How to Make a Book Trailer that Speaks to Readers

Book Trailers can be a great way to market your story, and we’ve got the perfect person to provide insight on the process. Victor Blasco from Yum Yum videos has got some great tips on how to structure your trailer to maximize viewer impact.

So, you did the math and realized that your brand-new book could really benefit from having an awesome trailer. Good job!

While riveting writing is often enough to trap avid readers between two covers for a while, it takes much more to pique someone’s interest online. There are just too many distractions on the internet to bet all your chips on written promotion alone!

The problem, though, is that working on making a great book trailer can be rather tricky – especially if you have no previous experience with video marketing. Or trailers, for that matter.

But fret not, you’ve come to the right place.

In this post, we are going to talk a little bit about the most important elements you’ll need to consider for your fledgling trailer. And by the time we are done, I’m sure you’ll be brimming with ideas to bring yours to life!

Book Trailers as Storytelling Mediums

The first thing you’ll want to understand here is that book trailers are, in themselves, short narrative platforms. They are supposed to tell a story.

Granted, it should be an incomplete story, but a story nonetheless. It is an important point to make, especially once you notice that YouTube is riddled with “book trailers” that are little more than slideshows with text overlays and generic music.

Moreover, you’ll need a trailer that can accomplish said goal within the timeframe in which you can keep a viewer’s attention. PRO TIP: Most video marketing stats place that around the one-minute mark.

You want your trailer to transmit your book’s main idea and theme, and convey its tone, style, and intent by giving glimpses into its content. And while that can sound a bit overwhelming at first, it should become much more manageable once we start going through each major element using a language you are already familiar with.

You’ll quickly see that you already have most of the information you’ll need to make your trailer’s content shine.

Learning from the Pros – The Hollywood Method

Hollywood has been making successful trailers for decades—trailers that go on to be the central pieces of marketing strategies that consistently generate the type of hype, engagement, and interest you’re after.

They pretty much have it down to a science by now. So we’re going to take a page from their book – pun definitely intended – and go over the most important elements you’ll need to build your trailer’s narrative.

Hook Viewers from the Start

Think about your trailer’s first few seconds as the first lines in your book’s chapter one. How many times did you go back to edit those into perfection? Your chapter one’s first few lines are crucial because they have a very important job to fulfill: to grab a reader’s interest from the start. It’s the same for your trailer’s beginning.

Suspense and intrigue might be great for your book, but most people decide whether to watch something or keep scrolling based on the first few seconds of a piece. So you need to give them something that makes them stop and pay attention.

Maybe there’s a particular sentence from your book that can do the trick. Or a sequence you can start your video with that will elicit this type of attention. 

Whatever you go with, know that its job is to make people go “Huh, do tell me more…” and then start building from there.

Use Your Premise to Flesh Out the Trailer’s Story

In terms of book trailers, the premise is everything.

As I mentioned earlier, your trailer should be telling an incomplete story – That is, to convey your book’s premise in such a way that leaves people wanting more.

To get a better sense of what the main “story” for your trailer could be, look into the work you’ve already done for the back-cover or sales copy. The idea is to distill the most relevant and interesting story hooks that can get viewers on board without revealing too much.

It can be a difficult balance to attain, as an approach of “less is more” might not always be the case! You want to give enough info to get anyone watching to feel that they “get” what your book is about without you overdoing it.

Don’t Leave Your Characters Out

I feel like too many book trailers go with a more “artsy” or interpretative approach for fear of committing to something more tangible. They focus their trailers on high-minded concepts or themes… “the big picture” instead of the nitty-gritty of it all.

I believe that’s a mistake.

Stories are great, but it is the characters and players in them that make them feel real. Why would it be anything different for your trailer?

Don’t get me wrong; you don’t have to base the whole piece around your MC – although you could – But I need to, at least, walk away from your trailer with a sense of who the main player or players are.

And all of that applies to non-fiction books as well! In such cases, the authors themselves can play the role of “the character” in the trailer, giving viewers someone relatable to relate to.

Write a Script

Well-developed scripts aren’t just for voice-over or acted trailers! Even if you decided to go with a mostly musical piece with text overlays, you should treat – and format – these things like a script.

Write them out from start to finish until you are satisfied with the pacing of the information-reveal to the viewer. Basically, you’ll want to plot your trailers a little bit. Once that’s taken care of, start polishing it.

Treating the content-side of your trailer in script format can help you keep things organized, but more importantly, it will make it easier for you to spot when something is missing.

