Similar to film previews, book trailers can all start blending together after so long. Now, I know what you might be thinking: why on earth would you ever be in the position to subject yourself to so many book trailers in such a short amount of time?
Well, put yourself in my position. I write for a website that specializes in book trailers, and if I could show you the contract I signed with Film 14 you would realize I am legally obligated to view no less than 140 film trailers per week. And I do not understand why either, I am not paid to ask why, I just do what I’m told lest my disobedience stirs awake the rumored deity slumbering beneath Film 14’s office building. We must not disturb it, we must not disturb it, we must not—
Anyone. Sometimes it’s nice to discover book trailer examples that think a bit outside the box. Examples that take the standard formula and decide, “Nah, let’s do something a little bit different.”
Trailers for books such as…
7. The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever by Jeff Strand
Listen, sometimes I just want to hear a cool theme song, and Jeff Strand more than delivered with his young-adult horror comedy book, The Greatest Zombie Movie Ever. It concerns a group of young filmmakers who set out to—you guessed it!—make the greatest zombie movie…ever. The book trailer is very simple. You have a picture of the cover, with advance praise popping up here and there, but what makes it stand out is the music playing throughout the clip: a song specifically written and performed for the book. The music here does exactly what any good book trailer should do: it gives you an idea of what kind of atmosphere you can expect to encounter with the story. It also gives me strong Tenacious D vibes (see: “Tribute”) with lyrics like, “Then you’ll make a movie based on the song based on the book that’s based on the greatest zombie movie ever.”
6. Bite Me by Christopher Moore
I’ve been reading Christopher Moore longer than I’ve been alive, which is a sentence that doesn’t make logical sense but it sounded good in my head, and I refuse to edit myself. I don’t need a book trailer to convince me to read his work at this point, but maybe you do? Well here is a video of Christopher Moore promoting his novel, Bite Me, by telling you, the viewer, to bite him. Then he walks around San Francisco while a camera follows him and talks about how the city ties into his fiction. Setting is one of the most important aspects of a good story, and with any of his books (and also this video) you can tell Moore cares passionately about this city. When somebody actually gives a damn, it shows, and it makes readers interested in checking you out. This is a good promo.
5. Like Brothers by Mark and Jay Duplass
The Duplass brothers are known for doing a lot with very little. Their first short film to make it into Sundance was made for a whopping $3 (2003’s “This is John”). Since then they’ve gone on to create several indie films (The Puffy Chair, Baghead, etc) and TV shows (Togetherness, Room 104) celebrated for their low budgets. It would’ve been no surprise that they’d eventually write a book together about collaboration and independent filmmaking, which is exactly what they did with 2018’s Like Brothers. I recommend anybody interested in DIY art to give it a glimpse over, even if you lean more toward the writing side of things. There’s a lot of decent tips and advice for anybody starting out in any creative field (most of them boiling down to “stop freaking out and just fucking do the thing you want to do”). Obviously I expected the book trailer for Like Brothers to feature their trademark DIY style, and I was not let down. Check it out and let me know what you think in the comments.
4. The Green Kangaroos by Jessica McHugh
Disclaimer: I published Jessica McHugh’s The Green Kangaroos through my own small press, Perpetual Motion Machine, back in 2014 (we actually just released a new edition last year!). However, I had absolutely nothing to do with creating the trailer featured in this article, so I feel it’s safe to talk here about why it’s so great. Every good book trailer needs to give the viewer a feel for the actual book’s atmosphere. That’s the main goal, right? If the book is depressing, give us a depressing trailer. When it’s more fun, goddammit that trailer better be fun. Watching the video Jessica McHugh filmed for The Green Kangaroos, I can safely vouch that it does exactly what a book trailer needs to do. Turns out, you can accomplish a lot if you happen to own a white lab coat. What’s so great about this trailer is the way she sets up the trailer as an introduction video to the fictional science fiction rehab clinic featured in her novel. Even better is the way the trailer spirals into absolute fucking madness the longer it goes on. Let it be stated here as an absolute fact: Jessica McHugh is, without a single doubt, the coolest person in the universe.
3. The Last Projector by David James Keaton
Minimalism in book trailers can be very effective, and I can’t think of a stronger example than the one for David James Keaton’s insane novel, The Last Projector. All we have here is the book cover with various endorsements flashing on screen. Something we’ve all seen a thousand times before, right? Okay, but…look again, homie. What makes this trailer stand out is the neat little animation programmed into the film projector wheel found on the front cover. I could watch that shit spin for days! But also, don’t go anywhere yet, because The Last Projector is a book very much inspired by John Carpenter’s The Thing, so naturally Keaton wrote an entire goddamn rap song about the film, which you can (and you better) listen to here.
2. Horrorstor by Grady Hendrix
Probably best-known at this point for his amazing novel, My Best Friend’s Exorcism, I would be a fool not to shine a spotlight on the first book that made Grady Hendrix an instant cult-favorite. Horrorstor is, quite simply, a novel about a haunted IKEA knockoff called Orsk. Like most of Hendrix’s books, Horrorstor caught everybody’s attention by the kickass creative design of the physical book (it comes packaged as an actual retail catalog!). His publisher, Quirk, puts a lot of thought into their designs, and I can’t think of a better example than what they did with Horrorstor. Which meant they had a lot of expectations to live up to with their book trailer. Thankfully, they knocked that shit out of the park by filming a weird little employee vlog of someone who has recently put in for a transfer. Things quickly get…strange.
1. What the Hell Did I Just Read by David Wong
I’ve discussed David Wong on this website before. This probably won’t be the last time, either. As a novelist, Wong has released two series. His first series, known as the Dave and John Books (consisting of John Dies at the End, This Book is Full of Spiders, and What the Hell Did I Just Read), includes some of the best horror comedy I’ve ever read in my life. I don’t see a lot of people discussing the third entry in this series, but they really should, because oh man, it is a goddamn treat guaranteed to screw with your head. The trailer is also really cool, as it’s set-up like one of those bizarre late-night medical commercials. You know what I’m talking about. A monotonous voice over a blue screen asking if you suffer from a number of symptoms, then recommending a certain medication. I won’t spoil the symptoms listed in the trailer here. You better just go watch it and find out for yourself. I love this one.
BIO: Max Booth III is the Editor-in-Chief of Perpetual Motion Machine, the Managing Editor of Dark Moon Digest, and the host of two podcasts: Ghoulish and Castle Rock Radio. He’s the author of Touch the Night, Carnivorous Lunar Activities, and several other novels. Follow him on Twitter @GiveMeYourTeeth or visit him at www.TalesFromTheBooth.com. He lives in Texas.
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