Friday, October 2, 2009

Book Trailers

What makes a successful book trailer?

I'm beginning to believe that just as one person loves a book while someone else puts it in their DNF (Did Not Finish) pile, it's pretty much the same with book trailers.

With all of the creativity, time—and often expense—that goes into the creation of trailers, the bottom line has to be sales. Does the book trailer make you want to go out and buy the book? Or, at the very least, check into it a little more?

Here are some things I like:

  • Short. Maybe as long as 2 minutes, but 1 minute or less is best. Sort of like a visual Twitter program.

  • Endorsements. If you've got some name-candy to throw around, throw it around early in the trailer. I'm shallow enough to pay more attention to something endorsed by Dean Koontz than well . . . Peg Brantley, or no one at all.

  • Live action. Unless your still photos are super spooky and filled with tension, I'd much rather see living beings in action. I don't need to see their faces, but I want a sense of real people, not photos or statues or drawings. Even with historicals.

  • Set the mood. If the trailer is for a cozy, it shouldn't be dark and evil. Music is huge, but so is color choice and pacing.

These are my personal preferences, and I'm curious . . . do you have any? Are there book trailers you love? Some you hate?

Have you ever bought a book because of its trailer?

CR: Extraordinary Powers by Joseph Finder. (Good, but Paranoia is better.)

It's all better with friends.


  1. Book trailers should be short, never more than a minute-ten. They should not be elaborate. High production values are less important than clear message. Get the details in first and last, set a mood,whether using still or movies. endorsements are good if short and to the point.
    No music is better than bad music. Since most Internet users do not have high speed connections, keep that in mind if you are paying for production. The idea should be to motivate viewers to learn more about your book or you the author. Trailers almost never function as direct sales tools.

  2. There are a lot of book trailers I don't like. I won't say I hate them, but frankly they bore me. I rarely look at them anymore, they're so disappointing. I think the biggest mistake a lot of authors make is the idea that because they have the software that allows them to make trailers that they should do so. The problem is that most authors may be talented writers, but they don't know anything about visual design, so they cobble together 2 minutes of royalty free images that are static and plain, slap some music on it and think they've created something. You're right, trailers need movement, some action, not still photos of spooky castles or misty forests. They would never inspire me to even look at the book, let alone buy it. Harsh, but true.

  3. I have to agree with Carl here. A book trailer should definitely be short, one minute or so. The text that you use should be optimized and succcinct enough to grab the potential reader and make him/her check out your book. I don't believe at all that you need flashy videos. Still photographs can still cause emotion. One picture is worth tons of words. I believe that. Not all authors can pay thousands of dollars to go and get live actors or film live video. You don't need it. Don't be lulled into thinking you need a big budget and flash to make a successful trailer. I can say that I've noticed moderate spikes in sales after premiering a book trailer.

  4. Hi, Peg... some of your readers may never have seen a book trailer, so here's a link to my blog where I've posted some.

  5. Great insight and advice!

    Carl, I particularly like the idea of focusing on motivating the viewer to learn more about the book or the author. If you take the pressure off the concept of sales, it opens up a lot more possibility.

  6. The only trailers I watch are those DL members post--and don't really know how ones that are trying to advertise books get dispensed to readers--however they have never influenced me to buy or not buy a book. The only trailer I could imagine spurring me into a purchase would be one made sort of like a movie preview, and I imagine that could get pretty pricey...

  7. I liked Paranoia, but Killer Instinct was better and Company Man was awesome.

    Stephen Tremp

  8. A timely blog post, since I just sent my new trailer out into cyberspace for a test run. (in case anyone wants to see it.)

    What we like is very subjective, clearly. I have seen very few real actor vidoes that I've liked, probably because the trailers I have seen don't have the same quality of a Hollywood caliber film. But neither do I want to see still photos and static words foating across the screen. I think it can be deadly for a book if the video is poorly made. Sort of like the bad agent is worse than no agent. A bad video is worse than no video? But seeing as how this is subjective, who makes that decision?

  9. YIKES! A very timely post and a subject I have been muling over...

    Six month ago, I hade never heard of or seen a book trailer. Now, the publicity folks at my publisher suggest I make one.

    No ideas!!!

    I am sure with a nice budget and people who can handle the technical side of things, it could be great. I have seen some really cool trailers... and also some very bad ones!

    I guess I need to keep thinking about it before I figure out how to approach the task.

    Cheers, Jill
    Blood and Groom will be released in early December 2009!

  10. Are their any objective data on the effectiveness of book trailers as sales vehicles? Or are they just "the going thing"?

  11. Stephen, I hadn't even heard of Joseph Finder until I "saw" him on Twitter. I'm looking forward to reading his other stuff.

    I heard recently of a book trailer getting play inside a transit line, or public bus, or some such thing. Now THAT would be exposure, assuming a few people every day actually watched the thing. Otherwise, the author is relying on their database and word-of-mouth.

    Donn, I've never heard of any objective data regarding sales figures as they relate to book trailers. But then, I'm not sure there are any figures that relate to Twitter or Facebook or anything else for that matter. There are anecdotal stories about a book going viral, but specific and objective? I'm guessing not.

    I've seen some nice "homemade" trailers and some stinker professional ones. It is subjective. But I sort of think they're here to stay, and a nice tool to have in your sales aresenal.

  12. I found a great article on book trailers for anyone contemplating venturing down this road... Written by Sarah Weinman for Poet's and Writers Magazine back in 2008. As timely today as it was a year ago.

  13. Robin, thanks for that article! Excellent advice in it for anyone contemplating their first book trailer, or their next.

  14. Hi, I agree a book trailer should be short and capture the essence of your novel, and the mood. I'm thrilled with my book trailer for my suspense novel THE PLAN an entry in the contest, writtenunder the name of Lillian Watts. I did quite a bit of research and Gary Val Tenuta's prices were more than reasonable compared to some others, and I was very happy with what he did. Check it out and tell me what you think.

    I'm not sure they sell books, it's probably a combination of marketing efforts, but I like the creativity involved.

  15. What an interesting concept!

    (Both your book and the contest).

    And I see you're on the Editors Pick list. Very good!

    I enjoyed your trailer. You read aloud very well.

  16. Okay, so I finally made a book trailer for "Blood and Groom" (published November 2009 by Dundurn).

    Have a look and tell me what you think:

    Thanks, Jill

  17. Cool. I'm gonna have to watch it again and take notes! ;-)