Are Book Trailers a Marketing Must-Have?

Are Book Trailers a Marketing Must-Have?

Congratulations! You’ve written your book. You’re ready for its big debut.

But with an increasing number of books published each year, combined with declining sales, it’s more important than ever to make sure your book stands out.

One way to do this is through a book trailer: a short video introduction to a book. Book trailers come in many different forms: You could feature a scene from the book, show a clip of yourself speaking about your novel, or present a slide show relevant images and animated text.

And since selling books in the digital age is all about getting exposure, a book trailer might seem like a natural marketing tactic.

But is a book trailer truly the way to go? Here’s what you need to know about book trailers before you make a decision.

Three reasons to make a book trailer

Excited to show off your new book? Here’s why a book trailer might be a good choice for you.

Book trailers can make a lasting impression

A trailer offers a greater sensory experience than a typical print ad or online feature to communicate your book’s purpose.

Since book trailers are still pretty new and not every book has one, your book has the chance to make a much stronger impression on a potential reader.

They’re easy to consume and easy to share

Let’s face it: Fewer people are browsing through bookstores and perusing book reviews in the newspaper.

In an age of information overload, book trailers offer a low barrier to entry to consume. t’s easy to sit back and watch a one-minute clip, especially if it’s one you stumble upon in your Facebook newsfeed or YouTube suggestions.

Viewers recognize video as entertainment, so while a book trailer might be one of your more labor-intensive pieces of your marketing material, it is one of the most shareable, with potential to go viral.

Book trailers are eternal

While the financial investment in a book trailer might not pay off right away, it may over time. One of the greatest strengths of video marketing is that it’s eternal.

Other book marketing efforts, like ads or launch parties, have temporary reach, but a book trailer will live on as long as it remains online. Over time, it can continue to introduce new potential readers to your work.

Four reasons to skip it

Not convinced it’s worth making a book trailer? These reasons might confirm your skepticism.

Book trailers are held to a high standard of quality

Anyone who comes across your trailer will expect a high-quality cinematic experience. Book trailers get compared to and essentially compete with movie trailers, according to an episode of Thomas Umstattd’s podcast, Novel Marketing. We’re used to the quality of high-budget movie trailers with superior editing, emotion-grabbing audio and exciting visual effects.

But “a bad trailer is worse than no trailer,” Umstattd warned. A poorly made book trailer sticks out. It can damage the image of both you and the book, and it can hurt sales.

Because they’re so memorable, book trailers that miss the mark can turn into painfully public marketing failures.

Book trailers are not a universally accepted book-marketing tactic

Many authors, publishers and readers are wary of the emergence of book trailers, because they intrude on the reading experience.

It’s like seeing the movie before reading the book: The book no longer has the privilege of introducing readers to its world. The trailer can take away from the world the reader imagined.

A good book trailer involves a huge investment of time, money, and skill

A 45-second book trailer may sound simple to produce, but remember video is an entirely different medium than print — it requires a tailored perspective and set of skills.

Think about everything needed to make a quality trailer: storyboard, script, scenery, music, props, actors and crew, camera and other film-making technology, editing expertise and more.

While there are some great ways to make a low-cost book trailer on your own, an exceptional trailer can end up costing thousands of dollars.

It’s hard to determine ROI

Book trailers are notorious for getting few lifetime views and unimpressive conversion rates. Only 0.2 percent of people surveyed by the Codex Group in 2010 said they found their most recent book from a trailer, and 0.1 percent identified the book trailer as the persuading factor to purchase it.

Buta great video on a sales landing page can increase conversions up to 80 percent, Unbounce reported in a recent podcast on video marketing.

These statistics highlight a major risk of producing a book trailer: What if you make one, but your target audience never sees it? A video may get a lot of views, but not all viewers are potential readers.

More promising prospective buyers find their way to sales pages, and that might be where a book trailer best contributes to sales.

A book trailer has the potential to be an incredibly successful and valuable addition to your marketing campaign — or it could be a total disaster. It’s a risky marketing strategy, and a good decision depends on a strong cost-benefit analysis well before your book’s launch date.

Does your book have a trailer? How has it contributed to your sales?

Filed Under: Marketing


  • Sean Bai says:

    If I ever make a book trailer for my military science fiction series I need to earn some money first.

    It’s risky but I want a book trailer so good that people will want to see it be a tv show.

    And if it doesn’t perform well, at least I have a movie trailer. How many people can say that about their book?

  • Thank you, Paul. Very good advice. Here is the book trailer my sons and I made for our publisher:

  • Paul Ambrose says:

    The thing most people don’t realize about posting a video on YouTube is that it needs to be optimized, (SEO) the same way you would optimize a website. After all, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.

    The most important thing is the title. People are not searching for the title of your book. But, they might be looking for something like “Best books of 2016” or even “Best book trailers”.

    The second thing is keywords, called tags on YouTube. Put some real thought into these.

    The third thing is the description. Videos with longer and complete descriptions tend to rate higher on YouTube. Be sure to include the link to your website, or Amazon, or wherever your book’s available.

  • While I don’t regret doing a book trailer for my travel memoir, Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa, I won’t do it for my next book. I had about 300 views for the first version of my book trailer but I was never entirely happy with it and did an edit. This latest version has 45 views. However, I haven’t been big on promoting it other than on Facebook and Twitter. But the best thing to come out of it was the guy who helped me with the book trailer also filmed my book launch and I’m so grateful I have this vision. It was such a special day and I mostly missed it as I was signing books for four hours. There was over 150 people at my launch and I sold 115 books. You can view my book trailer and book launch at Thank you… In the spirit of ubuntu.

