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A Look at Book Trailers

July 11, 2010

A few weeks ago I posted the book trailer for Lane Smith’s It’s a Book.  I guess they’ve been around for a while, but book trailers are pretty new to me.  They are, as you might imagine, trailers put out by publishers to get people interested in soon-to-be-published books, in much the same way that film studios release trailers for upcoming movies.  Kind of a cool idea.  It got me thinking about books (and their trailers) vs. movies (and their trailers).

I am not a big fan of books being made into movies.  In my opinion, it is so rare that the movie is actually as good as or better than the book that I pretty much only see the movie version if I haven’t read and am not planning to read the book.  (Example?  The Blind Side.  I quite enjoyed the movie but probably would never get through the book.)  I dislike the necessary summarizing and combining and cutting and tweaking that has to happen in order to fit 400-ish pages of text into two hours of film.  But what I dislike most is how seeing someone else’s interpretation of a book brought fully to life — setting, characters, vocal inflection, facial expression, special effects, mood, all of it — irrevocably alters my own idea of the book.

Quick story.  This actually happened at work.  I overheard a kid asking his mother why she thought he would like to read the Harry Potter series when the movies just showed him everything.  How can we possibly exercise our imaginations when every piece, from the broadest element to the tiniest detail, has already been created for us?  All we have to do is sit back and watch.  No wonder TV-addicted kids find reading tough — compared to passively soaking up television, reading a book is hard work!

Okay, back on track.

Sometimes I even avoid watching previews for movies because I don’t want my own rendering of the book to be affected.  When previews for Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass were running rampant a while back, I tried so hard to avoid them.  A bit extreme, perhaps, but I really wanted to preserve Lyra’s world as I had imagined it when I read the trilogy years ago.

My point?  Book trailers are different in a kind of cool way.  Of course this isn’t true for all of them, but most book trailers seem to avoid defining any element too clearly.  If a character is portrayed, it’s only briefly.  If the imagined setting is shown, it’s just in snippets.  In this trailer for Marcus Zusak’s amazing novel, The Book Thief, it’s hard to tell if the people you’re seeing are part of the story or merely its audience.  Sometimes the trailers are even animated, like this one for Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book.  Neither trailer gives away too much, yet each, in my opinion, conveys the particular flavor of the book it represents.

And then, of course, every once in a while, a trailer comes along that is just off the wall.  This one, for Gary Shteyngart’s new novel, Super Sad True Love Story, has been getting lots of attention and is quite entertaining!  I have a copy of the book in my TBR pile, and I have to say, goofy as this video is…it does make me want to pick the book up and give it a go!

I also have Susan Beth Pfeffer’s The Moon trilogy waiting for me on audio; I’m saving them for a trip later this summer.  The publisher rolled all three books into a one-minute trailer.

Book Screening is a site that has collected a bunch of book trailers together to make it easier to browse them.  It’s kind of a fun way to spend some time.  Maybe your next read is waiting for you there!

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