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Embrace Book Trailer Assignment


Cinematic Marketing

All About Book Trailers

by Lauren White

In 2010 and 2011, various members of the publishing industry labeled book trailers the next big thing. In some ways, they were right; book trailers now have a more established place on an author’s marketing checklist, while many publishers have their own book trailer channels on YouTube. But the question remains—do book trailers increase book sales enough to justify their often-hefty price tag?

In many cases, the answer is a simple no. The trailer fails to hook the few readers who watch it for a variety of reasons: it seems like every other trailer; it fails to correspond with the book in any way; the viewer loses interest, etc. Yet many authors and publishers continue to spend big money on the production of book trailers, recognizing the opportunity to reach potential readers through the powerful medium of video—a medium that is continuously growing. In just a month, six billion hours of video are watched on YouTube, up 50 percent from last year. And even those who admit that the returns of book trailers are frequently much lower than the investment will advocate the importance of book trailers; AuthorDiscovery emphasizes the value of book trailers in boosting “discoverability” and visibility online… if done correctly. Following is a guide to help you decide if a book trailer is the right option for you.

What is a book trailer?

A book trailer is a preview for your book that ideally serves as a marketing tool by sparking the interest of the viewer. The great thing about book trailers is the unlimited potential for creativity they provide. As a newer marketing technique, there is not really any established etiquette or formula for making a book trailer. Consequently, a quick “book trailer” search in YouTube can result in amazing stop-motion videos, awful Power Point productions, and everything in between. Anything pertaining to the book that can be done in less than three minutes is fair game. Many book trailers consist of author interviews, information about the book, quotes from the book set to related graphics, or important scenes acted out.

Who watches book trailers?

This is the big question. Many authors have come to the conclusion that book trailers are a waste of money, as even the trailers for bestsellers on the New York Times list can have relatively low view numbers. However, there is a thriving community of blogs dedicated to showcasing new book trailers, and many indie publishing houses have healthy subscription numbers to their YouTube channels. Book trailers are also a great way to reach librarians or booksellers active in the online literary community.

What do book trailers cost?

Book trailers can be incredibly costly. If you choose to hire a company to produce the video for you, simple 2-D graphics and text trailers can start at $300, with the cost increasing for actors, voiceovers, animation, etc; high quality book trailers can cost up to $15,000.

Fortunately, a little creativity and editing skills can go a long way in book trailer production. Authors and publishers who choose to create their own trailer videos reduce the cost and maintain complete control over the project. Before you decide on this route, make sure you have the necessary tools to create a professional trailer. As The Independent Publisher says, “A book trailer doesn’t have to break the bank, but it should promote your work and excite your readers, not turn them off with amateur acting or voiceovers for your pets.” Check out Julia Cantrell’s guide to making a book trailer here.

How does a trailer go viral?

The most successful videos are those that “go viral,” so ideally a book trailer would achieve this Internet fame and subsequently see a leap in sales. If you want to shoot for a viral book trailer, there is good news: these trailers do not have to be the most expensively produced, they just have to generate in viewers the desire to share the trailer with friends. For more about creating a viral book trailer read Tim Ferriss’ deconstruction of the process here.

What is the best book trailer format?

The smartest book trailers cater to the audience they would have the most success in. YA book trailers often look like fan-made videos that proliferate on YouTube, featuring the book’s characters played by Emma Watson and Robert Pattinson (clips pulled from Twilight and Harry Potter movies), set to popular music. Cookbooks more likely will follow a cooking show format, with upbeat authors whipping up a quick recipe while discussing the themes of the book. Determine who your audience is and watch other trailers in that genre to get a feel for what might capture the attention of your viewers.

If you decide a book trailer is a good marketing option for you, take advantage of the endless blogs and literary sites out there to generate interest. Post your video to video-hosting sites like YouTube, social media sites, blogs, and anywhere else you think your target audience might see it. Remember, even if you don’t see a jump in sales after the release of your book trailer, having an online video presence can draw more traffic to your website and social media pages. For more on book trailer videos, check out these links. 

The Elements of a Successful Book Trailer

How Publishers are Using Book Trailers to Sell Books

The Rise of the Book Trailer


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Lauren White recently graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in History and English. She is serving as assistant editor at Independent Publisher for summer 2013 and hopes to continue her career in publishing in New York City. Please email her at larenee [at] umich.edu with any questions and comments.


OLD POST ALERT! This is an older post and although you might find some useful tips, any technical or publishing information is likely to be out of date. Please click on Start Here on the menu bar above to find links to my most useful articles, videos and podcast. Thanks and happy writing! – Joanna Penn

Think about how you surf the internet these days. Think about how you decide what to click on Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

Now multiply that by all those people who are overwhelmed by the amount of information and entertainment options online.

