I have a friend who can’t seem to get behind the idea of a book trailer, so figured I’d put my thoughts out there and explain a bit about why I support them.
The easy answer — We live in an increasingly visual society, and a book trailer is a quick way to get people excited about books. Take this trailer for Stephen King’s Under The Dome for example:
I don’t own the rights to this, it’s merely an illustration.
Thirty seconds, and you’ve been good and teased on the book’s premise. What’s wrong with that? Well, as my friend would say, we’re trying to make books more like movies, and in doing so, robbing the reader of their own imagination. To put it bluntly: we’re catering to the illiteracy of our society.
Here’s why I disagree: I don’t see this clip as a “trailer” (as it’s billed), but as a commercial. Why shouldn’t books get advertisements? We can see “trailers” about housewives using laundry detergent without spoiling our own experience with the product. Otherwise books are advertised without actually telling us anything about the book. “Hey, a new thriller book is out.” If you don’t know the author, how do you know you’ll be interested?
I think book reviews are an excellent tool, but only insofar as you’re relying on someone’s opinion. With a commercial, you get a chance to see what the book is intended to be. It’s sort of like saying, “Here’s what I want to make you feel when you read this book. Does something like that interest you?”
So as I see it, book trailers are raising awareness. It’s up to the filmmakers to properly raise this awareness–to tease us–without spoiling the experience.
BONUS THOUGHT: After sleeping on it, I wonder if book covers didn’t experience a similar skepticism during the transition from plain-leather-binding to printed works of art. One could make a similar argument that cover art limits the reader’s imagination by introducing visual representations of characters and story world. Even so, one could make the case that cover art allows a potential buyer to instantly glean an understanding of what lies within the pages, and that book trailers are merely the next technological leap in this vein.