Everyone’s going to video. Facebook Live and Facebook videos are the hottest content on the social network. 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and it’s the third-most-visited site on the web!
There’s no doubt that video resonates with audiences and that people crave another 3-minute hit of fun, educational, inspiring, or silly content regularly during their day.
What’s that mean for the dedicated author working on their so-called old-fashioned book, then?
It’s an opportunity!
Book trailers give you a way to combine the immediacy and power of video, with its eager audiences, with the in-depth approach of a book. Plus, they’re a great marketing tool…when done right.
A book trailer doesn’t have to be super-fancy to succeed. Instead, it needs to wrap up your story in a neat 3-minute package, enticing the viewer to want to know more by picking up the book.
What Makes a Good Trailer?
Think of a book trailer exactly like a movie trailer—the best ones set up the premise, like the historical period, location, etc., then give you a little glimpse into who the main characters are and what challenges they face.
You get a taste of what’s going to happen in the full movie, but it doesn’t give everything away…you have to go to the theatre for that.
A book trailer, done right, does the same thing—it lets the viewer get familiar with where and when your book is set, get an idea of the general tone, and meet the characters. Then it throws those characters into the thick of things and leaves the viewer wanting to know what happens.
To find out, they have to read the book!
The same general formula even works for nonfiction books. You set up the situation—what challenge is facing your book’s target audience, the viewer?—and then introduce your book’s unique solution to that problem, offering some insight into why your book is the best to help your viewer with that challenge. Give a few actionable tips, then leave them craving the book to learn more.
You can make book trailers that are basically narrated slide shows, ones that are full-cast productions, and everything in between.
And with DSLR cameras and iPhones shooting good video these days, it doesn’t even have to cost an arm and a leg!
Tell a Story, Don’t Just Drop Hints
The key to a great trailer is that it needs to feel complete. You have to set up the scenario, introduce the characters, show what’s at stake, and leave the viewer wanting to find out what happens. You can’t just tease the viewer with a strange character or setting, then give no idea that there’s a story behind it.
10 Best Book Trailers
But as with the old writing standby, showing is better than telling. Let’s take a look at 10 amazing book trailers to inspire you to create your own!
1. Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Ransom Riggs, the author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, got his start directing short films and, yes, book trailers! So it’s no wonder that the trailer he created for his first novel would be amazing.
The trailer doesn’t lift a scene straight from the book—instead, it brings to life a flashback the narrator tells within the text. We see snippets of strange things, hints of an adventure and a mystery, but we’re never told quite what that mystery is, or whether it’s all just a story. It makes you want to find out more…and even includes a subtle call to action at the end that leads right into the book promo, making you want to go get the book right away.
2. T-Rex Trying
Super-short, but super-sharable, the book trailer for T-Rex Trying, the illustrated humor book expanding the blog of the same name, was destined to go viral.
Poor T-Rex. He’s always trying to do stuff that his stumpy little arms can’t manage.
Once again, this trailer works because it outlines a full story, but leaves you wanting more—it gives you the broad strokes, but you kind of want to find out the details. Here, we see all of T’s issues trying to get around, but then get to see him succeed. The silly sense of humor and the success at the end make us want to see more of this clever author’s work.
3. The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making
Children’s and middle grade books are a great source of inspiration for book trailers. After all, you already have illustrations or vivid imagery happening, which can all be repurposed for your book trailer.
In the case of The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, the publisher commissioned an illustrator to create a gorgeous hand-drawn trailer…but you can do something similar on your own with the illustrations from your book or even just using pen and ink or a computer drawing program!
The animation is subtle and it surely adds to the effect, but you don’t really have to include it—you could get a similar effect with music, written title cards, and sketches that don’t move.
Remember, the trailer doesn’t have to be fancy as long as it outlines a story and makes you want to find out more. And this one certainly does…
Cheryl Strayed’s book later became a major film featuring Reese Witherspoon—but first, Wild had a book trailer!
This is a great example of how you can produce a book trailer on a shoestring budget…and how you can make an effective trailer for a memoir or narrative nonfiction.
Strayed narrates over top of a series of images from her past and beautiful pictures of the trail she hiked, giving us a quick overview of what the book’s about: her reasons for hiking the Pacific Coast Trail as a complete newbie and her challenges there.
Once again, this trailer is successful because it sets up what we can expect from the book, tantalizing us with setting, plot, and character but leaving us wanting to read the book to find out the details.
5. Fifty Shades of Chicken
A trailer for a parody cookbook?
Trust me, it’s brilliant.
Fifty Shades of Chicken is, in fact, a BDSM chicken cookbook based on the erotica novels of similar title. You can tell going into it that this is going to be a little trippy, and the video doesn’t disappoint.
