How to Create a Book Trailer that Sells: Examples, Tips, and Production Process

How to Create a Book Trailer that Sells: Examples, Tips, and Production Process

Book trailers came a long way. Compare this 2009 cheesy powerpoint-style video to this 2016 award-winning visual masterpiece.

At first, book trailers were rare: experiments with a novel but rapidly growing book marketing niche.  

Today, there’s hardly a person who hasn’t heard about book video trailers. It’s a big industry, the need for which is dictated by the expansive online video empire. 

How to figure out whether you need a book trailer? How can a self-published writer balance between affordable price and decent quality? How to ensure that the trailer does the book justice? How to write a script for a book video trailer? 

Let’s try to answer these questions. 

Do you need a book trailer? 

A nice review or a catchy book cover design can find you new readers on Amazon, Goodreads, Facebook, or Twitter. 

But what if you want to get the attention of the user browsing YouTube videos? Or what about a potential reader who’d rather watch a short video than read a text post? 

In such a case, you need a proper tool for the job — a book video trailer

But isn’t promoting books with videos is counter-intuitive? To paraphrase a responder on Quora:

“People who love books —  love words; people who love video — love movies.”

But if so, what about the massive hype around movie adaptations of books? What about hundreds of thousands of views some book trailers have? What about popular Youtube channels dedicated to books and books alone? 

Such a duality of book vs video is a narrow, obsolete view of preferences. The majority of people don’t discriminate between mediums. You can watch movies and read books; browse Youtube and read book reviews; enjoy videos of cats as well as some Albert Camus in your free time. 

For example, SF readers are also likely to consume movies in the genre. Avid readers are generally more open-minded and accepting of new ideas. 

So, don’t confine your book promotion opportunities to a written word alone. (Besides, the video is estimated to reach 80% of the Internet traffic by 2022).

Also, book trailers have the following pros:

  • Book trailers are easy to consume and share
  • Book trailers are memorable because of audio and video stimuli
  • Book trailers are SEO-friendly as videos are often prioritized by Google search  
  • Unlike a movie trailer, a book trailer works for your book as long as it’s in the stores. 

It’s settled then: book trailers can be a great marketing tool. 

But, how can YOU be sure that a book trailer is worth YOUR investment? 

That’s a great and difficult question. And besides divination, we suggest target audience research to find the answer to it. 

Only after finding out your readers’ preferences, you can make an informed decision. 

If you decide that you need a book video trailer, let’s figure out what makes it tick. 

Which type of book trailer should indie authors choose? 

For convenience, let’s roughly divide book trailers into three groups: 

  1. Cinematic book trailers. Videos with actors filmed and edited specifically for a book trailer.

If you don’t have filming experience or friends with one, cinematic trailers will be expensive or risky to do alone. You need good equipment, lighting, knowledge of filming, and acting proficiency. 

  1. Animated book trailers. Either CGI, traditionally, or stop-motion animated trailers. 

Animated trailers can be even more expensive and time-consuming as they require a rare and costly skill. 

There are examples of successful indie animated trailers done on a budget though. 

For example, this precious animated book trailer, which won Moby’s Award for the best low-budget trailer. 

But those are very tricky to make. Achieving the balance between amateurish-looking and heartwarming, fluid style requires a great artistic instinct. 

  1. Stock video book trailers. Trailers that are edited from stock video, imagery, and music.

They’re an optimal middle ground between price and quality. All the filming has been handled for you. So, they’re significantly cheaper than the first two and can yield great results with proper editing and scripting chops. 

Such book trailers are a great choice for self-published authors. 

The elements of an effective book trailer 

There is different information on what should be included in an effective book trailer. Some people even suggest adding positive reviews and synopsis. While the inclusion of said elements can give good results, they’re not a must.  

You don’t want your book trailer to be an infodump. You want it to be an emotionally charged, goosebumps-inducing experience

What a book trailer should definitely include is

  • the name of the book; 
  • call to action (for example, “on Amazon, 6/6/2021”).

The rest is up to discussion.

So:

Don’t focus on what should be included in a trailer; focus on what should the trailer achieve. 

What do we mean by it? 

A good book cover and a good book trailer have a lot in common. 

In order to be effective, both should achieve the Four C:

  • Convey the book’s genre; 
  • Convey the mood of the book;
  • Captivate a target reader;
  • Create the promise of an interesting read.

There are no rigid rules as to how you should achieve it. Any approach is good as long as it gets the job done.

As for the technical side, here are a few  video book trailer tips: 

  • Video imagery should go along with the text or narration well;
  • Music should emphasize the emotional charge of the trailer and book; 
  • A voice of a narrator (if there’s one) should suit the music and the atmosphere;
  • If there’s text, the typography should be on point
  • Color grading should suit the tone of the trailer.

This trailer for Dark Prince is a great example of how color usage changes the mood of a video. 

Red signals passion and danger, which nicely accentuates the vibe of the trailer. 

It’s quite difficult to pinpoint what exactly makes a good book trailer good. A lot of different effective book trailers are fairly… well… different. What they have in common is the 4Cs. 

Pinpointing what makes a bad book trailer bad is much easier though. 

What makes video book trailers fail? 

For example, this piece of visual art for Wild Fire was acknowledged as one of the worst book trailers 

It’s a great example because the trailer failed in every aspect:

  • The video is low-quality. You could count pixels without much effort
  • It’s too lengthy. The interest drops off rapidly.
  • The music is off. It doesn’t suit the genre or pacing of the trailer;
  • The trailer isn’t clear about the tone and genre of the book;
  • It uses imagery that doesn’t fit together and the general vibe of the trailer;
  • The script is bad (a plot description with too many unnecessary details).

