Book Trailers—One Step Further

Book trailers. Visual blurbs that give potential buyers a preview of the book. Great for promoting an upcoming new release, fairly easy to create. In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, a good example is Courtney Summer’s trailer for her book Cracked Up To Be. Because we all (yes, every one of us) will be published someday and will need trailers for our bestsellers, I thought I’d take a closer look at Courtney’s video to find out what makes a trailer good.

It’s concise
The trailer for Cracked Up to Be is 1 minute, 20 seconds long. People who are interested in your novel don’t want to sit through a ten-minute explanation. Include enough information to grab the potential reader’s attention, and let it go. The average length of most book trailers is between 45 seconds and 2 minutes. Any longer than that and you risk losing your audience.

It’s simple
Courtney’s trailer consists of music, text, and slides. Though other elements are often used effectively (dialogue, actors, etc.), she keeps it simple, and the end result works. Whatever elements you choose to include, make sure they work together to get your point across. The viewer doesn’t want to interpret fancy fonts or turn down the volume because the music is distracting. Remember that the story is the most important thing. Everything else is a means to that end and shouldn’t detract from it.

It’s professional
You can see the what-not-to-do’s all over the internet: cheesy real-life actors performing the summary, accompaniment that was written by the author (who’s also an aspiring singer), slides that look like they were created with WordArt. Typos. *shudder* If you’re going to promote yourself with a trailer, make sure you put your best foot forward. A second-rate trailer is about as effective as a shoddy query letter.

It ends on a good note
Just like a novel, ending a trailer can be tricky. You don’t want to tie everything up too nicely, or why would people bother buying the book? You also don’t want it to end abruptly; clunky is not a word you want associated with your video. The last pre-credits line of Courtney’s trailer asks the viewer: “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” What a great line! It summarizes the plot, leaves you thinking, and immediately ties the viewer to the main character, because we all have regrets. Who doesn’t want to find out what this girl has done??

So good job, Courtney, and thanks for letting me reference your video. It’s a great example of how to market your soon-to-be-published novel via a book trailer. But I have a question for the rest of us: why wait for your book to be accepted before you create one?

You see them all over YouTube: the singer performing an original song, the would-be dancer jazz-handing his way through his own choreographed number. A lot of these people are merely amusing, but some of them have gotten discovered, and all because they took advantage of the wonderful world of the Internet.

So once your book is ready to be read by the world at large, why not create a trailer to promote it? Make it professional. Post the trailer on your blog or website. Include the link in query letters so agents and publishers can get an extra inkling about your book. It seems like an underutilized marketing tool for those shopping around their work. As someone who would love to see all of her friends published, I pose the question: Why not? What’s keeping you from creating a trailer for your ready-to-shop book right now?


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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22 Responses to Book Trailers—One Step Further

  1. courtney says:

    Thank you, Becca! You guys rock so hard. Thank you so much for featuring CUTB’s trailer–the commentary about it has totally made my head big! 😉 But seriously, you guys know I love The Bookshelf Muse… so being featured on a blog I love/respect/read regularly is totally daymaking. Thank you!

  2. Ghost Girl says:

    Nicely done! That is a fabulous trailer. Perfect timing, rhythm, the whole package. It really pulls you and actually sets a mood that makes you want to read the book. Thanks for the run-down and the link!

  3. Becca says:

    Broad Abroad, let me know if you decide to make a trailer; I’d love to see it!

    Gutsy, sounds like you’ve got a great resource there. Hopefully you two work together on projects better than my husband and I…

    Creative A, thanks for sharing. It’s good to hear arguments on the other side :).

  4. Creative A says:

    Man do I agree! I hate cheesy, unprofessional trailers. *shudders*

    On an aside, I think it’s preemptive to make a trailer of a book that is unagented and/or without a contract, just because it makes you look cocky and egotistical to potential agents. Until the book has a contract, I think posting the vid would be a waste of buzz.

    That being said…I’m all for creating some pre-publication buzz with a simple, catchy trailer.


