Market Your Book with a Movie Trailer


As multimedia comes to dominate the World Wide Web, a simple text blurb may not be enough to grab a prospective reader’s attention. And while actually placing an ad in a movie theater is very expensive, even a low-budget “movie trailer” on your website can increase your sales dramatically.

Animated Trailers

My first encounter with movie trailers for print books–rather than films made from books–was the VidLit for John Warner’s Fondling Your Muse. VidLit produces short (generally under 3 minutes) Flash animations which it showcases on its own website and allows you to e-mail to others. A VidLit may be an excerpt from a book, or a synopsis. In general, they are clever, funny, and put me in mind of more sophisticated animated greeting cards. The VidLit team does a nice job of making nonfiction books seem entertaining as well as edifying. A typical VidLit takes about 200 hours to produce and costs around $10,000, but the one-minute special costs only $3500.

Novelist Jeff Rivera didn’t want to spend that much, so he did some research into what his target market watched, listened to, and talked about, then wrote a half-page script and put an ad on Craigslist for a Flash animator and another ad on Latino message boards to find an appropriate soundtrack. You can see the resulting trailer, which increased his book sales 30%, on the Jeff Rivera, Media Personality website, under “Books”. (For more details, see Jeff’s article in John Kremer’s Book Marketing Tip of the Week newsletter.)

Upping the Ante

The Book Standard enlisted Bantam Dell to fund its 2006 Book Video Awards contest for film students. The winning entries feature live actors and could be mistaken for trailers for Hollywood movies. Each cost the publisher about 30% of the book’s marketing budget to produce. The videos are available on,, and YouTube as well as the Bantam Dell and Book Standard websites. There are even versions available for mobile phones.

Expanded Books makes its trailers available in both audio and video format through iTunes, MySpace, Google Video, YouTube, iFilm, and its own website. Their suggestions for the use of book videos include in-store loops and presale DVDs as well as viral video and old-fashioned TV commercials. Their prices start at a comparatively modest $3,000. Their titles range from nonfiction like 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men to novels like M.J. Rose’s The Venus Fix.

Beware the Lowest Bidder

If you have a webcam, you can create unlimited 3-minute do-it-yourself web videos for $2.95 a month with Camdeo, a Berkeley-based video service. But although talking-head infomercials can help you sell products, they don’t have the emotional power of something with a soundtrack, interesting visuals, and a tight script. Camdeo sounds like a good option for beginning video podcasters or people who want to communicate with their relatives, but not really a good method for producing something that could properly be described as a “trailer.”

Doing It Yourself

If the likes of VidLit and Expanded Books are out of your range, you’d be better advised to invest a few hundred dollars (or less–Apple’s iLife is only $79 and the Producer plug-in to create Windows Media Video is free for licensed owners of PowerPoint) in software to allow you to convert PowerPoint or Keynote into video and add a soundtrack. You can insert photos of your book cover, graphs and tables from your book, and evocative royalty-free photos and artwork, alternating with short, punchy copy a la Jeff Rivera. The rise of podcasting means there are thousands of “pod-safe” songs to choose from for a soundtrack. Close with appropriate credits and ordering information.

Market Globally, Shop Locally

Finally, if the do-it-yourself route sounds like too much work and you were hoping to keep your outlay in the hundreds, not thousands, see what kind of talent is available in your home town. Does your local community college teach courses on Flash animation or videography? Are you in a position to offer non-cash prizes that film students would value, and hold a contest of your own? While top-quality work doesn’t come cheap anywhere, you may still be able to get a bargain if you can provide something the video producer values-like exposure to a new market.

It’s worth bearing in mind, however, that specialists like VidLit and Expanded Books have the experience that less-expensive competitors may lack. Anyone with the appropriate technical skills can create a dramatic trailer for a dramatic book. Authors whose subject matter is considered dry or difficult to understand should go to the experts if they want results that appeal to the mass market.