Do Book Trailers Work?

I recently found out about an absolutely fabulous new book trailer company, Visual Quill.  I have seen more than my fair share of book trailers, and believe me, they’re doing it right…

 

This is an awesome book trailer.  I hope Gina Robinson makes a bucketload with this trailer, because it showcases a fun story and I am all for rom com making a comeback.
That said… other than YA, I’m not recommending any of my authors do a book trailer at this time.  And I’m still on the fence with the YA, frankly.

Why?

1.  They don’t get a lot of views.

Most of the trailers I’ve seen are lucky to make 2,000 views.  Doing research for this post, I noticed a NYT bestselling author whose book trailers — most posted months ago — had all gotten less than 75 views each.

Granted, maybe a lot of authors aren’t promoting the trailer itself — because the point of the trailer is to promote the book, and most of their promotional efforts are geared toward selling the book.

Unless you’re Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, you’re probably not getting a ton of hits just on your own.

2.  Readers don’t seem to like them.

Don’t get me wrong:  they might like trailers from authors they already like.  But as a promotional vehicle in general, the buzz out there is not great.

Catherine Gayle on the blog Lady Scribes pointed out that “as a reader, a book trailer has more potential to turn me off than turn me on.”

The Wall Street Journal put out an article on “The Insane World of Book Trailers”  that says “No one knows where the publishing revolution will end, but the odds are that the book trailer will come to be seen as a relic of our nervous transitional era; its glory days can’t last.”

There’s even a mocking annual Book Trailer Awards: The Moby Awards.  (My favorite category:  “Most Monkey Sex.”)

3.  Return on investment.

If you’re hiring out, then a trailer’s going to cost you $350 – $2,000 USD.  That’s a chunk of change for any author.  If you’re getting 100 views, then you’re paying up to $20 just to have a set of eyeballs gazing at your visual.

Pay $400 for a 30 stop blog tour, and even if each stop only gets 50 views because they’re all little, new blogs… you’re still getting 1500 people, reading about you and your work.  Which means you spent about $3.75 per impression.

Hell, you could probably get a better return on investment with a banner ad at a highly popular review blog.

Yeah, the math’s simplistic, and I’m just going off of a general YouTube search.  Maybe, with promotion, people are getting more views.  Two grand for five thousand views makes a lot more sense.  Although, still… two thousand dollars.

Sure, you could create your own book trailer for free.  But a lot of DIY book trailers can look amateurish. If you’re not already tech savvy and proficient, it could take hours to make it look good, after searching through royalty free stock photos and music.

If you used those same hours to pursue the blog tour instead of hiring a company, not only could you get more views, you could develop relationships with those bloggers.

Or, of course, you could be writing your next book, since they’re saying one of the best promotional vehicles is simply having more books out.

4.  The SEO ranking “benefit” doesn’t work for fiction authors.

“Video will boost your Google Ranking!”

From what I’ve studied about SEO (or “Search Engine Optimization”) it’s about improving your rankings so you come up on the first page of Google for your keywords.  So if you’re a paranormal romance author who writes about Valkyrie, or a cozy mystery writer who writes about knitting, or a YA writer who writes about werewolves, then you could use your book trailer to increase your rankings in these categories.

Here’s the catch.

First:  I have never, ever met a reader who finds new authors by typing in “cozy mystery knitting” in Google.  Never.  (If you’re one of them, seriously — please comment.  I’d love to know what sort of searches you do.)

True SEO people know that there’s an importance in the keywords you’re trying to rank for. Yes, you could rank top for “paranormal romance Valkyries funny dystopian.”

Unfortunately, perhaps three people are looking for that.

Second:  If you type in “paranormal romance Valkyrie,” “cozy mystery knitting,” or “YA werewolves” do you know what you get on Google’s first page?

Amazon, Goodreads, and Book Blogs.

You’re not going to outrank these guys, because they will frankly offer more content that holds these tags and keywords, they’ll get more traffic, and they’ll get more links in.  All of those are directly tied to SEO search.  Only on the “cozy mystery knitting” search did I find an author.

The thing that really sucks, though?  The site ranked just above hers?

It’s a torrent site.

Yes, she was outranked on Google by the pirated copies of her books.  Ouch. 

Does this mean video is absolutely out?  No book trailers at all?

Not necessarily.  I think that in YA, book trailers can get some play — I feel old saying this, but “kids” (or at least YA fans) seem to be more comfortable with a video medium.  That said, the real traction is getting one of the popular video bloggers who do their own trailers to somehow feature your book.

