Think back to the last time you bought a movie ticket–I’m willing to bet you chose the movie in part because you’d seen a trailer for it first. Trailers are one of the most effective ways to get someone interested in your content, and they work for books as well as movies. Book trailers have been steadily growing in popularity, with some getting hundreds of thousands or even millions of views. And while early book trailers were often dismissed due to a lack of quality, that doesn’t have to be case–the book trailer for national bestseller The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein was directed by Academy award-winner Alfonso Cuarón.
You don’t need to win Oscars with your trailer for it to be successful, however. They are highly versatile tools to drum up interest in your book, and have much more potential to go viral than an excerpt ever will. They can be embedded on your website, are easy to share on social media, and are highly engaging–there’s just something about a “play” button that people can’t resist.
Making your book trailer
There are countless ways to create your trailer. Here are some of the most common methods:
- You can shoot a cinematic or documentary-style trailer with a script based on the text.
- You can narrate an excerpt or a concept from the book and add animation or stylized typography.
- You can record an interview with the author.
Whether you decide to do a Hollywood-style dramatic trailer, or a simple shot of you explaining why your book is a must-read, your goal is to engage the reader. Choosing a style for your book trailer comes down to what you think will pique your readers’ interest and get them to pick up a book–and it’s not enough to just upload a slideshow of your book’s key ideas. The key to a great book trailer is finding a creative way to visualize the text. This means you as the author have a lot of license when deciding what it is you want to show your readers. You’ve been chained to a desk for months writing your book, so break free and let your imagination run loose! In the trailer for the Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, Duhigg narrates the simple method he used to stop eating so many cookies–an irresistible hook for someone trying to create healthy habits. Tim Ferriss masterfully demonstrates the complex concepts of his The 4-Hour Chef through a simple string of vignettes that will leave you dying to learn the secrets within the book (the video got 1.5 million views).
These are two very different examples, but they both have one thing in common: they’re interesting. You have to remember that watching your video will be the make-or-break moment for some readers–if they love the video, they’ll consider purchasing your book, but if they’re bored to tears, not even a free copy will get them to read it.
You can avoid this. Spend time thinking about what it is you want to demonstrate. What’s in your book that people need to know that they might not get from just the cover? For Duhigg, he knew that people might not understand how habits affect them–so he showed them a practical example that almost everyone can relate to, demonstrating that the book is a highly practical read and not just a theoretical treatise. Tim Ferriss’s book wouldn’t appeal to someone who normally hates cooking, so he packed his video full of other things you’ll learn. In just four seconds of video, you discover the book will teach you how to plate a meal, learn a language, brew a perfect cup of coffee, and fold a t-shirt in two seconds–through video, he’s able to demonstrate the vast scope of his book in the time it would take you to read the subtitle.
Book trailers have huge potential, but a video that comes across as amateur may send the message that your book is of equally low quality. That’s why we recommend getting help. Much like you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) design your own book cover, you should not attempt to shoot and edit your own book trailer. A professional video director and editor will create a trailer that showcases the quality of your book as well as its content.
Mary Wong, author of Pathways to Pregnancy, wanted to give readers a great first impression, so she worked with a team of video pros to help her plan, record, and edit her video. The result is a book trailer that will leave her reader tribe running for the Amazon checkout:
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