A few weeks ago, I started a little side business making Book Trailers (and writing and editing and picking up laundry – you know, FREELANCING! Hire me for something. Please. I’m begging you). I’ve made a bunch of book trailers for my own books over the years, as well as other videos, and I really enjoy it. Something about taking pieces of video or photos, some music, and some text and making a coherent thing out of it appeals to me (heck, I made an entire music video out of scraps of stock video). I figured, I enjoy it, people need Book Trailers made (I mean, seriously – have you seen some of the trailers out there?) – why not put out my shingle?
Since then, I’ve made 3 or 4 trailers for money and had a lot of fun doing it. This, of course, forces me to think about Book Trailers in a more specific sense. As in, what is my Philosophy of Book Trailers? There’s a group of words I bet you thought you’d never see. There’s a lot of debate about the effectiveness of Book Trailers, of course. Personally, I think Book Trailers are useful tools, but you can’t expect them to work miracles. They’re basically cheap, persistent advertisements. If you think of them that way, there’s no reason not to do a book trailer. For pennies you post a ad for your book, and it’s there for years and years, keeping your name and title out there.
Book Trailers can be very dumb, of course, and there’s a lot of miscalculation out there, so here’s my basic philosophy of Book Trailers:
1. Be short. I think going forward book trailers will be a replacement, in part, for the act of browsing through a book on the shelf, since there won’t be any books on shelves any more. No one spends more than a few seconds flipping through a book, so your trailer shouldn’t be much longer. A minute is a good sweet spot. Longer than that and people will just quit watching anyway. Shorter and you may not have time to set a tone and get some meat in there.
2. Be entertaining. Everyone wants a viral video, but Virals aren’t made, they just happen. Just shoot for entertaining. If you’re talking about a one-minute trailer you don’t have to be experimental or edgy or anything, just keep people interested. In fact, you probably don’t want to go too far out there in a quest to be cool, because
3. Be informative. Don’t mistake informative with dull, but people are watching your book trailer because they want to know about the book. Images and music can set the mood, the tone, the basic setting. Give your audience a taste. Actual lines from the book help, but a summary of the premise isn’t a bad idea either. You want to give people a reason to buy your book, after all.
Book Trailers aren’t an exact science. If they were I’d have a factory in Mumbai cranking them out and be a billionaire. They’re sort of a long-tail approach to marketing; your trailer may not blow up on YouTube overnight and get 30 million hits, but it will be there six months from now, getting hits, making people aware of your book on a steady basis. Keep them cheap, simple, and entertaining, and it’s well worth the investment, I think. Of course, I would say that now that I hope to make money from it. I’ve never claimed to be anything but a selfish, self-centered ass, so there.