There’s a piece in the LA Times from November titled “Book publishers borrowing a page from Hollywood,” and some commentary on it over in the paper’s Jacket Copy column, “How to make a book trailer for $50,000.” Both pieces are focused on the work of a single production company, whose book promotion spots are aimed at television. Here’s a sample:


I think the article might better be titled, “Book publishers borrowing a page from television advertising.” These spots are short—fifteen to thirty seconds—whereas feature film trailers average more like two minutes. And they use the visual language of television—almost every shot is a medium or an act-out-style push into a character reaction and there is virtually no camera motion—rather than the wides, closes, and sweeping camera movements of cinema.

This makes a lot of sense, as these spots are produced specifically for television, but they go by in a flash when you watch them online—and they don’t get anywhere near the internet play as cinematic trailers, like this one, for Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Full disclosure: I went to film school with the folks from Dirty Robber, and think they’re brilliant.


I don’t think one style is necessarily better than the other—but they serve different purposes. The TV commercial book advertisement suits a bestselling series from a proven author–viewers/readers already know what to expect from the book. The commercial really just tells them that it’s coming, or it’s out. The cinematic trailer is too long to play on TV, but it’s better suited to introducing a new property or author, and makes a more satisfying watch online.

I’d like to see this documentary, Coming Attractions, about the history of the movie trailer, but it doesn’t seem to be available anywhere. For now, though, there are some interesting selections here, for the “50 Greatest Trailers of All Time” by IFC, including the Spiderman trailer I broke down a few days ago.