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Are Book Trailers Worth the Time?

Updated on March 25, 2016


Still from the Operation Cosmic Teapot book trailer.
Still from the Operation Cosmic Teapot book trailer.

Should I create a book trailer?

It’s no secret that independent authors desperately seek ways to get books into the hands of readers. Most have put their book on Amazon, setup a Goodreads profile, run a giveaway or two, written a few blog posts, and so on. Heck, a few might have even put up a Hubpage!

A question that gets asked repeatedly in writer-forums is: should I create a book trailer?

If you have the skill to put together a trailer that looks good, then probably! Alternatively, if it’s in your budget to get someone else to create a trailer, then perhaps. However, if you have never put together video before and lack the funds to get a live action or animated trailer made, you may want to skip it.

It Takes Time...

A little background about creating my trailer: it took me, along with two students, a little over a month to pull the whole thing together. We decided to create an animated trailer because my choice of actors was very limited, to say the least. I have some experience in animation but my drawing is terrible, which is where the students came in. They have incredible drawing talent.

In this month, we collectively spent close to four man-hours per day working on it. That’s twenty hours a week, for a total of 80 hours. For a one and a half minute video, we spent 80 hours! This is time that was taken away from writing and doing other promotional work. So, in deciding if you want to create a trailer, first ask if you are willing to take that much time away from your work.

Operation Cosmic Teapot

Going Viral

Creating a trailer with either a narrator, or speaking characters is critical – there needs to be live sound. Trailers that alternate text and pictures, which are nothing more than slideshows, should not be used. These trailers look unprofessional and give the impression that the book will then be unprofessional. While these books are often being produced by highly skilled writers, the trailer doesn’t give that impression because the creators are, after all, writers and not film makers.

In the end, the real question is: is it worth it? Is taking the time out of your already busy day, or spending your hard-earned money on a book trailer worth the effort? And that answer depends on what you hope to see out of your trailer.

It is unlikely that your book trailer will go viral overnight. It’s possible but not likely. If it does, then you’ve certainly accomplished more than I could with my trailer. My trailer has been out for about two weeks (at the time of writing this article) and has approximately five hundred views from across all sources. This has involved some social networking, posting it on a few websites, and of course, Youtube. I would like to see that number a little bit higher, but it will do. The disappointment, however, is in sales. Nil. Nada. That’s right, zero return on eighty hours of work to this point. While I have sold books in this time, I feel certain that the sales came from sources other than the trailer.

I asked around and most independent authors have similar sales resulting from book trailers. Most figure that their trailers had no impact on sales, while a few writers claim to have sold a couple of books because of their trailer. Note those impressive figures: a couple of books!

Book trailers are great as part of an overall branding strategy but don’t expect them to be your breakthrough into the top ten on Amazon. And please remember, no slideshows!


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