Top 5 Book Trailer Tips


Promote your latest book with a book trailer

People love short videos. They’re easier to watch and easier to share, and that makes them easy to talk about. One of the most fun, creative, and effective ways you can promote your new book on blogs and social media is by shooting (and then sharing) a book trailer– a video advertisement for your book similar to a film or TV trailer.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re developing your book trailer ideas.

1. It’s gotta be good!

There are a lot of crappy book trailers out there. And to the big, bad, scary world of publishers, editors, critics, and agents, a crappy book trailer looks worse than NO book trailer at all. So if you’re going to do it, it’s worth doing right. The better your video, the more likely fans will share it, bloggers will post it, and critics will take notice.

That being said, quality and budget are not always directly proportional. It’s quite possible to shoot a great trailer yourself with consumer-grade gear and a little old fashioned elbow grease. Likewise, you can hire the world’s most talented production team with all the fancy new professional cameras, but if they’re not invested in the project and jiving with your vibe, you could be left with a lifeless video and a dwindled bank account. Granted, if you hire pros, you’re PROBABLY going to get a better-looking product, but it’s worth mentioning here that it’s not a guarantee of quality.

So, the moral of the story is– no matter what approach you take, put enough time, money, and enthusiasm into this project to make it worth the effort. If you do, you’ll capture the imaginations of more readers and you’ll sell more books!

2. Make it brief!

Remember that a book trailer is not a documentary. It’s not an electronic press kit. It’s not a resume. It’s not a summary. It’s not a thesis. It’s a teaser, plain and simple– and should be no longer than 60 seconds, though 30 seconds is preferable.

Do you remember the movie teaser for the film Independence Day? A steady shot of the White House on a peaceful night. Then an alien ship descends from above, hovering for a moment ominously. Then some giant death-ray beams into the White House and blows it all to smithereens. Independence Day. Coming to theaters July 4th.

Short, quick. Awesome. In fact, about a billion times more awesome than the actual movie– which, for this viewer, was a sad disappointment. (So I guess the moral there is… make sure your book is awesome too!)

Also, think about those movie trailers that give away so much of the plot, the jokes, the surprises, and the drama that you end up saying to yourself, “Well, no need to see that one now!”

Your trailer doesn’t need to tell the whole story, just amplify the most compelling part.

3. Thrill ’em in the first 10 seconds!

There’s a saying in the music world, “Don’t bore us; get to the chorus!” Remember, in the world of viral videos the first few seconds matter– especially when so many people are sneaking YouTube or Facebook time at work and can’t be caught watching some epic on the clock.

Whether your approach is animation, reenactment, interviews, graphics, or… whatever else, say something big and say it first. Then fill in a few more details. Then fade to black before the viewer loses interest.

4. Enlist outside opinions!

At every step of the way, you should run your ideas by someone you trust (especially if you’re developing, directing, and shooting your own book trailer DIY-style). Ask them, “Would this idea grab your attention as a viewer or reader?” “Does this sequence, script, and approach support the initial concept?” “Does it look good?” “Does it work?”

You don’t want to consult with a yes-man; you want someone who’ll give it to you straight. If something isn’t working, fix it now before you get any further in the project.

5. Flash your name and title in lights, and fast!

Some folks might disagree with this point. Maybe I’ve just grown skeptical and have no faith in our species’ attention span. But I think it’s worth displaying the author and book title somewhere towards the beginning (or at least by the 15 or 20 second mark of your trailer).

Sure, there’s a certain suspense we’ve come to expect from trailers where the title appears at the end– but it’s become cliché. Besides, everyone that clicks the play button will see the beginning of your trailer. Not everyone will see the ending. Better to get your name and book title into the viewer’s consciousness early-on, just in case the boss steps into their office and almost catches them on Facebook.

Well, those are 5 tips to consider when creating a book trailer. Obviously, they’re meant as more conceptual guidelines. If you need help with the technical aspects of film and video, I would recommend hiring a professional videographer and editor to help you see your book trailer project to the end.

Sometime soon we’ll discuss ways to promote your book using that trailer. For inspiration, check out the trailer below or click HERE for 4 more great examples.

Have you made a book trailer? How did you do it? What was the concept? How did it go? Feel free to comment in the section below, and leave links to your trailers!

Sell your book for iPad, Nook, Kindle, Sony Reader, Kobo, and more.

[Videographer picture from Shutterstock.]


Chris Robley is an award-winning poet, songwriter, performer, and music producer who now lives in Portland, Maine after more than a decade in Portland, Oregon. His music has been praised by NPR, the LA Times, the Boston Globe, and others. Skyscraper Magazine said he is “one of the best short-story musicians to come along in quite some time.” Robley’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in POETRY, Prairie Schooner, Poetry Northwest, Beloit Poetry Journal, RHINO, Magma Poetry, and more. He is the 2013 winner of Boulevard's Poetry Prize for Emerging Writers and the 2014 recipient of a Maine Literary Award in the category of "Short Works Poetry."


  1. […] A book trailer you make on a small budget can be as captivating and entertaining as one that costs thousands to make, but you have to be ready to invest a good deal of time on effort on it. When I made the book trailer for my middle grade book, Pirates Off the Deep End, I had never used video editing software before and was pretty clueless about how to begin. Finding blogs such as this one can be invaluable resources. In fact, one blog I found handy is The BookBaby Blog. […]

  2. Thanks for these reminders of book video tips. I especially like talking about the book early on in the video. I also think reinforcing what the book is about and who will benefit is great if it’s a business or self-help book.

  3. These are such great tips.

    I made a mini-trailer (teaser) for my book during its campaign on Kindle Scout. Here’s the link:

    I slung it together in iMovie with some stock video image and an awesome blurb I’d gotten from an advanced reader. I’m embarrassed to say it took me about 2 hours, I’m a bit of a perfectionist with the timing and sound.

    That said, it was definitely one of the best promotional efforts I made: response was tremendous.

    Now that the book is being published by Kindle Press, I’m definitely investing in a “real” trailer. These are all great tips to keep in mind!


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