Coming to a Shelf Near You

Nick Holdstock · Book 'Trailers'

The idea of film ‘trailers’ for books may look like yet another unpleasant twist in the commodification of literature, or, at the very least, an attempt to convince consumers that books really are just like movies, but all the same there have been some enjoyable results. Most trailers consist of the author reading a short (and usually dramatic) extract from the book over a montage of images. The recent one for Joshua Ferris’s The Unnamed is a pretty representative example:

There are, however, plenty of deviations from this model. Thomas Pynchon’s voiceover on the trailer for Inherent Vice isn’t a reading from the novel but a scene-setting monologue in the voice of the protagonist: ‘Oh, my name, ah, my name’s Doc, and I’m a private gumshoe, nowadays more like gumsandal.’ (Pynchon? Who’s he?) Listen out for the double take at the end when ‘Doc’ reads how much the book costs:

At their boldest, the trailers dispense with words altogether (which when you think about it is a bit like a film trailer doing without images), as in the animated film Faber commissioned from George Wu for Kazuo Ishiguro’s Nocturnes:

Online trailers can be disseminated far more cheaply than print adverts, and can in theory reach a wider audience, but I don’t suppose they have any great effect on sales: most readers probably don’t need YouTube to tell them that Pynchon or Ishiguro has a new book coming out.


  • 14 January 2010 at 4:38pm
    bartking says:
    I suspect YouTube is among the LAST places most readers look for information... but a video does make a nice placeholder on an author's website. Thus, I chose the "Nocturne" approach for the video on my latest title. (

    • 14 January 2010 at 5:56pm
      I think that Kazuo Ishiguro would agree that there's nothing coy about self-promotion.

      This reminds me of a particularly hateful phrase; authors will often send out announcements for their books even while apologizing for their "shameless" promotional attempts. Shouldn't that be "shameful"?

      If so, I am properly shamed. (It IS a delightful video, though.)

  • 14 January 2010 at 5:37pm
    Laura Soar says:
    Things have quite moved on since 2008:

  • 14 January 2010 at 5:39pm
    Laura Soar says:

  • 14 January 2010 at 7:21pm
    Phil Edwards says:
    The moment of no shame has arrived:

    More work! Less pay!
    (Web page. No video. No sound. Some Javascript. SFW. Comments OFF.)

  • 14 January 2010 at 9:45pm
    Kerrie Apple says:
    Saw this one on Shelf Awareness today. Pretty awesome.

  • 14 January 2010 at 9:54pm
    jamieson says:
    The promise of a book promo is incredibly exciting, but a montage of still images and text has nothing to do with anyone's experience of reading, which is why the vast majority of book trailers come across as what they are: cheap, crass advertising -- or worse: monumentally boring.

    IMHO the best book spots are cinematic interpretations that seek to re-create the dreamlike experience of reading as closely as possible.  Film conjures that dream state feeling using a different tool-set that writing, but I think the translation is incredibly exciting when it happens.

    Check these out:

    T.C. Boyle's The Women:

    Dan Chaon's Await Your Reply:

    Hope you enjoy them!

Read more