The book trailer or how to “see” a book in seconds

Young Adults  · 

The book trailer or how to “see” a book in seconds

By Ana Domínguez Vizcay

It’s often said that “kids are drawn to things through their eyes”. Everything. Food, clothes, toys…books. And this truth becomes a necessity when you are dealing with illustrated books and literature for young readers. So videos have become a powerful tool to promote any new title. The book trailer is here to stay.

It is not a new phenomenon; it has been around for years accompanying many literary releases. A book trailer amounts to flashing images that bring us the essence of the book. When they first appeared they simulated movie trailers, brief videos that combine audiovisual and marketing tools, in this case with the aim of engaging readers by arousing their emotional side. And is there anything more emotional than a child?

This format is a perfect fit for its target audience. Young readers, digital natives, who are like a fish in water in digital environments and who play around with all kinds of multimedia formats, comprising words, images and sounds. Here are a few examples:

  • Madame Butterfly, by Benjamin Lacombe. In this case it is purely descriptive, but the beauty of the illustrations and the power of the music from the famous opera do the rest.
  • From the more informative or educational types of books, there are two recent book trailers that I find intriguing, in which not a single word is spoken: Abecedario (Alphabet) by the Argentinian publisher Pequeño Editor, and Animalium, by Big Picture Press.
  • With a more irreverent tone and a certain cartoony feel, El pirata de la pata de pata (The Duck-Legged Pirate) by NubeOcho. A fitting title that is a perfect match for the characters created by Myriam Cameros.
  • On its YouTube channel, the publisher Cuento de Luz shows numerous book trailers of its catalog, all with a similar structure and leaving questions and messages up in the air, like in this one for The Lighthouse of Souls.
  • Finally, Un viaje en nube (A Journey on a Cloud) by Apila Ediciones, a book by Marco Scalcione which has been nominated in the 2015 Booktrailers Online Awards.

A couple of years ago, Rosa Tabernero, a professor at the University of Zaragoza and expert in children’s literature, published an interesting article about “The book trailer in promoting stories” (PDF file). She was already anticipating the logical growth of this format that has been adopted by publishers, writers and illustrators as part of their strategy to promote illustrated books, especially through social networks. And she noted the idea that, despite being created for a non-literary purpose, it appeared to be “an entity in its own right, with its own laws of construction, from a purely artistic perspective”.

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Nor did she overlook the two-pronged reading experience characterized by children’s stories. Therefore, one must understand that "the book trailer not only targets children or young readers who use the internet, but also adults who view it as an intermediary or end recipient”.

What elements should be included in a book trailer?

  • It has to suggest a story in just a minute (and they tend to be far shorter) with logic, structure, quality, creativity and appeal. It will offer basic information (title, authors, publisher, outline of the characters, setting…), but without going so far as to be a summary.
  • It is necessary to consider what code to use to appeal to the reader: humor, horror, suspense, description, tenderness… Each book has its own language.
  • It should combine all elements that enrich the message. The illustrations, animation, marketing tools, text, typeface design, narrator, music (one of the elements that elicits the strongest emotions).
  • It must encourage you to share it. No matter what. The target audience is 100% visual, viral, they love recommending and participating, so this must not be forgotten.

Experts agree that videos in the publishing sector are a growing phenomenon and the concept of the book trailer is also evolving. “It shouldn’t be a summary of the book. It serves the same purpose as an advertisement. It’s a very suitable format for anyone born after 2000; a generation that is all about videos. We’ll start to see more and more very short audiovisual pieces, 5 to 10 seconds long, and more than one per book. 80% of people who start watching a video stop watching it before they reach 30 seconds, so this is about adapting to the user”, explains Gabriel Pena i Ballesté, writer and creative director of Vivlios, a new space (launched this month) in which to discover, interact and share publishing news, based on collaborative content. Vivlios is a natural progression from the book trailers portal Book Movies.

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Gabriel is in no doubt. From now on, campaigns will also be collaborative and combine very short videos, audio and text, enabling us to see the author recording themselves on their mobile phone, the making of the illustrator’s creative process, the reading out of a fragment of a book, short interviews released by the publisher… “Firstly, you have to try to engage the reader. And, once you’ve caught their attention, offer them more. It’s very interesting, especially for young audiences, when the author explains the reason behind the book with specific and educational messages; or for a teacher to do this in the classroom, or the kids to do it themselves. This could be a very interesting concept for parents. The content should recommend the book and be more imaginative”.

A couple of examples along these lines include Fortunately, the milk by Bloomsbury Children's, in which Neil Gaiman “sells” us his book, or this short sketch in which Daniel Nesquens uses his sense of humor to promote El sombrero volador (The Flying Hat) by Ediciones sin Pretensiones.

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