The rules are simple: I find a book trailer by an author I’ve never read and I analyze it for its marketing value. This time it’s Lessons from an Evil Mind by Shawna Lynn.
The title of the trailer claims it’s a dark fantasy.
Don’t do this at home…
The first problem is that the trailer’s tone reeks of horror, not dark fantasy. The difference between horror and dark fantasy can be subtle, but in order to be dark fantasy there has to be an integral, obvious fantasy element. Based on the trailer, the villain could easily be a sick, twisted human being without any supernatural aspect whatsoever. A supernatural element wouldn’t necessarily make it dark fantasy either; lots of horror novels have supernatural elements without crossing over to dark fantasy. And, if they do cross over, they usually cross over into paranormal territory, which is different from dark fantasy. Genre categories can be difficult to pinpoint, but they exist because they impact marketing, if for no other reason. I, for example, read my fair share of dark fantasy. I read some paranormal. I don’t read horror. She’s already lost me.
But there’s more. As off-putting as an inaccurate genre label (or a deceptive trailer tone) is, I found this trailer to be difficult to follow. The bright red letters in the beginning were annoying, but readable. The white letters at the end were annoying and unreadable. As I’ve written before: Books are text-based. Trailers are image-based. A balance uses the strength of the trailer to market the product, which is a book. But, in order to do so, the lettering has to be legible, and the text has to move slowly enough for readers to actually read it.
Let’s get back to tone for a moment. The eerie, discordant music—that’s horror. The mundane beginning (a seemingly contemporary wedding)—that’s horror or paranormal. Though there are some fantasy subgenres in which such a contemporary, mundane setup could work, none of those are suggested anywhere in the trailer (which would be achieved by tone, plot, or character). That red lettering that looks vaguely bloody—that’s horror, maybe paranormal, but even paranormal is a stretch. The white lettering at the end is more paranormal, but, again, paranormal is not dark fantasy, which is what the title promised. Torture and pain seem to be strong thematic elements in this story—and that’s primarily horror, too. The fact that the villain or antagonist is so poorly defined suggests paranormal, but again, it could be a sick, twisted human being without any supernatural aspects, which would make it horror.
We got a taste of the setup, the character, and what she must try to survive and accomplish to win her freedom. These are all important bases to cover. Either the label of dark fantasy is inaccurate or the trailer has failed to accurately portray the elements that would make dark fantasy an accurate label. Either way, it’s a big marketing problem that destroys the effectiveness of the trailer. So even if the trailer quality was topnotch (it was mediocre to poor), it’s a marketing fail simply because the genre label doesn’t match up with what we saw. The difficulty reading the text and other features that demonstrate a poor video quality just makes that worse.