Bring your book to life with video trailers

The publishing landscape is changing by the day for authors. It’s becoming increasingly hard for writers to land a decent deal with a publishing house (decent in terms of making a little money, as opposed to not making anything at all after signing away most or all of the rights to their book). It’s nearly impossible to make a full-time living from it, unless you happen to be one of a handful of select darlings whose books are snapped up the minute they come out. The growing popularity of e-books means traditional publishers are struggling too, so they have far fewer resources to dole out even to promising authors.

A good video trailer will keep your book from getting lost in the crowd

A good video trailer will keep your book from getting lost in the crowd

On the other hand writers have a slew of new opportunities as long as they’re willing to accept that turning a large profit is not likely to happen in the short term. Or even the medium term. Self-publishing is no longer considered the desperate writer’s only chance of getting a book on the market. Savvy writers are realizing that there’s no need to pay 15% of their profits to an agent, much less extraneous costs like buy-back fees, when they work directly with print-on-demand services.

The down side of self-publishing route is that you also have to take care of your own marketing, but then again, even if you get a deal with a publishing house you may not get any help in that department. Their dwindling revenues mean they can’t allocate funds for PR the way they used to, so they have to reserve what they have for top earners. If you’re lucky you might get a few hours from the publisher’s PR department, when they’ll help you set up a few tour stops or maybe arrange for you to do guest articles for some blogs that deal with your book’s genre.

So what’s a struggling author to do? There are marketing and PR firms that can give you some great advice, but from our perspective, you should seriously consider hiring a video production company or a content generation company like Hencar to create a book trailer for you.

Book trailers have a great deal of versatility. You can put them on your website (you do have a website, don’t you? It’s an absolute must for authors to have a web presence these days). They can be set to play as soon as a visitor hits your landing page, or they can be set so that the viewer has control of when the video starts. You can also send out links in social media campaigns to the video either on your website, or on your Youtube or Vimeo page (also good ideas if you’re serious about pushing your book). Like a website, having a strong and consistent social media presence is one of the best ways to get your book noticed, and having a link to a video trailer makes it more appealing to people who might otherwise sail right past your clever Tweet (140 characters in iambic pentameter? My, you are a creative little devil!) And of course you can include links to the video in any marketing emails you send out. Marketing research shows that emails with video links are much more likely to get clickthroughs. Are you doing a blog tour for your book? Make sure the host blog sites have the link to your video trailer. It increases their appeal as well as giving you additional exposure.

The big question is, what form will your book trailer take? There are really no hard and fast rules. Unless you’re planning to use mediums that place time limits on video, like Vine, there’s no standard length (but we suggest a nice round number, because people like round numbers. So instead of 1:37, make it 1:30 or 1:45) Can it be animated? Yes, although you should be aware that even basic animation can get very pricey. However, you’re a creative person (you wrote a book, right?) so you can keep costs lower by coming up with your own script and maybe even your own storyboard. The same holds true if you choose to go a different way, such as having panoramic shots of various locales mentioned in your book with carefully chosen text, such as this trailer for “The Stolen Chalice”. Or you could try something really creative, such as this narrated text-only trailer for author Chuck Wendig.

Lest you get caught up with appearances, understand that the real backbone of any good video book trailer is the storyline. How are you presenting your book, what aspect are you highlighting? Are you introducing your characters with only a tantalizing hint about the actual storyline of the book? Are you using the trailer to push a series of books, like this one for Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake series? Or are you setting up a cliffhanger to generate interest in your latest creation?

We want to issue a note of caution with this last one. It’s fine to keep people guessing to rouse their interest, but they shouldn’t be guessing about everything. You must be clear that the trailer is for a book. It may seem obvious to you, but remember, you’re working on this project from the beginning. Take a critical, objective look at the result. Would someone who is just seeing the video for the first, and perhaps only, time know just what it’s promoting? People are pretty sharp these days, but they might think this trailer is for a movie, a video game, or a new web series. The obvious solution to this, of course, is to make sure there’s a shot or two of your book in the video.

Also, make sure there’s a call to action somewhere in the trailer. Let people know the book is actually available, and where. Is it in stores, is it available only on your website, or on a site like Amazon? If you’re trying to generate a little pre-release attention for your book, make sure you include the actual release date. The good news here is that the video can be quickly re-edited to remove the date once the book is actually on the market, so you can get dual usage from this single trailer.

We will caution you that not everyone is a fan of book trailers. Critics might decide to pan yours. But you knew going into the writing business that you’d face your share of critics, right? The truth is, very few people are going to say: “Oh, some guy wrote an article about how stupid book trailers are for The New Yorker, so I’d better not buy this book.” You can’t expect your book, or your trailer, to appeal to everyone. The key is working with a company like Hencar  to ensure your trailer is well crafted and puts your book in the best light possible.