Maybe the narrator is jumping too soon to a key piece of the trailer, or maybe the text overlays aren’t flowing organically from one to the next. Problems like these can really set you back if caught later in production, so you’ll want to use every tool available to prevent this.

And on that note…

Work on a Storyboard for Your Trailer

Creating a storyboard for your trailer is non-negotiable. It doesn’t have to be perfect or look professional, but you do need one.

Having your trailer’s most important beats visually displayed in front of you will give you the ultimate overview of the piece you can have before actually shooting it. Think of it as when you read your manuscript out loud to catch mistakes you hadn’t picked up previously. That’s the type of help a storyboard gives you.

Lastly, and much like with your script, a storyboard will give you a better sense of when something’s missing or not working. Don’t be afraid to move elements around or outright change them until you feel satisfied with your future trailer’s progression.

Score Your Trailer Appropriately

Some authors spend so much time and energy figuring out the visual content of their trailer that they approach the audio design side of it last, almost as an afterthought. Big mistake.

One of the advantages of working on a multimedia piece is that you have several avenues to convey or reinforce your message. And there are lots of things you can communicate through sound and design alone, like the theme, genre, and atmosphere of your book.

Something like that might require the help of a skilled video company because it can get tricky to get right if you lack previous experience. However, if you have musical skill yourself, know that elements like the music you pick for your trailer can make or break it.

Wrapping Up

As you might have puzzled out by now, there’s a lot that goes into making an awesome book trailer – and we didn’t even get too much into the technical aspects of it! However, it is an effort that, done right, is worthwhile.

Getting people’s attention nowadays is a challenge, yet video remains one of the most consistent mediums to go about it. So use these tips to start fleshing out an awesome trailer that does justice to that awesome book you’ve already written!

Do you have questions for Victor about making a book trailer? Post them in the comments section and take advantage of this opportunity to ask the expert!

Victor Blasco’s an audiovisual designer, video marketing expert, and founder/CEO of the explainer video company Yum Yum Videos.

Besides running the business, he’s a lifelong student of Chinese philosophy and a passionate geek for all things sci-fi.

Pssst, Angela here. Did you know we used Yum Yum to make an introductory video for One Stop for Writers way back when we opened its doors? If you would like to see it, visit THIS LINK. We think they did a terrific job.

Our site has evolved quite a bit since then so we don’t have this video up there anymore, but it was a great way to convey to our audience the type of help they would find at One Stop for Writers. Feel free to stop by sometime. 🙂

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[…] O’Bryan explains what Amazon Ads dashboard changes mean for authors, Victor Blasco discusses how to make a book trailer that speaks to readers, Frances Caballo has 8 social media scheduling apps for writers, and Cristian Mihai shares how to […]

Traci Kenworth
1 year ago

Great post!

Victor Blasco
1 year ago
Reply to  Traci Kenworth

Hi Traci, thank you so much!

Holly S Rivney
1 year ago

Most programs are so hard to use! I’ve tried Take 5 (too few options) Photoshop (overkill!) and want a program I can drop slides into, choose the transition, then add music so I can choreograph it to the slides. Simple, but not amateur. Suggestions?

Victor Blasco
1 year ago
Reply to  Holly S Rivney

Hi Holly!

If you’re looking for simplicity and elegance, it doesn’t get much better than Apple iMovie. And if you’re using Windows, try Adobe Premiere Pro, those two do the job flawlessly. Hope this helps 🙂

1 year ago

I was going to ask how those of us writers who don’t have animation or acting skills can create a good book trailer, but then I saw your “skilled video company” link. Do you know of any good book trailers that don’t have moving scenes?

Victor Blasco
1 year ago
Reply to  Dawn

Hi Dawn!

Take this video as an example:

It doesn’t use complicated or highly produced animations, just image movement and voice-over. This is a much easier way to make a book trailer, you’ll just need appropriate drawings or illustrations and a voice-over (that you can even record yourself), choose some transition effects and you’re ready to go.

1 year ago

Great post. I love book trailers because I am hardwired to love the medium of film. I always have to watch all the trailers for a movie – no entering the theater late or fast-forwarding to the start for me, nope!

Watching these trailers makes me want to rush out and buy these books. Thanks so much for sharing your tips on how to make them draw readers in. Yum Yum did a great job of the explainer video we created for One Stop for Writers. 🙂

Victor Blasco
1 year ago

Hi Angela,

I totally agree! Thank you for your comment. The video for One Stop for Writers ended up being one of our favorites! I’m so happy to hear you were pleased with the result.