Isaac and I have been considering ways to promote our books once they’re ready. I’ve got a cover in mind for Magic’s Stealing, along with a couple possible blurbs, but we both agree that having a few other promotional materials meant to pique the interest of readers would be handy. One promo piece we’re considering is that of a book trailer.
Love ’em or hate ’em, a good book trailer catches the eye of a potential reader and either gets them to investigate what the book is about, or get them to make that final step toward picking up a book they’ve been on the fence about.
In order to get a feel for what makes a good book trailer, we perused Youtube and watched various (mostly young adult) book trailers. The below is our subjective conclusions.
Elements of a Good Trailer:
- Music that fits the tone of the book. Compare the kind of music found in movies to your genre. A suspense might have suspenseful music. Horror might have music that is jarring or creepy. Action might be fast paced. Use music (make sure you have the right licence) to help convey genre to the reader.
- Use cliches to catch interest… sparingly. If your book turns a cliche on its head, such as having a gladiator woman instead of a man… you might want to focus on that. Or you can hint at similarities in your book to other stories. For example, I showed my husband the book trailer for Throne of Glass (Note: I haven’t read the book, so I don’t know how well the trailer matches it), which starts off with a silhouetted version of the character on the cover. Isaac’s first reaction was ‘is this Assassin’s Creed?’ Since the book is about an assassin, then it makes sense that people who enjoyed Assassin’s Creed might enjoy a book about an assassin. Using similarities to other books, games, or movies allows the reader to consider that, if they enjoyed the other story, they might enjoy this one, too.
- Set the theme. Convey the mood and tone of the book, and offer a sense of setting. This was often done using the imagery and/or animation shown. But also show what makes this book different from other books with similar themes… why readers should pick up this particular book.
- If you already have a fan base from an existing prequel, touch on what excited them about the first book, but don’t leave new readers without a sense of what’s going on.
- Include the name of the book and the author, along with when and where it will be available. Include buy links once available, and make it easy for a potential reader to buy your book. Don’t forget to include the cover of the book somewhere in your trailer, so readers can link the trailer to the book when it comes time to buy it.
- Give readers something to remember. Granted, be careful not to use a cheesy gimmick unless the story calls for it, but if the reader remembers (and likes) the trailer, they may be more likely to pick up the book later, if they choose not to buy it immediately. If the reader doesn’t remember the trailer, they may not be as likely to pick up the book if they come across it later.
- If writing non-fiction, give a sense of what the book will be about, introduce the author… maybe include a bit of humor, if you’re the kind of author who uses humor in your book.
- Simplicity is your friend. You may not need a voice-over or a bunch of flashy images. Sometimes a simple ‘what if’ hook will catch a reader’s attention, as can using more ‘booky’ graphics. Words on the screen, skillfully placed, can be effective.
- When comparing book trailers to movie trailers, Isaac and I noticed that the movie trailer showed the type of characters involved (such as a strong female protagonist and the rough-but-romantic guy). Movie trailers were typically faster paced, and those trailers focused on higher-budget graphics (something books often don’t have… the graphics or the budget). Movies that disappoint in theatres often show clips in the trailer that don’t deliver a consistent feel once you watch the movie.
Elements of a Bad Trailer:
- Audio: Some trailers were obnoxiously loud or really quiet and hard to hear. Or the dialogue wasn’t clear. Be sure your potential reader can understand what is being said.
- Too much telling, and/or a trailer that goes on too long. If you go on and on… and on… you may loose the reader. Worse, they may assume your book will drag, too.
- Don’t quote your blurb verbatim. Readers will read that when they look at the book. Give the reader something new or expand on something that might interest them. You want a hook.
- Cheesy lines. This can be hard to judge, because certain tropes are common, but make sure your dramatic pauses are actually dramatic… and don’t have you rolling on the floor in a fit of giggles.
- Unless that’s the kind of story you’re trying to tell. If so, then by all means do so. I bought one book because the campy humor of the trailer was too entertaining to pass up.
- Too distracting. If the trailer uses flashy elements and distracting colors, or elements that seem out of place, readers may be too distracted by those elements to remember what the actual book is about.
- Don’t have ads on your book trailer. Seriously… the trailer is an ad. Readers don’t need to see unrelated Youtube ads popping up on the screen while we’re trying to watch it. Having other ads (when you can control them) impedes the message you’re trying to send out.
One thought I had during this whole process was to create a ‘teaser’ for the book rather than a ‘trailer.’ The idea would be to convey a small, interesting part of your story (For Magic’s Stealing, an example might be to voice over a section of the story where the antagonist, Shevanlagiy, is speaking to a rival. The teaser could therefore show what the protagonist is going up against. For example, there’s a line in the current draft of Magic’s Stealing where she say: “I’ll destroy everything,” she whispered, “if it gives me the power I need.” Granted, a little more context might be helpful.) For a trailer, you want to give a sense of the story as a whole. But for a teaser… one trailer we saw used a small bit of dialogue, a small scene that might have been directly from the book to show what the protagonist is dealing with. But it didn’t necessarily say a lot about the larger story.
I hope you enjoyed this post, and in the meantime, Isaac and I will be considering the above when we go to make a trailer for Magic’s Stealing. But what are your thoughts? Have you found any book trailers to be particularly effective (or ineffective)? 🙂
If you want to read more about book trailers:
Example trailers, you be the judge of good or bad:
(Note, I haven’t read all of these. I just watched the trailer.)
Throne of Glass: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_t1kXaDtRQ
An Ember in the Ashes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbvyCrkVT7M
The One: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVDfV7gCCFE
The Monstrumologist: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4V-biapntE
How to Catch a Russian Spy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W2frzMX4IWM
The Glass Arrow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G20Qz172G4s
Divergent: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu5Erw-posg vs. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sutgWjz10sM
Half Bad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UIcpalOypmo
The Raven Boys: http://maggiestiefvater.com/blog/the-animated-book-trailer-for-the-raven-boys/
The Young Elites: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F9VTgbB0dWg
The Friday Society: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xs5rXZrglf4
Miriam Black: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcR1B-48lK4
The Flame Alphabet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YMhEAIDclbI