Book Trailers: They Aren’t All Awful

The first time I saw a book trailer, I thought it was a joke. Surely, this wasn’t actually part of the marketing strategy for this big name author, working with a big name publisher? It was, though. And most book trailers are just as bad. Cheesy word art, stock film, and low production values abound.

Yeah, I’m biased – I like my literature and everything associated with it to be quiet. I have a fairly high sensitivity to noise and my two and four year olds use it all up, often before 8:00 am. I’ve never even listened to an audio book. But you know, I’m hip, I’m cool, and I can accept that book trailers are a thing; but if they’re to be a thing, can’t they be a thing done well?

For a deeper analysis of what’s gone wrong with book trailers, check out this from Book Riot or this from The New Yorker. Read on for a few of my book trailer picks: the good, the bad and… the Franzen.

The Good

You’ve probably seen this one for BJ Novak short story collection. Good production values, funny, actually tells you about the book:

I polled the Edmonton Book Bloggers  and found out that Patrick Ness has some gooders:

The Rumpus turned me on to this very simple trailer for Blackbirds and Mockingbird by Chuck Wendig:

The book trailer that inspired this post is for Edmonton author Melanie Kerr’s Pride and Prejudice prequel Follies Past. Now, the production values aren’t spectacular, but the whole thing is so darn earnest. The meaningful looks! The dramatic pauses! And Mr. Wickam is looking fine. (Psst…snap up a copy of Follies Past for free until February 14!)

The Bad

This is the one I thought was a joke. Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood:

What did Haruki Murakami do to deserve this?

And The Franzen

Oh Franzen. Where to begin?

Do you hate book trailers? Love to hate them? Show me your picks in the comments!



  1. writereads

    If we’re going to make book trailers to increase interest in books then we should probably make ones that are good enough to actually create interest in the books 🙂 You have some great examples of this being done well and this being done very, very poorly. With the Franzen, this might actually be about the author himself, and the author is not always the best person to sell the book. I’m thinking of doing a post on this later. Or, maybe now. Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  2. Naomi

    Like you, when I first saw a book trailer, I didn’t know what to think. And it was bad. Maybe not as bad as The Maddaddam trailer (wow, that was bad!), but it was still bad. B.J.Novak’s was the first good one I’ve seen, but usually I only watch them if I keep seeing them all over the place, otherwise I have been ignoring them. These are some good examples- very entertaining.

  3. Pingback: Birth of a Salesman? The Author as Willy Lowman | writereads
  4. Rick @

    What I’ve never understood was why book trailers aren’t simpler than they are. They all try to be so dramatic and visual, and they’re not really capable of doing either of these things well, so why bother?

    I’ve always wanted a book trailer to feature a couple of clips of author and critiques talking about the book and how good it is. It’s one thing to read a quote on a book jacket, it’s another to hear how a person talks about a book that they like. There’s something in a person’s voice when they’re talking about something they love. That sells a book more than anything, for me.

    • lauratfrey

      Yeah! Have authors read their blurbs and try to look sincere while doing so 🙂

      They all try to treat it like a movie trailer when the experience of watching a movie and reading a book are so different, not to mention different audiences etc.

    • Follies Past

      I will definitely keep this comment in mind if I make another book trailer. The ones I made were just meant to be a bit of fun, and I hope they were received that way by viewers. I was so naive when I decided to make a trailer. I thought I had invented the idea! Little did I know I was so unoriginal. Still, I like to think our yummy Mr. Wickham might have inspired a bit of curiosity in some potential readers.

  5. tanya (52 books or bust)

    The whole idea of book trailers seems kind of counter intuitive to me. I’m not going to watch a book, i’m going to read it! So stop feeding me images that will inevitably conflict with what i have pictured in my head. That being said the trailer for BJ Novak is pretty brilliant.

  6. Heather

    I can’t get into book trailers at all. To me, there seems to be something totally contradictory about them. More power to the people who enjoy them, but nah. Not for me.

  7. Follies Past

    In case anyone is interested, I have just done a post about the making of the Follies Past trailers that prompted this post on book trailers generally. Actually, my post is more about the actor who plays Mr. Wickham, which has been the most frequent subject of inquiries about the trailers.

  8. Pingback: Follies Past by Melanie Kerr: Review and Author Q&A | Reading in Bed

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