Book trailers are very fashionable. Authors make them, fans make them, and just occasionally, publishers make them. They come in a variety of styles. There are minimalist book trailers that pan across a single image, while the bare bones of the story appear in brief lines of text on the screen. There are lush, big-budget book trailers with live actors and special effects. There are fan-made trailers with medieval fantasy costumes and real horses in them (oh, I envy authors with fans like that!) and there are simple, cost effective trailers made with stock photos and royalty free music.
To me, the idea of doing a book trailer was very seductive – it seemed like an irresistible opportunity to see my story come to life, on the screen instead of on the page. But it has been pointed out that book trailers may not have that much impact on sales. After all, in order to find and watch a book trailer, you have to visit the author’s web site or know the name of the book anyway – in which case you may well have already made the crucial decision about whether or not to buy the book. But that isn't stopping people from making them. They are everywhere. Jodi Picoult has a book trailer, Stephen King has a book trailer, Julia Quinn has a book trailer. Cody Young NEEDED a book trailer. So I made one:
I filmed it myself – you can tell, right? Then I decided that was too brief and too homemade so I hired some drama school actors and a guy who had worked for TVNZ and we came up with a second one. You be the judge of which one is better – but with the benefit of hindsight, brief was best. The ideal length seems to be somewhere between thirty seconds and one and a half minutes, and this one is a little longer than that:
Did you spot the continuity error? (Clue: long hair, short hair). We had a great time making this one, and I don’t resent the cost at all. Did it sell books? Yes, it did - but here's the big confession - it takes about a hundred views to get a sale - so it's not nearly as effective as good reviews and word of mouth - both of which have turned out to be much better (and cheaper) forms of advertising. If you want to minimize the cost, you can put together a perfectly acceptable book trailer FOR FREE using a selection of still photos and short pieces of text. Many people use a simple application like Windows Movie Maker – it may already be installed on your computer. I used a version of Sony Vegas to edit mine and really enjoyed it, though I have to warn you it takes hours. You emerge blinking into the light after about a week, with only a minute of usable footage to show for it. Overall, one of the best things about making book trailers is that it’s a chance to exercise your creativity and a great opportunity for laughs. Take a look at our bloopers (outtakes) and you’ll see what I mean.
So if you are thinking of making one:-
Watch a lot of other book trailers first, and decide on a style you like.
Keep your trailer short (yes, really short) and don’t spend a fortune.
If you use actors – do all the filming on one day – then you won’t lose your leading lady half way through the filming.
Get all the help you can for free – media students, film school dropouts, geeky friends and relatives are great sources of talent.
Don’t upload it under the heading ‘book trailer’, as zillions of others have done.
Have fun, and think of it as a ‘fashion statement’ rather than a fail-safe method for boosting sales.