The Rise of the Book Trailer

The publishing world is finally embracing technology, with the growing popularity of digital readers like the Kindle and Nook and surging sales via online marketplaces like Amazon. For self-published authors, especially, content creation has never been more accessible. It’s also never been this competitive. Enter the book trailer.

For decades, video has been a shrewd marketing format. It’s evocative, instant, and the film and music industries have pushed its boundaries as a tool to promote creative projects. I’ve connected with video content as a consumer, but decades in the advertising industry have shown me the quantifiable impact it can have on a brand. So, when I set off to publish my first book, The Apology, I knew video would play a role.

Developing a trailer for a book is no different from creating a well-executed commercial. It should have a cinematic feel to it, be short enough to keep the viewer’s attention and leave them wanting more. Similar to my experience in creating commercials, I’ve also found that my writing tends to take an advertising spin on it with short, direct sentences and descriptive language. You’ll see this come alive in The Apology trailer which I wrote, filmed and produced.

As an advertising executive, innovations in the use of video have always fascinated me. Born from the rampant popularity of the film and television industries, brands from Coca-Cola to Apple have harnessed the public’s unwavering obsession with video content to establish their respective identities. Its promotional proliferations across the 20th Century are vast, serving as a vehicle for the music industry with the advent of MTV (which used to actually play music videos!), brand advertisements and, perhaps most intuitively, trailers for film and television.

The 21st Century has even further established video as a dominant creative medium. A mountain of data shows its demonstrated impact on digital audiences, to which shrewd marketers have taken note. In the last two years, advertisers have seen a boom in social media as a medium for watching videos with Facebook announcing in 2015 that it had reached 8 billion video views per day and Snapchat seeing 10 billion per day in 2016. This trend has escalated further with the addition of live streaming capabilities. For example, representatives from the U.S. House Democrats this past June live streamed a sit-in which received 3 million views on Facebook Live. Perhaps even more significantly, platforms like YouTube have provided publishing tools for a towering wave of individual content creators to connect with audiences, paving the way for new innovations in the medium.

All self-published authors need to commit to (at least) two full time jobs. Writing, obviously, is a primary focus. Good content breeds a dedicated following and the recognition needed to continue working and paying the bills. What’s changed, along with the democratization of content creation and the narrowing of avenues to a traditional publishing model, is the second role: Marketer.

Savvy independent authors have been borrowing the tools of advertising and marketing executives for years, establishing blogs, websites and social media presences to accompany their work. They stage interviews, book reviews, create content for emerging contributor networks… It only makes sense, then, in this crowded landscape of plucky authors-turned-entrepreneurs, that video is the new frontier of book promotion.

I come from advertising, so the book trailer is a natural evolution of my “authorpreneur” marketing sensibility. The Apology is a tense, fast-paced political thriller, and I’ve received the feedback from many readers that its rolling action and depiction of exotic locales across the Asian continent “reads just like a movie.” I’m not the first to create a book trailer, and given popularity as an emerging form, I won’t be the last, but having been in the business of video for decades, I do have the luxury of a head start on some of my self-published peers. Not everyone has a professional creative services team at their disposal, which makes the innovation and polish of their content all the more impressive:

· Not all trailers need moving film. Independent author, Charles R. Young, does an excellent job of setting the story for the trailer for his book, Day of Reckoning, which uses a compelling script with accompanying images.

· Book trailers are applicable across genres. For instance, Kiera Cass’ trailer for The Heir has an incredible cinematic touch for her young-adult novel about the life of Princess Eadlyn.

· A favorite example of mine comes from one of my heroes, James Patterson. In his trailer for Truth or Die he takes a unique spin by mixing ambiguity with humor to promote his book.

Exploring a new form, taking part in its emergence and recognition by the public, is one of the most exciting parts of being a creative professional. For independent authors, especially those looking to position their works to be optioned as films, and to gain broader recognition across the board, the book trailer is clearly a new frontier, and a medium that will see wild innovation in the coming years.