How to Make a Book Trailer

How to Make a Book Trailer

I've been doing a lot of research on book trailers lately.

I work at a video production company. I write scripts in my sleep. So when my editor suggested I make a book trailer to support my book proposal, I thought: "Piece of cake."

Now I'm eating my words.

What are book trailers, and why do so many people hate them?

Book trailers are videos meant to spark interest in a new book. They're often modeled after movie trailers. And they're often maligned, even by authors who use them well.

Case in point:

I responded to Chuck Wendig's tweet by asking what book trailers he actually liked. He didn't answer. Presumably he's too busy writing more books and cashing royalty checks. (To be fair, he did write a blog post on the topic back in 2012.)

But here's the thing: Wendig's book trailer for his Miriam Black series is really good. It showcases everything that's delightful about Miriam Black (unforgettable characters, a great narrative voice) without any fluff.

Book Trailers: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

I've watched at least a dozen book trailers since then. Everything from big-budget numbers to simple stop motion and author interviews.

Here's what I learned: there's no formula for a good book trailer. Is the book funny? The book trailer should make viewers laugh. Is it dramatic? The trailer should take people's breath away. Is it lyrical? The trailer should have a lovely, lyrical script.

Above all else, a book trailer should leave viewers eager to read the actual book. It should give them just enough information to know what it's about, then leave them wanting more.

Here's a book trailer that does just that:

This video has high production values, but author Tim Ferriss documents the entire process—complete with storyboard sketches and video treatment.

I've been working on my own book trailer this month. And while I don't have Tim Ferriss's budget, I hope to share my own video-making process with you, and ultimately create a successful book trailer. 

Will I succeed? I have no idea. But every step of the way, I'm going to be asking: Does this make viewers want to read the book? And if the answer is no, I'm going back to the drawing board. Er, storyboard.

Here's my current book trailer script, just in case you're curious:

Let me know what you think!

Image of stacked books by Ginny and used under a Creative Commons license.