Writers in the Storm

A blog about writing

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December 10, 2012

Are Book Trailers Dead?

by Laura Drake

My debut book will be out in May, so promo is at the top of my mind lately. When I brought up the idea of doing a book trailer with some of my published friends, I got the equivalent of my nine year old granddaughter’s, ‘Oh, that’s so last season,’ eye roll.

And I get it. I mean, if you’re looking for your next read, do you jump over to YouTube and peruse the book trailers? I don’t either.

BUT. They did say that if a book trailer is funny, cute, or somehow different, it can go viral. Does that correspond to more book sales? I have no idea, but getting my name and book cover in front of all those people can’t be a bad thing, right?

My friend, Tessa Dare, NYT bestselling author and creator of one of the best book trailers of all time (see it here,) even gave me a super idea that could be funny, cute, and very different. No, I’m not going to give away the premise here. Once the trailer is done, I’ll post it in all its (hopeful) glory.

So, what next? When I take a photo, there’s a very good chance I’ll that the subject’s head won’t be in the frame. I’ve never worked with photo or movie editing software. I don’t know anything! Thank God for the internet.

The first thing I needed to know, besides a premise was:

What Makes a Good Book Trailer?

From the Huffington Post (you can read the whole article Here.)

  • Hide the author in the attic.
  • Pay for a professional voice-over. This doesn't apply to fan videos, but for anything with a budget, it's a must unless the author is famous for something other than writing.
  • Could you please not open with a title card? Please?
  • No house logo opening. Ever.
  • Great music. Faster is better. You're already selling something that people think is a bit dull. Moody tones put it in the category of a movie, and it's not going to compare well.
  • Brevity is the soul of wit. Let's define brevity as ninety seconds or less.

From my publisher:

  • Have a SEO-friendly title and robust book description on the YouTube page and in the clip itself
  • A title card featuring the book and clear call to action (visit www.authorwebsite.com.)
  • Don't link to retailers as you want the clip to be universal; make it evergreen
  • Avoid pre-order language or anything that will date it.
  • Keep it short—2:30-3:00 max
  • If you’re using music, make sure it's rights-free or author has rights to use
  • Use title card for any endorsements
  • Use clean/simple voiceover or read a very short excerpt.

From Lisa Gottfried (you can read the entire post Here.)

  • Economic – 30-90 seconds
  • Edited – balance and blend text, images, audio
  • Authentic – be real. People know when they are being “sold” to and there is less tolerance on-line for the tactics used on TV commercials. Your message needs to be more down-to-earth, user friendly.
  • Emotional – look for teasers
  • Entertainment – make ‘em laugh; then make ‘em cry

Okay, some of that info is conflicting, but I think I get the basic idea. I now have a premise, and some guidelines to follow.

Now I need to know:

How To Do  This

Once more, the internet is a savior. I found a bunch of articles:








But the above describe different software to use. More internet research ensued.


Windows Movie Maker





Most trailers I’ve seen use music. But where do you get royalty-free music?

I found one site, but if anyone knows of others, I sure could use more.


Now all I needed was inspiration -- some book trailers to get storyboard ideas from. I found some great ones


http://www.thepassivevoice.com/12/2012/poems-by-cats/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter   If you’re a cat lover, you’d HAVE to buy this book, after seeing this/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NCfYrwGD9MI  Like Water for Elephants. Watch this and not want to read it. Dare ya.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c4DzoNkomQ0 Stud Club Trilogy by Tessa Dare – clever use of humor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZEsElsHrvC0&feature=player_embedded Crazy Love. Gripping and emotional.

Sites to Display Your Trailer:

Once my trailer is ready, where can I display it, besides my website, YouTube, Facebook and Good Reads?

  1. BookTrailers.net
  2. Bookscreening.com
  3. Blazing Trailers
  4. The Red Room
  5. Book trailers for Readers
  6. Book trailers for All

So what do you think? Are book trailers dead? Do you have any links or knowledge you can share with us?

