Book Trailers Today … Getting the Most for your Money

by Sheila Clover English 

Note from Deborah Riley-Magnus: Any good publicist knows there must be more to a service than simply the product. While investigating book videos for a client, I discovered that Sheila Clover English, the woman who trademarked the words “book trailer” knew exactly what I was looking for. I’m proud to expand on a past blog post, Lights, Camera, Action with this wonderful guest blog by Ms. Clover English herself! 

Book Trailers affect sales and opinions. They influence buyers and media. Still, there seems to be debate on whether or not book trailers are a good promotional tool. 

In 2002 the idea of book trailers was ahead of its time. There were ways you could use a book trailer, but the number of venues were limited. Borders was the first bookstore to use a book trailer on their site to promote a book. Their web traffic doubled the week the trailer played there. It was new. A novelty. And people went there to watch it whether they liked the genre of the book or not. 

In 2003 the term “book trailer” was trademarked. And though it can be argued that the term is common, the fact at the time was that no one knew what that was just by saying the term. And if you Googled the term it didn’t show up. Google it now and you can clearly see that times have changed. 

Novelty has been replaced by utility. At one point just having a book video was enough to bring people to your site and get them talking. But, when 2005 ushered in the popularity of such sites as MySpace and YouTube everyone with the ability to point a camera or use an editing suite started making video for their book. 

Now, with 2010 around the corner we look back and assess this tool with an eye toward utility, ROI and goal attainment. 

Book Video Utility 

Book trailers used to be limited in utility. You could put them on your website or play them at signings. With social communities and video platforms becoming increasingly popular and numerous the places you can put a book video have increased dramatically. 

The digital age has given us even more uses beyond the computer screen. Book videos are played in movie theaters, on television, out-of-home advertising and on mobile devices. A book video can be a viral video meant to be entertaining and shared or it can be an advertisement meant to inform. Digital has effectively removed the barrier of utility. 

Book videos can now be found on social sites, bookmarking sites, bookseller sites, library sites, blogs and media sites. 

Return on Investment (ROI) 

Return on investment means that you get something good for your money. You might pay $1 or you might pay $10,000 you still want a good return for your money. ROI is not the same as having a budget. You need to set your budget, know what you can spend and then get the money to work for you as hard as possible. The result of the “work” is your return on what you invested. 

A book video can be done by the author if that person knows how to use a video camera or an editing suite. That does not mean it is free. The pictures, footage, music and time all cost something. Even if you are lucky enough to not have to pay for the pictures, footage or music, the time it takes to make a video can be extensive. The person needs to determine for his/herself whether the time they lose when working on the video is worth it or not. It may be that the person really enjoys making the video so the experience itself has value. But, there is still a cost associated with making the video. The cost (your time) may be a good investment for you. Only you can determine that. 

Making the video isn’t enough. Not if you want to get the best return on your investment. You need to know what to do with the video once you have it. 

You should be sending it to your publisher in case they can make use of it. Upload it to your website, social profile and any other sites in which you feel it would benefit you to have your video there. You can burn it to a CD or DVD and play it during a book signing. You can use it to help sell foreign rights, option your book as a movie or as a tool to get you on talk shows or news programs. 

You can pay someone to create the video, distribute it and even use it for further promotions. If you don’t have time to figure out where the best placement is, but you want something better than YouTube where every other author is uploading to, then you might want to consider outsourcing this element of your work. 

If you hire someone to create your video and/or distribute it you want to know that they are going to give you the best return on your investment. For example, do they have a positive online reputation? You might want to check on that before you allow your book video, which represents you, your book and/or your brand to be associated with that company. Does that company have references? It is absolutely fine to ask for references when you are investing money into a service. Hopefully that company will have references or a client list on their website. Does the company have resources you don’t have or that are not easy to acquire? Do they have distribution contracts or platforms that are unique and targeted to your audience? 

If you invest in having someone else create your video you want that person or company to have an expertise in book video utilization, creation, formatting, distribution and analytics. Otherwise you can have your best friend’s 14 year old make the video for you and throw it up on some social profiles and YouTube. 

Having a larger company do your video has benefits because a larger company can negotiate deals in bulk and get contracts that a single individual cannot attain. For example, COS Productions has a contract with LexCycle which is the top iPhone eReader and with OverDrive which services 5000 libraries. As a company we are considered content providers, not advertisers. Though we do advertising, we are also content providers which allows us better negotiating terms when looking for new venue contracts. That means we can get a video places that are more specific to the target audience, where there are more people to see it or in a place where there aren’t thousands of other competing videos. 

Whether you create your own video and upload it or you hire someone else to do that job could depend on a number of variables. Do you have time, resources and ability to create your own video? Do you have a very specific need for your promotional campaign and the resources to meet that need? What is your budget? What is your goal? 

You might be able to make your own video with numerous photos, uploading it to the top 20 or so online sites and getting it to your publisher all for the cost of your time. But you might find that having a video utilizing one picture, your book cover, paying $300 for it and getting it to 300 booksellers, 5000+ libraries, dozens of reader destination sites, 20+ social sites and some specialty sites specific to your target audience is the better return. If you don’t need all of those distribution outlets then the first option is the better return. More is not always best. 

How do you determine what is best? 

Goal Attainment 

Before you spend time making a video or spend money having one made you need to set aside time and effort for researching your audience and determining your goals. You may find that your particular goals do not require you to have a book video. You may find that your goals require you to mortgage your home. You are the only person who can set your goals and determine if they are attainable or even logical for you. 

