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Best Practices When Using Book Trailers for Book Marketing

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate and author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. She is a former trade newspaper editor.


As I'm writing this post, the summer blockbuster movie season is just around the corner. So teaser movie trailers abound in theaters and online, whetting our appetites for more of the same, whether we stream it online or go to the theater.

Did you ever think of doing a "trailer" for your book? Book trailers can be an effective and engaging book promotion strategy that major traditional publishers have embraced. With YouTube being one of the top visited websites in the world, and one of the internet's top search engines, it shows that people are primed to consuming video.

What is a Book Trailer?

Like their cinematic counterparts, book trailers are videos that give prospective readers a sample of what is in the book. Book trailers can feature:

  • The author talking about his/her book
  • A summary of the plot for fiction (without giving it all away, of course!)
  • Highlights of the best parts of the book (again, without giving it all away)
  • Hints or clues about the story which raise curiosity
  • Graphics of the book cover so that readers can identify the book when shopping in stores or online
  • Author biographies

Essentially, it's a book "commercial." Take a look at the following examples...

This is a book trailer...

And this is a book trailer that gives a sneak peek of the story, told by the author...

Another example which raises curiosity and features the author...

Budget-Friendly Book Trailer Video Tips

Some book trailers are as elaborate and high-production as their cinematic cousins. Most self published authors do not have that kind of money, equipment, talent, staging, video editing skills, and other resources to jump into the movie making pool. Luckily it's not required to create an effective book trailer.

A simple, friendly "talking head" type webcam or smartphone video of you as the self published author talking to your potential readers can have just as much impact. You'll also be able to elaborate on how and why you wrote the book and/or what you hope your readers will get out of it.

The days of hermit cave writers who are highly disconnected from their readers are long gone. Today's social media adept audiences want connection and authenticity. They want to feel there's a real person behind the words on the page. I know I'm more likely to want to read a book written by someone I "know," even if I've just been introduced to them with a short video.

Book Trailer for One of My Self Published Coloring Books

Book Trailer for My First Self Published Book

Book Trailer Best Practices for Self Publishing

There are some best practices when it comes to making video book trailers an effective marketing tool for self publishing:

  • Don't Make the Trailer Too Long. Might as well read the whole book! Remember, your trailer is a "commercial" for the book, not just a shortened version of full manuscript. I have seen some trailers as long as 7 to 10 minutes. Wow! Not only is that an investment on the part of the reader, the time and effort it takes to create a video of several minutes is a project in itself! For self publishers, it might be better to invest time and money in another book or other cost-effective marketing.
  • Don't Oversell. This is one of my pet peeves for both movie and book trailers. When the trailer is way better than the real book or movie, I'm disappointed and feel duped.
  • Trailer Should Appeal to the Same Audience as the Book. Duh, right? Don't create a trailer that talks down to your audience OR talks over their heads. As well, know what triggers will motivate your audience to want more and want to read your book.
  • Truth in Labeling. Haven't we all been to movies that were promoted as including lots of action, only to find that the total action was limited to what was in the trailer. Tell 'em what's in the "package."
  • Preserve Some Mystery... and Sales. I hate those movie trailers where you think you've seen the whole movie in the trailer! Then why go? Though you want to tell prospective readers what they can expect in your book, you don't want to tell them everything! Don't give them a reason not to buy and read your book. A trailer is a "teaser."
  • Use it On Your Blog and Website. Sure, you'll probably park your trailer on YouTube. But don't let it just sit there! Embed it on your blog or website. Share it on social media. Get it out there!
  • Add It to Your Author Page on Amazon. While you're not able to add your book trailer video to your book details, you can add it to your author page on Amazon. You would do that through Amazon Author Central.
  • Use YouTube Description, Keywords and Links to Send Sales Prospects to You. Did you know you can include an active hyperlink in your YouTube video description? Add one that goes to your book sales page or website. Choose keywords for your book's topic so people can find you in search. Remember, it's a commercial!

Do Video Book Trailers Really Help You Sell More Books?

Even if you do a terrific video trailer for your book, using all the best practices, it doesn’t mean it will help you gain more book sales. The problem is that people have to see your video.

