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.


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)