Trailer Trash: Why Not Having A Book Trailer Is Better Than Having One That Sucks

I love trailers. One of the best parts of seeing a movie is watching the trailers roll before your feature presentation. To me, trailers are an art form. I can’t imagine how flippin’ difficult it would be to create a two minute trailer out of a two hour movie while keeping it fresh and interesting and not making the viewers head explode. I imagine that people have to go to school for this sort of thing; they probably spend years learning how to cut and splice and engage the audience with a dazzling sales pitch.  Steven Spielberg is sitting on some movie set with his finger up his nose and half a movie under his belt while we sit in the theater whispering ‘oh man, we’ve got to see that.’ He’s got our ten bucks before he ever wraps, all because someone made an awesome trailer.

As I said: art form.

So imagine my amusement at the concept of a book trailer. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think book trailers are great. The idea of making one for my own novel makes me giddy, because ohhhh, it’ll be amazing!

Yeah, sure. It’ll be amazing… if I knew what I was doing.

Here’s the thing: I want a book trailer, but I’m a bit of a snob when it comes to quality. I don’t want it to be cut and pasted together like some kindergarten art project. I don’t want people to snort through it like a school marm reading a half-assed book report. I want a trailer that rocks, a trailer that makes people go ‘holy crap, I must read this book’. I want a trailer that stuns my audience like a cobra, but instead of gut-liquefying venom my toxin of choice will be pure unbridled awesomeness.

And then comes the problem.

I don’t know how to make a trailer. Okay, look… I have the software and I know how to use it. I’ve made videos before, so I’m no dope when it comes to splicing .avi files and layering .mp3’s. I know how to do that stuff. Hell, I’ll go so far as to say that I know how to do it well enough to be comfortable with the process. But that doesn’t mean diddly squat, and here’s why…

Pull up a movie trailer on YouTube. Go ahead… any trailer will do. Now watch that trailer in a way you haven’t watched it before–watch it as though after watching it, you’ll be asked to reproduce it. Sounds easy, right? Anyone can copy a trailer. Wrong-o. Check out the cut-scenes. Check out how many there are. Check out how fast they are, and how as if by magic, you’re still able to follow along. You think you can replicate that? Try doing it with stock footage, images, and royalty-free music.

I’ve seen my share of bad book trailers, and when I say bad I’m being nice. Some of these things baffle me. First I sit there with a stupid grin on my face; then comes the ‘are you serious?’ moment… because it has to be a prank. If you’re an author with a laughably bad trailer, I need to ask you something: what’s wrong with you? Can you not see it’s bad? Because if that’s the case, I don’twant to ask what you consider to be good writing.

Let’s be blunt: a crap trailer makes you look like crap. You could have the best book on the planet, but if you put out a bad trailer and flash it around like a business card, that isn’t really the best way to garner a reader’s confidence. (The same goes for book covers, but that’s a whole other post.)  If you bust your ass writing a novel you’re dead serious about, why would you want to muck up your credibility with some ridiculous YouTube video? I can hear it now; because it’s fun. Okay, yes, putting together a trailer is probably a blast. It’s yet another creative way to get your story out there. But seriously, if you’re going to do it, avoid the comic sans; avoid the Indiana Jones theme music; avoid the spinning, squiggly 70’s text effects. You wouldn’t put that on your book cover, would you? Or would you?

As for me, nothing says awesome trailer like a giant rubber dinosaur.

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One thought on “Trailer Trash: Why Not Having A Book Trailer Is Better Than Having One That Sucks

  1. I was skeptical of the notion of a book trailer when I first began promoting my own novel. I had seen examples of both good and awful trailers and I knew that if I was ever going to put one together, I would want to go large. Trouble is, I had the budget of a lemonade stand. However the.more I thought about it, the more I…well…thought about it.

    There are actually some pretty cool, cost effective ways of putting together a half decent trailer – if you have a little ingenuity and some know how.

    But you have to walk a fine line between ‘meh’ and ‘hey that’s pretty cool’

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