For non-YA, the trailers that I’ve noticed, and enjoyed, are the ones that show creativity, humor, and usually more of a sense of the author than simply a back cover blurb over a video montage.  I think that doing branding videos might be the way to go.  Make it more about the author and the “message” of the author rather than the books individually.  Or somehow looping in the audience, getting them involved.

What do you think?  Do you like book trailers?  Do you hate them?  Think they’re worth it?  Am I missing some arguments?  Seriously — I would love to hear feedback on this.

If you know of anyone else who might like this post or want to contribute to the discussion, please re-tweet or re-post.  Thanks!

Click below for more posts on what works in promotion:

The White Hat Promo Manifesto

5 Reasons Why Readers Won’t Buy Your Book

Sell Books (Without Being an Asshat)

 

 

 

36 Replies to “Do Book Trailers Work?”

  1. Great post and loved the book trailer! This is the kind of book trailer I enjoy – not where the author is sitting in a chair reading from the book. But then, that’s me.

    As for my books, I loved making my book trailers. And it’s a fun way for me to promote. It’s more about me getting in the mood of the book to market it. So I say make one if you want to, but don’t worry about it if you don’t.

    But, then, I love youtube! 🙂

    1. I’ve done the book trailer thing before, too, Kathy. You’ve got a great attitude about it, and if it gets you in the mood for marketing, that’s fantastic. I think a lot of other authors might stress about it, thinking that they need it, or that it’s essential.

      I think it’s crucial to get your work out there, and get it noticed. I’m just not entirely sold on book trailers being the best way to do that, unless you’ve got something really different. But mindset’s important. As you say, do or don’t, up to you!

  2. I think you can count me as a no vote on trailers. I’ve only ever watched those for friends or acquaintances who posted them on Facebook, asking for feedback (your example here being the exception). Most have left me pretty unenthused.

    For my own work, the only thing I can imagine being effective would be creating something visual from my world, which would most definitely be cost prohibitive. Being a geek, I watch movie trailers for upcoming films in the fantasy/scifi genre, and share them with my geeky brother-in-law. But even the big-budget versions from Hollywood, we mostly end up ripping on them (recent example was the new Conan, which mostly depressed us both).

    I think you’re right, for me anyway: my limited budget would be better spent elsewhere. I hadn’t given it a lot of thought, so thanks for raising the issue, Cathy. Good stuff.

    1. For fantasy, I’d think that the more important thing would be getting your cover art out there — from what I’ve seen, that can get as much “play” as a book trailer. Learning about the fantasy genre has been fascinating! I also definitely think that a blog tour and reviews would provide more traction, especially on a smaller budget.

      And yeah… you’d need a De Mille trailer (cast o’ thousands!) to get across your story! 😀

  3. You’re probably going to refer me to another post, but why on earth does it cost $400 to do a blog tour?
    I enjoy trailers sometimes, but I’ve never picked a book based on a trailer.

    1. I’m assuming due to the work involved. On the low end, you could get a blog tour (I think like 20 “stops”) for $150. It sort of depends on the relationships they have with book bloggers — and what traffic each stop generally gets. You’re sending out a bunch of emails, then following up ( a lot of blogs either won’t be interested, or will flake, or whatever) then coordinating who needs to get what (an interview? a guest post — if so, unique?) and who’s getting review copies, then making sure they get the post (after you’ve proofed it) and the author bio (with buy links) and the cover and the author photo, and coordinate giveaways. It’s not like you’re defusing a nuclear bomb or anything, but it can be a lot of leg work.

      You can, of course, do it yourself if you’ve got more time than money. I was just using it as a comparison.

  4. I’m so relieved to read this. Two friends had trailers I enjoyed, but those and a couple others, besides the one here, are the only trailers I’ve ever watched. Yet, I felt left out because I didn’t have, and couldn’t afford, one for my book.

    I can see where they might be effective for YA though because the younger readers are much more aware of YouTube and expect video.

    Thanks for this info.

    1. I know! I see a lot of authors who have trailers out, and there’s this manic pressure thing that comes up when you’re launching — “Oh god, do I need to do this? I can’t miss this! I WANT MY BOOK TO SUCCEED!”

      It’s hard not to get sucked in. I’m glad you found the post helpful! 🙂

  5. I’m the marketing guy at a manufacturing company during the day and do all the literature and video materials. So I made a trailer for my book and spent a lot of time and about $100 for pictures and music.

    I like the trailer. The few comments I’ve had on it were good. But not many people have watched it, even after pushing it on Facebook, etc. Probably fewer than 150 people have seen it on various sites.

