Writers may not think of the visual options for marketing a book. But as Adam Cushman points out in this post, creating a trailer for your book is a great way to target readers, especially 19-to-24 year olds, of whom 96% are YouTube watchers.
Book trailers have evolved a ton over the last decade or so. With studies showing that 82% of all online activity involves watching video, authors and publishers have jumped all over this new art form and created fresh and innovative ways to promote books.
The upshot is that there are many ways to make a book trailer, whether it's similar to a movie trailer, or features the author, or uses animation to tease the story.
Below is a list of ten different types of book trailer productions that just begin to scrape the surface of how to market books creatively.
1. Bare Bones Book Trailer
A bare-bones book trailer is made entirely on a computer by one person: no actors, no special effects, just the bare essentials.
There are two ways to make a bare-bones book trailer: poorly, or with great care. We've all seen the poorly-made ones so rather than bore you with how not to make a book trailer, below is a simple and effective example of how to put some love into a video without going over-budget.
While bare-bones trailers are affordable for most marketing budgets and when done well can be visually pleasing, a possible downside is these videos won’t do much for you insofar as promoting the film rights.
2. Cinematic Book Trailer
Often like a movie trailer, these tend to be hybrids of movie trailers, music videos, or commercials. These trailers are live-action productions either produced indie style or similar to a motion picture and there are many ways to make them.
In the first example, the trailer makers opted not to show human faces, which is a common choice. By leaving the characters somewhat in the negative space, future readers get a taste of the book cinematically, while still allowing themselves to imagine the characters however they want.
This second example is the exact opposite of that. It’s more like an excerpt from a studio film.
These tend to be on the level of real film productions and as such the budgets are higher. Not ideal for a tight marketing budget since the cost ranges anywhere from $5000 upwards. The plus side is the exposure you get and the scalability of having a video that can pay for itself for years to come. To get a sense of viewership check out The 10 Most-Viewed Book Trailers of All Time.
3. Blurb Trailer
Blurb trailers take portions of blurb reviews and interweave them into the video, often using footage from an existing cinematic book trailer. The blurbs are best kept short and sweet rather than using layers of bulky text.
The benefits of a blurb trailer are enormous. First of all, it’s clear right away that the video is promoting a book. Secondly, as mentioned it’s a great way to get more use out of a cinematic book trailer.
A lot of authors who get trailers release a blurb trailer a few months after the initial release when reviews are in, or to promote the paperback or eBook release. It’s also worth mentioning that a blurb trailer is applicable to most of the formats listed here, and very often blurbs are included in the flagship trailers.
Another huge plus is that for writers on a tight budget, a video featuring blurbs and music only is easy enough to create.
4. Author Profile
These are cinematic videos that feature the author, either in an interview or documentary style, or acting out scenes from the book. What's great about these is the videos aren't all necessarily for one book, so authors can benefit from having one for years, or use the same video to promote multiple titles.
It also gives authors a way to connect with their audiences. Viewers and fans especially tend to respond to author profiles (e.g.: Warren Adler’s author profile currently has over 700,000 views) because they’re highly personalized and offer an intimate look at the author. Another huge plus is these kinds of videos are DIY-friendly with a little bit of effort.
Another offshoot of the Author Video is an extended version that you could almost call a short subject documentary. In the example below author Chip Jacobs had so much to say about his uncle, the great Gordon Zahler, that he opted for a longer version with B-roll woven in.
Cool option for non-fiction or memoir writers who need more screen time to tell their story. Granted there’s the argument that attention spans are depleting and 60-90-second trailers perform better, which is a fair argument, however one could make the case that if you captivate your audience people will watch for as long as you want them to.
6. Animated Trailer
The plus side to an animated trailer is that you can do anything you want. You can animate text and make it like a fun read-along, as seen in this one for Ben Peek’s Leviathan’s Blood.
Another example by the same media artist for Chuck Wendig’s Blackbirds, Mockingbird.
Another approach is a pencil sketching, as in this super dark trailer for Stefan Kiesbye’s novella.
Yet another way to make an animated trailer is something like this:
Animated trailers to tend to be on the expensive side and aren’t very useful for promoting the film rights, but done well they’re effective at building readerships and teasing a book without giving away too much.
7. Book Teaser
Pretty much exactly what they sound like, these low-budget book trailers forego actors and imagery for music and well-designed titles to give the viewer a sense impression of the book. Another cool approach to this type of trailer is to incorporate blurb reviews.
The biggest benefit of these is cost. Made for $1000 or less this option gives authors at any level a chance to use video in their marketing, it’s just a question of making them with care and precision.
8. Making of the Book Trailer Sizzle
These can be a blast if you’re producing a live-action book trailer and even better if the author is on set to watch the book trailer come to life. Not so much fun if the book trailer is made by one person on a computer, however.
9. Sense impression
Think of these as great Facebook timeline pics, or something akin to the brief preview you get when you hover on a Netflix title. It’s almost like a teaser for the book trailer, or a live-action version of a Marvel character poster. These make terrific accompaniments to longer trailers and aren’t expensive to create (figure somewhere between a Book Teaser and a Blurb Trailer).
10. Character Trailer
Similar to what they did when they were marketing Prometheus, you can make a cinematic book trailer and then several smaller trailers that follow one character, who should also appear in the main trailer.
Again these ten types of book trailers are just the beginning.
After deciding on what type of book trailer will work best for you, another question is how to distribute it and get the most use out of having a video. As an addendum, here are ten ways to promote a book trailer.
- Upload to Youtube with researched keywords, and lots of text and links in the description. Also, create a compelling thumbnail image for clickability.
- Research and target blogs, influencers, and websites that might feature your trailer, or a book review, or ideally both. You might not get responses from all of them, but if you get picked up by a few you’re in business.
- Upload your trailer to www.trailershelf.com which is like Youtube for books.
- Do an ad buy! Most of the big publishers do this the day they release a book trailer. If you can’t afford to team up with the EW’s or Popsugars of the word, reach out to smaller niche blogs, or sites like shelf-awareness or bookriot.com who actively promote book trailers.
- Use your blurb trailer or book teaser as a Youtube ad that runs before other videos.
- Add a hyperlink to your trailer in the signature part of your emails.
- Place your book trailer front and center on your website so it’s the first thing people see.
- Add your trailer to Goodreads and Amazon. You have to click on the author’s name in order to do this, but it’s worth it!
- Post your trailer on a specific and relevant subreddit! Such as reddit.com/r/yalit
- Make your book trailer the timeline photo on your Facebook page (works with pages only, not personal profiles).
Feel free to post your thoughts on book trailers or how you see them developing in years to come.
Have you ever created a book trailer? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Adam Cushman is an author, director, and producer. His novel CUT was published by Black Mountain Press in 2014. He's also published over forty short stories in literary journals. In addition, Adam has directed two feature films, Restraint (2018) and The Maestro (2019). He is the owner of Film 14, the leading producer of book trailers.
Need a professional book trailer? Visit us today at Film14.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to get your production started.