Friday, August 5, 2011

The Trouble with Trailers

By Peg Brantley, Writer at Work, Stumbling Toward Publication

Do book trailers really do what they're intended to do, or are they more of an ego trip for the author?

This post originally appeared on my personal blog, Suspense Novelist, but I still feel pretty much the same way.

Book Trailers
What makes a successful book trailer?

I'm beginning to believe that just as one person loves a book while someone else puts it in their DNF (Did Not Finish) pile, it's pretty much the same with book trailers.

With all of the creativity, time—and often expense—that goes into the creation of trailers, the bottom line has to be sales. Does the book trailer make you want to go out and buy the book? Or, at the very least, check into it a little more?
Here are some things I like:
  • Short. Maybe as long as 2 minutes, but 1 minute or less is best. Sort of like a visual Twitter program.
  • Endorsements. If you've got some name-candy to throw around, throw it around early in the trailer. I'm shallow enough to pay more attention to something endorsed by Dean Koontz than well . . . Peg Brantley, or no one at all.
  • Live action. Unless your still photos are super spooky and filled with tension, I'd much rather see living beings in action. I don't need to see their faces, but I want a sense of real people, not photos or statues or drawings. Even with historicals.
  • Set the mood. If the trailer is for a cozy, it shouldn't be dark and evil. Music is huge, but so is color choice and pacing.

These are my personal preferences, and I'm curious . . . do you have any? Are there book trailers you love? Some you hate?

Have you ever bought a book because of its trailer?


  1. Interesting post, Peg. I confess to never having watched a book trailer. Where would I find them? YouTube? I mostly just read book reviews in the newspaper and online and peruse the blurbs on Amazon and the back covers of books in bookstores. And of course I follow my favorite authors and get recommendations from other readers who enjoy the same genres as I do.

  2. I created a trailer for my first Jackson book...because everyone was doing it and the experts said I had to. But I don't think it made much difference and I've never spent the money to do again for my other books. I think there are more effective investments.

  3. I've never seen a live-action book trailer, Peg. Most of the ones I've seen are moody landscapes with equally moody music, that don't tell me much about the book.

  4. Donna Fletcher Crow was unable to post this comment, so I'm doing it for her:

    I love trailers--other peoples' and my own. I check every link that comes up on a loop. Not sure it's netted any sales for me or the others, but trailers definitely get the word out. here's my link if anyone is interested.

  5. Someone else sent me this link. Well, she suggested Entertainment Weekly, and I went and found the link. Thanks, Star.

  6. I think that as with all book promotion, the sum is equal to the whole. No one method will net you big sales. As I've said, it's all about planting seeds. The more you spread around Cyberland, the more growth you will see. Blog presence is a seed, social networking is a seed, and so too are trailers. Do they sell books? My experience is that they definitely do if done properly and grab interest. My trailer for While the Savage Sleeps garnered quite a bit of attention for its excessive creepiness and as a result netted me some sales. How do I know this? Because readers told me they bought the book after watching the trailer--which, incidentally, I took extra steps to market properly. One more thing: I created and produced it myself, so it cost very little comparatively speaking when you look at what some of the online companies charge.

  7. I've done several book trailers myself for several of my books and my husband's mysteries and have them at youtube. Just about all are about a minute or just over. I would not pay to have one done, too expensive, and I don't believe worth the cost so I agree with Andrew about that.

    I purchase the background music and sound effects, etc. and I enjoy putting them together. Nothing fancy, I suppose, but I've been told it works. How much it has helped sales, I do not know. Example:

    It seems every little bit does help with promoting our works.

  8. I've given up watching book trailers. They're pretty, but they usually don't say enough about the book to tell me if I want to read it.

  9. When I'm reading a well written book (like While the Savage Sleeps), I can see it playing out in my mind like a movie. Trailers help me with that because I can sorta see what the author has envisioned as well.
    I have bought and not bought books because of their trailers. They have proved to be more reliable than a lot of reviews.

  10. I think a well done trailer can be a huge tool. Unfortunately, most of the ones I've seen have been a colossal waste of time and money.

    I have to admit though, I think putting one together would be a kick. If even for my own enjoyment. Pretty sure though, I'll want to run it by Nissie first.

  11. Lol. Peg, I would love to see your trailer before anyone else.
    The last sentence of my comment was largely due to the book I just finished. It had all 4 and 5 star reviews. I wanted to throw my Nook against the wall, then get up and stomp on it. I guess we all have different ideas of what "great" is.

  12. I totally agree with Andrew.It is the sum of all you do that equals a great marketing campaign. Personally, I did my own book trailer and I can't wait to do the next one. I love the creativity process, and along the lines of the comment from Nissie, I keep a growing list of shots and scenes as my manuscript evolves. BTW, my cost was...hmmm... can't think of any costs. Here's my link:

  13. I agree--short is best. I've never bought a book because of a trailer, but I do enjoy seeing them. Will I have one? I honestly don't know at this point...

  14. With all of the ambivalence regarding trailers . . . I have to admit, it is a challenge I'd like to attempt. A little ego, but more the idea of mixing my media and telling my story twitter-style, with visuals.

  15. I've done trailers for both my novels and found them very useful as a marketing tool on my websites and in email blurbs. I also watch others' trailers. But not if it's longer than 1:20 seconds. And if it's "wordy" as opposed to visual, fuggedaboudit! In another life I was a professional trumpeter, so for me the music is crucial. I hate when there is a vocal with words going on ... very distracting. Short trailers with visual impact and mood-appropriate music can be very effective.

  16. I love the idea that people have bought books because of a well-done trailer. I'm much more likely to check them out, that's for sure.

    And Susan, I hate having to split my attention. Very good point. Don't mess up my visual words with spoken words. Choose!


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