February 15th, 2012 | by Ezra Barany
A lot of authors think a book trailer is all about conveying what the storyline is. But actually, conveying your storyline will likely not get people excited about your novel. And if you just include the three vital keys for a good book trailer, your book trailer will stand head and shoulders above the others.
There are three vital keys to a book trailer:
A. A good book trailer has clarity – The viewer knows exactly what book and what kind of book (genre) is being promoted. The viewer also gets a pretty good idea what the book is about.
B. A good book trailer triggers an emotional response – The viewer gets the promise of an experience, one they know they will have when they read the book. In other words, the experience the book trailer creates promises to be the experience the reader will have when reading the book.
C. A good book trailer has a call to action – The viewer knows where to go to get the book, or where to go to find out more information.
Have you ever seen a commercial and said, “Wow! I don’t know what that was a commercial for, but it sure was awesome!” So, the first thing your book trailer absolutely, positively must have is clarity over what the book trailer is for. Perhaps the biggest problem with a book trailer is that people won’t realize the video is about a book. If, for example, the video has footage (instead of slides) of scenes in the book, viewers might think, “Wow! That looks like a great movie!” or “I like the storyline but the actors suck, so I won’t bother seeing the movie.” Be sure that you clearly convey that the video is promoting a novel and clearly show what the book’s title and genre is. The storyline is not as important to the book trailer as clearly indicating the title and genre of your novel.
An Emotional Response
The second thing is the promise of an experience. This part is the hardest of the three and is more crucial than conveying the storyline. A storyline generates interest, if anything. An emotion creates a memory. If you manage to create a strong emotional response in the viewer, you’re suggesting they will have similar experiences when they read your book.
If you can get that emotional response, one that matches the emotional response your readers will get when they read your book, you’ve accomplished the hardest part to creating a good book trailer and deserve a chocolate ice cream sundae with fudge, whipped cream, and a cherry.
Several factors play a role in creating that emotional experience you want the viewer to have.
- Images – Images of facial expressions or poses (be they of humans, cats, or other expressive creatures) can do wonders for triggering an emotional response.
- Voices – The words the people speak, and the way they speak them, also contribute to the experience.
- Music – Music is the one thing that really does the most with generating an emotional response.
Even if your images don’t portray much or the script is bland, the music can be all the book trailer needs to grab the viewer by the gut and say, “You look sad. Have a chocolate ice cream sundae.”
That said, as powerful as the music is, it’s wise to give the viewer a reason to feel the way they do. The reason comes through in the script/text.
Now take a look at how powerful music and sound can be.
While cruising YouTube, I found a fan-made video for James Patterson’s book “Fang” that, in my mind, did a great job at creating an emotional experience. But to complete the video, I added images for clarity of what’s being offered, music for a heightened emotional experience, and a call to action at the end.
Here’s the “before” video:
Now watch the “after” video and when you’re done, return to The Writer’s Fun Zone (this site) and write in the comments below: What change do you think had the biggest effect, and why?
Confession: As simple as it sounds to add the images and music, it took me 3 days before I felt like the trailer was good enough.
Call to Action
The last thing is easy but will destroy the success of your book trailer if it’s not there: a call to action. Briefly flashing the words “Get your copy now at amazon.com” is all you need. The viewers had an amazing experience watching the video, now all they need is to know where to go to get more. You can have a strong call to action such as, “If you don’t buy this book right now, you will have wasted your life and your spouse will leave you!” or you can have a soft call to action such as “Amazon.com.” Even just showing the URL of where they can get the book can be enough of a call to action. I recommend something in between. “Get The Torah Codes today at Amazon.com” is a good example.
Bonus Item – Reviews
Nothing tells your fans-to-be how much they are missing out than having a slew of 5-star reviews flashing about how great your book is. They can be at the beginning or at the end or as bookends to the video trailer. Fewer words are better since no one likes reading a tome on video.
For example, a part of one of my reviews for The Torah Codes was, “5 stars!…The book roars along for quite some time in that manner, driven both by plot twists and — of far greater importance — a superb main character. Nathan is smart, odd, witty, and a bit world-weary. He’s a great character to tag along with. The pages seem to turn themselves. But what the book really is, in the end, is a bit of well packaged theology. …Underlying it all is the faith that, in spite of everything, God wills us to live in righteousness. In reading the book I learned something new about religious belief, got something to think about, and had a great time in the process.”
I’d shorten that to “5 stars! – The pages seem to turn themselves!” And even that is pretty long for words in a video. Even better would be “5 stars – Roars along!” or “5 stars – A great time!” A good rule of thumb is to keep each review in the video a phrase that is a maximum of five words long.
I recommend three to five of these review phrases in your video flashing one after the other. In the beginning of this video is an example of reviews flashing effectively: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NjDYt5aUgTM
So the three, nay, four vital things a book trailer must have are clarity, an emotional experience, a call to action, and reviews. If all of these are in your book trailer, you’re golden!
What do you think is vital to a book trailer? Leave a comment below?