An Open Letter to Book Trailers: You Are Irritating and Unnecessary and I Wish You'd Stop
Oh, book trailers. How do I put this delicately? I can't stand you. I really can't. I remember the first time I saw one of you. I don't remember what the book was, though I think it was some sort of adult paranormal romance — this was back at the height of the Twilight craziness. I do remember being confused. It took me a while to understand that this was an advertisement for a book, not for a terrible TV show based on a book. Since then I have seen many book trailers, and though I have tried to like them, to root for them, I simply can't. In fact, I think they make me actively less likely to purchase a book.
Now I realize, book trailers, that this is not really your fault. You did not decide to make yourselves. Nevertheless, I cannot help but find your entire existence unnecessary. There exist many ways to market a book that do not involve making a video. There are print ads and book reviews and giveaways, and that's not even mentioning social media. Trying to take a purely written medium and market it in the same way that non-written mediums are advertised strikes me as both needless and bizarre.
In fact, book trailers, I cannot help but think that your entire existence is due to publishers' concerns at being made wholly irrelevant by new technologies. And though I know that you have a long and storied history going back to at least 1986, it still seems to me that the rise of book trailers is tied to the rise of ebooks and the Internet and the digital age. You are a way for publishers to push back and compete against these modern forces, to use the advertising methods of modern forms of entertainment to market the good old fashioned book.
But it should be pointed out that most of you are not very good. I don't mean to hurt your feelings, but surely you know it's true. And some of you are pretty good. But even possibly the best book trailer I've ever seen still doesn't rise above the quality level of a mildly interesting lyric video. But that trailer, at least, is dignified. So many of you are not. And I understand it's hard trying to make books seem like movies, but facts are facts.
And this, perhaps is the heart of my problem with you. You are trying to portray books as something they aren't. You are trying to make them seem like movies or television shows. You want them to seem exciting in the way that audio-visual mediums are exciting. And this, I confess, I find highly irritating. Books are wonderful, amazing, exciting things. They engage people in ways film and television cannot do. The form has its limitations, true, but it also has its advantages. And instead of trying to present books on their own terms, you book trailers present them on other terms, the terms of movies and TV. Books will never surpass movies or TV on those terms. But they can surpass them quite easily on their own terms.
I want to like you, book trailers, I really do. I'm not one of those people who resists new technologies as inherently evil, and I don't want to be. I like the evolution of books and of print. But when it comes to you, book trailers, I just... can't. I find you irritating, and I suspect I always will.
Image: Wikimedia Commons