Monday, September 15, 2008

Book Trailers

Recently I've started to look more seriously at book trailers, seeing as how so many novelists seems to be doing them. What is the cost? Are they worth that cost? What makes a good book trailer? Where do you post them? I put such questions out to a couple author loops and received a number of replies. I'm running those replies here anonymously.

Bottom line I haven't found anyone who's definitively said the BT directly resulted in enough sales to cover its cost. However I'm not sure that's a fair assessment of any marketing campaign. Although the ultimate goal is to effect more sales of the specific marketed title, a book campaign may have results that aren't so immediate but still help raise awareness of the author in the minds of potential new readers. Such was the sentiment of Carolyn K. Reidy, president and CEO of Simon & Schuster, in a June 7 article the Wall Street Journal ran about book trailers: "In some cases, we don't even expect [the trailer] to increase sales at all. It's almost a gift to the audience, and hopefully it makes them buy the next book." All the same WSJ said S&S has "doubled its investment in video content since it started making trailers last year."

A second bottom line: there are two sides of the book trailer coin: to make it effective ya gotta create a good one, and ya gotta post it in the right places. Neither is easy. Even when you find a wide range of effective target spots for posting, it's important to put the right key words into the tag description of the trailer so searchers of those topics will find it. This post from Future Perfect Publishing blog explains how that's done. As to making your own trailer, here's a post from COS Productions about the pitfalls. COS--Circle of Seven--is a major player among companies making book trailers and is credited, according to their website, to creating the BT market in 2002. You can check out their costs for various kinds of video book marketing here.

I haven't done a book trailer yet. Not sure when I will. I'd be very hard to please in the matter. I think an effective book trailer must pass this two-question test:

1. Is it creative/exciting/clever enough to make me want to email the link to someone?
2. Does it make me want to buy the book?

Both questions are important. Yes, #2 means a sale, but #1 means viral marketing, which can result in many more sales from one intial person's viewing.

Here's an insightful response to my questions about book trailers from one author:

"From a filmmaking perspective I think most of them are so poorly done, it's hard to judge the effect. There are two main ways they are done: a visual commercial or a true trailer. True trailers take a lot more time and money but they are likely to be more effective because they are what we are used to seeing. The point should be to give us a feel for what the book is in a visual way.

"True trailers should be scripted and shot like a short movie, showing us either a scene from the movie, or bits and pieces of scenes from the movie. They should limited voice over or words - just like we see in a movie trailer. Short and punctuated.

"Most people do visual commercials, which are little more than back cover copy put over a few images. I think these could be useful and interesting for website visitors and people already familiar with your work. But I don't think this kind has the potential to reach beyond the market you've already tapped. Most use WAY too much voiceover or WAY too much text. They aren't any more clever or appealing than the back cover copy might be.

"My suggestion? IF you're purpose is to add some website content, than a visual commercial might be enough. If you are looking to have the video go viral, then you need to look into doing a true trailer."

This novelist pointed to a series of six book trailers for Ted Dekker's Skin as excellent examples. This is the first one, which links to the others. The author notes, "It is interesting and intriguing and surprises me. Notice there is nothing about the book content. Very unique."

I agree these six trailers are great. They pass my two-question test for an effective BT. But I have to think they didn't come cheap.

I'd like to hear from you: What's been your experience with BTs, either doing one or viewing them? Have you heard of specific sales resulting from a BT campaign? Have a link to a specific BT you think is particularly effective?


Anonymous said...

I've watched a few book trailers but they have never influenced me to buy a book. In my mind it just seems...not quite right. It's a book, not a movie. I love movie trailers in a geeky sort of way and would have thought I'd like book trailers just the same. Nope. In my opinion, not that it counts much, money would be better spent on free books to reviewers or other forms of advertising.

