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Tips to Producing An Effective Online Book Trailer

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Once Upon a Time Machine jacket

Effective book trailers, like the one for Once Upon a Time Machine, can help to engage readers by teasing to the book's contents.

Dark Horse Comics
Online book trailers can be effective tools for book marketing campaigns. Read about what makes a “selling” book trailer.

Video platforms like YouTube and Vimeo have created a great conduit for book promotion via online video book trailers. Like commercials—only (usually) cheaper to produce and all-but free to distribute, the right book trailer can help spread the word about your book to a wide audience.

The ideal, of course, would be for a book trailer is to “go viral,” and reach hundreds of thousands—or millions—of viewers. A more realistic (and perhaps even more practical) goal is to create a book trailer that gets passed along from potential reader to potential reader—like minded people who are truly interested in the book’s subject matter and might actually buy the book, rather than just appreciate your video production skills.

Here are four tips on how to make an effective book trailer

1. Be informative
At the very least, the book trailer should provide potential readers with an idea of what the book has in store for them, whether that is a good romance, great baking recipes, a thrilling mystery, or a peek into the history of a World War II general.

If your book is in a “how-to” genre in some way, shape or form, you can help promote your book with a piece of useful advice taken from the text. In this way, you’re giving the book trailer viewer a true idea of how helpful your book will be to him or her. A title about automobile maintenance might show the viewer how simple it is to check the oil; a knitting book can demonstrate a tricky stitch.

A great example of a useful trailer to promote a cookbook is the video produced for the cookbook Les Petits Macarons. Authors Kathryn Gordon and Anne McBride produced an extensive demonstration video of the pastry techniques that go into making French macarons that is outlined in the book, which got great attention and boosted book sales.

2. Be visually arresting.
Video is a visual medium that demands movement, which makes it great for books that are art- or graphically focused, for example, children's books. Even if you don’t have any live action in your book trailer, you can create movement in other ways—for example, by panning over still images. If the book is very visual, it’s especially important that the trailer showcase the photography, graphics or artwork in a dynamic and appealing manner.

The book trailer for author Andrew Carl’s graphic collection of fairytale re-tellings brings the book’s images to life in a brilliant manner. Read about Carl's book trailer development and production experience and watch the trailer for Once Upon A Time Machine here.

3. Create an atmosphere.
When promoting fiction—especially fiction in a genre like mystery or romance or sci-fi or historic—it’s helpful to create an atmosphere to draw in potential readers. Fans of the particular genre will recognize the conventions of what they love to read, and be more inclined to come to the book.

For an example of a book trailer that creates an atmosphere, check out the article about the Rite of Passage book trailer. Author Kevin Symmons' video successfully (the article provides a link) evokes the mood of his magic-infused romance novel.

4. Be clever, be bold.
Online video viewers are used to—and very much appreciate—cleverness. Creative, Inc., the authors of The Ultimate Guide to Running a Successful Freelance Business created a fantastically creative video to promote their book, highly appealing to their presumably creative base of potential readers. And, as they’re book is about advertising (i.e. getting attention), their method convinced readers that they knew their stuff.

A bold move can capture eyeballs, too. Author (and advisor extraordinaire to other authors) Steven Pressfield created an epic trailer for his novel, Killing Rommel, complete with rented tanks and filmed in a California desert with the help of Hollywood pros. The book trailer probably cost more than most of us would spend—but it was an over-the-top way to show serious WWII buffs that the author meant business. And, as a bonus, it helped land Pressfield a gig with the History Channel, narrating a television show about General Rommel.


For more about creating book trailers, read the article on Book Trailer Basics.

And read more about book publicity and marketing, which help bring readers to your books.

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