The answer, of course, is not much. Let’s take a look:
So, a thirty-second book trailer won’t accomplish much. But still, in those thirty seconds, it’s important to accomplish the right things: namely, piquing reader interest. Before we ask ourselves how to do that, let’s break this trailer down.
The first thing I note about this trailer is the sound of old-style film running, like the video you’re seeing is being shown via actual movie reel. This is an interesting choice that may “set” the movie in place (woods) and time (the past). But it’s hard to assume that there’s that much significance, because there doesn’t seem to be anything to back up the assumption. The video shows woods, a dark shape that looks as if it were photo-shopped into the shot. Paired with the sound of breaking glass, the color of the video changes, which might just be a matter of lighting. The music is daunting, but not particularly scary. There’s screams and howling wind, which makes it a bit more frightening. But, altogether, it doesn’t really trip my horror trigger.
What is it that makes something scary? A situation, by itself, is not scary. The woods aren’t scary. Even a scream is not scary. The thing that makes something scary is that which can come to harm. It could be a person or an animal or an alien or just about anything capable of feeling—but it relies on the reader/viewer having something to care about.
Okay, I’m into the more sci-fi and fantasy realms of speculative fiction, so let’s use a “What if?” example to make the point. “What if the Chinese blew up Mars in a show of power?” The actual destruction of Mars is not significant in and of itself. Nobody lives there. Other than being a pretty mystery up in our sky, as far as we know, Mars doesn’t really do anyone with any type of feelings any good. Sure, it’s an act of pure destruction and sure the destructive act serves no real constructive purpose—which makes it wasteful—but again, that’s not the significant part. The significant part—the part that induces terror, horror, bravery, and a heroic, empathic response—is the implications of the destructive act. If China could blow up Mars, then they could blow up the rest of us, too. Ah, then, there’s people involved! And that makes us feel.
Now, I grant, it doesn’t have to be people. Right now I’m reading Little Fuzzy by H. Beam Piper to my son. Fuzzies aren’t people, at least not human people, but we feel for them. The Fox and the Hound is an old Disney movie, and you feel for the fox and the hound, who after all just want to be friends even though they are “supposed” to be natural enemies, because they are anthropomorphized and therefore have feelings. Some people feel for animals whether they are anthropomorphized or not, because animals have feelings whether they have sentience or not.
The point is not who we have feelings for, but that there has to be a who involved. In this thirty second clip which is supposed to evoke feelings of terror, horror, or at least fear, there is nothing to fear, because there is no who. And that’s a big mistake.
On the other hand, for what it is it is very well done. There are no technical glitches to ruin those 30 seconds. And there are strong testimonials in support of the book. But it’s entirely atmospheric, and while a good atmosphere is great for a book there has to be more. We don’t get a taste of anything more and we should.
So, if you’re going to make a thirty-second trailer, be sure—absolutely dead-on certain—that you give viewers something to care about. That is, if you want them to actually care about your book.