Fewer Book Trailers, More Market Research

This item in GalleyCat reminded me that book trailers even exist and that they don’t work. Have a little faith that readers are intelligent enough to tell the difference between stock video footage and a description of a book. I know that GalleyCat’s article is about how book trailers DO work, but I will argue that the two videos mentioned are not actually book trailers.

The lion video is amazing and (I will admit this only to my blog readers) brings a small tear to my eye. The book, A Lion Called Christian, came out in 1972. The YouTube video was posted in 2006. This is a perfect example of viral marketing at its uncontrollable finest. Marketers are hard-pressed to artificially generate interest for their products like this. Why? Because consumers are at a point where they want to control and interact with content instead of ingesting what is put in front of them. They take pride in discovering obscure videos on YouTube, then discovering long lost books that correspond to these videos (or pick your own example). Creating something obscure then making people discover it is a tough thing to do.

As for the other video mentioned, I will admit that this is the kind of cool, supplemental media that should surround a book (kind of like giving away free sample chapters or even free books), but I would not categorize it as a book trailer. The video gives people a better sense for the author and wins readers based on the content. There is nothing flashy about an author reading an essay out loud, but if the quality of the content strikes a chord with readers, that works.

On another topic, GalleyCat’s opening line to this article reminds me of another pet peeve of mine about the publishing industry:

“…nobody really knows if ‘book trailers’ actually motivate readers to go out and buy books…”

Nobody knows? Why is that? No, don’t answer that question because it was rhetorical. Instead I am going to tell you why. Many publishers apparently put more faith in their innate ability to artistically glean which books will be successful than they do in market research. Of course market research is less glamorous and scholarly than artistic gleaning, but it has the distinct advantage of giving businesses an idea of what their customers think and how they will spend money. If you are a publisher who is willing to spend money on book trailers, you should also be willing to spend money on market research.


Author: Hannah Johnson

When I first came to New York City, I almost ran over Liza Minelli with my suitcase. Then I got a job in book publishing.

4 thoughts on “Fewer Book Trailers, More Market Research”

  1. I agree with you, Hannah. Right now book trailers are created with a shotgun, amateurish approach. It’s frustrating because this avenue for connecting books and readers has so much potential and is so poorly executed. The quality, content, and outlets need to align with expectations that viewers bring from other advertising experiences. Until then, book trailers will not be an effective tool.

  2. Ok COS, you got me. I did not conduct extensive surveys of appropriately represented demographic segments because I do not have the time or resources. The only market research I can conduct comes from my own experience as a reader, consumer, and web user (which, if I am not mistaken, is the target audience of a book trailer). From my experience, the book trailers that do reach the mainstream are these cookie-cutter, uninspired video clips that rarely represent the book in a way that entices me to read it. As Rose says above, there is a great potential for publishers to reach readers online, but not with advertising that simply expects me to be impressed because it is a video about a book. Quality content needs to be there.

  3. As someone who has done annual surveys of traditional readers and non-traditional readers I can say that book trailers are viewed quite differently according to your target audience.Traditional readers tend to like videos that are within the genre they already like. They want to know specifics like release date, reviews, synopsis. They like the videos to be shorter. It’s like skimming the back cover copy, but with visuals.Non-traditional readers, which are readers who buy only when there is a reason (Oprah told me to do it, or everyone seems to be reading this Twilight stuff, or this is storyline appeals to me personally) are more willing to sit through a number of 60-90 second videos, like little special effects and like to be entertained while watching.There’s no doubt that you’re right in that no one wants to watch a boring video. That applies to any video, not just book video.There is market research out there. And it is being employed.The other side of the coin here is that book video producers who may want to try something new are working with the literary industry and there’s not a lot of people or publishers wiling to be the first to try something new.And some clients insist on having a video exactly the way they want, which is often just like the ones they watch, so indeed it becomes cookie-cutter in nature that way.What is the answer? I’d like to see more authors and publishers take chances with book video. Do something fresh and unique more often.If anyone has suggestions on how to make that happen I’d love to know. Regardless of years of market research, there’s still that unknown variable that keeps videos from evolving in ways that can keep up with other entertainment industries.I really enjoyed this blog post, Hannah. I thought it was provocative and thought provoking.

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