Book Trailers: 4 Tips to Turn Them Into a Successful Marketing Tool

Updated (18 June 2018): The last piece of advice on this page is no longer valid: Amazon no longer helps writers to make book trailers. Everything else stands as is. 

To turn a book trailer into a successful marketing tool, you need to make it jump through many loopholes and overcome some serious challenges. 

Think of it as a steeple chase. 

I'm assuming you've done your research and know all about making book trailers. If you haven't, here's an excellent introduction to book trailer production, it dates back to 2010, but it's still totally relevant:

Click here to read the article

However, to boost your sales with your book trailer, you need to pay attention to four essential principles: 

1. Make it short. The CEO of Bookmovies.TV  recently mentions 20 seconds in his interesting article on Publishing Perspectives that explains how book trailers help in book discovery (to read, click here). That might be a little too short, though some people even speak of 6 seconds videos (see first article below, using the Vine app). Take a look:

Click here to see trailer

It's humorous and super short. Still, in my opinion, 50 seconds would be about right.

2. Make it fun to watch. Easier said than done. If your budget is unlimited, make it look like a movie trailer, with snippets of action and real actors. For most authors, that's unthinkable. There are low-cost options using any material you may have a right to (like your own photographs or drawings/paintings) and/or expanding and playing with your book cover.  Or, if you live in the right place where there are acting schools in your community or college kids studying video production, you can do what author Terry King did for his book "Silent Partner" - it's a long one, over 3 minutes, but it was meant to attract the attention of agents and publishers:

But then, when the book was published a year later, he produced an "official" book trailer, 56 seconds long (confirming my hunch that 50 seconds is about right):

But please do not do a video of yourself reading from your book! There is quite literally nothing more boring for your future readers unless of course, you've just written your biography and you're a celeb, or you are George Clooney or Julia Roberts

One possibility I haven't explored but there might be something to it, is to make book trailers in the shape of book reviews, like this one:

Sweet and short. What do you think of it? Of course, it would require cooperation from an important book reviewer or... make one up (grin!) and use the humor lever.

3. Make it pleasing to hear. The music is essential, it has to be catchy but it also needs to reflect the mood of your book and to pick the right tune is an art onto itself. Also, remember not all music is free and credits must be given.

4. Upload it to the right places where people will see it. This is the real problem.  mentioned above is a Spanish site and it makes sense to do something with them only if you are writing in Spanish - furthermore, their rank on Alexa is not all that high (around 55,000th in Spain) so don't expect crowds of salivating visitors and miracles. 

The challenge is always the same one, the conversion between the moment the video is viewed and the click on that "buy" button. That "between moment" needs to be as short as possible.

As of now, there are only two viable options to make the most of your book trailer (and not let it sit gathering digital dust).

  • Make it go viral on YouTube: a Google ad will help, but again don't expect miracles. My experience with this video I did for A Hook in the Sky (the first version of CRIMSON CLOUDS) was disappointing:

Not that bad, right? But it did not lead to any boost in sales even though the ad I set up for a week or so moved the number of views from 50 to almost 3,000.
  •  Put the book trailer on your book detail page on Amazon: that's the most logical place, right on the Amazon page where your book sells the most. The "between moment" is reduced to almost zero, cool! 
But there's a problem. Amazon lets you upload any video you like on your author page, but who visits your author page? Only your fans! You want to reach out to more people, right? If you've got your metadata right (the right genre selected for your book and the right keywords to direct readers to your book) you need that last little kick to convert them and convince them to buy your book. That's what a book trailer is for, but there's a catch. The only way you can upload a booktrailer on that book page is to use Amazon's Create Space team. They will make a booktrailer for you, see here for conditions and prices. 

Yes, around $2,000, it's not cheap - but it's professional, they work closely with you and it takes from 7 to 8 weeks for the standard trailer (30 seconds, no voice-over, only music).
I know, it's not fair, you may have the best book trailer in the world, but Amazon won't let you upload it to their site. But what can you say? This is their site, not yours! I'm seriously thinking about producing a book trailer...the only thing that stops me is the amount of $$$ it requires!

How about you, what has worked for you? Any and all advice welcome!

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