Book trailers . . . they seem to be a hot topic. Quite regularly I get promotional emails from marketing agencies pushing the importance of book trailers. Some of them are quite good, creating elaborate videos that are worthy of Hollywood. I’ve also seen price ranges for these beasts for as much at $1500 (and as little as $29, so there’s a HUGE discrepancy in price).
So what exactly is a book trailer? For those that have never heard of this before, it’s a video that serves to advertise your book. Set up with a similar purpose to a movie trailer, it’s a way to entice potential readers to purchase your book. I’ve seen them as short as 30 seconds or as long as 7 minutes. Like anything else, the quality of the book trailer varies wildly on what sound bites and stock images/footage a designer has access to, as well as their own skill in creating the trailer (remember, you can’t use images, video footage, sounds, or music that has copyrights on it unless you get permission but you can purchase “royalty free” resources).
Now these promotional messages that I’ve received for book trailers list numerous reasons to do it, but they mainly center around enticing a potential reader or SEO (search engine optimization). They are usually accompanied with sayings like “can increase sales”, “a great way to get the word out”, and other such vague claims.
So, as you may have guessed, I view book trailers with a bit of skepticism. I’ve created 3 book trailers, 2 for my first book and 1 as a teaser for the upcoming sequel. I made sure to get beta feedback before sending these videos “into the wild”. Did the first 2 have any effect on my sales? If they did, I never received any feedback on them. My sales didn’t kick up until months after the trailers were out there, and their view numbers had not increased in a long time which tells me they fell into obscurity after the first couple of weeks.
But this is my personal experience, so I looked a little further. I wanted to see if I could find anything substantial on the value of book trailers. Nothing. Almost everything I found was marketing for the service to create book trailers. Then I came across a poll on Goodreads asking users if book trailers affected their decision on whether or not to buy a book.
A good book trailer inspires me to buy the book immediately. 13% (511 votes)
Book trailers are cool, I’ll probably get the book. 22% (868 votes)
I’ll watch the trailer but probably won’t read the book. 6% (265 votes)
Is a book trailer like a movie trailer? Weird. 56% (2155 votes)
Disclaimer time. Goodreads is NOT a source of scientific research and I’m well aware of that. I will concede, however, that they have a wide and diverse audience of avid book readers, so I believe there to be some validity to the results of the poll. The poll results at the time I took it are above. At that point, a whopping 56% of respondents (over 2000) basically claim to disregard them. Matter of fact, only 13% had indicated it as a definite deciding factor. 13%, that’s it!
Now, does this mean that book trailers are useless? Not necessarily although looking through them, I do believe that many of them are useless. First of all, no book trailer should be much longer than a minute. People browsing the web have a short attention span. You’ve got to get their attention and you have 7 seconds in which to do that (interestingly enough, people form first impressions in 7 seconds through interpersonal contact also). Then you have to peak their interest. Finally, you need to indicate what it is and how they can get it. They aren’t going to search high and low for it, nor will they wait 7 minutes to find out what it is and how to get it.
Another thing I’ve noticed is that some book trailers have advanced animation and look like a video game or movie trailer. That’s going too far. People are going to get confused as to what they are being presented with. You’re marketing a book. Make sure it’s obvious. Don’t try to target an audience that isn’t interested. Contrary to popular belief, that doesn’t work. You may pick up a few stragglers but you’re probably going to waste your time, energy, and money.
Are there uses for book trailers? Of course. As mentioned earlier, they ARE good for SEO. Uploading your videos to YouTube, then embedding them into your site will increase your site rankings, especialy in Google (and they own YouTube, which is also helpful). Google represents 70% of the search engine market (last I checked about a year ago, that could have changed but I doubt it’s that much different now). Also, for Indie Authors, people don’t always buy the first time they see or hear of the book. This is another way to get the image and the word out there. If people see it enough, and it’s interesting, they’ll buy it.
Just watch your budget of resources and decide how much you really have to put into this. Obviously, if your name is Dan Brown or John Grisham, your trailer will probably be viewed by hundreds of thousands, but that’s due to name. Since most of us don’t have a name like that (especially me), spending $1500 on a book trailer that looks like its advertising a movie is probably not worth it. Spending $29 may be, but also keep in mind, those tend to be quick works that are whipped up with generic clip art. Actually, I’ve often seen these trailers have very little to do with the book itself, other than waiving around the cover image in various patterns.
Again, just be smart with your resources. Marketing is the toughest part of being an author and it’s easy to get roped into things that promise “viral marketing”. Be realistic, there is no magic bullet for success. It takes time and dedication. Most top grossing authors went through a lot of blood, sweat, and tears before reaching the success they found.