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Effective Book Trailers: A Candid Conversation

Book TrailersIn the scheme of all things literary, book trailers haven’t been around very long.  Some authors may consider them more as a hindrance to their writing efforts than a help to their book marketing.  Yet they can be a great way to reach out to readers, especially those who are more visually stimulated.  In today’s world, buyers of books are influenced by what they see on the internet and elsewhere.

Attention to a book can be captured in a visual way and a book trailer is one marketing tool that can make readers gravitate towards a book.

Visually Capturing The Essence of the Book

Do you remember which music video made the greatest impression on you at the time?  Mine was “Take On Me” by A-ha.  I had heard the song a bit here and there but it wasn’t until I saw the video that it really stuck in my mind – to this day in fact.  I think what attracted me the most was the combination of animation and real life.  The uniqueness of it at the time, the intertwining of man and hand-drawn character, the feeling it evoked, bringing to life what was make-believe.

And that’s where the book trailer comes in – bringing to life the make-believe.  It’s like a music video in that it creates an atmosphere for the book, its idea begins to unfold, emotions are evoked and curiosity is raised.  It gets readers involved in the book by adding the elements of sight and sound, by paving the way for them to visualize the book’s setting and by encapsulating the message the author is trying to send.

Ultimately, a good book trailer will increase awareness of the book and inspire more people to read it.  If it’s entertaining and draws people in, the expectation will be that the book is entertaining as well.

So how do you create those expectations?  What combination of imagery, music, sound effects and of course words will complement and even enhance the story in the book?

Examples of Different Kinds of Book Trailers and Their Impact

The best type of trailer for a book really depends on the kind of book, the tone and mood of the book and its intended audience.

Also consider what impression the reader should be left with.

If it’s for young adults, should the reader want to read the book because they could identify with the teenage pain that the main character is going through?

If it’s for horror buffs, does the video have them jumping in their seats and crying out for more?

If it appeals to the humorous side of people, does it have them chuckling and thinking this could be a good laugh?

Or is it a sad and compelling tale where the viewer senses the injustice and really wants to find out if amends were made.

And so on.  You get the picture.

Trawling over the internet and YouTube, I came across the types of videos shown below.  I’ve chosen these videos because:

  • They stood out in their style, message and entertainment value.
  • They show a range of book trailer forms from full on movie production to a simple collation of still images.
  • They were relatively easy to find as a good book trailer should be.  No one will spend a lot of time searching and if the trailer is marketed correctly, they won’t have to.
  • They appealed to me as a reader and a visual buff.


1. Live Action and Actor Portrayal

These types of trailers will only work if they are really good.  Really good doesn’t necessarily mean really expensive, although the two below probably cost more than the rest shown, employing actors and staging sets among other things.  Just how you can tell a low-budget or B-movie from its trailer, the same applies here.  You don’t want the book you write or read to be the B-movie of books, unless you’re into that sort of thing…

Something to mention when using actors to portray characters – they tend to become those characters in the viewer’s mind, therefore limiting their imagination.  So if this is the road taken, the actors should truly represent the characters.  Did you picture “Ken Stott” as “Rebus” in Ian Rankin’s novels for instance?


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

This feels like it’s about a movie rather than a book.  But it’s really well done and invokes the right kind of feeling.  Rumour has it that it might actually become a movie and be directed by Tim Burton.


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Dawn of the Dreadfuls by Steve Hockensmith

A little humour never hurt anyone, especially zombies.  It’s fun to watch and piques your interest to read the authors’ take on the traditional.

2. Writer Telling the Story Behind the Story

Here the author creates a more personal approach.  Insights are gained into the author’s personality, what motivated them to write the book and where their passion for it came from.  Their motivation moves you to want to read the book.


I’d Know You Anywhere by Laura Lippman

Most of her novels are inspired by real life crimes in her hometown.  She ends the video by asking “What is it like to be that person?”  How stirring is that?


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Rebecca gives the viewer to understand that “writing is all about training yourself to recognize those big moments when they happen and to follow them wherever they take you”.  Her enthusiasm for the “story of the cells and the woman they came from” shines through.


3. Impressive Use of Kinetic Typography

How you use words can have a powerful effect especially when you “set them in motion” to get to the heart of the book.


Blackbirds and Mockingbird (sequel) by Chuck Wendig

Compelling, striking, powerful, arresting.

That wonderful, gritty voice… you’re completely enraptured listening to it and it sets the dark tone of the book.  The kinetic text on the grainy background emphasizes the spoken words.  In contrast to others, this trailer focuses on the character rather than the story.  Simplicity with a striking outcome.


