ending on the remote islands of St Kilda in the west of Scotland. It is a tale of romance and adventure which arises from one man's exploration of practical ways to keep personal freedom alive in today’s demanding society. Visit Martyn's website at www.martynmurray.com. Martyn was born and brought up in Ayrshire, Scotland and now lives in North Berwick. He went to school in Perthshire, and studied at the Universities of Edinburgh, Zimbabwe, Malaya and Cambridge for degrees in Zoology with field research into: shelduck along the Scottish coast; impala in the Zambezi Valley; wild figs and figwasps in the Malaysian forests; and wildebeest migration in the Serengeti. This work was underpinned by theoretical investigations into competition, conflict and social behaviour. Martyn is a consultant in biodiversity and natural resources management.
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One Response to Book Trailers and Videos

  1. great stuff. looking forward to updates xx

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