With millions and millions of videos on YouTube, millions of websites, and oversaturated social media feeds, your video has little chance of getting major visibility. Plus, you don’t want to keep posting that same video over and over again on your social media feed.

As suggested earlier, you want to include relevant keywords in your video description to help your SEO visibility. But, especially for fiction, even this will do little to drive traffic to your video trailer. Search engines are becoming increasingly competitive, even impossibly competitive, for smaller creators and businesses.

Realize, too, that your video trailer is a static marketing and branding tool. As such, you should have a permanent link to your YouTube video on your website or in your social media profile.

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As with all book marketing for self publishing, you need to have an active presence on social media to continuously build your fan base, your author platform. Your loyal fans are the ones who are most likely to make the effort to view your book trailer. However, your real fans may buy your book even if you don’t have a trailer video. Your trailer is a tool to help convince potential fans and readers who need to see a little bit more about you and your book before they invest their time and money in it.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2016 Heidi Thorne


Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on April 01, 2016:


They certainly sound a good idea, as for me I'm getting to be a 'bit of a perfectionist' so I'm working on the principle that what I do I want to do well.

Thanks for the offer though.


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on April 01, 2016:

Happy Friday, Lawrence! Book trailers are definitely another tool for authors to add to their promotional program. Let us know if you do some so we can see how you've used them. Thanks for stopping by and have a great weekend!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on March 31, 2016:


Some really good information here for the future. I'll be coming back when it's ready for promotion.


Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 24, 2016:

Great to hear that you've liked using video book trailers! They can be a great tool. We'll watch for your new post featuring them. Thanks so much for sharing your trailer experience with us! Have a great day!

William Leverne Smith from Hollister, MO on March 24, 2016:

I have a trailer for my first novel and my most recent novel. It is available on each of my HubPages, if you want to check it out. I'm very pleased with them. I have no way of gauging usefulness, but it is an effective marketing tool, I believe. Thank you for another useful hub! ;-)

BTW, interesting timing, my blog post this Friday, tomorrow, features both of my Video Book Trailers. [thehomeplaceseried(dot)blogspot(dot)com ;-)

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 24, 2016:

Hi Heidi. I guess not. I agree. There was only about 5 people, plus the conference administrator and me. Though I have yet to try to do one of my own someday. My pleasure!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 24, 2016:

Hi Kristen! Surprising that not many people attended the book trailer session. Hmm... I'm guessing they just didn't realize what it was. It's such an exciting new tool for authors and publishers! Thanks for chiming in and have a terrific day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 24, 2016:

Don't feel bad, billybuc, as I'm writing the hub, I realized that I didn't do these for my two last books either. We both have to catch up! :) Thanks for stopping by and we'll be looking for your new trailers!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 24, 2016:

FlourishAnyway, yes, a sample chapter (or the "read a sample" on Amazon Kindle) is a useful promotion tactic for books and ebooks. I've also bought based on my "tasting sample" experience. Thanks for adding that additional tip to the conversation. Enjoy your day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on March 24, 2016:

No worries, Dr. Middlebrook! I'm in marketing, too, and often have to have that "walk the talk" talk with myself. :) Glad to hear you're using trailers for your work. I think they are useful. Thanks for stopping by and have a lovely day!

Kristen Howe from Northeast Ohio on March 24, 2016:

Heidi, great hub! This is so informational on how to do it. I took a book trailer class last fall at my local full day conference, though not many people attended the session. I still have my notes and will do at hub for that this spring. Great tips on how to do it effectively!

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2016:

I actually did one for my second novel, Resurrecting Tobias...they are very useful. The funny thing is, I forgot all about them for my next two novels....DUH!!!!!

Thank you...seriously!

FlourishAnyway from USA on March 23, 2016:

What a smart idea! I've seen the concept used in written format by providing a first chapter to the the next book and leaving the reader wanting more. I've bought books based on those.

drmiddlebrook on March 23, 2016:

Heidithorne, you've done a great job with this. I'm making trailers for my books, and I'm using some of the tactics you included in this Hub. Marketing is my career field, but I often find it's sort of like being a hairdresser--your own hair often gets neglected because you're too busy making other people's hair look fetching! Marketing is the great challenge we face, as authors, after we've conquered the great challenge of writing the book! Thanks again for so much great information!

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