(Perhaps, the Wild Fire trailer failed as a piece of visual media. But it succeeded as a promo strategy. Though we’d likely never know whether it was beneficial or detrimental to the book sales.)

Now that you have an understanding of what separates a bad trailer from a good trailer, let’s take a look at how to script and produce a book trailer. 

Book trailer production process

First of all, you need to figure out, how long should a book trailer be

  • 30 to 60 seconds is ideal. 
  • 90 seconds is pushing it but still can be worth a shot under certain circumstances. 
  • More than 90 seconds is risky for your budget-friendly indie book trailer. 

If you want to do the trailer yourself, here’s the easy-to-follow trailer production process, including writing a book trailer script. 

Step 1: Research and analysis 

Remember the Four Cs of a good book trailer? 

  • Convey the book’s genre; 
  • Convey the mood of the book;
  • Captivate a target reader;
  • Create the promise of an interesting read.

Before starting writing a script, you can do the following to ensure that the trailer ticks all the Cs

  • Compile a mood board to help you craft an appropriate emotional atmosphere.
  • Determine the hook of your book that you could include in a trailer for extra intrigue. It could be an interesting setting, a charismatic character, a unique premise, or anything else with the potential to get the attention of the target reader. 
  • Find similar references of trailers that, in your opinion, achieved the Cs.

Step 2: Write the text of the trailer’s narrative

After you’ve figured out what your trailer should accomplish, it’s time to write the narration for it. 

Later, this text will be included in the book trailer either in a written form or narrated by a voice actor. 

Before starting your writing, a few tips on a book trailer script: 

  • Ensure through the narrative that the book’s genre is clear. If the novel is horror, make it dark; if it’s a romantic comedy ensure the light-hearted vibe, etc. 
  • It’s better if the text has the same style and prose flow as your book. 
  • Don’t write long texts. Less telling, more showing. (We hope you don’t already have an allergic reaction to this phrase. It makes perfect sense in this case.)

For example, the award-winning trailer we mentioned in the introduction, has no words at all. But that’s the privilege of expensive, cinematic trailers. 

On the contrary, this catchy indie book trailer for the Omen of Stones has just 34 words

Now, you are ready to sit down and write your narration. It could include a laconic synopsis of your book. Or some vague references to it. Or maybe even metaphors. Whatever you find will be a better fit for your book and target audience. 

The top tip we can give you in this regard is 

Keep it simple. No need for complex concepts or unconventional approaches is there’s no pressing need for it. 

Remember, what exactly you say is not as important as the emotional charge you create. The task of the trailer is not to tell about the book as much as possible but to provoke a reader to learn more about the book. 

Step 3: Create a storyboard 

A storyboard is a sequence of images or drawings that help to visualize the motion of a video. 

Here’s a great example, we dug out on Pinterest:

So, it’s time to grab a pen or pencil and put your drawing skills to some use.   

Don’t panic! 

The final result should not be worthy of artistic praise. Its purpose is to help you visualize your book trailer and develop its visual narrative. 

If you feel super anxious about drawing anything, even sticky figures, don’t fret. You can simply describe the imagery with words. For example:

“A girl in a dress dancing in the dark street under a shimmering light of an old light post.” 

If you are a visual person, you can switch step 2 and step 3 places or even combine them. Perhaps coming up with imagery will inspire the narration of the book trailer. Or maybe it will make it easier for you to capture the mood of the book.  

Also, your book trailer doesn’t have to be imagery-heavy to effectively convey all that you need. 

Step 4: Find video, imagery, and music

At this point, you have all you need to find the video and imagery for your trailer. 

There’s plenty of resources where you can find free or paid stock video and photos for your trailer. (if you want an article on this topic, leave a comment, we will get to it.)

Don’t worry if the video doesn’t look exactly how you’d like. A good editor will be able to change it with color-grading and maybe some effects. Besides, music will affect how the video is perceived drastically. 

The accuracy of the imagery is not as important as the mood it creates

The same goes for music. Find tracks that strengthen the impact of your trailer and suit the dynamics of its narrative. 

Step 5: Edit 

This is where the magic happens. The book trailer is being assembled from bits of imagery and audio. 

If you have the skills or feel that you can learn in the process, you can edit your book trailer. 

Still, video editing is a complex and nuanced profession. So, it is much safer to hire a professional. Besides, you can do it on budget and still get a good result. 

Step 6: Publish and … 

Publish your trailer, share it wherever it’s relevant, and let it live its life. From this point, you have another piece of your brand online.  

Alternative Step: Hire pros for a book trailer

The book video trailer production is a complex process. 

It requires a wide range of unique skills and knowledge and a lot of time. If you have a budget, you can save plenty of it by hiring people for the job. 

Usually, the book trailer production process goes like this: 

  1. You provide information about your book.
  2. If you have any, you share your ideas of what you’d like to be in a trailer.
  3. The specialist gathers music, video, and imagery.
  4. If you like it, the trailer goes into production. 
  5. You get your video book trailer. 

Of course, the process can vary depending on your requirements and particular providers. But that’s the gist of it. 

That’s it. A final reminder: 

At the end of the day, you don’t want a trailer that simply informs about a book. You want an engrossing experience that inspires interest and emotion

Summing Up

Book trailers are amazing. When researching for this article, we were positively overwhelmed with all the video gems scattered online. We hope that someday, the trailer for your book will join the rest of this beauty. 

All in all, the expansion of book marketing to the video medium is intriguing. It feels like natural progress, a prerequisite of the industry’s evolution and continuing prosperity. Let’s make it even more exciting. 

What are your thoughts on book trailers? Do you have any favs? 

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