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Book Trailers: Friend Or Foe?

A scientific analysis of why YA book trailers suck.

Book Trailers: Friend Or Foe?

After watching the book trailer for The Forest of Hands and Teeth on Erin's recent post, I started to wonder: what is the DEAL with book trailers? And, more importantly, why are they so BAD?

I don't know when this phenomenon began, and I'm too lazy to even look it up on Wikipedia... ok, wait, wait, I'm not THAT lazy. Here, Erin, you can add this to yr trivia library:

The first book trailer to be played publicly was at a book convention in Shreveport, LA. in 2003. The trailer was for a book entitled Dark Symphony by author Christine Feehan.

SHREVEPORT REPRESENT!!!! (I'm from Louisiana, y'all, and to be honest, we don't have a lot of prestige for things like books, so we gotta take it where we can get it).

Ok, so obvs they're a recent phenomenon, because now we have the internet and publishers are worried that people won't read actual books anymore and they're willing to do Whatever It Takes to sell books, even if it means stooping to the teen Youtube crowd and making monstrosities like this:

Why do I get the feeling that someone just did a Google image search for "emo" and "vampire"? Also, I love how the text dramatically shakes, esp. on the phrase, "WITH HER FATHER." OMG NO NOT WITH HER FATHER!!!!! This book is so hardcore, it requires guyliner. Wow.

Now while I wait for my eyes to stop bleeding, let's go over a few common book trailer issues:


Since book trailers are videos, they expose reluctant readers to amazing books like The Hunger Games.

The existence of book trailers inspires readers to make their own, just like montages of Bella and Edward or whatever, which further promotes the book.


Book trailers usually include a lot of text, which is unfortunate if the publisher is trying to lure in people who don't like reading.

It's not like publishers have the same budget as, say, Roland Emmerich, so the quality of the videos tends to be weak. like, really weak.

Seriously, it's a book. The main way people get excited about books is reading about them. Am I wrong?!

And I know I already mentioned the poor quality but you guys, if publishers want to get serious, they need to hire someone with basic editing skills. I swear, sometimes it's impossible to tell if a book trailer was made by a super fan or the publisher. Case in point:

This is the OFFICIAL TRAILER for this book. I mean, the star fade?!! Really?!!! I could make a better video using Microsoft Paint, and yes, I realize there is no video function in that program.

Obvs that's an extreme example, but seriously, given the format of book trailers, is it possible to make one that's not cheesy? Even bestsellers like the Immortals series get stuck with the same stock photos used by textbook companies and travel agencies:

I swear I've seen that girl with the knit cap on a brochure for campus life or female health or something.

Even books that I WANT to read don't seem to translate well into trailer format. Like, this one for Kristin Cashore's Fire reminds me of the educational videos we had to watch in world history when I was in high school. And that's not a good thing, y'all.

Another piece of advice I have for publishers (besides getting a bigger budget) is DON'T LET THE AUTHOR DO THE VIDEO. These people are WRITERS, not actors. And not to stereotype BUT writers aren't really known for their glowing social skills or their on-camera charisma.

Case in point: the book trailer for Blood Promise with Richelle Mead. How can I learn about the book when I'm too busy watching Richelle uncomfortably lean against a bridge or talk to the camera as she strolls (read: tries not to trip) through a forest? And WHY IS SHE THROWING STONES INTO THE STREAM? This book is about VAMPIRES, not nature walks! At least her hair's not in her face. Ahem.

[Ed note: The link no longer features a book trailer, and it can't be found on Google/Youtube (after a five-minute search, anyway). Probs because of the embarrassment described above.]

Granted, there are a few exceptions. Who doesn't love to watch J.K. Rowling talk about Harry Potter in her classy British voice? And then there's this video, which is promoted as a book trailer but pretty much defies all of the typical format rules and HEY maybe THAT's why it's good! Or it could be that I really just love Sarah Dessen and totally freak out like a swimfan when I see the REAL LIFE QUIK ZIP OMGGGG!!!

SARAH LET'S HANG OUT! I'll buy you an extra large Zip Cola!

Ok, so, that's ONE book trailer I like, although I realize that if people have never heard of Sarah Dessen, that video probably won't get them to read any of her books.

I guess that leads me back to my original opinion: book trailers are totally frenemies of books. They act like they want to help books out, but then they make them look bad BEHIND THEIR BACK. And that kind of behavior makes me feel v. v. stabby.

I'll leave you with the one trailer that I think is actually trying to help out the book. and that trailer is, of course, for Catching Fire. It's not perfect, and it still follows the stale format of a typical trailer, but the editing isn't half bad, and it does build up a decent amount of tension.

So, what do you guys think? Are there awesome promos that I've missed? Are book trailers really the wave of the future and I'm just a cranky old lady who will never buy a Kindle? Hmm. Probably.

Posh Deluxe's photo About the Author: Sarah lives in Austin, TX, where she programs films at the Alamo Drafthouse. Sarah enjoys fancy cocktails, dance parties and anything that sparkles (except vampires).