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On Book Trailers, by Kathleen Benner Duble

I love movies. I love going to the movies rather than watching a movie at home. In the movie theater, you are surrounded by the darkness and the big screen looms large in front of you. At home, there are phone calls, chores, kids and other things to distract me. In the theater, I have nothing to divert my attention. I am completely and wholly present. So I am sure you can guess that when I go to the movies, I have to be there for the previews. I want to see all the trailers, all the upcoming attractions that may divert me for a few hours in the future.

Movie trailers work for me. They draw me in and encourage me to see the movie. Do book trailers work, too?

There has been a lot of speculation on whether book trailers are an effective marketing tool. I don’t have the answer. That said, I know there are many books I have picked up because I liked what I had seen­ – not what I had heard. I read The Missing by Margaret Peters Haddix because of her amazing trailer. I have picked up Girl Stolen by April Henry because her trailer scared me half to death.

I also believe that there are a few elements that will make a book trailer work and a few that will make it flop. So here goes:

1. No book trailer video should be over a minute and a half. Unlike the Hollywood trailers, you are NOT making a movie. You have made a book. So your trailer should be short and to the point – like your writing.

2. Summarize your book quickly and creatively. You are a writer. This is what you do best. It amazes me when I see a book trailer and the writer has practically written a second novel for the trailer. I am NOT interested in reading the book on a video. Give me a quick synopsis. If you can do it, three sentences or less. Make your words sing and get me interested fast!!!! As an example, see my trailer for Phantom in the Snow at

3. Borrow footage from someone who can shoot. We are not moviemakers, so as writers, we have to rely on people who are. Professional videographers are often happy to lend their outtakes as long as you give them credit. In Phantoms, Jeff Thomas, who does extreme skiing video footage, kindly lent me his outtakes. They were far better than anything I could have done.

4. Don’t put faces in there if you can avoid it. Readers like to envision characters on their own. Good looks are relative. And if you chose a face unwisely, you may lose readers. Leave the imagining of your characters to them.

In this crazy world of book marketing, I believe book trailers have their place. They may not be the most effective tool in your arsenal but they are a tool that can be useful just the same.


Kathleen Benner Duble’s author website:

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2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Great, snappy trailer 🙂

    January 1, 2014

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