Unknown said...

you know, i think BTs are kind of silly. I have never seen one and then said, Oh boy I have to read that book. I would rather see a short piece about the author. Let her or him speak to me about the book or about the joy of writing it or what it means to be a writer and junk like that. I am much more inclined to buy books from authors I feel I know a little about. But maybe that's just me.

Unknown said...

oh, one more little thing. I also think that whatever you do that will have a visual impact on potential readers must be top drawer. No skimping or it looks bad for everyone involved. Sorry, maybe I'm being a snob but it's got to look good. I've seen some that are nothing more than still shots fading and tumbling in and out with words over top. Yikes.

Pam Halter said...

I agree with Joyce. If you are going to make a book trailer, spend the money and do a GOOD ONE.

I see them as movie previews. What will make potential readers want to run out and buy the book?

I also think you should have a release date before you make a book trailer. I've been an excellent trailer for a book that isn't under contract yet and felt frustrated that I couldn't, at least, pre-order it.

Pam Halter said...

Oops - make that I've SEEN an excellent book trailer! HA!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Brandilyn, Thanks for the info on booktrailers. I know they will develop and grow so we should be aware. And I agree with the other comments, if you make them, do it well. But my question is who has time to watch all of these. I barely keep up with my loops and blogs. LOL.

Rita Gerlach said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rita Gerlach said...

I agree. If you are going to do a book trailer, it must be professional in every sense of the word.

Not long ago I decided to do a bit of investigating into this brand of marketing and searched You Tube for book trailers. Like Tina, not a single one I found motivated me to buy a book. I think one of the problems is the quality... but could another be that reading causes us to visualize within our minds the story? Whereas a video trailer does that FOR us. It is a departure from using our imagination.

I do admit, I thought Ted's video was rather great.

CherryBlossomMJ said...

I'm personally loving book trailers. Most that I've seen are pretty good, there is one company though that are all narrated by the same voice, and it's a very uncomfortable voice to listen to. Other than that, there are many that have been out right awesome.

The benefit that I have found with book trailers, is that I can show them to non-bibliophiles and it interests them. I have some friends that are big movie goers, but think reading is boring, but after seeing a couple book trailers, they picked up a book, and then another.

So, in my opinion they are worth it. I know as a reviewer, that I'm more than excited to post book trailers on my blog to share.

Anonymous said...

I love the book trailers. Michelle Sutton's is great. It's the music that got me...Adie Camp. Then it led me to her website to read a chapter and I was hooked, was on pins and needles until the release date. So, I think they are effective...kind of combines the movie and book worlds together a little.


Patti Lacy said...

Hello, Brandilyn and book-loving crowd!
My wonderful web designer created what I think is a smashing book trailer for An Irishwoman's Tale. I thank Kregel for the opportunity to "get it done right." Many readers claim to have been hooked by the dialogue/images, which are posted on Kregel's webpage, youtube, and my website, With a little help from my friends, like Grace Bridges, who sent film shot on-location in Ireland, we stayed under budget. If anyone would like more details, feel free to e-mail me at

Rita Gerlach said...

Patti Lacy has an excellent book trailer.

Domino said...

Here's some questions:

Aren't authors the ones putting out money for the BTs?
Do you think publishers will get involved in the production and/or pay for the trailers? It seems these trailers should be quite effective tools if used as attention-getters like movie trailers.

Rita Gerlach said...

My husband installed Windows Movie Maker the other day, and I've been dappling with it. I'm not sure I can make a truly professional book trailer. Finding music to upload is another problem, and searching for images that are in the public domain another.

Anyway, I do have a pictorial on my website. I'm wondering what you think. Does it spark interest in the novel? But is it less powerful than a book trailer? If you have an opinion on this please let me know.
The page is called 'Surrender the Wind Pictorial'.

patriarch said...

Brandilyn, since you use Ted Dekker's (very entertaining)book trailers for Skin as an example, can you ask him what he thinks about the marketing method and share his thoughts with us? The trailers have run and the book is out. What did he think of the results.