How to Create a Great Marketing Trailer for Your Book

And why you should

Shamontiel L. Vaughn
Jan 6 · 7 min read
Photo credit: Sam McGhee/Unsplash

Music artists are leaving comments to check out their YouTube channels, tweeting about why their music is so much better than the celebrities you’re following, and uploading their latest tracks on SoundCloud. Initially, this may not be the group that authors look to for marketing purposes, but it certainly should be.

Why? By 2022, consumer traffic will account for:

  • 82% of all fixed internet traffic
  • 88% of all managed IP traffic
  • 88% of all mobile data traffic
  • 82% of allIP traffic (both business and consumer) will globally be from IP video traffic — up from 75 percent in 2017

People enjoy looking at videos for both business and pleasure. And for authors who only have a short window of time to get people to buy their books, they need to grab attention fast.


Why Authors Need Book Trailers in Addition to Book Cover Promo

We’re living in a world where people don’t get past the news headline to read even a short news story, never mind a novel. No matter how many speed-reading tests are available to the public, if they’re not interested in your book past the first page, you can forget it.

This is why authors should take tips from movie previews and create book trailers. But before you do, watch one of your favorite movie trailers and ask these questions:

  • What movie trailers made me rush out to see the movie?
  • If this isn’t the kind of movie I’d usually go see, what was it about thisparticular trailer that kept me watching it to the end?
  • What sounds did I hear that I did and didn’t like?
  • Were the words on the screen too fast, too slow, or just right?
  • Why did thisparticular audio track work so well for thisparticular scene in the film?

These were the kinds of questions I asked myself before creating my own book marketing trailer.


The Bare Basics for Your Book Trailer

If you’ve ever seen a movie trailer that left you going “What was this movie about again?” then you already know what notto do. Readers should have a general understanding of the plot by the time the trailer ends. If they don’t, try again.

The basics that your book trailer should incorporate include:

  • Your name (or pseudonym)
  • The title of your book (or books, should you choose to combine several together)
  • Relevant images (book cover; collage of photos, if applicable; images of characters, if applicable)
  • The main topics within your book (make it brief, possibly bullet points)
  • Optional: A brief overview of each character
  • Optional: Reviews from the who’s who about your book
  • Your website and/or other places to buy it

Do you have to pay top dollar to have someone else create your book trailer? In 2005 when I wrote my first book, I just played around with video editing sites and compiled this on my own. Of course, 15 years later and a significant amount of web editing and video editing under my belt, my trailer would be more advanced than the one below. But at thattime, this original version worked for my book marketing needs. Just as every movie trailer isn’t all bells and whistles, your book trailer can be simple, too. But it must help readers understand whyyour book is worth buying and if it’s even of interest to them.

While I used quite a few more words to market my book, a good example of an author who used more visuals and minimal words to sell a book series is Uglies. Although the book cover and author’s name aren’t in here, this is another way to do a book trailer and still get your point across. (Note: I have not read this book and have no communication with the author. This trailer just intrigued me and made me want to read the book from the trailer alone.)


How To Put Your Trailer Together

As tech editing sites have continued to grow, they’ve made it far easier to create videos and websites on your own. My original trailer was built using the now-defunct version of Windows Movie Maker. (My tech knowledge at the time consisted of building MySpace pages and creating a website around Yahoo Geocities. I was nowhere near a pro, but I had the basics down.) As long as you know how to upload photos and music, you should be able to use video and audio software. Knowing when to cut and transition to a compilation of videos and audio files can come down to a lot of trial-and-error before you get it right.

Once you learn how to use the software, it’s also handy for writers who want to promote events and interviews. I used Windows Movie Maker regularly to create audio blog promos for a Chicago event series I was working on. As long as you can click play, pause, cut and delete, you can figure out the basics of editing video.

If you’re inspired to test out your own video editing skills, Oberlo has a list of the top 24 free video editing software programs. The list includes the software pros and cons, and a breakdown of where the program is best used. With that said, you get what you pay for and I still would not put “professional video editor” on my resume. If you really want a jaw-dropping video, you may want to leave it up to professionals.


Finding a Music Producer for Your Book Trailer

Initially, my book trailer was going to be a silent video, displaying my two book covers and a few scrolling words here and there. Oddly enough, I can thank “The Boondocks” comic strip for helping me luck up on a more intriguing way to market my book. I just so happened to be chatting about the then-new show on Adult Swim with a fellow “Boondocks” fan. I found out later that he was a music producer.

I browsed a few of the tracks on his music page profile and found an audio track that I absolutely loved. After a few back-and-forth conversations, he agreed to let me use that audio track as the background music on my trailer. In turn, I’d make sure his name ran in the book trailer credits, along with his music site. This is a win-win for both of us. If he shared my book trailer for his music listeners, that’s potential new readers for me. And when I shared my book trailer on my own site, that’s free music promo for him.


What Audio to Avoid in Your Audiobook Trailer

One of the most unnecessary and major mistakes that some authors make is using a licensed audio track without permission. Unless you know the author or record label personally, neveruse someone else’s track for commercial purposes. Should you choose to do so and this artist or music label find out, expect a bill — an expensive one. (The same rules apply for using photos. If your music trailer incorporates images, make sure they’re free photos approved for commercial use.)

Additionally, listen very carefully to the lyrics in the song to make sure that they complement your brand. I chose an instrumental track to avoid lyrics that clashed with the book themes. Although that’s not always necessary, if the song is cooler than your video (or vice versa), one may be a distraction to the other. Yourlarger goal as an author is to lure people into reading your book, not dancing around with their back turned to sing or rap along to the song.

If/when you find the perfect song for your book trailer, have written communication clearly detailing the following:

  • How long can I use your audio file?
  • If this track is linked or moved, will I still be able to use the file?
  • Do I owe you any profits for using this track? If so, how much?
  • Do I have exclusive rights to this track or will it potentially be used for another author’s book trailer, too? Other forms of entertainment?

Once you and a music producer and/or artist have reached common writtenand legalground on how the file would be used, make sure to get the video professionally edited — or edit on your own if you know how. Show a few people who will give you constructive criticism before releasing it to the public. And hopefully, this trailer works out for both you and your music partner. Years later, you can still find me humming the instrumental to my own.


Photo credit: Shots by Priiincesss

Are you interested in more book marketing tips? Check out this four-part series “Book Bumps” by Shamontiel.


Better Marketing

Advice & case studies

Thanks to Niklas Göke

Shamontiel L. Vaughn

Written by

15-year vegetarian journalist/editor; part-time dog walker and dog sitter; Toastmasters member and 5x officer; WERQ dance and yoga enthusiast; Shamontiel.com

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