Book Trailers – Should You Hitch One To Your Platform?

Platforms are all the rage these days — and a necessary item if you’re a writer. During a recent chat on Twitter about platforms, the sub-topic of book trailers came up. Seems there’s two camps on the matter, but first let me explain what a book trailer is.

Like a short preview before your movie starts, a book trailer usually consists of video and/or still pictures and text that entice the viewer to know more about your story. Having written many advertisements and other collateral over the years, I liken book trailers to marketing pieces. They’re designed to lure the horse to water. But will they make him drink?

According to a Wall Street Journal article from 2008, “There is scant evidence . . . that the average book trailer actually has much impact on book sales.” Some say this is because there’s no good way to track the results of a trailer, unless it’s the only marketing vehicle you’ve got for your story. Sorry to say, if all you have is a book trailer, you need to read up on marketing blogs such as the one written by Shelli Johannes-Wells.

Curious, I asked my fellow agency writers what their thoughts were on the matter. Book trailers received, on average, a big thumbs down. Some indicated that book trailers scream “self-published.” Another writer noted that a crappy trailer hinders, while those that are done professionally may help — but at great expense. Additionally, a participant on Twitter’s #writechat said that an agent told her it’s a turn-off when the writer does their own cover art and other promo items for their unpublished work. During the same chat, two more writers chimed in about how book trailers entice the readers to want more, stimulating buzz if your readership likes them.

Ugh! Where does this put you and me — the people who are interested in platform building, even if that means utilizing an untested and somewhat unloved vehicle like a book trailer? You can always try to make one and see where it goes. One helpful outline on how it’s done can be found at Claudia Jackson’s Web site. Her post, How to Make a Book Trailer, is very eye-opening on how the process chugs along. Granted, there are other ways to make a book trailer happen, but Claudia’s post was a very clear read and inspired me to look into the art and soul of book trailer building on iMovie. With her help, and a bit of crazy lady mental driving power (just go with me on this), I created a rough book trailer that I love… and that may never see the light.

Why go to all the trouble of making a book trailer if I plan on keeping it on my desktop for all eternity? I think that, for me, the book trailer is a satisfying way to see my work off the page and on the stage. If I choose to post it, I’ll be darned sure it’s perfect. Hopefully, it will reel in a few readers instead of turning them off. But until I make that decision, I’ll sit back and watch the great debate unfold before I decide if it’s time to unhitch my trailer and send it on its way.


12 thoughts on “Book Trailers – Should You Hitch One To Your Platform?

  1. I really enjoyed reading this article. I work with authors and to-do or not to-do a trailer is always on the table at some point during the campaign. I like the resources – very helpful.

    Love your writings…

    1. So glad you enjoyed the article! I’m in the middle of this exact dilemma and thought it would be good to share what I’ve learned. Book trailers are exciting for writers to create, and hopefully they can make a little bit of magic with them.

      – Julie

  2. I’ve thought about a book trailer and have in my mind how to do it and the overall look of it for my novel. But I don’t know if I should go through it. Thinking back on my purchasing choices, I’ve never bought a book because of a trailer. I go by word-of-mouth, reviews, and browsing at the bookstore.

    1. Same here. Truthfully, I never paid attention to them — I always thought, “Now why the heck does she/he need that?” However, now that I’ve got 2.5 stories in the can, I appreciate the soul work that goes into scripting, designing, and implementing such a small marketing vehicle. Book trailers breathe life into your characters, if only for your own personal enjoyment.

      – Julie

  3. I, for one, am glad I made a book trailer for my book. I feel it was very influential in selling my book. When my editor offered, she told my agent how much she enjoyed it. I’m not saying that my deal depended on my book trailer, but it was like rainbow sprinkles on the cupcake.

    So if I have any advice to anyone considering doing a book trailer – YES. DO IT. It’s a lot work but very fun and rewarding in many ways.


    1. Hi Courtney –

      Thank you for stopping by. It’s good to hear the positives about making a book trailer. Looks like the pros and cons of such a vehicle are subject to the opinion of the writer, agent, editor, and reader. Since everyone has a different opinion, let the desire to create a trailer rule!

      – Julie

  4. I am an author and producer of book video trailers at . Google loves video and video on your website can increase your google page ranking and deliver more visitors to your site. Some people like video and will anxiously view your trailers others may just pass it by. Uploading your video to sites like youtube etc get you visitors you may not have otherwise gotten. It’s a tool not a magic wand. Building a platform requires various tools.

    1. Hello!

      Thank you for stopping by. I look forward to perusing your website.

      I believe that book trailers are a good thing. As you noted, some may want to see them, while others will pass. Now, if only I could learn to get along with iMovie!

      – Julie

  5. My opinion, as a published NF author who really doesn’t care if his fiction ever sells, is that the publishing industry is WAYYYYYYYYY too full of themselves.

    You’ll note that ANY idea for marketing a book that does not originate with them is always immediately shot down, usually using the phrase, “Screams self-published!” They always say something negative about self-pubbing, like it automatically means the book is crap, when all it really means is that someone got sick of waiting for a publisher or agent to get around to reading their work.

    Check out and order a copy of “Fearless Force.” That’s good, and it was self-pubbed. Doing it yourself doesn’t mean it’s bad– it means that the publishing industry isn’t making any money off of you. And of COURSE they HATE THAT!

    Trailers certainly would have worked better than the back matter of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series from the American publisher– which was written by someone who didn’t bother to read the book and got almost everything, including the spelling of characters’ names, incorrect.

    Trailers also would work better than the pompous critic quotes on the back of Chris Bunch’s original “Seer King.” I don’t care if some dork from the NY Times or National Book Review liked it, what the hell is it ABOUT?

    Trailers would work better than the frontispiece matter of David Eddings’ “Belgariad” which presents the most minor character interactions as matters of life and death.

    Like it or not, we are a sound bite culture, especially young people today. If you can’t put together a 2minute trailer with good music to set the tone and a decent breakdown of the basic plot that entices someone to read the book– then you’re in the wrong business to begin with. There’s no reason why publishers can’t do a decent trailer– except that they don’t want to do so. It wasn’t their idea, so it obviously can’t be successful.

    Of course, the problem for a lot of submissions editors is that they can’t read, which is why they spend so much time writing blogs about how to write a query letter, and not much time focusing on how to write a decent story. After all, Harry Potter was SCATHINGLY rejected multiple times as “completely unmarketable.”

    Do you really want THOSE clowns in charge of marketing YOUR book?

    BTW: Julie, I’ve done my own football highlights in iMovie for years. Also did two book trailers for friends using that. Let me know if I can help you.

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