    I like it. It’s cool. But I probably won’t do it again unless it’s just for fun.

    1. That’s the tough thing. If I were making book trailers, I’d offer a package where I sent the thing to a list of sites that get a lot of traffic… like a “trailer tour.” But don’t know if even that’s worth it.

  6. Thanks for posting my book trailer, Cathy! And for the good wishes for the book. I’m a big fan of your blog and read it regularly 🙂

    You make many excellent points. Truthfully, if I hadn’t been so impressed by the quality of trailers Visual Quill produces, I’m not sure I would have done a book trailer. But they’ve been fantastic to work with and the trailer is getting a fair amount of buzz.

    What I like about it is that it’s really almost more of fun commercial for the book, rather than a synopsis kind of trailer like is often done. Maybe trailers like mine will prove to be more effective than the traditional type of trailer. It gives a hint, a flavor, a tease.

    Visual Quill has also done more for me than simply designing and producing the trailer. While it may be specific to my situation, as one of the launch videos for this new company, they sent out a press release about it to thousands of people. And they’re showcasing it at the conferences they attend. All of which gets me in front of more people than I could myself. I’m also working to get the video posted on many different sites, something perhaps similar to what you’re suggesting.

    My publisher is excited about the book video and is going to post it to their site. The sales team has something they can show to their accounts. All valuable, yet intangible benefits.

    I try to do something new, promo-wise, for each new release. This time I wanted something fun and active to make my website more attractive. The book video is a lasting piece of art for my website. I also plan to play it on my iPad at book signings.

    Will all of this sell more books for me? Who knows? I do think it will help build recognition of my author name and brand. And that’s what it’s all about. Many who’ve commented here have said that they’ve never bought a book based on a trailer. I’ve said things like that about various forms of promo myself. But if it gets my name out there and readers see it enough times, maybe it will contribute to a sale.

    On any account, I feel in my case and situation it’s been money well spent. I’ve had a blast getting the trailer done. And pure enjoyment counts for something, too.

    1. Visual Quill really does an amazing job. If I were going to do a book trailer and had the cash ready, I’d use them. And if I wanted to show a Big 6 publisher I was serious about promo, again, VQ would be impressive.

      I wish you huge success with the series — like I said, it looks like a blast!

  7. I can take them or leave them. My decision to buy a book wouldn’t be because of a book trailer. Like Stacy, I end up watching book trailers after I’ve discovered the author, not the other way round. Maybe it’s different for YA, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the investment.

    1. Thanks, Stacy & Heather, for the point re: watching after discovering the author. I’m really thinking that reader appreciation “goodie” styled trailers might be the thing… but need to think how, exactly, that would look. Hmmmm.

  8. I’ve put up book trailers for all my YA books. Are there a lot of hits on You Tube? No. I recently put one up for my romance novel and have a murder mystery coming out soon I’ll do one for. I enjoy making them (I use animoto.com and am going to try using Flash this time). If I see a book I like, I’ll watch the trailer if there is one and make a decision about whether to buy the book or not at that time.

    1. I’ve heard interesting things about Animoto. And you DO use trailers in your buying decision… that’s good to know. Thanks for commenting!

  9. I have only one book trailer. I made it myself and spent about $30 USD on it. I posted it on my blog, on my (old) website, my facebook wall, and at youtube. That’s it. I never pimped it out, or threatened every reader with it from here to eternity.

    While it might not the best thing out there, it offers what I feel is a fair presentation of my book. The last time I checked, I think it has received about 500 views give or take. I know for sure, by email contact, that it has sent at least a few new readers my way – which is the point.

    Sure, there are people who hate book trailers, but I don’t expect those people to be searching for that sort of thing on youtube, although I could be wrong about that.

    The only thing I don’t like about book trailers is having them shoved in my face, or more like it – posted on my facebook wall without anyone asking me first. Other than that, if I’m in the mood, I will look at someone’s trailer if it’s on their website, or if I come across it on youtube. I look at it as being a nice extra, not necessarily a sell point.

    1. Thanks, Cora. It’s good to hear from people who are doing it and who are having good results, as well. I might post a follow-up, after I get more input!

