The Book Trailer as History Channel Informercial

By Neal Comment

In just under three minutes, Steven Pressfield sets the stage for his latest novel, Killing Rommel. In fact, you would barely be able to tell from this short film that the book—which ships this week—is fiction; everything about the presentation is grounded in the conventions of TV documentary… the visual flourish of Pressfield drawing a map of the theater of operations in the desert sands is a particularly nice touch.

But you can only put so much information across in three minutes, which is why there’s an extended, 10-minute version of the film that goes deeper into Rommel’s background and his tactics for desert warfare, along with more information about how the British army’s Long Range Desert Group developed a counterstrategy that finally pushed the German army back, then goes on to reveal Rommel’s eventual fate following his evacuation to Europe. This video actually hints at some interesting possibilities when it comes to using short films to promote both fiction and nonfiction titles. If a production company can create something like this out of stock footage and a remote location shoot, how much harder can it be to make a 22- or 23-minute version which, in addition to being podcastable, is ready for cable broadcast?

Obviously, this wouldn’t work for every novel, or even every nonfiction book, and there’s only so many titles that would command the level of investment required, but perhaps, for somebody reading this post right now, it’s something worth thinking about.

(And, too, a 30-second trailer which is in some respects as much an ad for the longer videos as it is for the book.)