Nobody Cares What Your Book is About: How to Write a Book Trailer Script by Ezra Barany
Welcome back to our weekly posts from bestselling author and book marketing consultant, Ezra Barany. Yes, and he’s my husband. This article on how to draft a book trailer script is also one of the featured articles in our upcoming January 2013 issue of the Author Entrepreneurship Magazine. You can get your own copy of the latest issue here.
Ever see a book trailer? It’s a video that promotes a book instead of a movie. I’ve rarely seen a good one. The problem with most book trailers is that they usually show you what the book is about.
The horrible truth is nobody cares what the book is about.
Viewers don’t want to be told what a book is about or what a movie is about. They think they do, but they really don’t. Instead, they want to feel a bit of the emotion they can expect to experience if they read your book.
My wife revealed a pearl of wisdom when, one day, she summed up the purpose of a book trailer. “It’s a promise of an experience.” If you can do that, if you can give the viewer a visceral glimpse of the emotion they’ll feel when they read your book, you’ve succeeded in making a great book trailer.
Here’s how to do that: The Formula for Writing a Great Book Trailer Script
The best formula I came up with for writing a great book trailer script is the following:
1. Your “What if” statement or a “Remember when” plus “What if” statement.
2. Your one sentence synopsis of the story. (Optional)
3. Testimonials and credibility
4. Title and byline
5. Call to action
Here are the steps, explained:
1. Your “What if” statement: In less than 28 words, write the question that your book answers. For the movie Hook, the statement is “What if Peter Pan grew up?” Here’s another: “What if a young prince, tired of his rich life, traded places with his doppelganger, a poor boy?” That would be for The Prince and the Pauper. What’s yours?
Your “Remember when” plus “What if” statement: “Remember when you nearly drove your car into that child in the street? What if you had hit him?” or “Remember when you gambled more money than you should have in a place like Vegas? What if you had won?”
2. Your one sentence synopsis: This is the answer to your “What if” question. The sentence shows how your book addresses the question or embodies the question. You can skip this step since it often doesn’t have as much of an impact on the viewer as all the other components.
3. Testimonials and credibility: Wouldn’t you be more likely to buy a book if others said it was great? What if you discovered the book was a bestseller? Would that make you more inclined to take a closer look at the book? For most readers, information establishing credibility helps them decide if the book is worth buying.
4. Title and byline: Now that they’re curious about the book, they’ll pay attention to what the book is called. Simply state the title and your name. For example, “The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.”
5. Call to action: This will make or break your sale. If you don’t have this, you will have lost your reader. It can be as simple as showing your website or displaying the words “On Amazon.” Or it can be as strong as “Buy your copy today on Amazon before all copies are sold!”
Here’s an example of a script for my book The Torah Codes. I’ve made trailers for the book — you can see them on YouTube — but they don’t use this script. (I came up with this script formula after having made several book videos.)
What if you discovered your landlord has been watching you through a two way mirror? Nathan Yirmorshy, a computer programmer in the Oakland Hills, discovers that his voyeuristic landlord is part of a secret society bent on forcing him to fulfill a dangerous prophecy, just as the ancient scriptures have foretold. “The pages seem to turn themselves!” “A plot full of twists and turns puts The Torah Codes in the top of my ‘Best Books I’ve Read’ list!” “I couldn’t put it down!” An Amazon bestseller for all of 2012, award-winner at The Hollywood Book Festival, The Torah Codes by Ezra Barany. Available now on Amazon.
Here’s the book trailer I made for the sequel, Fighting with God. You’ll notice I had to start by explaining a Jewish legend for the “What if” statement to make sense.
The 3 Most Common Mistakes in Making Book Videos
1. Too long: Keep your video between 30 seconds to 1:30 seconds long. Any longer and you risk putting your viewers to sleep.
2. Audio is poor quality: Audio quality is more important than visual quality. Poor audio can ruin a video, whereas viewers are more forgiving over poor video. Also, make sure the audio contributes to the emotion you wish to evoke. Case and point, here’s a video that has poor visual quality but I dare you to watch it without getting teary-eyed.
3. Images flash by too slow or too fast: Usually, faster is better. That is, it’s better to err on the side of having the images flash too fast than too slow. Too slow and your book trailer is sluggish. Too fast and your video is too exciting. Important: Also, make sure you don’t infringe on any copyright when using images or music. Below is a list of places to get free royalty-free images and music.
You can find FREE Royalty-free images at these places:
7. www.flickr.com (Make sure to refine your search for images with a creative commons license, and to respect the license by crediting the photographer.)
You can also find a wider variety of low-cost royalty-free images at:
A great FREE royalty-free site for some wonderful music is at Kevin Macleod’s site http://incompetech.com/. Another site is http://www.freeaudioclips.com/.
Remember, a book trailer is the promise of an experience. Fiction authors know that the best way to have the reader feel is to show, not tell. Similarly, instead of telling what your story is about, have the viewer feel what they can expect to feel reading your book. If you accomplish that, your viewers will be more excited to check out your book and perhaps buy it.
Ezra Barany is an author and mentor to authors. He started his career of freaking out readers with his suspense and thriller stories in college. In March 2011, Ezra unleashed his first novel The Torah Codes, a thriller, now an award-winning bestseller in both the U.S. and the U.K. In his free time, he writes mushy love songs inspired by his wife and book coach Beth Barany. Ezra now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area where he is working on his next book when not terrorized by his two cats. More at: http://bit.ly/TheTorahCodesForKindle.