The best in book trailers

Bound & Flogged: Meet the authors who've mastered the unlikely art of the video book promo

The 'book trailer', referenced in skeptical quotation marks since its emergence as a half-hearted genre of advertising in 2002, gained a rare good example last week in the video for James Franco’s debut novel, Actors Anonymous, out today. 

If you’re wondering, "Book trailer? Isn’t that kind of counterintuitive?", the answer is: "Generally, yes. Very". The best, like Franco’s, integrate humor (Franco’s is particularly self-aware: "I used to care about how I looked. Now I don’t care as much. Maybe it’s because I’m so handsome") and/or drama with, ideally, some aspect of the book being trailered. Few approach this level of provocativity, unless feeling provoked to never read a book again counts. Still, we scoured the web and found a few—enough to give us hope that the literary community is not all dad humour and glorified PowerPoint presentations, at least.

The Women by T.C. Boyle

Director Jamieson Fry is, as much as one can be, regarded as a champion of the form, and for good reason—he’s directed three of the trailers on this list. Here, Austra, insistent and almost desperate in the background, adds to the sense of urgency already pretty solidly established, given the flames, mistresses, bloody tears, etc.

The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey

For a couple of years, Brooklyn’s Moby Awards celebrated the weirdness of the book trailer with an annual ceremony featuring categories such as ‘Worst Performance by an Author’ and ‘What Are We Doing To Our Children? (good or bad, you decide)’A test of post-Internet patience, this was nominated for best ‘Book Trailer As Stand Alone Art Object’ in 2011 and features: guess.

Wild Child by T.C. Boyle

Another Jamieson Fry/T.C. Boyle combination, here the titles of Boyle’s short stories flash onscreen like the names of actors in the title sequence of a movie. Although the rich colors of high-production quality might have you worshiping at the alter of video, Fry’s flair for the dramatic makes you want to add Wild Child to your Amazon wishlist instead.

Lowboy by John Wray

Sure, reviews of Wray’s Lowboy called the tragi-mystery ‘haunting’ and ‘stirringly strange’, but the trailer has nothing to do with it. In some cases, this might be annoying; in this one, Zach Galifianakis plays a bizarre, blasé version of the author, and it’s really funny.

Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Okay, there really aren’t that many book trailer directors to choose from, but even if there were we would be hard-pressed to find one as deft as Fry. This time he goes more ‘deadpan’ than ‘drama’, but the book comes out seeming just as interesting. It’s about researchers testing how low you can go, hygiene-wise, in outer space.

Skagboys by Irvine Welsh

Short, spooky and featuring a puppet skeleton, this is a great example of how to supplement an already-hyped book by a super-famous writer. The font is refreshingly not cringe-worthy.

How Did You Get This Number by Sloane Crosley

This one is way weirder than the book it’s plugging, which is not so much like something the girls from Clueless on an acid trip would produce, but that’s totally fine with us.

Forecast by Shya Scanlon

Aural texture creates the sneaking suspicion that all is not totally well, so that when the narrator’s voice, bored but biting, comes in halfway through to confirm that—‘I think he’s cheating on me’—we’re already on her side. The music at the end adds eeriness.

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris

Beautiful animation, self-deprecating funny story about weird title and an anecdote that's relatable and related to the book! Sometimes, it's not that hard.