Throwing your promotional dollars into the wind and hoping something sticks and makes you rich and famous is a sign that you may not be operating in reality. Thinking you can become rich and famous by being on every social site online is an equal stretch. Nothing is absolutely certain. I mean, you could win the lotto and this entire conversation would be a mute point as you have Spielberg or Tarantino direct your book trailer. It could happen. Just don’t hold your breath. Create goals that are realistic for you. Goals for your situation. Goals you can actually attain. 

  • Your goals may include making a bestseller list, which means your big push needs to happen the first week the book is out.
  • Your goals may include branding yourself within a genre, or as a certain personality type in which things like a tagline, including your photo at the end of the video, including a logo or setting a mood could be included.
  • If you’re a new author you want to get your name out to as many people as possible in order to lay a foundation of name recognition.
  • There are a lot of potential goals and a variety of ways to attain those goals.
  • Identifying what your goals are in advance will help you see more clearly what your promotional campaign will require. 

Before we start a video project we have the client state their goals. A goal may even change the way we would create the look and feel of the video. It certainly will help us create a strategy for distribution. It can also clue us in on your needs so that we can make recommendations to your overall campaign. 

The fact of the matter is, most anyone can create a video these days. Anyone can upload it to a variety of sites. But, if your career requires more strategy than luck you might want to seek someone with a lot of expertise, experience and connections. If you’re one of those rare people who have expertise in marketing you already know that utility and goals are key to identifying the right tool for the job. If you’re unsure, start with setting your goals and identifying your audience. Don’t use a marketing tool just because it seems everyone else is. Be thoughtful in your marketing strategy and you’ll get better results for your money. 

Tips & Tricks and Inside Information 

Author interviews are great if you are already famous and have a big fan base. If you have been involved in something unusual or in popular culture. Otherwise you are a talking head selling your wares. There must be a catalyst for the viewer to want to watch an author interview. 

Book videos should not exceed 2 minutes. 90 seconds is ideal, but 60 seconds gives you the most utility since you can use it as a viral video and as a commercial if you so choose. 

Your visuals (photos and/or footage) should not compete with your text. Too much on the screen makes it hard to follow what is being said and hard to remember it at the end. 

Never use photos, footage, music or fonts that are not licensed to you. Even “royalty free” images have rules. You need to know what kind of license you have. 

A great place to go to upload to several places at once is You need to have profiles on those sites first, but if you’re doing a lot of videos this is a great service. You can use their basic free service or for deeper analytics you can pay for a premium account. 

A nice online editing system is- It can be fun! 

For information about COS video productions go to- 

For information about distribution including having COS distribute your video go to-

Be certain to research any company you are going to invest in. Ask for references and examples of work. 

Today’s Book Trailers are a tool not a novelty.

About Deborah Riley-Magnus

Deborah Riley-Magnus is an author and an Author Success Coach. She has a twenty-seven year professional background in marketing, advertising, and public relations as a writer for print, television, and radio. She writes fiction and non-fiction. Since 2010, she had two novels released. In 2013 her nonfiction, Finding Author Success (Second Edition), and Cross Marketing Magic for Authors were released. Her newest book, Write Brain/Left Brain, focuses on bridging the gap between the creative writer and the marketing author. Deborah produces several pieces monthly for various websites and online publications. She writes an author industry blog and teaches online and live workshops as The Author Success Coach. She belongs to several writing and professional organizations. Deborah has lived on both the east and west coast of the United States and has traveled the country widely. She is a native of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and recently returned after living in Los Angeles, California for several years. View all posts by Deborah Riley-Magnus

3 responses to “Book Trailers Today … Getting the Most for your Money

  • Joe Gruberman

    Very informative piece. As a content-provider, I can only claim credit and responsibility for the upfront creative process. I rely on companies like COS Productions to complete the circle by managing placement and distribution in an ever-growing multimedia marketplace.

  • Liz Maverick

    I’m clearly biased as I’ve worked with Sheila, LOL, but I have to say as an author that this is a brilliant summary. Figuring out how to use a limited number of dollars to promote one’s work in the saturated online world is a hair-pulling experience. *sigh* I’ll be forwarding this to my author friends for sure.



  • yearzerowriters

    I am so pro-book trailers I can’t wait to shoot mine in the New Year. But I’ve seen several online and they don’t do it for me. Moody shots of the author and stills of strap lines – few seem to actually use a sentence or two of the writing within the book that strikes me as odd.

    My take on the form is that the trailer must be a narrative in its own right; it has the same relationship to the book (ie the product) as a pop music video has to its product (ie the CD single). That is it exists primarily to help sell the product, but works as a little piece of mini-art in its own right.

    My vids will be readings from the book, but ‘acted out’ with hand held props rather than have a talking head. Since the MC is female, I am going to have a professional actress voice it. In a way, the vids will aim to speak directly in the visual language beloved of the file-sharing generation – the hope is to go viral – not necessarily in video terms of millions, but in large enough numbers to generate reasonably significant book sales – ie if a music video gets 1 million hits and total sales are 100,000, then I would look for 10,000 hits (from 6 videos) to generate 1000 book sales. A 10% take up rate. Ambitious but achievable. While the 1600 views per video is doable, but many may well be the same viewers wanting to see all 6 and of course they would only buy 1 copy of the book at best. But the whole still sounds like a plan to me. I can’t wait.

    Thanks for your tips and advice.

    marc nash

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