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A Fuse #8 Production
Inside A Fuse #8 Production

Video Sunday: Pondering Book Trailers with Live Actors

Normally I don’t ascribe much in a way of topics to my Video Sundays.  They have a tendency to be a haphazard blending of whatever happens to catch my eye in a given week and saved links from peculiar sources.  However, after a conversation with fellow blogger Gregory K about book trailers I realized that I’ve never seen an accounting of a relatively recent phenomenon: Book trailers starring live actors.  These are the trailers that try to cling the closest to movie trailers in one form or another to varying degrees of success.

This is by no means an exhaustive listing of these trailers, by the way.  If such a list is your goal the closest I can offer you is Random House’s YouTube feed.  They seem to do these kinds of trailers with the most consistent frequency.

This phenomenon of which I speak is by no means new.  Live action book trailers have been around for years and years and though I’ve noticed them vaguely over time, I never stopped to think about the thought process that goes into a decision to do a trailer in this style.  If you’re willing to put the money into it, trailers tend to be Flash animation affairs, ridiculously creative, or live action (though certainly this doesn’t preclude either Flash or live action to be creative too).

Now the first of its kind that I ever saw was for a long since forgotten (by me) fantasy novel that’s I’m fairly certain was produced by Harper Collins roughly 6 or 7 years ago but that doesn’t appear to be on their YouTube page.  A pity I can’t remember the title because the trailer itself shocked me.  We were allowed to do this now?  Film trailers that looked like movies?

Worst case scenario, a live action trailer feels like a sad pale imitation of a B-List movie trailer.  Best case scenario?  Behold:

See, that’s how you do it.  If I’m not too much mistaken, this was entirely created by author N.D. Wilson himself.  Everything from the shots to the actors (including Joel Courtney from the film Super 8) to the locations.  This is a rarity in a business where, by and large, these live action trailers are created by the publishing companies themselves.  For an author to take on something of this scope . . . well that’s an uncommon anomaly.  Worth it when it came to sales, I hope.

Books that already have a big push behind them have also gone this route.  I don’t think Wonder by R.J. Palacio necessarily needed the help of this trailer but its 89,000 views probably didn’t hurt it either.

So what’s the thinking behind these?  That kids will be tricked into wanting to read these books?  How are they supposed to even find these trailers in the first place?  Are they supposed to go viral?  Maybe so.  I certainly saw firsthand the effectiveness of these trailers when I watched the Cinder one with the kids in a book group I ran.  In spite of the somewhat jarring narrator’s voice, the kids watched this trailer roughly 10 times in a row, picking apart the casting and insisting on pausing time after time again.  Final Conclusion: The prince is insufficiently cute but they liked the casting of Cinder herself.

Here in 2013 I’ve actually not run into all that many live action trailers.  Possibly this marks a shift away from that style of marketing.  More likely is the fact that since I eschew YA book trailers, most of the live action work is taking place for teen readers.  Exceptions include The Tribe: Homeroom Headhunters by Clay McLeod Chapman.

In the end, until we see some hard numbers that say whether or not a book trailer, to say nothing of live action trailers, have any kind of impact on a book’s success we may as well just sit back and enjoy the creativity at work.  If this is a trend it’s a sporadic one.  Let’s just see if it has any kind of legs.

About Elizabeth Bird

Elizabeth Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.


  1. “Uncommon anomaly” is just fun to say.