Book Trailers: Vital or Wasteful?

Book trailers, if done well, can be a cool component to the marketing of your project. If done poorly or if done cheaply they do very little to impress a potential reader.

Most authors love to see their work done this way. In some ways if feels like the story has made it to the “big screen.”

But does it sell books? When was the last time you clicked and then bought because of the trailer?

Every once in a while you click on the video embedded in an Amazon listing. It is my understanding that to add this feature on Amazon can cost up to $1,000. So it better deliver.

I have mixed emotions on the subject. When they first came out book trailers were all the rage. But then they became commonplace. So the bar had to be raised. The quality of the piece had to go to another level of entertainment…much like the infamous Super Bowl ads.

One author was told, by their publisher, they were obligated to create a book trailer, at the author’s expense, as part of the author’s commitment to the marketing of the book. I found out about this too late to protest…the money had already been spent.

Yesterday I came across the following book trailer that simply blows the lid off the competition. Watch it and tell me what you think. It sure made me want to buy the book! (No, I have no idea how much this cost to produce.)

20 Responses to Book Trailers: Vital or Wasteful?

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    Susie Finkbeiner February 17, 2011 at 6:26 am #

    Wowza. That was very cool. But, it makes me want to watch a documentary, not read a book. I have to admit, I never click on the trailers when perusing Amazon.

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    Robert Treskillard February 17, 2011 at 6:30 am #

    Your featured book trailer reminds me of the one for Ted Dekker’s EMMANUEL’S VEINS … the use of black and white and flowing, shifting scenes gives it a strong unity and helps you not lose the message with all the visuals.

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    Sarah Sumpolec February 17, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    Excellent trailer – highly visual and limited use of text.

    Just my opinion, but the majority of trailers I see are simply not quality enough. The only way for a book trailer to reach outside of the audience an author already has (those people that are already visiting the author’s website anyway) is for it to capture attention by being “so funny”, “so cute”, “so something” that they feel the need to pass it on. They can’t just tell the back cover copy.

    The public is used to movie trailers – something they spend big bucks for – and authors can’t really compete with that – and yet are, because we inevitably compare.

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    Murray Grossan February 17, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    For me, trailers take too long, too much time. I think a trailer might be okay for a rock musical or how to play the guitar, but for the kind of person who reads a “thoughtful” book, I doubt that it would help sales.
    That video however is so great, it should go viral and help sales.

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    Michael K. Reynolds February 17, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    As the owner of a marketing agency that creates video and animations, I have the advantage of designing something similar to this for my books. Unfortunately, the cost for development for most writers is hard to justify on their commission split. So they compromise and their trailers stink. For there to be a high level of excellence, it will require an author to be willing to believe strongly in the anticipated return on investment or the publisher will need to pony in on the costs.

    Does this work? Absolutely, without a doubt. Through proper Social Media promotion, this will sell quite a few on its own and it will create a buzz well beyond the limitations of a book cover.

    • Avatar
      Gayle Vanessa February 17, 2011 at 6:03 pm #

      This is great topic. Do you have any numbers to share? Like how many additional books have been sold or % of books sold?

  6. Avatar
    Gayle Vanessa February 17, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

    On Amazon, a book reviewer is able to submit a video, free-of-charge. So if you get a video enabled fan, they can upload a book trailer. As I seek to become the cornerstone of all things Regency, I often make quick trailers of books I really enjoy. I just loaded one for “Lady In the Mist”. (As a courtesy, Laurie Alice Eakes, Debra Raleigh, etc. all approved of the videos before I post.) or

    But be warned: It’s difficult to de-list a poorly made trailer.


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    Ronie February 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    To me, that trailer was anticlimactic. You know that I love trailers, we’ve had the talk before. I’m grateful my current publisher was willing to purchase the trailer I wanted for Digitalis. If an author has a trailer, I watch them…or at least the first 15-20 seconds of one. Often, they’re quirky or boring and I don’t finish watching. But I do try to see them all. I think they add to the marketing of a book, and the only trailer that made me want to buy the book was Boykin’s DANGER CLOSE trailer. Incredible!

    For me, buying a book comes down to the writing, to the first chapter. If that doesn’t hook me, no matter how awesome the trailer is, I won’t buy it.