Let's face it – in a sea of content, how do you stand out?

Visual images can be a way for people to make an instant decision over whether to stay and read any further. Posts with visuals also get more engagement on social media.

It's the same concept as book covers – and we all know that people DO judge a book by its cover.

So what are some of your options as a writer to use visual content?

1. Use images on your blog posts

I see so many authors ignoring this basic advice and writing articles on blog platforms with no visuals on to entice the reader. This is a basic must-do for everything you write online.

You can get Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr so it doesn't have to cost you money.

Use the Advanced search option and then make sure you link back to the image provider, or use Compfight to do the searching for you. All my own photos are available for you to use under a Creative Commons license on Flickr here.

2. Make shareable images using quotes from your books

There are lines within your books that will be perfect for sharing.

First you have to find them, and if you have enough sales, you can find them on your Amazon page, right at the bottom, where the most highlighted passages are listed. Some of mine from Pentecost are shown right. You can, of course, go through the book with a highlighter and find some you like.

Then you can use tools like Canva or PicMonkey to format the quote with a great image, or you can just use Powerpoint/Keynote and then save as an image. Post them on any of the social media sites with links back to your books, blog posts or profiles.

You can do this for other people's quotes as well, for example, I did one for my podcast with mega-bestselling author David Morrell, the creator of Rambo.

3. Use Pinterest for story-boarding, research and inspiration

I love Pinterest, and I use it mainly for my own story ideas.

I create a Board per fiction book project, and it helps me capture ideas and images, as well as provide an extra dimension for my readers. I always share the Pinterest Board in the Author's Note at the back of my thrillers.

Register at Pinterest.com and download the Pinnable icon for your browser, then you can pin away when you're doing book research. I start my Boards very early, so often they are named after my working titles, which generally change later. For example, my Ragnarok Board became ‘Day of the Vikings' later.

For more ideas, check out A Guide to Pinterest for fiction and non-fiction writers by Frances Caballo. You can also find a whole load of ideas on Pinterest for using Canva to create book covers here.

4. Use infographics

These are perhaps best used for non-fiction books or for blog surveys or other useful information that begs to be shared. If you're someone who loves to play in Powerpoint/Keynote or Excel, you can prep the data there and then use the previously mentioned tools to format it.

You can also use services like Infogr.am or Easel.ly, or you could hire someone from Fiverr.com or PeoplePerHour.com to create one for you. For more ideas, check out 10 tools for creating infographics and visualizations.

5. Share ad hoc pics on your social media timeline

When people tell me they don't have time for marketing, I usually point them to a smartphone and taking pictures.

A picture creates a moment of connection, and someone will likely comment on it, favorite it or click to follow your profile because of it.

These are not pictures of you and your book! It is usually just something you see or that inspires you, for example, the sign on the right that I saw in a shop window in Bristol, UK, was retweeted and favorited 48 times. It took me about a minute to snap the picture and share it.

Attraction marketing is based on being useful, interesting, inspirational or entertaining – and you can do that with just one picture a day.

You might think your life is boring or mundane, but where you live might be fascinating to people on the other side of the world, or even in the next state. Try sharing aspects of it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest and see who discovers you.

6. Use SlideShare for your fiction or non-fiction book

There's a whole article on using SlideShare for your book here.

But basically, you create Powerpoint/Keynote presentations that are heavy on the visual side and load them up to SlideShare.com. From there, they can be shared easily on any social media, and embedded within your LinkedIn profile. Here's one I made for my political thriller, One Day In Budapest.

7. Create Book Trailers and Book Research Videos

Making a book trailer yourself takes some time and commitment, but it can be done!

I must admit to having some doubts about book trailers as an effective use of marketing budget, as I don't see much evidence that they really impact sales. But I have recently come around to the idea as translations mean the same content can be used multiple times, and with a proliferation of books, it's an effective visual differentiator. But be careful, there are services that cost a lot of money, and if you do it yourself badly, it can do more harm than good.

My trailer below in English is for Desecration, London Psychic Book 1 and I've used the same video for the German and Italian versions of the trailer, just by switching out the text. I also have Spanish coming too, so can reuse it all over again.

I outline the process for making a book trailer yourself here, and I made the one below for around $40, which included the royalty-free stock photos, video and music from Incompetech. I wouldn't recommend spending a lot of money on this but if you are feeling visually creative, give it a go yourself!

For more information, check out the following resources:

What image marketing are you using for your books? What else can you suggest? Please join the conversation and leave a comment below.

Top image: Flickr Creative Commons Nick Wheeler not different, just special

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