'You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll read the book!'

Book trailers are becoming essential marketing tools for the publishing industry.

Ed Mundy and Trevor Williams
An image from the book trailer for 'Starters.'

Before screenings of "The Hunger Games," audiences may have seen a 30-second promo for "Starters," a dystopian tale about poor kids who rent their bodies to seniors wishing to be young again. The trailer – an industry term for a movie commercial – shows the 16-year-old protagonist nervously awaiting her fate.

"Starters" isn't a movie. It's a book, one of the latest novels to inspire a Hollywood-style trailer.

"All of the big [young adult] books are now getting some sort of a trailer," says the novel's author, Lissa Price. With book sales sagging, the publishing industry has turned to video as a way to publicize new releases on YouTube, blogs, and, in rare cases, before films.

Most book trailers are shoestring projects, little more than promotional slide shows set to music. But big-budget productions have taken off in the past few years, thanks in part to the novels of Seth Grahame-Smith.

His book "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter" inspired a two-minute action trailer that clocked 1.6 million views on YouTube.

"With 'Abe,' we had stunts," says director Adam Reid, a partner of Bodega Studios in New York. "We had costumes. We had period detail. We had the world's greatest Abe Lincoln look-alike," a point of pride for Mr. Reid, especially now that Hollywood has cast its own Lincoln for this summer's movie adaptation.

Reid, who has directed several book trailers, says that publishers insist on tight budgets. Even for his high-end trailers, he can't afford to hire a union crew or professional actors. "It represents, for me, a creative opportunity," he says. For "The Family Corleone," a prequel to "The Godfather" that hit bookstores this month, Reid recruited two Italian-Americans who had never been on camera before. They simply looked the part.

While there's currently no clear link between book trailers and actual book sales, some marketers now consider video to be an essential tool for certain genres.

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