The Anatomy of a Book Trailer – Part 1

Before the advent of the ebook, a book trailer might have been the only way to take enough books along on your summer vacation. However, we now have all manner of portable devices that can not only put dozens of books inside your pocket, but can give you animated versions of the book blurb.

YouTube has been named the world’s second largest search engine. Authors and publishers are always looking for ways to get their books noticed, and the book trailer is just one more way to generate interest.

Think of a trailer as an online book jacket.

A trailer has three basic elements: images, words and music. These must be used to evoke an emotion and create a message in as short a time as possible. You have only a few seconds to capture the viewer’s attention.

Begin with the feeling you want to convey. Stopwatch

  • Humor
  • Suspense
  • Curiosity
  • Fear
  • Anticipation
  • Sadness
  • Joy
  • Anger
  • Peace

Trailers serve many different purposes. The most common one is to gain the attention of a new reader who knows nothing about the book. Attention spans are short. Aim for a 30 to 90 second range for maximum effect.

Every author should have an “elevator pitch” ready for his or her novel. An elevator pitch is what you can say to a casual stranger who asks about your book. It has to be a hook that will grab the listener’s attention before the elevator doors open and the opportunity is lost.

Start with a good cover image, the feeling you want to express, and a hook using as few words as possible.

The following trailer was made to generate interest before the launch of a new crime novel set in Maine.

Next time: The Storyboard


Where to Look for Answers


Before you commit your novel to a publisher, do your homework. Make sure you are a good fit. Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all. How do you do this? Where do you look for answers?

  1. The first stop is to look at the website. If you like it, write down some of the titles they publish.
  2. Go to Amazon and look at the books. Use the Search Inside feature and read some of the book. Is this a book you would be happy to have sitting next to yours? Look at the cover, the formatting, and particularly at the writing. The reviews are also important. It’s not so much a matter of how many reviews as what they say. Do any of the reviews mention the writing or the plot or the characters?
  3. Preditors and Editors is a website ( with an extensive database of writing related information. The Book Publisher and Distributor Listings are alphabetized. Some are recommended, others not. If your publisher does NOT appear on these pages, go on to there sites. But, if you publisher is “not recommended” proceed with caution
  4. Poets & Writers ( also has a listing of small presses. Since a lot of their readers are poets, they concentrate on publishers who offer to publish poetry. Again, lack of a listing is not a black mark.
  5. Writers Beware ( is sponsored by the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, but the website is a valuable resource for any writer, regardless of genre. There section on small presses begins with section that includes Issues to Consider before Submitting, followed by a section on Evaluating a Small Press–both well worth reading.
  6. Last and probably the least reliable is Google. You can type in the name of the publisher and add the word Reviews. This can warn of some egregious practices, but it can also bring up rants by rejected authors.

If you have looked at all of the above and still believe your chosen publisher might be “the one,” it is time to contact someone and ask a few questions. Here is an example, but you will have many of your own to add.

  • What do choicesyou do for me as an author?
  • What do you expect from me?
  • How do you publicize your books?
  • How much will it cost me?
  • Do you have a succession plan?

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. After all, you are entrusting this company with your baby–the one you spent months or years writing. Make sure you have a good fit. Divorcing a publisher can be more difficult than divorcing a spouse.


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