How to Create a Book Trailer: What’s Working, What’s Not

There was a really interesting article this week in the New York Times about authors and book trailers. I highly recommend you read it (but please be aware you need to create a free NY Times account to do so). Here’s the link:

For those of you who don’t feel like registering, or don’t have the time to read the full article, here are some highlights:

  • Most authors feel like they’re out of their comfort zone when they have to make a video. After all, writing and acting are very different skill sets.
  • Publishers want to see you and know who you are before they even speak to you about publishing your book. At the very least, they want to know you don’t have two heads or a heavy speech impairment! Hence, the video …
  • Jeannette Walls, who starred in trailers for her books “The Glass Castle” and “Half Broke Horses“, received 157,775 hits for her Glass Castle video.
  • Author videos are becoming more mainstream. In 2008, Amazon began designating its top five videos of the year. In May, book videos had their own Oscar-ish awards show, the Mobys, for best and worst book video honors.
  • Videos are a must for the next generation. According to a 2009 online survey by, 4 in 10 teenage readers said they liked to see book trailers on book-related blogs and 46 percent watched book trailers on YouTube. Even more startling, 45 percent bought a book after watching the trailer.
  • What works for author videos is elusive. But we’re starting to figure out what DOESN’T work. “It’s hard to make a visually interesting video of a writer talking, even when the author is a star,” said Nancy Sheppard, vice president for marketing at Viking. “We see enough static talking heads in the media.”

So here’s the gist: Authors now need videos. The hope is that those book trailers will go viral. They should be interesting and dramatic — not just an author talking. But to get an author to do that can be a bit challenging. Who knows … maybe you’ll be the author who figures it all out 🙂

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