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    henya February 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm #

    I never watch trailers. Don’t have the patience. But this one was amazing. I agree with Sarah that it will be almost impossible to compete with movie trailers. So why would a writer want to chance on a low quality trailer that could minimize the value of a good book?

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    Donna Pyle February 17, 2011 at 8:26 pm #

    Wow. That was impressive. I’d love the answers that Gayle seeks. I’m working on publishing my first book. What are the benefits of these book trailers in numbers? Thanks for a great post on this topic!

  10. Avatar
    Lynn Mosher February 17, 2011 at 8:38 pm #

    Wow! Awesome trailer! Ditto Donna. I’m in the same position.

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    Heidi Willis February 17, 2011 at 9:12 pm #

    That was an amazing video work of art! I’m not sure if I’d buy the book on it, but it might make me look for it in a store to see if it’s as interesting as the trailer.

    I disagree with the idea that a book trailer has to be expensive or movie-glitz to sell books. Most people aren’t exposed to them, and sure it won’t sell a book if people don’t watch them, but I have an inexpensive one for my novel and I can’t even begin to estimate how many books it’s sold, but it’s quite a few. I have the link to it in my emails, it’s posted on my blog and website, as well as on the publisher website and Goodreads, and I get emails every week that someone has watched it, loved it, and has now bought the book.

    As an author, it’s a great way to advertise without having to push. I don’t need to tell teachers, co-workers, friends, business people – anyone I email – that I have a book. It’s there, at the bottom of my email, and more often than not, people will click on the link that says “watch the book trailer.”

    It’s not glossy or uber-professional or expensive, but it sells books. Maybe the key is to balance the amount you spend on one to the amount of exposure you can get from it. For me, finding that balance was worth every penny.

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    Peg Brantley February 18, 2011 at 7:14 am #

    Okay, Ronie, you sent me to Amazon and the trailer for DANGER CLOSE. It was like a movie trailer. Saying those words underscores the need for understanding if you’re going to do a thing, do it right.

    My test for a good book trailer: Does it make me want to take a closer look? Usually, the answer is no.

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    Rick Barry February 18, 2011 at 7:53 am #

    I’ve seen some cool trailers, and I’ve seen some, uh, not so impressive trailers. Usually, though, if I click to view a trailer, it means that an author friend has sent me the link and I feel somewhat obligated to watch it, even if I’m bogged down with other work. I still prefer the old method of evaluating a book: a glimpse of the cover art and the blurb from the back cover. Most often these two items provide all I need to face the “to buy, or not to buy” question, and with greater efficiency of time. To date, I have never bought any book based on a book trailer.

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    Steve Laube February 18, 2011 at 8:55 am #

    Thank you for the great comments and discussion!

    Donna asked if there are quantifiable sales numbers tied to book trailers. The answer is no. Marketing is all about creating awareness and multiple impressions in a person’s mind so it is tough to “count” or “quantify” something like that.

    However, Heidi’s idea of creating a special email address or link that can be counted is a great idea…and one that all users of book trailers should emulate. For example, the sample included in this post has the author’s web site but not much more. So you either have to remember the title, the author, or you might not actually look for it.

    There is a similar problem with media interviews. If you don’t have a memorable web address or a memorable book title or memorable name, it is hard for the consumer to find you later.

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    Heather Sunseri February 20, 2011 at 12:08 pm #

    I will admit, most of the book trailers I’ve watched, I watched AFTER I read the book and usually because I liked the book so much that I was curious as to how they handled the trailer. For that reason alone, I’m not sure I would ever agree to foot the bill for a trailer unless I was sure it would be unique and persuasive.

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    M.E. Anders February 24, 2011 at 5:33 am #

    I’d say skip the trailer – spend that time promoting the book in other venues. I rarely watch the book trailers, since I am planning to READ that something not WATCH that something.

    Great topic!

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    Katie Hart March 4, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    Coming to the conversation a bit late I know, but I wanted to mention a simply-made book trailer that was still powerful. I think it may have been the first book trailer I watched – at least it’s the first that I still remember today:

    The graphics are simple (pictures and typing animation), but it made me extremely interested in the book.

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    Rufus January 8, 2012 at 1:32 am #

    Wow that was an amazing work of art! It made me want to read the book just to see who got such an excellent video to promote his work.

    I love book trailers and I made one for Hachette Book Group to promote Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith:

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