It seems to me that the whole concept of book trailers has taken the world by storm in the past couple of years. I wonder where the concept even came from. I do recall seeing TV commercials for L. Ron Hubbard's Dianetics, when I was a kid. But I either never noticed others, or that was pretty much it. Well, unless you count the thing the Latter Day Saints used to do. But I'm having a real hard time figuring out the origin of non religious books as trailers.
Regardless, I've heard a few marketing professionals chime in on the subject and say that they aren't so sure that even the very best ones are that effective in pulling in prospective readers.
Me, I think it's much more likely to make the book being marketed come off as corny. And me being one of those creative types, I would absolutely love to put one together. If I had the time, I would spend a good couple of months putting it together - and as one of those people that really wants to do everything myself, I'd also probably try to do everything from creating the background music, to shooting the footage, to adding the special effects. I would probably end up pouring my heart and soul into a 60 second thing that a few dozen people would actually watch, and even fewer would appreciate.
Which is why I hope I never get it in my mind to make one.
But, thankfully, other people do that sort of stuff. Like I mentioned before, I think the vast majority of book trailers are embarrassingly bad. A small percentage are fine, but do little to peak my interest beyond what I might have already felt about the book being marketed, and just a very, very few, are pretty damn good.
Now, last week, Alex J Cavanaugh was politely asking for folks to hop on over and vote for his book trailer in a competition at You Gotta Read Videos.
The voting ended, and our intrepid hero, Alex, finished in third place. There appeared to be a late rush in voting that allowed him to rise in rankings and place third in order to receive his award for excellence. My humble opinion is that he should have won the darn thing, as his trailer is just amazing - not to take away anything from the others that entered, I did spend time this week trying to watch them all, and some of the others were also pretty good. But it is rather subjective, I just think Alex's is pitch perfect. Why? Well, let me give you an example of one that is by all accounts, amazing, yet still somehow manages to be corny:
That was about as big of a production as I've ever seen for a book trailer. Complete with pretty cool fx, slow motion filming, choreographed fight scenes, excellent costuming, and even live animals. That was not cheap to make - there was an investment of real money in this. My first impression was that it was a stunning achievement. But a repeat viewing made me think of those straight to SyFy movies that are a bit awkwardly acted and somehow always find a way to miss the mark. And when I think of it in those terms, I realize that is what I'm looking at here. I'm disappointed. Yes, it is unbelievably awesome, but it's still cheesy.
Because once you start involving actors things get real complicated - and most book trailers rely on volunteers or very cheap people to get the production done, I don't think you'll find many award winning performances as a result . Here is, in my opinion, the best book trailer I've ever seen that involved a real person:
And I thought it was stunning, not the same level of production as the previous one. But in a lot of ways it was more effective on me (of course, Alastair Reynolds is my favorite author, so I am biased because I geek out about anything that has his name attached).
Scott Sigler managed to create a pretty good trailer for his sci fi/horror novel Ancestor using (I think) a lot of volunteers. I'm sure his publisher chipped in something, but I do recall during the lead up to filming his open requests for fans that had video production experience to be a part of this trailer.
So even though I think the level of money involved in each production went way down with each successive one I've listed so far, I don't think there was any real drop off in quality, and in some cases, the effectiveness was better.
This brings me to Alex's trailer for CassaFire, which has been out for a little while. The direction chosen for his trailer (as the previous one for his novel, CassaStar) is to go all CG. Doubly impressive considering that unlike the other book trailers, this one isn't from one of the Big Six publishers, or from NY Times bestselling authors. This is from a small press and considering the level of difficulty involved - and the resources available (I assume), this is one amazing achievement:
If I were to nitpick, the voiceover was perhaps a bit too mechanical sounding, but that's a pretty small thing over all. This is something that is up there with the very best book trailers I've ever seen. Well done to everyone involved.
Funny though, what I think is the single greatest book trailer ever, bar none, isn't a book trailer. However, if what I've read is to be believed, it is actually a short film, again, a labor of love for everyone involved, with a budget of $0. Well, if you consider it's done by Hollywood professionals in their spare time, using Hollywood equipment and talent for every facet of the film, then you can say that it really isn't a $0 dollar production. But still, if this is the sort of thing folks can turn out in their spare time then I think writers ought to be courting film students and Hollywood folks looking to add something to their resume for future book trailers. Watch the short film below and tell me that wouldn't easily be tweaked into the best book trailer in the history of the world:
And by my count, that's five videos I've asked you to watch. If anyone actually takes the time to watch them all let me know in the comments below. I'll be sure to make a big deal about it in my next post.
Are there others out there that are also amazing that I've missed? What are they?