Book trailers are an increasingly popular way of advertising a book, especially with the success of YouTube. In many ways they can act as visual blurbs, pulling in readers in a way that only moving images and sound can really do.

On the other hand, they can also prove disastrous if done wrong. A bad movie trailer has stopped me seeing good movies, so a bad book trailer would stop me reading a book I might otherwise pick up on the basis of just the blurb on the back. Even worse, authors who create sloppy and unprofessional book trailers create an expectation of similarly sloppy and unprofessional writing, even though the book itself could be amazing.

Therefore an author needs to decide if they are qualified to make their own book trailer, and to do this they need to look at exactly what they want to achieve. Novel Publicity splits book trailers into four categories: 1) movie style trailer; 2) author interview/reading; 3) slideshow; 4) mini scene.

These are relatively self-explanatory, with the first being the most costly and difficult to produce, but also potentially the most impactful, while the second provides a personal touch by introducing the author to the reader. The third is overdone and usually where the sloppy stuff shows up, as it’s cheap and easy to do. YouTube even has tools that allow you to load up some images and write in some text to create a ‘video’ in minutes, but it’s not the real deal, in my opinion, and generally looks awful. The final option is a fully acted out scene from the book, which could be mixed with the author narrating it.

If an author has absolutely no technical knowledge of video production or the software used to make good videos, then they need to bring in someone who does. A poorly produced video will have a monumentally negative impact on book sales if it’s seen by a large prospective audience. No video at all would be better than something that scares readers away.

Personally I intend to work with the movie style trailer and the author interview/reading approach, all in separate videos. The trailer will be the main attraction, using animation of the characters and scenes from the book. I have some background with animation and will probably use Flash for this, but if I find I cannot achieve my goals I’ll bring in some one who can. The other videos will be easier to make, as they’ll mostly be me talking to the camera. I intend to do a series of interviews, as well as a series of book readings. I may even combine a reading with some animation.

All of these will be available through my YouTube channel, along with other videos of interest. I don’t imagine that many readers search for books through YouTube, but it can never hurt to tackle as many avenues as possible when promoting a new book and/or author.

Categories: Marketing


Jason · June 9, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Hey Dean,

I am unfamiliar with the sort of trailer you describe. I’ll have to look for some of these trailers now, because I’m curious. I am also amused by the irony of an AV trailer for the print medium.

For my part, I appreciate book previews that are offered online, and those often help me decide whether or not to buy a book. (Well, mainly for non-fiction.) They are a different ballgame, but I do find them useful.

I also like when fiction authors have an online presence, although I’m mainly familiar with their blogs rather than AV presentations of their work.

Author interviews, eh? I guess that will compensate for the scant handful of outdated pics you have posted online. 😉

    Dean · June 14, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    You don’t see many trailers for books on TV, but there are a few every now and then, usually by big names. Often this isn’t invested in, because the cost won’t justify the return in sales, since most readers will happen upon a book via other sources (in a bookstore, in a review online, or via word of mouth, for example).

    However, the internet opens lots of possibilities for cheap trailers that can be displayed on websites and via YouTube. These can be produced in minutes for free, or can be made professionally for a price that would still be significantly less compared to TV.

    I agree that book previews are important. I think sample chapters and other writing from an author should be displayed on their website and the website of their publisher, especially if they are a new or little known author. Why should a reader fork out their cash on something they cannot see is good when they know there are other good books they can invest in?

    Online is the way to go. Authors need to build a relationship with their readers. This is important for feedback, but also because it is in many ways a symbiotic process between the two.

    Hehe, it will indeed. I’m not particularly photogenic, but I might be a bit more videogenic 😛


Emlyn · June 9, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Hi Dean. Thanks for referencing Novel Publicity in your article. I’m with you; I plan to produce multiple trailers. One of each method, actually – it will be something of a case study for me to present on the Free Advice blog later on.

Good luck with your trailers!


    Dean · June 14, 2011 at 11:00 pm

    You’re welcome!

    Your case study sounds very interesting. I look forward to reading how well each trailer type does 🙂


Allen Bagby · August 1, 2014 at 10:01 pm

Here is my book trailer My thought from the beginning was make it like a movie trailer as in entertaining and not so much informative …as in so many book trailers I see. Just wow the watcher. I also commissioned an award-winning composer …which helps. My frustration has been finding the right place to post it.

    Dean F. Wilson · August 1, 2014 at 11:06 pm

    This is a great video and is a perfect example of what to aim for with a video trailer. Thanks for sharing, Allen 🙂

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