  • Great post.
    Thanks man for sharing such a nice information.

  • A book trailer needs to represent the mood and feel of the book. It’s basically a visual representation of the story and can be the perfect teaser when its well made. If not, it can do more harm than good. I made this one recently and it uses only videos and not stills and lots of people have commented about how it they get a feel of the book immediately from watching it! You can check it out at

    • Great book trailer… and short but packs so much into it. A friend put a book trailer together for my travel memoir Ubuntu: One Woman’s Motorcycle Odyssey Across Africa (Black Inc. 2016). I was a little nervous being filmed as this is not my thing. I’d love feedback about whether it does more harm than good. Thank you. Heather

  • M. Louis says:

    Happy to find this post here. I wasn’t sure about doing a trailer for my second book but we ended up with something that 1) I really like 2) people are loving and 3) getting lots of exposure esp on Facebook. Continuing to seek out more places to share the link and found more here. Thanks! Feel free to watch and let me know what you think.

  • John Graden says:

    With iMovie and other editing tools you can put together an book trailer for just the time investment. Amazon now allows links in the description, so you can post your trailer there.

    Re: Social media like Facebook. Upload the video directly to FB and it will get much more juice than pasting a link. FB would rather promote itself than its number one competitor, Google / YouTube.

  • A “must”? By no means.
    A good tool if you do it right? Absolutely. If nothing else, a good trailer is “license to spam” in forums–“hey, dig my cool new video” is permitted where “buy my book” would not be.
    At best they can go “viral” to whatever extent.
    It’s NOT true that you need them done professional, and that shaggy ones are worse than none. Slick pro “book reports” get no attention. A lot of goofy, owner-made ones are very effective at getting passed around. My first video ever has gotten over 60,000 views on Yahoo and Facebook. Not many “vid mill” trailers do that well.
    Big tips –keep them under a minute. Under a half minute better yet.
    –you might not need more than a good cover design to make the video from.
    –don’t try to tell the damn story, just spark interest
    –use your creativity and awareness of the readership for it

    Here’s a free ebook about making your own videos. It’s a skill worth learning, fun, and useful for other things… like entertaining your brats.

  • Mari Hill says:

    I thought about this several years ago…now it appears to be a fad. I’m not sure where one would place this video if one invested in one?? If you could place it next to your book review/summary in Amazon ebook listing or Smashwords portal for purchasing a book, but they don’t appear there? So where would one place that video is my question on a website…not every one checks those out I don’t.

  • Mark E Whitfield says:

    Hi Marisol,

    Thanks for the article. A great read and definitely food for thought. I was considering a trailer for future projects (and for a Kickstarter campaign if it ever came to it). Do you have any example of trailers that either you have seen or have heard of that have been well received or been really effective?



  • peggy frezon says:

    Once you create a great book trailer, where are some places to share it? Mine is on my website, Amazon author page and publisher’s website. But are there other ways for it to get views?

    • Too many people think the idea is to run around plugging a vid into a lot of video sites. Actually just putting it on Youtube or a separate page of your own site is enough. You get eyeballs by sharing a link to it on social media and email.

    • Nick says:

      Check out, they’re like the Youtube for book trailers.

  • Really great post! You’ve done a great job of laying out both the ups and downs of book trailers.

    I may have missed this point of your article, but do you think book trailers have the same impact for nonfiction as they do for fiction?

    • Marisol says:

      Hi Charity,

      Thanks so much! That’s a really good question, and you’re right that I don’t go much into the difference between book trailers for fiction vs nonfiction.

      From my research, it seems that the approach to nonfiction book trailers is different than the approach to fiction (not surprising!). Nonfiction book trailers more often feature the author discussing the topic of the book. All else equal, this approach is well-received, since potential readers like to feel connected to the author and are inspired by authors who show a passion for their work.

      Hope this answers your question! Thanks again for the kind words!


  • A further hurdle for fantasy and science fiction writers is the lack of stock photos and footage. I’ve seen some good trailers (and, to be honest, more than a few bad ones) that rely on stock footage and images. All of them are for genres such as crime, romance, drama, adventure, etc.

    For those writing hard sci-fi or epic fantasy, those resources just don’t exist. Not much stock footage/images of space battlecruisers or war dragons out there.

    A possible solution in some instances is to commission an artist to do a few stills for you, but that assumes you have the time and money to find such an artist, negotiate terms, and trust they will interpret your vision the way you wish. Not impossible, of course, but more effort than an author may be will to put forward.

    • Marisol says:

      That’s a fantastic point, Brant. The feasibility of book trailers really does depend on genre. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and suggestions—the idea to commission an artist for stills is great.

      TWL Team

  • Josh says:

    I’ve thought about it for my first fiction book (I actually have the idea in my head), but I’m not sure if it would return on the investment for a non-fiction. I haven’t researched it too much though.

    I’m not going to start on the fiction one until I finish my next two non’s. Maybe I’ll throw something quick together, but I would want it to look good.

    • Marisol says:

      Hi Josh,

      Thanks so much for commenting! If you do go ahead with a book trailer for one of your books, I’d love to hear how it goes! Keep us posted 🙂

      TWL Team

  • For a great book trailer, take a look at what bestselling author Cheryl Strayed, did for her book Wild.

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