      I’m definitely getting the feeling it’s an “extra” in the way that you put extras on DVD’s. Sort of a bonus cookie. 🙂

  10. This is such a wonderful, thought provoking post, Cathy. Okay, so I have a trailer for my lit novel that was released last summer. I have crazy love for my trailer and have had excellent feedback. A year after it landed on YouTube it has had a little over 700 hits. As to the question whether I think it’s resulted in any sales–honestly, probably not. I say this simply because although I have watched and enjoyed trailers [yes, other then mine], I can’t say I ever bought the book as a result. I agree with Stacy and Heather in that I generally watch the trailer after I’ve discovered an author, so I’m generally sold on a book before I get around to watching the trailer.

    A cool side note: One of my daughters created my trailer as a gift. She was in second grade when I started writing this book and when she did the trailer she was 25 and newly graduated with a Masters in Fine Art (hence, she had the skills I most definitely lacked when it came to producing something involving music and pictures.) Talk about a full circle journey 🙂

  11. Interesting post. I recall debates about audio books and how no one wants to hear someone else’s voice reading to them. Remember those days?

    Or the days when no one took ebooks seriously? No matter how much proof there was that digital was here to stay, no one thought ebooks would matter for years to come.

    I suspect video promo to die when YouTube finally goes out of business, until then, with as much digital going on as there is, I can’t see it getting less important.

    Google TV is picking up steam and so are other boxtop television venues that offer internet streaming that includes book trailers. There are more and more digital venues being invented with video as the crown jewel. So, will book trailers become obsolete? Sure, some day, when no one cares about digital anymore.

    Think about the logic here. If YA sees a lot of views and young people love video, who do you think will be watching video in ten or twenty years from now? Those same people who are loving it today.

    So there are more digital venues being created and the people who love video today will eventually grow up and read things other than YA. Will they outgrow the love of digital video? Did they outgrow their iPod?

    Some e-readers can now see video and soon any e-reader device that does not see html5 video and other multimedia will go the way of Borders.

    I do find the SEO discussion extremely important, relevant and interesting. Video does indeed improve SEO. But being able to get general search terms to bring people to your video is the goal. Has that been done successfully? Absolutely. Perhaps not with every video, but with enough for it to be worth mentioning.

    I would caution that YouTube is not the best site for research on this topic. If you did your research within the last couple of months those views are not even accurate. YouTube has experienced technical issues lately that affect video views. But more importantly, not every genre does well on YouTube. I see book trailers getting tens of thousands of views on others sites but only a hundred or so on YouTube.

    I love these kinds of discussions! I’ve participated in them for about ten years now. This post is certainly one of the most thoughtful on the subject.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Sheila,

      It’s nice to see Circle of Seven productions chiming in — you guys are the pioneers, after all.

      I see your argument, and I’m certainly not debating the idea of video being vital. I think that more authors probably should be incorporating video — video blogs, perhaps, or videotaping speeches or classes. For YA especially, using Tumblr more and incorporating clips. But I find some of your arguments don’t quite address the concerns.

      I don’t actually remember the audio books debate, but I do remember when no one took ebooks seriously. The thing is, until Kindle, ebooks were a tough sell unless you were doing technical non-fiction, and frankly, people still had a different relationship with computers: no tablets and no social media. (Imagine!)

      Ten years ago, if I were given the opportunity to sell books at an epublisher like Hard Shell Word Factory versus selling with lower royalty rates to a Big 6, then I was taking the Big 6. It’s a different world now from that standpoint. I wouldn’t have signed with an epublisher thinking that I was building an e-audience. Perhaps I should have, but I don’t think I did myself a disservice building an audience with traditional publishing. Now, I’m making different decisions, because now with the rise of ereading — and, to my mind, the rise of wi-fi more importantly, my audience and I are ready for it. The readers are more streamlined and well-designed, and the books are available cheaply and instantaneously — no clunky download tech, larger storage space, faster internet.

      Right now, today, if professionally produced book trailers cost what they cost, and authors need to make decisions on how to spend their time and funds to promote themselves, is saying “digital media is huge” really enough justification? Not saying you’re saying that… I’m just saying there’s a big difference between “people love digital videos” and “people watch book trailers. It’s not a matter of “do people like video?” or “are they consuming electronic video more than ever before?” or “is the same audience who currently devour video going to still love video?”

      The question I have is: are they watching book trailers now to make buying decisions? Are they actively seeking them out?

      The feedback I’m getting is that people are looking at the book trailers after they have knowledge of an author. I think that’s true in YA especially. I think that they’re looking more at video bloggers than other genre readers are, because again, they’re more comfortable with it, and I imagine that comfort will continue as they age out of a YA bracket. But they’re probably still not going to be simply seeking “book trailers.” Again, I’m starting to think book trailers that work toward branding the author, or as reader appreciation, are going to be the wave of the future. What do you think about that concept?

