Should You Have a Book Trailer?
The latest thing to hit the book marketing world is the book trailer. I’m sure you’ve seen them – short videos, typically 1 to 3 minutes, that advertise a book. You’ll find them on author websites, blogs, publisher websites, and bookselling sites. (You can visit Bookscreening.com to view lots of book trailers.)
When I’m talking with my clients about marketing, of course they want to know if they should have a book trailer. I’ve thought long and hard about my answer, and I acknowledge I may change my stance on this as time goes by and we collect more data on the effectiveness of trailers. But for now, my answer to the question Should I have a book trailer? is…
Only if you really want one – and you can easily afford it.
The truth is that we have no evidence to show whether book trailers sell books. There’s a “cool” factor with book trailers, and it’s certainly fun to be able to show your family and friends. It’s a nice little promo vehicle you can have floating around the Web.
But a book trailer is just ONE of ten, twenty, or a hundred different things that’s being done (by you and your publisher) to market your book. Your video counts as one small part of an overall marketing strategy. But it’s not a necessary or indispensable part of your strategy.
In this digital/visual/multimedia world, I think authors might be thinking they’re really missing out on a valuable marketing vehicle if they don’t have a trailer. I don’t think that’s quite true.
If you want a video for the fun of it, and to have out there so your family and Facebook friends can see it, great! If you can find effective ways to use it – even better. It definitely can be fun to show people an audiovisual representation of your story. In fact, I think authors enjoy book trailers because it helps them envision their books as movies. And who wouldn’t want that? But we don’t know yet whether a trailer can help sell books.
You may want to consider a more effective and less expensive kind of video (and this was actually suggested to me by a publisher): an author interview video. Just set up a camera (making sure you have high quality video and audio), have someone interview you about your book, edit so that it’s short and only includes the interesting stuff, and voila, you’re done. You can include this video on your Amazon page, feature it on your blog or website, and put it up on YouTube. This kind of video has the potential to offer readers something they usually appreciate: a glimpse into you, the author. An author interview doesn’t look like an ad in the way a book trailer does.
Salon.com recently had an article on why book trailers are silly. Read it for a one-sided yet nicely in-depth explanation of the anti-trailer side of this argument.
My official advice to my authors is this: Don’t spend a lot of money on a book trailer, unless you can truly afford it. If you want to create one, great. Have fun with it, but realize that an amateur-looking trailer can backfire and work against you, so carefully consider how you’re going to approach it. Then do your best to use your trailer in every way possible. Hopefully it will help the sales of your book – just don’t expect it to be the cornerstone of your marketing plan.
Q4U: What do you think of book trailers? Do you think they serve any real purpose for authors? Have you ever been motivated to buy a book from watching the trailer?
P.S. While I encourage open and honest opinions on this blog, I ask that you please refrain from unnecessary criticism of other writers by name, especially fellow commenters of this blog. You can find a way to express your point without calling out a specific person.