Creating a Book Trailer for Your Self-Published Novel

Image Source: NYMediaWorks.com

As many indie authors know, it can be difficult to get your self-published novel read by people outside of your inner circle of family and friends. Facebook, Twitter and other social networks can certainly help, but at the end of the day, they are just words – mixed with a static image, some hashtags and some links. Sometimes you need to go a little further to make an impact.

This is where a book trailer can help. You don’t have to be an internet genius to understand the power of online video. YouTube, Instagram, Vine and TV shows like You’ve Been Framed and Rude Tube are showcasing millions of videos to people, and authors should definitely sit up and take notice. The quick you acknowledge the power of the moving image, the quicker you can start making your book trailer.

Right now you’re probably thinking of a book trailer as a movie trailer, and you’re imagining the guy with the gravelly voice who makes everything sound epic and exciting is going to be introducing your book over the top of explosions and beauty people walking in slow motion:

“From the pen of [Insert Your Name Here] comes a terrifying vision of the futureeeeeeeeeee…”

That would be awesome, but highly unlikely unless you have a budget the size of a Hollywood movie, which is pretty doubtful at this stage of your career. More realistically, you’re going to have to get creative with a non-existent budget, but that shouldn’t deter you, because being creative is what you do for a living.

Here are a few things you can – and should – consider when brainstorming ideas and coming up with a plan for your book trailer:

#1 – What is your novel about? And who is your core audience?

This is the first point you should consider, because you run the risk of alienating EVERYONE who is likely to buy your novel if you get this wrong. It shouldn’t be too difficult to figure out: Simply answer the points below:

  • Genre (and Sub-Genres, where applicable)
  • Age Group
  • Themes (What is the point? What are you trying to say? What is the tone of your novel?)

If you understand all of the points above, you can start to piece together the bare bones of a narrative for your trailer. For example, if you’ve created a dark and dingy Western, you wouldn’t want a bright and breezy book trailer with Comic Sans text introducing it. Nope, you’d want something similar to Chuck Wendig’s trailer for Blackbirds and Mockingbird, setting the mood with dark imagery and grizzled voiceover. Something that makes the core audience sit up and say: “I’m buying that book RIGHT NOW!”

#2 – Know Your Limits

You have no cash, no collaborators, no filmmaking or editing experience, and you’re no Steve Carrell in the comedic acting department. Probably not a good idea to try and film some kind of “hilarious” comedy sketch that will do neither you nor your book any favours. Sure, if you have an idea that is simple and you are comfortable with it, you could pull it off, but is it really worth the risk? Better to sit down and be honest about what you can achieve with your limited set of skills.

The last thing you want is for people to come across your video and say “What is this?” before screwing their face up and watching kittens play fighting instead. If you don’t have the budget to do something fancy: Don’t. Your audience want to get to know you: What makes you tick, what your book is about, what you plan to do next. You’re looking to make a connection, and you can do that without trying too hard.

I really like the videos created by thriller author Chris Well. It is simple but extremely effective in getting across who he is as a person and as an author, and all in 91 seconds. Not bad. Check it out.

#3 – Find Your Collaborators

It’s always good to have collaborators as an indie author, because the “self” in self-publishing only gets you so far. You need editors, proofreaders, reviewers, bloggers, a social media audience, book cover designers and – if you’re lucky – filmmakers and editors to hand to help you create your book trailer. Make connections with local filmmakers, animators and other creatives wherever you can, because you can always help each other out with projects.

To use a personal example, the book trailer for my novel WALKING UP A SLIDE was shot and edited by my good friend Lee Tomes of Create Film Productions. I sat and watched like a dummy as he took my ideas and made them a reality. Without his skills and expertise, my book trailer would’ve been my fat head talking directly to camera, and people wouldn’t be listening because I have a monotone Midlands accent, and I look nothing like Tom Hardy.

Also, to go back to point #1, remember the bit about tone, genre and the themes? Check out the trailer below. It’s all about comedy, and not taking myself too seriously not that I’m an “Author”. I think we pulled that off.

Some points to take away from this free association ramble:

  • Don’t try too hard
  • Get your point across in under 3 minutes
  • Consider your target audience
  • Collaborate with others

Follow these and you’ll create something special to help get your book out there to avid readers.

If you’ve created a book trailer, or know of any extremely cool ones, drop the link in the comments below and share it with other readers and authors.

  • John Sparger

    Good article, Daley. And you’re absolutely right about collaboration. We do enough on our own as self-pubbers. If we’ve got friends with talents who are willing to help, then join the fun. We did a couple videos a while back. One was a music vid, and the other was kind of like yours (taking other footage and working it into ours) in which we had fun at Charlie Sheen’s meltdown expense. Not gonna win any awards, but we had fun putting them together and they might’ve piqued a little interest.

    Philosophy of Winning – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_Tg2xhcaUj8
    Music video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHKzuM7EqGs

  • I’ve created a book trailer for my book “Elliptical: The Music of Meshell Ndegeocello,” which explores one of the most fascinating and creative figures in contemporary music. She’s an artist who defies labels and music genres, continually inspiring many with her profound vision. From her first album “Plantation Lullabies” to her current “Comet, Come To Me,” myself and co-author Jon O’Bergh capture the essence of Meshell’s music from a fan’s point of view through the contemplation of her musical journey. The book combines personal reflections and takes the reader inside her music, explaining what makes it so powerful and successful.

    Elliptical: The Music of Meshell Ndegeocello (Book Trailer) – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9dg1tjYw0k
    eBook: http://apple.co/1CjJ2iU