Book trailers are still having a hard time finding their way into the culture. There isn't yet a standard way to see them -- they don't play to captive audiences before movies start, or appear regularly with television or online advertising.
Usually, a book trailer is created and then left on its own, for overworked marketing departments or individual authors to try to push out onto the Internet, with a faint hope that it might go viral.
Could casting real actors be one way to jump-start the process and bring new eyes to book trailers? Greywolf Press is trying that tactic: Alex Karpovsky stars in the a trailer for the book "Four New Messages" by Joshua Cohen (Caveat: There is drug use and strong language in the trailer). Karpovsky is one of the young stars of the hit HBO series "Girls," in which he plays Ray, a friend of Lena Dunham's main character, Hannah.
Seems like using an actor from "Girls" might well reach a desired demographic -- young, hip cultural consumers -- more than simply using catalog-model types and overheated voiceovers. That's what can be found in some book trailers produced in Hollywood, where one company spends about $50,000 a pop to make book trailers for major publishing houses like St. Martin's and Random House.
Greywolf, an independent based in Minnesota, seems to be coming at things from a different direction, more Sundance than blockbuster. The book trailer above is called "Emission," and it's described as a short film based on a section of "Four New Messages" by Cohen.
In the trailer, Karpovsky plays a drug dealer whose actions are told by a girl at a laptop, smoking. We hear her voiceover reading what she types, and the secondhandness of the storytelling creates an uneasy sense that the narrator is not to be trusted. Or maybe that's the mood of the trailer, with music mixed with talk radio rants, and dark backgrounds filling with smoke.
Joshua Cohen is the author of the 800-plus page novel "Witz," published by Dalkey Archive Press. "Four New Messages" will be his first book since it landed, with a thump, in 2010.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Alex Karpovsky in a screenshot from the trailer for the book "Four New Messages" by Joshua Cohen.