Book Trailer – The New Book Cover?

In his insightful book on the development of the book cover during the twentieth century, Front Cover: Great Book Jacket and Cover Design, Alan Powers chronicles the evolution of the cover from discardable protective dust jacket to critical marketing component and charts the cultural influences that shaped its design.  The book cover has become the most important marketing device to catch a potential buyer’s eye. 

old television studioBut now a new marketing tool may supplant the venerable book cover.  It is the book trailer also known as a book wrap or a book video.  The book trailer is usually a 2-3 minute video featurig the author and visuals which illustrate the content of the book.  In just a few years, the book trailer has emerged as a “must have” in the book marketing mix.  Forces that are driving its popularity?

  • Publishers are looking for new ways to promote their titles in a crowded market
  • Publishers need new ways to engage a new, media savvy generation of readers
  • 72% of users are now connecting to the Internet with broadband
  • Book trailers offer a less expensive way to market books

video kioskCompared to some forms of book marketing, book trailers are not cheap.  Costs can range from $2,000 to $5,000+ depending on the production values the author or publisher decides to add.  But they can serve many functions.  Book trailers can be used as a means to secure print and TV media coverage; in conjunction with virtual book tours; web ads (in a shortened format); as sales videos for major retailers; as presales material to book buyers; for in store video loops; and as book club promotions. 

Book trailers are also showing up on YouTubewhere they serve a dual purpose as entertainment and advertising.   The experience of one publisher using book trailers on YouTube was highlighted a few months back in the San Francisco Chronicle by staff writer Justin Berton. 

Here are a few production houses focusing on book trailers.  (WARNING!!  Watching these videos can be addictive.)

And, of course, there are now book trailer awards (e.g. – the Book Standard’s Book Video Awards). 

Producers of book trailers will have to balance creating strong cinematic appeal with still allowing readers the freedom to conjure up their own mental imagery.  For as we all know, sometimes the movie doesn’t measure up to the book.  Like the book cover before it, the book trailer will evolve into an art form – influenced by commercial needs, reader expectations and the ambient culture – but with its own rules and artistic devices. 

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16 Responses to Book Trailer – The New Book Cover?

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  2. orionwell says:

    Book trailers can be expensive. Many small presses are interested, but afraid of the financial outlay. I think they are waiting for more proof of an ROI before taking the plunge.

  3. Sheila says:

    Actually, book trailers aren’t as expensive as you might think.
    You can have a more simple book video that doesn’t include actors for as little $750, or one that is just your book cover, text and music for $250 (all of which comes with free distribution).
    ROI is always hard to nail down with any marketing endeavor. But, a recent survey shows that a large percentage of people who watch book video do indeed buy the book. If that weren’t so, Borders, BN and Amazon.com wouldn’t invest in putting them on their site. They would charge for the space. But, they don’t. Book video is content, not co-op for booksellers. Why? Because the author or publisher just created a great ad that the bookseller can use to sell a book.
    COS Productions coined the phrase “book trailer” (and trademarked the term back when no one cared about the idea). There will be a white paper coming out very soon that addresses book video, it’s uses, it’s future and ROI.
    You can always sign up for the COS Newsletter to get that.

  4. orionwell says:

    Thanks for the insights, Sheila. I think it will help small publishers to have an idea of the range of options available to them. The possibility of prdoucing a low cost video, combined with the willingsess of booksellers to put it on their sites, should encourage small publishers to add this to their marketing mix.

  5. Raquel Soto says:

    Quality book trailers need not be expensive. After doing my own, I’ve gotten so many inquiries I’m starting to do them on the side. They are not only great fun for me to do, the response for my first author has been amazing.

    For as little as $249 you can get a mini-teaser (which is what I’m specializing in).

    There are many great places out there, so shop around and see what fits with your vision and pocketbook.

    -Raquel Soto

  6. I agree high quality book trailers need not mean high cost, but the inverse is also true: some providers seem to charge over the odds and the result does not reflect value for money spent. But you also see trailers which obviously are home-made or cost little and it shows.

