The world of publishing is currently facing huge challenges. Many of them are due to drastic changes in reading habits. No one is unaware that the ebook is leading demand for millions of people around the world. However, print books are holding their own because their top defenders, readers who prefer that magic feeling of a print book, continue spending a portion of their annual budgets at traditional book shops.
It would seem that the industry is facing a contradiction: people are reading more, but worse, because nowadays reading sessions are shorter and more distorted, shallower, less focused, subject to the constraints of the hurried lives we lead, conditioned undoubtedly by the new globalized way we get information, e.g., the Internet/social media.
One of the latest status reports provided in the reading barometer published by the Federation of the Publishing House Guild of Spain (FGEE) concluded, in the words of its then president Javier Fernández (this year he was replaced by Miguel Barrero), that “although the number of readers has increased somewhat, this increase was not significant and the kind of calm, focused, thoughtful reading required for a book did not improve. We are reading a little bit more, but worse. Additionally, 40% of Spanish people remain immune to the charms of books.”
These changing and unexpected circumstances are in addition to many people’s preference of reading on Kindles (Amazon devices) and e-readers sold by other companies, taking advantage of these devices’ overt advantages: versatility and comfort of use, even without daylight, weighing considerably less than a 500 page hard cover book – which can weigh more than a pound, compared to an e-reader’s less than half a pound – and their storage capacity. For young people, who curiously read more than adults, book trailers can even be educational tools associated with the curriculum or their age, especially since young children are particularly receptive audiovisual language and this can incentivize the development of good reading habits (Rovira-Collado, 2017).
In search of new marketing strategies
Fierce competition and the need to grab readers’ attention (which is saturated by the thousands of ads and other messages they see every day) cause publishing houses to be concerned with finding the right marketing strategies. One of the most in-demand and successful solutions in the last few years, especially for not well-known and emerging authors, is the book trailer. Book trailers are short audiovisual productions aimed at promoting books being launched. As a format appealing to their target audience, their main values are, on the one hand, their alignment with film and television narratives, and, on the other, their ability to be disseminated online, either on general platforms like YouTube and Vimeo and specialized platforms such as Bookriot, Indietrailers, and Bookreels, among others.
Once the author has handed in their manuscript, the book is included in a marketing machine that is set in motion when the first copy is printed and continues in motion until it is distributed, put on the shelves of book stores, and finally promoted online in specialized digital journals and publishing forums. Intervening in this process either directly or indirectly are designers, publishing houses, advertising agencies, the media, and other players that are creating increasingly complex and better-produced book trailers.
These ads can be considered bridges or supplements that are useful for marketing campaigns, but not the definitive piece or one able to generate millions in sales. Nevertheless, looking back, there are a few noteworthy cases that just might fit this bill from the perspective of their distribution online. The book trailer for Simone Elkeles’ novel Rules of Attraction (2010), for example, generated a chain reaction among YouTube users with a total of 2,189,619 views since it was uploaded to the site in 2010. This figure is clearly outstanding, although we don’t know how many of these views led to users actually reading the book.
The figure shows some of the common components of book trailers: symbolic images that do not reveal the secrets of the plot, “faceless” actors, impactful phrases and texts, perhaps the author’s voice-over, and the closing of the back cover. Source: created by the author.
As far as production design is concerned, book trailers are a much simpler narrative resource that is characterized by a very marked simplification of materials (few actors, few scenes). The production is based on a written text and an optional description of the work by the author, who does not go into detail, so as to generate buzz and not reveal any spoilers. That’s why symbolic images, fades to black, ellipses, fixed images (presented with a bit of movement), the enhancement of fragments of literary text, and a clear presentation of the product with the front or back cover at the end of the video are all used.
Final image of the book trailer for El orfebre by Ramón Campos (Planeta), 2019. Source: YouTube.
The faces of the actors do not appear or are seen only in profile for one simple reason: if they create too many visual impressions, the reader may build mental images that do not match up with what they visualize when they read the work, and vice versa; readers that have already read the book and liked it may be disappointed if they see characters on the screen that are incredibly dissimilar to the image they had in mind as they read.
The book trailer is indeed a solution for the global publishing market that is increasingly in demand on the majority of communications campaigns for authors’ new works. Since it is a tool with low production costs, it is an accessible option for writers who are starting out and trying to get a foot in the door.
Professor of Publicity Communication en el Grado en Comunicación Publicitaria y Grado en Dirección y Creación de Empresas
 The report published in El Mundo is very enlightening in this regard. Plaza, J.M. (January 18, 2018). Barómetro de la lectura 2017: se lee más pero peor [Reading Barometer 2017: More Read, but Worse].
 Up to 25, according to the above-mentioned Barometer.
Plaza, J.M. (18 enero, 2018). Barómetro de la lectura 2017: se lee más pero peor. Rescatado de https://www.elmundo.es/cultura/literatura/2018/01/18/5a607873468aeb34758b4600.html.
Rovira-Collado, J. (2017). Booktrailer y Booktuber como herramientas LIJ 2.0 para el desarrollo del hábito lector.