      As far as SEO — what search terms have you found successful enough to be worth mentioning? I think authors would love to know exactly how this might help with SEO, and I don’t see it discussed in enough detail.

      Same with the YouTube discussion. I did the views research this past weekend. Do you guys have any sort of data or resources, to let authors know what genres do well, and on what other channels? Are we talking Vimeo? Facebook? Tumblr? Book blogs? If an author’s going to do a book trailer, then this is the sort of information they absolutely need.

      If there’s interest in a follow-up post, I’d like to perhaps schedule an interview, if you’re up for it. Thanks for participating!

  12. I am a school librarian at a middle school and high school and I have to say that book trailers do work for my students. I book talk multiple books a day, and sometimes a book is so unique that I cannot do it justice in the way a book trailer can. I would love to see a book trailer channel besides youtube that could be just for book trailers, as nearly everything is blocked on Youtube at my school.

  13. For trailers to work at all, they must be polished and highly professional. That comes at a cost that begins in the thousands, so it might not return the self-published author’s investment. A friend in the industry told me he makes a lot of trailers for the big publishing houses who use them at trade shows and for wholesalers. Most of us don’t have that kind of captive audience. Even 5,000 youtube hits won’t translate into enough profit to recoup a 2500.oo investment in a quality trailer.

  14. For many, many years, my profession included producing all sorts of video promotions for clients, including TV commercials. At the first meeting, I always told them the same thing. “I can produce effective videos for you, but don’t expect the video to do all the selling. Think of it as just one more tool in your marketing / promotional / advertising tool box.”
    Here’s the link to my Youtube channel containing several trailers for my action-adventure & mystery books for kids. http://www.youtube.com/user/Maxbooks100?feature=watch

  15. For our authors, we have seemed to help not only boost their viewership but had direct sales from the trailers we have produced. One of our authors has 6,000 view on YouTube, another received a new publisher and another is using their trailer as a pitch tool to be optioned as a feature film.

    Bring Media’s trailers are the highest quality production for the money.

    Please view a few of our book trailers here – http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLTc4hhX3H0IpPvzo_SZigd1VOAnLfKYOk

  16. So I have a graphic design degree and I am a self-published author. I will say that for most book trailers I wasn’t like “Oh Yeah! I have got to get this book!” However that being said I have the means and the gumption to make a trailer without having to pay a bunch of money out of pocket. My thoughts are to make a 3d animated theatrical-style trailer for my first book, showing characters and depicting scenes from my first book (which is a fantasy). That being said, I was wondering if this kind of trailer would be worth putting the time and effort into. As it will take me a decent amount of time.

    1. Personally, I would say no, not at this point, although it might be a good thing to offer as a bonus to existing fans. Is it the first in a series? The best investment of your time, especially as a self-published author, is working on your next release. You’ll get a far better return on investment by having a bigger and higher-quality backlist than any trailer will provide, in my opinion.

      1. It is the first in what will be a 15 book series. I do have the second one already published and the two following written.
        Thank you for replying, from what I’ve seen I might just work on the trailer when I have down time and resume concentrating on my writing full time. I’m still very new to the world of writing and it’s been hard to get straight answers out of anybody, so thank you again.

  17. I’m an author with a book trailer and I’ve asked these questions.

    I loved your article and I think the answer to one of your questions: do people google “cozy mystery knitting” is “Not, yet.” This is new. It’s happening.

    Thank you for looking at the downside but still seeing the potential. Like anything an indie author does, promotion takes tenacity. Exposure isn’t one tactic. Include your trailer on the blog tour!

    My husband is a digital animator and he decided to take a crack at my trailer. That launched PixelTwister Studio and a very specific theory about book trailers being tailored to the books, the authors and their words.

    Book trailers don’t have to start at $1000 to be gorgeous.
    https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCWkVnVpr-pbGSKEr52qoGuw

    1. Hi Ellen,

      Congratulations on your husband’s new business venture! That said, even after all this time, I’m still not seeing it as a good way to promote new work. Even if people are googling “cozy mystery knitting” due to the Google algorithm, it’s now going to be tailored for your geographic area, your previous search history… and let’s face it, the first 5 pages or so are going to be sales sites like Amazon or BN.com or Kobo, or they’re going to be review sites or book blogs. Trailers seem like a better thing for retention — something fun and new to give existing fans — rather than a way to drum up business. Creating a gorgeous book trailer isn’t enough, regardless of price. It’s a matter of being able to drive traffic and then convert it. That’s been the real sticking point for trailers.

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