Monday, December 2, 2013

So What the Heck is a Book Trailer Anyway?

By Kim McDougall

 Book trailers hit the scene in about 2007 and quickly become a one of the most popular
Kim MCDougall
tools in an author’s book marketing kit. But what is a book trailer, you might ask, and why would anybody want one? Well, a book trailer is much like a movie trailer. It’s a short commercial with images, music, voice-over, sound effects and text that promotes a book. These videos can then be posted on websites, blogs and video sharing sites. They can be fun, genre-bending and little works of art in their own right, but in the end, they are commercials and are all about name branding. In a multimedia world, video is integral to your marketing platform. Just browse any journal or social media site online and compare how many articles are presented in a video format instead of the traditional on-screen text. A trailer makes buying your book a visual experience for the customer. Because most books don’t have images to go along with them, we use stock photos and video clips to represent characters and scenes from the book. In essence, your potential readers can watch a book jacket blurb rather than read one. 

How can an author use a trailer for promotion? 

I had one author ask me why some trailers on YouTube get more viewers than others. I told him that’s because some authors promote their trailers better than others. He said, “What? I have to promote my trailer too? I thought the trailer was supposed to promote me!” He’s right in one way, but wrong in another. 
YouTube is a huge site. You need to tell people how to find you in that din. You wouldn’t create a great TV commercial and then put it on at 3am when no one’s watching! The advantage to a video sharing site (YouTube is only one example, but there are many others), is that strangers surfing the net will stumble across your trailer. People who might never otherwise see your website or your book will get a glimpse of it. And it may only be a  glimpse if your trailer doesn’t catch their attention. But the real power of a video trailer is in
the social media world. If you have an active Facebook page or an email newsletter, this is the place to promote your trailer. Get viewers to see it; then get them to repost to their friends and friends of friends. Soon, the snowball effect will kick in and your video will take off. Another way to use trailers is at book signings. You can bring a computer and have a series of trailers running. CD’s are relatively inexpensive. If you have a lot of trailers, you can put them all on one CD or DVD and hand them out like video business cards. I like to show my trailers for my children’s books before library and school presentations. This gives the kids something to focus on while we’re waiting to start and makes a good starting point for the presentation. 

Do trailers sell books? 

Much of the success I’ve seen with trailers is anecdotal. I’ve had several niche stores contact me to say they saw my trailer on YouTube and asked how they could stock my book. Reviewers can find books through trailers too. Author, Mary Deal
Mary Deal
(, commented that after I posted each of her trailers to YouTube and other sites, she noticed a jump in her Amazon rankings (which comes from sales). She writes: "I watch my Amazon

stats faithfully and can tell when my books are being sold. Although we may never know the exact meanings of those fluctuations, after Kim's trailer for "River Bones" posted on the net and on my Web site, I saw my Amazon numbers go up and down quite often. I was thankful for the sales. "Then she made a trailer for "The Ka."
I again saw a spike in my Amazon statistics. I also checked Barnes and Noble and saw sales registering there. The second time my Amazon statistics showed excessive activity happened right after the trailer for "The Ka" was made public. I also checked the statistics for the number of visitors to my Web site.

On both days that each trailer went public and for a few days thereafter, my Web site received quite a number of new visitors. "That was confirmation enough for me that it was Kim's trailers that caused a surge in my book sales and Web site visitors. In addition to the books that had trailers made for them, increased activity showed on the hard cover of "River Bones" and on my older novel, "The Tropics." Kim's trailers not only brought attention to all my books, but to my Web site and to who I am. Considering the relatively low cost of making a trailer compared to other online promotions, I think it’s a good risk to take. Not all promotion is about sales. As authors we need to think of name branding too. Just as Sony, Nike or McDonalds use different promotions to familiarize buyers with their brand so should authors work to get name recognition. Buyers are more likely to buy a book from an author who’s name they recognize. And since Publishers’ advertising budgets have shrunk to nearly nothing, authors need to look at new and creative ways to promote. 

 The missing link

Geoff Nelder
Geoff Nelder, author of EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEE, writes: “To me a video trailer is more than an advertising tool for a novel, it is an extension of the imaginative artistic creation. The trailer is not a two-minute synopsis but an insight into the pull of the story. A writer has to hook the reader early in their novel, but the trailer is a multimedia hook taking the art into another dimension.” I have to agree with him.

Really good trailers are more than just commercials. They are works of art unto themselves. I believe that book trailers are the link between literature and a multimedia revolution that will produce creations we can only dream about right now. I imagine ‘graphic’ novels of the best kind reproduced with video, artwork and music. I’m not talking about comic books, but novels recited in the old-fashioned oral tradition combined with video and audio. As both online video streaming improves and audio podcasts become more popular maybe this is not such a farfetched dream. 

Check out Castelane trailers at: If you would like a trailer for your book please visit our site at

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