Great production values, tongue-in-cheek humor, and an actual story outline (for a cookbook!) make this trailer incredibly effective. You know exactly what you’re going to get from the cookbook in terms of style, and you’re probably laughing so hard you can’t help but want to learn more by reading the book, even if you don’t need new chicken recipes!
6. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Yipes—is this a book trailer or the start of a new hit horror film?
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black is an excellent YA supernatural thriller with an equally excellent trailer. Combining fairly low-budget first-person video with dramatic music and simple narration, it effectively draws you in from the start. You don’t need expensive effects to create thrills—just some willing friends and a whole bunch of fake blood.
There’s clearly more to the story here, both before and after the action of the trailer, and it draws you in so you can’t help but want to immediately start reading the book to find out exactly what’s going on.
7. From Bad to Cursed
So you can make a book trailer, even a cinematic one, on a low budget—but you can also make one that has serious star power. This trailer for From Bad to Cursed stars Zendaya, a Disney Channel star. It makes sense, because the book is published by Hyperion, which is owned by Disney, and having a star that the target YA audience knows and loves surely helped this video rack up the likes and shares.
Still, even without that star power, this would have been an effective trailer. It’s relatively low-budget, with only one set and some props, a few special effects, and some great music and voiceover providing the setup.
And what a setup—eerie and a touch creepy, clearly promising a gripping story of a young girl who gets herself into a really bad situation by wanting to fit in with the popular crowd.
8. Now I See You
The author of Now I See You, Nicole C. Kear, was told at age 19 that she was going blind. She kept it a secret and lived her life to the fullest, developing interesting tips and tricks along the way, and eventually learning to embrace who she was, blindness and all.
From the trailer, we can instantly tell that she’s not going to be writing a tear-jerking memoir of quiet redemption and Grand Life Lessons. No, this is going to be a hilarious, off-kilter, enjoyable read (that maybe happens to include a few life lessons here and there).
The animation is simple—possibly something you could get a friend to do or hire out relatively inexpensively—but what makes this trailer really work is the tongue-in-cheek humor and the not-so-serious life tips. We immediately get a sense of what the book’s about and how it presents its information—a perfect setup to reach a nonfiction book’s target audience.
9. The Love Song of Jonny Valentine
How often have you seen book covers plastered with endorsements and blurbs, only to realize that you can’t actually find anything that describes what the book’s about?
Too often, publishing companies seem to place all the emphasis on celebrity endorsements, reviews, and blurbs, forgetting that readers want to know what they’re getting themselves into.
The trailer for The Love Song of Jonny Valentine pokes fun at that tradition by having author and comedian Teddy Wayne endorse his own book…though he’s not very happy about it.
Once again, it’s clear from the trailer exactly the sort of humor we can expect from the book—if the trailer appeals to you, the book probably will too. And that’s the kind of preview or teaser that viewers want from a trailer! It’s a perfect appetizer to get you hungry for the full read.
Plus, it’s a great reminder that being too “sales-y” in your book trailer is not going to make your audience want to buy your book. Best to be subtle, hook them with a story, and drop your buying info in a simple call to action screen at the very end rather than have that blinking BUY NOW button and scroll throughout!
10. The Good Girl
You don’t have to write a complicated new script just to make a book trailer. You can use the jacket text creatively to tease your audience, as with this trailer for The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.
Simple setup, very few sets or scenes, creepy music, and some basic animation—all of that turns the jacket copy from the back of the book into a gripping book trailer that makes you want to know what’s going to happen next and if “she” will be okay. Well done!
Bonus Trailer: Thug Kitchen
Okay, so we’ve already covered one cookbook trailer, but this one’s too good to pass up.
Who knew cookbooks were such fertile ground for inspiring awesome, viral book trailers? Something about food brings out creativity.
Warning: this trailer contains quite a bit of explicit language.
Cookbooks don’t have a plot or characters, so it would seem hard to create a gripping story for a trailer about one. In this case, the writers and director created a spoof of every drug commercial we’ve ever seen and turned it into a manifesto for why you should cook easy, tasty vegetarian food to feel better and enjoy life more…while being a foul-mouthed, hilarious “thug.”
Fans of the Thug Kitchen blog already knew what they were getting into, but watching this trailer will definitely let you know that this isn’t your average cookbook.
Have you watched any great book trailers lately? Share in the comments!
For more on creative marketing, check out these articles:
- Three Ways To Creatively Market Your Books on Goodreads
- Why Write Free: 4 Ways Free Content Can Boost Your Audience and Help Make More Sales
Kate Sullivan is an editor with experience in every aspect of the publishing industry, from editorial to marketing to cover and interior design.
In her career, Kate has edited millions of words and helped dozens of bestselling, award-winning authors grow their careers and do what they love!