0 comments on “Are Book Trailers Dead?”

  1. Okay, Laura ... I'm a youtube fan and I loved those clips. Tessa's video was very creative and tickled my fancy. About book trailers? Who knows the right answer. The cliche ... "you mess with the bull, you get the horns," comes to mind. I'd be lost to find the right way. But if anyone can come up with a funny way to make a trailer it's got to be you 🙂 I'd say ... go for it ... you and the book are "sweet" and it's bound to appeal !!

  2. I have never been convinced by book trailers myself, even when they were popular. If they are really going the way of the Dodo then I am not surprised. Yeah, a good one can go viral but that is a rarity. As you say I am not sure anyone really trawls you tube for book trailers in the same way as they might for film trailers and I am also unconvinced that they lead to sales. I am more likely to buy a book on the basis of a good blurb, a punchy extract or similar.

    Of course, that could just me being old fashioned about how I think books should be marketed and despite all the above, I did consider doing one for my own release in August. In theory I could have done one quite easily without breaking any copyright as I happen to have not only several relevant photographs I took myself which could be used (they were research pieces to get the feel of locations) but also one piece of music I referenced in a scene was written by a friend of mine who may have been willing to grant permission to let me use it (he granted permission to use the lyrics in the text after all). It was mainly considerations over time/effort compared to possible extra sales which convinced me otherwise...

    An excellent post and a lot of good advice in there. If I do ever consider doing a trailer I'll definitely refer back to here for help 🙂

    1. D.A. - I think you're right - not sure it helps sell the book (except the cat one I shared. Two of us that I know of just bought it for Christmas gifts!) But as Joel says below, I do believe that the name recognition can't be bad. And since it'll cost me almost nothing, I'm going to try it. I'll do a follow up post and let everyone know how it went!

      1. Oh yes, definitely want to hear how it all goes. And I think they may get you some sales but the question that has to be asked is are the sales you get going to be worth the time? Maybe you can answer that when you get your book out? 🙂 Good luck with it and I hope you do well.

  3. Wow, thanks for doing all the homework for us, Laura. I love the book trailors that are done well. I think the hard part is letting people know they even exist. It seems they almost have to go viral to get noticed. That would be my biggest concern. Still, when I see a good one, it makes me want to do one. I think anything we're able do to market our books is worth a try. I can't wait to see yours!

  4. I see trailers the same way as releasing my books in paperback AND digital: why leave out an audience if I can avoid it?

    As for content and quality, just make the trailer you'd like to see. Is there any surefire way to have an effect on sales? Generosity, making it good for them instead of you, is the best thing in your toolbox.

    As a songwriter, I often use my own music in my videos, but Sony Vegas (great video editing tool which is only $59) comes with some pretty useful music I use sometimes.

    Also as a songwriter: if someone asked permission and listed me in the credits, you'd better believe I'd let them use any of my music they wanted. And so will most aspiring indie songwriters. Find one you like and just ask. The ultimate worst case scenario is they say no. Nobody's gonna attack you with a framing hammer for asking.

      1. Alas, my framing hammer and roofing axe are gathering rust in my ex-wife's garage. Looks like you're safe.

        80% of what I do would fall in the category of "alt country." Some of it would fall solidly in country, period. (Some of it is Arabic trance, and there's Irish folk music, one horrific but funny disco piece, and some smashing loud rock that's fun to play.)

        And if you're asking 'cause you'd like maybe to use some, give me a feeling you're looking for and I'll email you a couple MP3s to listen to. (Most are still just demos, but there are always plenty of tight clean snippets for this type of use.)

      2. Also, Sting is one beautiful bike. I quit riding when I got married the first time in 1980, but now that I'm out of California forever, I sometimes dream of a good road bike.

        1. Yeah, poor Sting gives me dirty looks, every time I go in the garage. The traffic is so bad in So. Ca, it takes 1 1/2 hrs to get out of town! Takes a lot of the fun out of riding. When we move to Texas, Sting is going to be my major means of transportation (weather permitting.)

