Sunday, December 16, 2012

Are Book Trailers Worth the Expense?

When I announced my intention to have a book trailer made, my critique group had a mini-debate. Another author declared, "Most people think they aren't worth the money." The truth is no one really knows what marketing tools pay off, but I decided to gamble on a book trailer. I'm very glad I did.  Here's how the process worked:

I found a trailer I loved. When I watched the video for Joyce Hostetter's BLUE, the music and images hooked me. I knew the person who designed that trailer could deliver the mood I was going for. It turns out the trailer was designed by Joyce's daughter, Wendy. I knew her prices were reasonable by consulting with several authors about what they had paid. I didn't look any further.

To get started, I sent Wendy a PDF file of my book. She read it and asked some questions. A couple of months later, Wendy sent me three different versions to see what I liked/disliked about them. At first we were going to start with the book's opening paragraph, but one scene Wendy recorded completely changed my mind. It begins, "Jessie, what do you think heaven's like?" I asked Wendy if we could lose the opening monologue and build the trailer around that scene. She agreed.

The music was the last piece of the trailer to be finalized. We tried a couple of different selections, but then Wendy's dad suggested dulcimer music. That was a brilliant idea! Wendy scrapped the previous versions and found the perfect music. It has a haunting quality that blends with Jessie's answers about heaven. You can watch the trailer for THE BALLAD OF JESSIE PEARL here:

Wendy uploaded the video to YouTube, TeacherTube, and Vimeo. I have since linked it to my GoodReads author's page and my website.

Another way I've used the video is as a teaser. I've sent lots of emails announcing my book to various friends and acquaintances. I almost always lead with the trailer. It summarizes the book in a visual way and leaves a more lasting impression than an ordinary email.

I would be interested in hearing your thoughts and experiences with book trailers. Do you have a favorite? Do you think they're a worthwhile marketing tool? Why or why not?


  1. I really like watching book trailers, so regardless of their effectiveness as a promotional tool, (questionable) I was going to make one. But without thinking of it as a “return on investment,” there was no budget to invest :)
    So, to work went my daughter. We gathered some photographs plus a few from the public domain. My daughter, fifteen years old and a musician, not a movie maker, used the Movie-Maker tool. She recorded herself playing the background music. I wrote the words, and we had a couple of days of too much fun for it to be legal!

    The result is a free product, and I probably could have used a professional. But with zero $ spent, I can always go back and pay someone for a slicker trailer. For us it was much more of an experience than a marketing strategy.
    I applaud your approach, Shannon. Finding just the right voice in an already existing book trailer and working from there is a sound way to go.

  2. Thanks, Mirka. That's really cool that your daughter played your background music. I remember one of your posts about her playing in a musical competition. You can watch Mirka's trailer here:

  3. What a compelling presentation, Shannon! The voice, the words, the music, and the images all make for a very nice package. Congratulations!

  4. Thanks, Clara! Wendy deserves most of the credit.

  5. It's true that no one really seems to know whether book trailers bring in enough rewards to pay for themselves, but they are fun and useful to have, I think. And your trailer gives such an accurate taste of your wonderful novel.

  6. Thanks, Cindy! I also think Wendy really captured the essence of my novel.