4. Music and Style to Invoke Atmosphere

It really is purely about the atmosphere and the distinctive style created.  A mood is set.  The viewer feels the ambience.  If they want to maintain that feeling, they know what book to go to.


An Extraordinary Theory of Objects: A Memoir of an Outsider in Paris by

Stephanie LaCava

This really communicates the Parisian feel of the book.  The text animation and crackling sound effects evoke a certain style.  Even though an actor is used, she is sufficiently in the background and shadows so that the viewer can imagine her in a different way.  Not much is said about the book but your interest is definitely aroused.


5. Animation

Then there’s animation – another technique used to craft the author’s message about the book.  It’s been around for a while now which makes it even more powerful.


Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway

Silhouettes are used to convey the idea of the character while leaving the character’s appearance up to the reader’s imagination.  The main focus is on the characters within the book while the quotes at the end give the viewer a better indication of the type of story to expect.  An adept combination of animation, text and music.


6. Still Images and Corresponding Music

Probably the most basic of book videos but that doesn’t mean it can’t be good or interesting.  A blend of thought-provoking images and appropriate music can achieve the desired effect.


ForNevermore: The Paranormal Serial Thriller by Sean Platt and David Wright

Writers of serialized books Sean Platt and David Wright use a succession of chilling photographs and eerie music to set the base for their stories.  You’re left with a feeling of trepidation and anticipation at the same time.
This is my small roundup of noteworthy videos.  Which ones out there have you liked and why?  Have you ever bought a book based on its trailer?

Are there any other facets of “the book trailer” that you’d like to find out more about?

At the time of writing, YouTube views varied widely for the above book trailers – from 334 views to 415,581 views.  Can you guess which one got the most, the least?  No cheating now…

Do you think the number of views are directly related to:

  • type of audience, age group, whether they are internet bound or not
  • genre of book
  • subject of book
  • knowledge of author / author’s fame
  • emotion / feeling evoked by video
  • movie potential of book
  • existing buzz and momentum built up around the book through other marketing and promotional activities
  • something else?


About Gina At The Word...

Gina – a wanderer who loves to explore the various aspects of life through reading - travelling - new and old ways of doing things and the benefits of both.

Perpetually curious about the art of storytelling, she hopes that readers and writers can come together through “The Word Runs Through It” to enhance their experience of “the book” and all its facets.

View all contributions by Gina At The Word...

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Bea Davenport July 16, 2013, 9:25 am

    This is a brilliant selection, showing so many different kinds of trailers. It made me want to go and make one! Personally I would only watch a trailer of a book I knew I wanted to buy anyway, but I’m of that generation! I think your point about stimulating readers who like visuals is the important one, and particularly young readers often respond to this kind of marketing, so I think it’s something that will continue to develop and maybe as writers we should make more of it.

    • Gina at the Word July 16, 2013, 8:57 pm

      Hi Bea,

      I guess I fall into the “readers who like visuals” category. After seeing the trailer for “Blackbirds” and “Mockingbird”, I was captivated and liked it so much that I bought both books! That’s the power trailers can have. I had never heard of these books before and just by watching the author’s rendition, I was hooked.

      I think you’re right there is a promising future for book trailers and writers would be wise to consider them.

      Another new article can delve into how to actually make a book trailer. Are you interested in this being produced?

  • Mark July 16, 2013, 9:18 am

    ‘Can you guess which one got the most, the least?’

    Shouldn’t this be clickable to a table of trailers, also each clickable?
    Especially if you are highlighting a piece of text you suggest a link and disappoint when it isn’t.

    v interesting article – so so long since I was published I didn’t even realise these existed, let alone attracted half a million hits.

    • Gina at the Word July 16, 2013, 8:19 pm

      Hi Mark,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the article. It really is amazing how many book trailers are out there and I believe they can definitely get a book noticed if done well.

      I apologise for the confusion regarding the links. On this site, all links are in blue and any headings, questions to the readers, etc are in purple.

      I must admit that I didn’t consider having a table of clickable trailers. I felt that having another page with the same trailers, clicking again to the same trailers would be a bit redundant. My aim in asking the question of which one got the most/least views was to get a guessing game going amongst readers. Judging by their responses as to which got the most or least would give an indication of which ones they liked best. After a certain time period, the true numbers would be revealed.

      However, I’d be more than happy to put a table together and make that available to you. Let me know and I’ll send that out to you.