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Why I Decided Against a Traditional Book Trailer

I decided against making a book trailer for The Telling. Sort of.

Not so for The Resurrection. It was my first published novel and I almost felt obligated to go all in. Which I did. But rather than assemble my own video, a common practice for many authors, I really wanted to put my best foot forward and decided to hire an indie filmmaker.  Brian Thomas Barnhart was a member of our church. I laid out my vision for the project, we discussed details, and set a price. (You can see some stills from the video shoot for The Resurrection trailer as well as the finished product HERE.) After paying Brian, purchasing a soundtrack and some stock photography, the total spent was about 500 bucks. That was a year ago. So was it worth it?

That’s the question I asked myself when it came time to decide on a possible trailer for my second novel.

The Resurrection has almost 550 views on YouTube and on Vimeo, 261. So the trailer has been viewed about 800 times in one year. That’s okay, I guess. But how do I determine whether someone bought the book as a result of the trailer? Perhaps that’s the wrong question. Did the trailer make any difference at all? Would I have sold less books without that $500 investment? Honestly, I doubt it.

I’ve seen some pretty cheesy trailers by authors, even big name authors. So, apparently, a great trailer is not a necessity for sales. Most range in quality from a couple of stills set to music or some cartwheeling slides, to a full production with actors and licensed music. Occasionally, some of the bigger publishing houses will spring for trailers for an established author or a promising newbie (as Tyndale did for writer friend Gina Holmes).

Nevertheless, the more I thought about it, the more I considered doing something different for The Telling… if I did anything at all. Mind you, I was really pleased with the end product for The Resurrection. But the more I listened to opinions, the less I was sold on the importance of a trailer.

Sure, a book trailer adds an audio-visual layer to your story. You can create a vibe to your novel that communicates its mood — fast-paced, frenetic music, swooning violins, or creepy chimes. However, it seems you can only build on excitement that already exists. If readers are already interested in you and your books, a trailer might stoke that. For this reason, I’ve come to believe that the blurb for your book is far more important than a trailer. If the reader is intrigued by the plot, they may watch the trailer. If they’re not grabbed by the blurb, chances are slim that a trailer will convince them.

Which is why I decided to mix it up and concentrate on discussing the plot for my next novel rather than taking time on a traditional book trailer. It’s a little longer than your normal trailer, running just under four minutes. But it’s kind of laid back, I think. You’re not subjected to a barrage of sights or sounds. Yes, there’s some visual elements with a few stock photos. But the process was SO much easier and less expensive than my first go-round. My daughter Alayna did a wonderful job putting this together (you can see more of Alayna’s work at her website, Light Frame Photo). And did I mention how less stressful and expensive this trailer was than my first?

But as to its effectiveness, the jury’s out. Currently, it’s received a modest 116 YouTube views. I’ll probably embed the video in my sidebar for a while as the novel launches, but until someone can establish that book trailers really matter, I’ll remain skeptical.

Anyway, I’d love to know your thoughts about the effectiveness — or ineffectiveness — of the trailer for The Telling. And, overall, how important do you think trailers are for an author?

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{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Katherine Coble May 1, 2012, 8:58 AM

    First: my personal opinion is about ALL book trailers. Not just yours. My personal opinion is that I don’t like them. Many of them ARE well-made or funny or just fun to watch. But I’ve found, to my chagrin, that they often don’t communicate the actual novel. They are great at communicating what the author and publisher want you to feel about a book or want you to associate the book to. But they don’t give you a feel for the author’s voice, and when I’m looking to spend five to twenty hours of my time with someone I want their voice to be something I want to spend time with.

    I liked the Telling video because it gives a feel for your voice, and a feel for what the story is about. It was more of an extended book blurb, and I agree with you in that belief that the blurb is the more important hook for readers.

  • Kat Heckenbach May 1, 2012, 11:23 AM

    I have only ever looked at book trailer by the request of an author. I don’t look at them to find out about books. It has never even dawned on me TO look on youtube for book trailers in order to “shop” books.

    For books, I want reviews and blurbs. Trailers are for movies.

  • R. L. Copple May 1, 2012, 11:29 AM

    I’m really clueless whether a book trailer helps that much as well. I think when people started doing them, they probably did because it was new and so few of them, and thus they might gain some interest on YouTube or other places. But now that everyone and their brother has one, that is no longer a factor. It is a lot harder to get attention unless you do something really unique and interesting.

    Which is why I did an experiment on my own for Mind Game. It isn’t high quality, I need much better lighting, and it is just me talking. I say a little about the book and read the first chapter to the “audience.” Not all that compelling, really. Probably too long and most people don’t listen to the end. But it was an experiment. In six months it has received 57 views. So that tells you how compelling it is. lol. I’ll probably take it down at some point. It might be doing more harm than good. But I felt free to experiment with that one since it is self-published, so I wasn’t risking my publisher’s reputation on it.

  • Tony May 1, 2012, 2:10 PM

    I think book trailers work. I’ve seen them work on my friends and family. They’d see a cool video, and go buy the book. I don’t think people are all that complex when it comes to what they like: Get them excited about something, and in return they’ll give you their time and maybe (hopefully) their money. Really, anything that piques the interest in your book enough to delve further, is worth having. It helps to have the ad aired on TV, but that’s probably pretty pricey.

    This more simplistic book trailer is fine too.

    I prefer the flashy stuff, actually.

    But reading is the primary thing I do for fun and relaxation, so I’m not exactly the person you need to hook.

  • Liliy May 1, 2012, 2:24 PM

    I’ve seen one book trailer. On accident. I thought it was a movie trailer and went “What?” when I found out it was a book…disappointed is probably the feeling I’d describe. The fact the trailer had live actors, and some great cinematography did’t help. XD

    So, right now my initial impression is negative. 😀

    The author talking about the book is probably more effective, but I can’t say I go out hunting for it. >.> I choose my books based on the blurb & tags. (Or I watched the movie and hunted down the source material…I do that, too. XD)

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