    I often hear from authors who ‘have no idea’ what their book trailer should look, feel or sound like, but just want one, “because everyone says I should”. My thinking is that authors should be careful only to have a trailer (as in all promotion) if it will enhance your image. You could first decide what you like and don’t by viewing other people’s trailers. There are a few great trailers out now (my favourite:Post Secret from the W Morris agency http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pKZ5blYSyE), many good book trailers and a vast number which sadly, probably do the book and author more harm than good.

    As increasingly affordable bandwith and hardware allows more viewers to see better quality films online, we expect a high standard. I think authors should be careful to avoid the slideshows that ‘pose’ as web trailers with no video content, they can be well done, but often aren’t. I too create trailers (starting under $500) and it makes me so disappointed for the author who goes to all the hard work behind a book, and then of getting a trailer made, and the trailer really doesn’t leave a good impression.

    You can do it yourself, with some good basic software and some creativity – just watch the existing trailers and avoid what you think does not work well, or outsource to affordable, value-for-money providers.
    Shop around, one way, is to find what you like and do not on YouTube and contact the file owner, if search engines only return high cost providers.

    Another neat tool is available from sproutbuilder.com – I think this has got to be a great content authoring tool of the future.

  7. orionwell says:

    Hi Tiny –
    Thank you for sharing your insights with us. Book trailers are definitely an evolving art form and it will take authors (and producers) some time to figure out which aesthetics deliver the best results.

    Tools like Sproutbuilder will definitely make it easier for authors to create book trailers and their templates can help individuals steer clear of artistic missteps.

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  10. Safari Sue says:

    My book trailer on Youtube for, Maybe We Are Flamingos, has been an effective marketing tool. They are the new book covers brought to life. I always liked movie trailers and this is similar and a great way to get the word out about your book.

  11. There is a general relation to the cost of production to the quality of a book trailer, but like mentioned above, a small budget doesn’t automatically mean poor quality.

    I just started Way Out Sortie to do book and author videos, because it IS an excellent new promotional tool for authors. But very often the small published author will benefit greatly from this new media approach, while they often won’t make enough to cover the cost of a small trailer for their first couple books.

    However, it pays dividends over time as a whole new audience is aware of you, and your library grows.

    In my opinion, the most important thing is to develop a hook that works throughout the entire video and prompts a call to action for a potential reader to find out more information. That can be done inexpensively.

    Personally, I think the poorest trailers – high or low production – are ones that randomly go over a portion of the story for 2 or 3 minutes, and don’t move from one thing (the story) to another thing (the hook or call to action). In that case, you just created a short video, not a promotional tool.

  12. Hardy Capo says:

    As a producer of book trailers, of course I think they are a fantastic marketing tool for authors.

    But beware trailers that look cheap. Remember that the trailer, for better or worse, remarks on you as an author.

    I treat the book trailers I produce as mini-movies, using 3D animation, which is very versatile in reflecting the atmosphere of different books.

    The way in which we build our sets, choose our shots, edit footage and use sound has broadcast production values.

    I’m quite shocked at some of the trailers. I think it might be better not to produce a trailer at all than one that isn’t of the highest standard. Even a good one doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

    Take a look at the trailer we made for ‘Snappy Sayings’, written by Brad Wheler. We’ve made five of these. It’s like a mini sitcom and Brad is releasing one a week on various video sites. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7nto-FoIUU

  13. Wow… Really informative post!
    Have a fantastic day!

  14. What a great point you make. Yes, some people just don’t need to comment to feel they have participated to the fullest. That’s not their style.

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  16. Çizgi film says:

    Thank you for sharing your insights with us. Book trailers are definitely an evolving art form and it will take authors (and producers) some time to figure out which aesthetics deliver the best results.
    Tools like Sproutbuilder will definitely make it easier for authors to create book trailers and their templates can help individuals steer clear of artistic missteps.

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