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What are book trailers, exactly?

I’ll admit it. I’d never heard of a book trailer until I took a marketing class for writers in early 2020. When the instructors told us that book trailers were an important part of a writer’s toolbox, I made a note in my notebook and added three question marks after it. Did I really need one? And why?

A book trailer is exactly what it sounds like—a trailer for books similar to a TV or movie trailer. In many respects, book trailers are commercials for books. They aren’t a new concept and have been used with varying levels of success for about fifteen years. Publishers are utilizing them more and more as another way to market their authors’ works, and indie authors have jumped on the bandwagon. 

How are book trailers used?

Book trailers are another way to connect with readers, especially younger ones, many of whom discover new products and entertainment on YouTube channels. Social media sites now allow short videos to be played in feeds as you scroll by. Have you noticed how Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook ads in your feeds are now videos? Have you stopped scrolling, drawn to pause by the latest fast-busting exercise or sleep app? Book trailers do the same thing, allowing your social media followers to learn about your latest work. Additionally, while you could pay for ads in your various social media feeds for your book trailers, you don’t have to. You could simply provide a link in your feeds—a free way to advertise in a way that’s unique than all the cover links we might see. 

Why use book trailers?

But trailers are more than just for social media. You can band together with other authors to distribute a series of book trailers to newsletter followers. Book trailers give legitimacy to your works as you try to get speaking gigs, onto author panels, when you request reviews, or when booking tables at conventions. With our new norm of everything going virtual, they’re valuable marketing tools for zoom book clubs, virtual conventions and virtual book launches.  You can play a book trailer at the beginning or end of talks you’ll give, or have it playing on an iPad or in the background at your booth at book convention. Book trailers are an often-overlooked marketing tool that should be in every reader’s toolbelt. 

How can you have your own book trailer?

Your first step is researching different kinds of trailers. Trailers can be simple—a video of you speaking into the camera telling readers what makes your book unique. 

Another example does not include a voiceover, but only typed words across the screen, usually with music. These are great for social media followers to find as they scroll through their feeds or for events 

A more complex option is a voiceover, where still pictures shift as the words continues. A few examples include uses video combined with a voiceover.

And the most complex ones include animation, voiceovers, music, actors, video snippets and art. These are by far the most imaginative and the sky is the limit for what you could create.  

Here are just a few examples of some of the most popular book trailers available on YouTube currently:

THE SIREN by Kiera Cass

THE SCHOOL FOR GOOD & EVIL by Gregory Maguire

CINDER by Victoria Aveyard

SHE’S NOT HERE by Mandi Lynn

What should your book trailer include?

Regardless of how which style of trailer you decide to go with, these are the most important elements every trailer should include to be effective:

  1. The Hook – in other words, what makes your book interesting? This should be one, maybe two sentences. 
  2. Quick Blurb – overview of your book, similar to your synopsis or back cover blurb, only shorter. 
  3. Keep it Short – the most effective trailers are under a minute. Especially if you plan to use it for social media, the shorter, the better.
  4. Visual Effects – choose a color scheme that works well with your book’s cover, storyline, and genre, and make sure the “mood” matches these, as well.
  5. Audio – this should be either a voiceover (done by you or a voice actor) or background music or both 
  6. Your Cover – be sure to include your cover image, at least at the end/last slide.
  7. Call to Action – tell readers they should “buy it now” and where they can buy it (i.e., Amazon).

How do you make a book trailer?

So, now you know the reasons a book trailer can be an effective marketing tool for your books, what they should include, and you’ve seen some examples. The next step is having it made. Like many marketing tools in an author’s toolbox, a book trailer can be a DIY project. There are tons of online resources that can help, should you decide to do it yourself. 

However, authors can also pay graphic designers to build their trailer for varying rates, depending on who you hire, their expertise level, and which resources you use to find them.  Of course, you get what you pay for, so in most cases, the higher the rate, the better quality trailer you’ll receive. Additionally, this is another example of buyer beware, so ask to speak to authors who have utilized the graphic designer. Just like with an editor or cover artist, make sure your expectations are clearly defined and you know what you’re paying for.   

If you don’t want to or can afford to spend the big bucks to hire a producer, voice actor, designer, etc., you can always check out Fiverr, which has a long list of video book trailer designers waiting on standby to help you create your trailer. 

Where does your book trailer go?

Once you have your book trailer completed, where should you put it? The answer is…everywhere. It should be on your website and linked on all your social media platforms. Pinterest and Instagram are especially great places for book trailers. You should include links on newsletters and in newsletter swaps. Your email signature should include a link to the trailer and all your media requests for interviews or speaking engagements should also include the link. Remember, trailers are also great to start with when giving speeches at events (once the world reopens) or to add movement interest to your table at conventions. 

In closing…

While a book trailer is an investment in time and money, its value can’t be understated. It is yet another marketing tool that can help you sell books and increase your visibility in the marketplace. Considering the versatility of book trailers, it may make sense for you to have one for each of your works.

What do you really have to lose? 

About the Writer – Theresa Halvorsen

Theresa Halvorsen has never met a profanity she hasn’t enjoyed. She’s generally overly caffeinated and at times, wine soaked. She’s the author of Warehouse Dreams, a soft sci-fi romance, and The Dad’s Playbook to Labor and Birth, a nonfiction book for men about how to support their partner’s through birth. When she’s not working her job that pays the bills, or commuting through San Diego traffic, Theresa enjoys board games, geeky conventions, and reading. She’s a podcaster at Semi-Sages of the Pages, a podcast for writers by writers. She loves meeting and assisting other writers and being a Beta reader is a particular joy. Her favorite authors are Seanan McGuire, Jodi Taylor and Ilona Andrews, though she’ll read just about anything someone hands her. Her life goal is to give “Oh-My-Gosh-This-Book-Is-So-Good” joy to her readers. She lives in Temecula with her amazingly supportive husband and on occasion, her college age twins and the pets they promised to care for.