Monday, February 01, 2010

Book Trailers. Worth it?

I recently read an interesting article on the value of book trailers. The author basically said, there isn’t any. Book Trailers

I had a book trailer done for Valley of the Lost, the second Constable Smith book. The trailer, done by a professional advertising agency, is first class. It is short – 58 seconds - punchy and to the point. It has good music, live action, and great sound effects. The trailer for Charles Benoit’s Noble Lies was done by the same agency as mine. Another example of a good trailer.

As much as I liked the trailer, I decided not to do one for my subsequent books.


I don’t see any return on investment.

To have a good trailer done, costs a lot of money and/or a lot of time. It can be very expensive if you’re talking about original music, trained actors, a professional ad person to put it all together. If you want to do it on the cheap – shaky handheld camera, your friends acting out parts of the book, another friend strumming on a guitar, or just splotches of text, then definitely don’t bother. A poor trailer is worse than no trailer at all. Here’s a quote from the Salon article: as a reader and shopper for genre fiction, I've never been swayed to make a book purchase based on a trailer ... A few have featured actors so unattractive to me I was totally turned off.

Book trailers are promoted as serving the same purpose as movie trailers – a brief introduction to the product. But books and movies are completely different vehicles. A movie trailer gives you a glimpse of the actors in the movie, shows you the sets and the costumes, provides a taste of the exciting (or melodic or romantic or techo-pop) music you will hear in the movie. It shows you the action scenes and some of the dramatic special effects.

A book, however, doesn’t have music. It doesn’t have sets or costumes or dramatic special effects or beautiful people acting.

It has words.

All the bells and whistles of a book trailer cannot tell you anything about the quality of the writing or the skill of the author. Which is most people’s primary reason for buying a book.

How do people find your trailer anyway? My family and friends and previous readers loved the Valley of the Lost trailer. But they saw it only because they knew me: they were already going to read the book. Simply having a trailer on Youtube didn’t bring anyone new to my virtual door.

I question whether book trailers are hitting the right audience. Other than people already acquainted with my work, who probably saw the trailer on Youtube following a link from my webpage, are the sort of people who spend their time on Youtube the sort of people who are going to be interested in my books? Probably not.

Youtube viewers might go from one trailer to another but are they actually going to break away from that medium to buy and then read a book? They’re more likely to switch to a clip from the Daily Show or the latest cat-falling-in-toilet epic than call up their local library’s page to put a hold on a book.

Salon’s conclusion: The better a video is, the more it makes you want to watch more video.
Trailer for Valley of the Lost
Trailer for Noble Lies by Charles Benoit


Rick Blechta said...

I'm sure I'm not the only one who falls into this camp, but when I heard about the idea I was FULLY onboard, figuring a clever book trailer would make a huge difference.

The reality is something far less, and still leaves us all wondering, "What do I have to do to get my book noticed?"

Maybe the lack of success is due to the fact that everyone jumped on movie trailer production ideas. Maybe books need a different type of trailer.

And if I can figure out what exactly that is, I will tell you...for the small charge of $5000.


Nicola Furlong said...

Hey Vicki and Rick,

Great to find your blog. As a producer of book trailers, I'm biased but I believe they offer a solid marketing opportunity, often to an audience new to the author.

That's if they have a strong narrative hook, interesting visuals and sound, all resulting in an experience that makes the viewer want to read the book.

And trailers don't have to cost a fortune.

Have a look at the one we created for fellow CWC'er Juanita Rose Violini at


Nicola Furlong

Vicki Delany said...

Good points, Nicola. But - who is going to see the trailer? The people who already know you and your work? What's the point of that?

reno said...

As an author and producer of book trailers I feel it really depends on the book. The trailer is just another marketing tool. If you can position it so that people will watch it then it is a useful way to introduce people to your book in a creative and emotional way.

Unknown authors and self-publishers need to be innovative to get noticed. You can see some book video trailers at

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