The Rise of the Book Trailer? And Why I Never Watch Them

I have watched with interest as a growing number of books have accompanying book trailers or some other form of visual promotion.  It’s all over the place.  More and more, because of conditions in which artists are having to resort to innovative ways to get others to experience their craft, multi-faceted strategies are needed and being used in order to engage and best reach wider audiences.  I have decided that I am not the audience for the book trailer.

It’s funny, because I will go to see a movie before I have read the book.  In fact these days, I prefer it. Past experience has lead me to believe that I am 95% likely to enjoy a book more than its movie counterpart in a side by side comparison.  So, I stopped comparing.  I have accepted that books and movies are different art forms.  I miss explorations and the characterizations that a book can delve into, but  I know that most of the things that I loved about the book would be unwieldy in a movie – you have to focus, pick and choose more when making a movie, when adapting a book.  If  I see the movie first I am better able to see it for what it is, a separate entity from the book, that can disappoint or delight me on its own merits. I enjoy reading the book later on and getting deeper into the story and often times getting a completely different and much richer story and experience.

A book trailer is much more personal to me, and therefore so much more capable of spoiling a book for me.  The author is more often than not deeply involved in translating the vision of their work, what they feel is compelling and to what they think readers will respond.  Some book trailers go so far as to cast their books, and some are like mini movies — laying everything out for you, so much so that you don’t even have to read the book anymore unless you want to check how you think it will end against the actual ending. Considering the way that I approach books, that is the last thing that I want.

Reading a book for me has always been an interactive creation between author and reader.  Reading is magical to me because of the way that I translate another’s words into an experience that is unique to me…especially for me. Initially, it is much less about criticism of the book, comparing my opinions to what others have thought, or seeing these characters as others have seen and envisioned them.  The beauty of books is that we are all given the script but the translation of that script is our own.

While reading a book, you engage with it, you cast it, you feel it, you choose the interpretation and the delivery of the scenes and the words.  In a movie you are shown what a charcter looks like, the ways in which they carry out their behaviors are pre-determined.  The entire audience will look to a movie and accept the same things, including whatever actor/actress is portraying the character.  Give this description to a hundred different people…

Paul Nova checks his reflection in the leaded floor-to-ceiling windows across the well-laid Thanksgiving table of their hosts’ formal dining room and takes stock of his life.  Thirty-one years old, moderately attractive, full head of hair, reasonably fit — not as regular to the gym as he would like to be, but the physical demands of Paul’s line of work keep him in decent shape.  He is the owner of an inherited, steadily growing electrical contracting business, transitioning somewhat smoothly  from the middle to the upper middle class.  – from Chosen, by Chandra Hoffman

I know what Paul looks like to me, but I doubt if my Paul is quite like your Paul.  We each get to have our own version of Paul, and how he looks and behave, that we carry with us throughout the book, and later on to our discussions of the book, and how we talk to others about the book, or recommend or don’t recommend the book.

I am a reader that wants the barest hint of what a story is about because the fun for me is seeing how it will unfold on the screen in my head, and what my first thoughts are about whatever world I am inhabiting, and the characters I am meeting.  I want to know what others thought, and share impressions and understandings, and be further enlightened about the books I read, but only after I have a chance to experience them without someone else telling me the way they  think I should perceive them.

I do watch certain trailers after I have read the book (my title was just catchier without mentioning that part!), just to see how much they give away and how much they shape perception. They usually do both a little too much for my taste.

What about you?  Do you like book trailers?  Do they help you decide what to read? Do they complement and enhance, or hinder the way you read books?  Do you seek them out?  Before or after you read the book?

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