How many times have you bought a movie ticket at least partially based on the trailer? At least once and probably more, right? A really good trailer gets you to the theater for two hours. A bad one keeps you away. Today, trailers are not just for movies or television. Book trailers are popping up in all genres, from children’s books to suspense to non-fiction. A compelling book trailer can play a large part in an author’s marketing campaign. May’s Writing Show at The Broadberry focused on what makes a book trailer work, types of book trailers, and things to consider when making a trailer. Sharing their wisdom were Tom Sanchez Prunier, a freelance screenwriter and film producer, and Lew Fraga, a producer, writer, director, and owner of Fraga Studios.

Tom Sanchez
Tom Sanchez

What does a book trailer do? Tom and Lew believe a trailer gives the author a chance to say more than what’s on the book’s jacket. They believe a video ad attached to a book can be more cost-effective and far-reaching than a book tour. Used properly, it can be an integral piece in building an author’s brand.

By showing several trailers on screen, Tom and Lew emphasized the importance of showing—not telling—in creating a powerful trailer. Of course, every writer has heard this phrase repeatedly, but they stated it also applies to the video sneak peek into a book. As part of a total marketing campaign, Tom suggested a good book trailer is as important as your book cover. According to Tom and Lew, to make a trailer work, it should create emotional engagement, get to the point, respect the audience, have a clear message, hint at the story, and have a call to action (buy the book!). Unlike a movie trailer, the best book trailers don’t show the faces of the protagonists (or only briefly) or reveal too much of the story. Lew said, “Let the reader come up with a face.” A good trailer never shows credits and is generally under 2 minutes (1-1 ½ minutes is ideal). Bad editing, unrelated content, and excessive text can detract from any trailer.

Tom and Lew introduced four types of book trailers:

Lew Fraga
Lew Fraga

The Author Trailer, Moving Photo Albums, Cinematic, and Animated/Motion Graphics. Each has its pros and cons. While the author trailer is the least expensive with low production costs, the author must be comfortable in front of the camera in order to create an emotional connection. Moving photo albums are also budget-friendly, but can look homemade. Also, using stock images or pirated music can result in copyright issues. Lew said, “If someone calls you on it, your video will be pulled.”

The third type of trailer, the cinematic trailer, is the most like a movie. Done right, it can be engaging to readers and the centerpiece of any marketing campaign, but the production costs can be high and the ROI [Return on Investment] is hard to determine. An animated/motion graphics trailer is the most expensive and cannot be do-it-yourself; however, it can be a powerful visual device. One of their favorite book trailers is for the young adult novel Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

More detail on the types of trailers and pros and cons can be found here: Fraga Presentation.

During the Q&A portion of the show, Tom and Lew said there are no hard and fast rules. An author can combine the types of book trailers effectively (author and moving images works well). Text on screen can also work but should be limited to the time it takes to comfortably read that text. Tom cautioned, “Everything excerpted works, but a Star Wars crawl is too much.”

Costs to make a trailer can vary, they said, from as little as several hundred dollars to several thousand. Writers in the audience acknowledged that even with book deals, authors are often on their own in creating a trailer. Authors should evaluate whether a trailer is right for them. Once a book trailer is completed, it’s effectiveness can be maximized by promoting it on the author website, FaceBook, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, and sales outlets. A still image from the trailer can also be used across all social media to market the author’s brand.

The sizeable audience was energized and grateful to Tom and Lew for sharing their advice and expertise. Also at this month’s writing show, Kristi Tuck Austin thanked outgoing Program Director Sheila Lovelady for her dedicated service and introduced Jeff Sadler, the new Program Director. And in a moving tribute to Maya Angelou, several writers read some of her most famous words. It was both an informative and inspiring night!

Kellie Larsen Murphy – JRW member and author of A Guilty Mind


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