  5. GutsyWriter says:

    As always, you really help all of us aspiring to become published. My husband’s passion, is film and he is putting together a book trailer for a friend of mine who’s book is being released in March. It’s about “Global Warming is Good for Business.” So I’ve been out filming with him for her book trailer. San Onofre, nuclear power plant, the windmills in Palm Springs, etc. I’m learning and hopefully, he’ll be able to put one together for me in the future. I love Courtney Summer’s trailer and agree that the music has a huge impact on how the viewer feels about purchasing her book. Great trailer.

  6. I just recently found out about the wonderful world of book trailers. I’m published and thought that it might be an incentive on my website. Thanks for discussing it on your blog.
    Check mine out at:

  7. Becca says:

    No worries! Angela has done the bulk of the posting around here lately.

  8. Love book trailers and I just finished CRACKED UP TO BE and LOVED it! Great points.. 🙂

  9. Angela says:

    Angela is everywhere! You cannot escape her!!! Muahahaaa!


    Ah yes, back to writing. I just needed a evil cackle break.

  10. C.R. Evers says:

    Oh Crap, Becca! I assumed that Angela wrote the post. Sorry I didn’t mention you. I’m just used to seeing Angela’s name. I”m going to go back and change that in my blog.

    Sorry!!!! I need to verify post authors first! YIkes!

    p.s. I used i-movie. It came with my Mac when I bought it.

  11. Mary Witzl says:

    This is useful information — I hope. I feel so wistful, mentally constructing a trailer for a book that I have yet to find an agent for. I feel like a girl with no romantic prospects, picking out my wedding dress.

    But the weird thing is, I can already see it! I can hear the professional voice over and see the out-of-this-world graphics…

    Off to dream some more.

  12. Merc says:

    Gah, I’m sorry, Becca–I meant to say YOUR post, but was looking at Angela’s comment when writing. :$ Oops.

  13. Becca says:

    Well I’m glad this doesn’t sound like a totally doofy idea to everyone else either, lol. When I was writing the post, it seemed like there must be some obvious reason why people weren’t doing it, but I couldn’t think of any.

    If you have created a trailer, would you mind telling us what software you used and if you recommend it? I know there are a number of choices out there.

  14. Merc says:

    A great example of an effective trailer, thanks for sharing and the commentary, Angela!

    (And kudos to Courtney for a great trailer.)

    I’ve not watched a lot or had a terribly great interest in book trailers in general. I have exactly one idea for one story I would love to do (for a SF/dystopian novel–thus, dark, violent and gritty)… but it’s a ways out. 😉

    Still, the concept is interesting and I think it could be a good promotional tool if done well (like anything else) and targeted at an increasingly tech-savvy audience.

    Thanks for the post!


  15. Lady Glamis says:

    This is awesome! I will have to do this when I have a book ready. Thank you. 🙂

  16. Angela says:

    CR, that’s so cool! Did you use software or what? Tell us about the process! *sniff sniff* smells like a blog post to me…did you post about it? Must go check!

  17. Bish Denham says:

    Courtney’s trailer definitely piques my interest. And…I’d like to learn how to do this.

  18. Luc2 says:

    I know they exist, but nothing ever compelled me to watch them. I guess I don’t want to be won over to read a book by a bit of film.

    But I may be strange in that respect; I also don’t like book covers that portray one of the characters. I want to go ‘blank’ into a book, and form my own image of the characters. Now I can’t read LOTR anymore without seeing Eliah Wood as Frodo. And Frodo was so different in my head!

    Having said that, this was actually a very good trailer with nice visuals that don’t give away much.

  19. C.R. Evers says:

    OK. I got so excited about this idea that I whipped up a trailer last night. It was so fun! I can do it differently later, but it was fun just to play around and give my idea a little more life. :0)

  20. PJ Hoover says:

    I had a book trailer made, and I love it! It makes me happy every time I see it. And that in itself is worth something.

  21. Angela says:

    One thing that I feel really makes Courtney’s trailer stand out is the music she chose. It pulls you in and the beat is catchy enough that you see where it’s headed and you naturally want to follow it there to the big finish.

    Another thing that makes this stand out is the doodling and the notes. It’s all very YA and excellently targeted.

  22. C.R. Evers says:

    I love book trailers!

    I think you’ve got an idea here. Maybe a book pitching trailer. hmmmm. . . . me likes!


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