What Makes an Effective Book Video Trailer

Guest post by Irene Watson

Book video trailers are among the latest trends in book selling. Film previews have worked for years in helping to promote films, and book videos can do the same, capturing the attention of the Internet audience and people who are more visual and auditory in their thinking. By focusing on the images, narration, and music, authors can create an effective multimedia marketing piece in their book videos.

Like a film preview, a book video trailer can effectively help you to sell books. The use of effective images, narration, and music can create a sensory impact beyond the mere written word. Think of a book video as similar to an elevator pitch but on a multimedia level.

Readers are always curious about authors, and your video can provide a more intimate experience for readers so they feel “up close and personal” with the author and invited to read the book. Following are some tips to help you make the three key components of your video—the narration, images, and music—effective so they will resonate with your audience, and in turn, result in book sales.


You’ve already created an elevator pitch for your book. Your back cover tells in a couple hundred words what your book is about. You also probably have a regularly canned response when people ask you in person about your book. Your book video is along similar lines, only the text also has images to accompany it, and the written word can be combined with a voiceover.

In general, you want your video to cater to the short attention span of people on the Internet, so keep it to about two minutes. You will want to have a script for the video that is short and focuses on the book’s highlights—that may be your back cover copy, but you will also want it to match up with the images you will use. As you write the script for your video, think like a screenwriter and envision the images that will go with the words. You might want to map it out like it was a children’s picture book, with an image or two to match each sentence. You also want to keep the pace moving, the images changing, so that none stay on screen more than a few seconds, and so they can fade and zoom in and out so your video does not look solely like a slideshow or power point presentation. Your text should be timed to match the image changes and be relevant to those changes.

Combine the written word with the spoken word. Your viewers want to see photos and illustrations, not text, but you can put a few words on the screen to illustrate your point or emphasize what is important. For example, you can ask a simple question like “What defines happiness?” or flash words that will segue into new parts of the video like, “A relationship broken apart,” “Brother against brother” or even single words like “Hope, Fear, Racist, Turmoil, War, or Betrayal.” Make sure your text remains on screen long enough for people to read it, but not so long that they get bored looking at it; timing will depend on the number of words and the expected reading level of your audience.

In writing your script, you don’t have to tell everything. You just have to entice the reader to buy the book. Make sure the words you use are:

  • captivating, memorable, and relevant
  • have a hook to entice the potential reader
  • leave the potential reader asking “Where do I buy this book?”

At the video’s end, be sure to tell readers your website address and have it written on screen so they know where to buy the book.

Remember to leave room for pauses as well as time to keep an image on the screen long enough for it to make an impact before moving onto the next image. Timing is everything, and rather than overloading your viewers with language, restrict yourself to a few powerful and concise words.


Find the best images possible to go with your text. If you have an illustrated book or one with a lot of photos, you can use those images. If you’ve written a novel or a book without images, you should be able to find stock photos online or hire a photographer to take photos for you. Make sure you have royalty-free photos or you pay any royalty fees for permission to use the photos. Make sure your images are as professional as possible—you want to go for the Hollywood effect, not the family home video look.

You will probably want somewhere around twenty different images, allowing for five seconds or so each on the screen. Don’t forget your book cover as an image as well as a photo of yourself as an author. Remember that the images will be viewed on a relatively small screen—on YouTube, the screen, unless enlarged, is about the size of an index card—3×5 inches, so find images that aren’t too detailed. You may want to crop your photos so you can focus solely on the most significant part of the image so you get the full effect.


Music has an incredible power to move people beyond what is possible with images and the written or spoken word. How effective would your favorite movie be without the soundtrack? For your video, choose effective background music that will not distract viewers from the images or the script, but rather reinforce their message. Avoid music with lyrics so they don’t conflict with the narration. Find background music that has an appropriate tone and will enhance your theme without creating sensory overload. Again, you will want to make sure you acquire the rights to using the music for your video.

Making a video can be challenging, and unless you are super technically savvy and have good recording equipment, it will probably be in your best interest to hire a professional to put your video together for you. That doesn’t mean, however, you can’t be involved in the process. You can share your vision, write a draft of the script, provide images, and you may even choose to be the voice for your own video.

Before you begin your video, be sure to watch other book videos to decide what is effective in them—what do you like, and what don’t you like about the videos? Would you want to buy the book based on the video? Do a little research and put time and thought into the concept for your video. Your readers will want to get the book they paid for, so make sure your video accurately represents your book’s content while making that content so intriguing, interesting, and appealing that you will turn viewers into readers.

Irene Watson is the Managing Editor of Reader Views, where avid readers can find reviews of recently published books as well as read interviews with authors. Her team also provides author publicity and a variety of other services specific to writing and publishing books.


Posted on December 30, 2010, in Publicity & Writing, Writing & Publishing. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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