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A Survey of the Imperfect Art of the Book Trailer

March 30, 2009  |  9:36am
A Survey of the Imperfect Art of the Book Trailer
What is a book trailer? Consider it a marriage between the book jacket blurb and video. It's purpose is to act as a teaser in much the same way as a movie trailer. In fact, consider it a movie trailer. But for books. Still confused? Maybe this quick survey of book trailers will help clarify. Beware. The majority of book trailers are rudimentary handmade productions incorporating pixelated still photos and text in slideshow form. A large proportion of these trailers seem to be for romance novels (hilarious to watch but awkward to view in an open office where they can be mistaken for poorly-made pornography). Other book trailers take the form a bit further.

Want to see Chuck Palahniuk interview his character, porn star Cassie Wright (who, from page to YouTube, has transformed from feminine sex vixen to manly drag queen)? How about a mock commercial for zombie anti-depressants or a scene from a book performed with notable actors? Then check out these beauties that cross media to garner interest for their respective titles.

1. Snuff (47,295 views)
Apparently, Chuck Palahniuk didn't drum up enough controversy with Snuff, his book about fictional porn star Cassie Wright's quest for a dubious world record. So he decided to produce mock trailers for Cassie Wright's '80s style pornos and post them on YouTube: The Wizard of Ass (135,101 views) and The Twilight Bone (45,871 views). While there's no nudity involved, it's not hard to imagine that these videos attracted viewers who weren't trolling for, ahem, prospective reading material. Below, Palahniuk does a mock interview with an alternate Cassie Wright who's played by a very manly drag queen in another three-part book trailer for Snuff.


2. Maximum Ride (56,787 views)
Genre novels can fare well in the field of book trailers. Take the CGI-packed trailer for James Patterson's Maximum Ride, which has appeared as a television spot. It's almost cinematic enough to seem like a movie trailer, which may be another benefit of the well-produced book trailer: to show hollywood execs there's interest in an adaptation. An extended version of the trailer found below, ends with a note from James Patterson: "Hollywood here we come! With over 5 million page clicks they can't stop us!"

 

3. Six Stars in the Window (7,828 views)
Serious nonfiction can translate well to the book trailer if done correctly. The impassioned narration (from one of the actual interviewees?) over stock footage couldn't have cost much and does a more than adequate job of lobbying a viewer to pick up the book. 


4. Breathers: A Zombie's Lament (364 views in a few months)
Not only did S.G. Browne get a spoof website for the support group for zombies that exists in his debut novel, two book trailers were also made. His novel Breathers: A Zombie's Lament is a dark comedy with a horror twist so the trailers match the tone of the book perfectly. 


5. Kevin Nealon's Yes You're Pregnant, But What About Me? (2,585 views)
Not Kevin Nealon's best performance. The video production isn't exactly top-notch, either.


6. Mental Floss Magazine's Be Amazing (172,681 views) 
Animated. Well-made. Funny? Sure, why not? At least it remains interesting. 


7. College Girl (3,861 views) 
This one stars Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) and Kat Dennings (Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), but with the exception of the known actors, the production isn't anything that couldn't be achieved by an amateur filmmaker. 

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