  5. I've considered doing book trailers for my books, even collected some clips and music for them, but never got around to actually doing it. Like D.A. said, I'm not convinced the trailers do anything for sales. They were a hot topic once, but unless they're so cleverly done that they go viral, they'll likely only appeal to a handful of people who may or may not buy your books as a result of the trailers. Most of the trailers I've seen have been too long and boring, and I lose interest after the 1st 30 seconds.

    All that said, book trailers can still be entertaining even if they fail to do what they were created to do, so name recognition is a huge plus in any case. Take my friend Mario Acevedo, for example. His trailer for his book Nymphos of Rocky Flats is very creative and has gone viral. And he's had more of them done for his other books as well. It's a great example of what can be done with a book trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=55jUNNPT1eM

    1. That's SO not my genre, and it's still brilliant. Do that with, say, a Chandleresque cozy, and I'm sold.

      Marketing that makes me *feel smarter* wins every time. Most marketing is designed to make you feel like a hopeless loser of a dolt, and that buying their dreck will solve that.

      But when you say "I can see you're brilliant; watch this!" who's not gonna like that? (Well, dolts with dreck, obviously.)

  6. I have to agree that any book trailer that makes me roll on the floor laughing my ... well, you know .. AND makes me want to buy the books is definitely brilliant.

    Way to go, Tessa Dare, and thank you VERY much, Laura Drake for a thoroughly inspiring, college-level course in the making of book trailers!

  7. Of course you post this AFTER I made mine! LOL. I did it a little over a week ago, and had a lot of fun. I debated doing it at all, because I didn't want it to look amateurish, but I thought if I could make it quirky and fun (matching the tone of my book), I'd post it. Here it is: http://youtu.be/7DBSIF89K_4 I figure it doesn't hurt and it only cost me roughly $50 and a weekend

  8. I hope they're not dead, as I just finished making one for my March debut! I came at the project from a slightly different angle--I'm a filmmaker--and I thought a lot about what I wanted my book trailer to do before I made it. I've blogged about it on my website (www.donnathorland.com) and while my process was probably more of a "don't try this at home" than a "how to," you'll find a lot of good research links there. After watching literally hundreds of book and film trailers and reading everything I could on the subject as well as sitting down with the producers of trailers I admired, the conclusion I came to was that movie and book trailers were most effective when they gave you an emotional taste of the story.

  9. Laura, another keeper from you! I will definitely refer to this post when it comes time to create my next book trailer. I had help from Shirley Hicks (aka mountainmama) with my first two trailers. I supplied the artwork, text and music, and she put them together. The music came from danosongs.com. Dano offer many original instrumental peices royalty free. I used the same piece for both trailers. It's titled Autumn Boy. The haunting quality fits the theme of the books. Here are the links if you'd like to take a look and listen.
    Darlin' Druid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Om4QX4NCMBw
    Dashing Druid: http://youtu.be/QEhX6N39rrE

  10. Laura, great info and an excellent question. I feel SO ambivalent about book trailers because they're almost always like disappointing, second-rate movie trailers to me and I just don't want booky stuff in my movie stuff. Or peanut butter in my chocolate. Wait, I like peanut butter in my chocolate sometimes. But anyway.
    I think the main value of book trailers at this point is that Google search engines love video. It can really help your SEO to have a video, even a short one, on your website.
    Thanks so much for another informative post.

    1. Hmmm, you know, never thought about the idea that google may be more favourable to video. That is a very good point and actually a good reason to do a trailer. Definitely something to bear in mind

  11. To say book trailers might be dead is to say they were ever truly alive. With people's spam detectors keener than ever, there's no wonder no one wants to watch them. But what if you make them good, and in the spirit of a music video, meaning high quality, yes, but not a direct ad? That was my thinking at least when I started producing them. You can see an example of one ours right here.

  12. I gather book trailers are effective, because apparently people respond more to pictures than words.

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