I must confess that I’m miserly with this bit of morning time. Before I watch a video, I check to see how long it is. Over three minutes? I won’t even click play. Doesn’t matter if there’s a dancing penguin and kissing a polar bear in it.
Certainly, I’m not the only fussy video viewer out there. With our social media feeds being bombarded by video, viewers are pickier than ever with our viewing diet. So, if a three-minute video about something that I know interests me isn’t going to get watched, how much worse would it be for a commercial endeavor such as a book preview?
Book video trailers have been a staple in publishing promotion for nearly ten years now. And like regular commercials, some are terrific and some stink. Most fall into the middle ground. They are good representations of a book, but fail to hook viewers.
No hook, no views. That’s the sad reality of promoting on social media today. I will be talking about visual hooks in a future post, but today I want talk about how you can hook your readers before they even click play.
It’s simple. Keep it short. Think about it. Would you sit through a two minute commercial if it interrupted your favorite sitcom? I’d probably get up and make a snack. We have a little more leeway online, but keeping your book video to the one minute mark will ensure that more readers hit the play button. And like medicine, it doesn’t matter how good your promo is if readers don’t digest it.
Hold on! There are many book videos that are two minutes and longer. That’s true. And, just like commercials, longer videos can work. Take for example the Budweiser ads or Friskies “Dear Kitten” series. But these commercials aren’t pure promo. They tell a story. And viewers watch them for the same reason that I watch baby elephants taking a bath. They’re fun.
Longer book videos that tap into the fun, cute or inspirational vein can work well. Likewise, videos that offer something more, such as an interview, often need more than two minutes. In fact, while researching this article, I looked at the view count for many trailers I’ve made over the years. The ones with the higher view count weren’t always the 60 second trailers. I’ve made many successful trailers of 2 minutes or more. But these videos use visual and audio cues to hook the reader along throughout the video. As I mentioned, I’ll be talking about this in a future article.
Unfortunately, many book video trailers fail to hook the viewer. These tend to be the longer videos that could have easily been trimmed to a shorter, more effective promo. Let’s take an example. A friend of mine (we’ll call her Leslie) made her own trailer for a memoir she self-published. Leslie’s video was two and a half minutes long with images of her early life, landscapes of the farm she grew up on, and sweet music playing in the background. Each image stayed on the screen for over ten seconds, far longer than I needed to take it in. The accompanying text did a good job of describing the book, but the slow pace soon made my finger itchy to click “next video.” Because Leslie is a friend and I wanted to learn about her book, I watched it to the end. But those were 150 seconds of my life that I will never get back.
A snappier, sixty second, video could have related all the same information and left me satisfied rather than grumpy.
So while the length of your video is not the deciding factor of its success, consider it as the first and most important hook. For more tips on creating great trailers, see my past article Trailer Gaffes and Greats.
Feel free to post a link to your trailer in the comments. I’ll offer a short and honest critique of all trailers posted. And just to show that I can take it as good as I give it, here’s the trailer for my new book, Hibernaculum.
As a side note, while researching view times for this article, I realized that I’ve made nearly 500 book video trailers since 2009! Wow! I’ve had the opportunity to work with some fascinating authors. I think I should celebrate when I hit the 500 mark? What do you think? Any ideas to celebrate this landmark? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Kim McDougall is the founder of Castelane Inc, a book promotion hub. Since 2007 she has made nearly 500 book video trailers, lectured on the art of book videos and critiqued trailers for several review sites.