Book trailers. Visual blurbs that give potential buyers a preview of the book. Great for promoting an upcoming new release, fairly easy to create. In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, a good example is Courtney Summer's trailer for her book Cracked Up To Be. Because we all (yes, every one of us) will be published someday and will need trailers for our bestsellers, I thought I'd take a closer look at Courtney's video to find out what makes a trailer good.
The trailer for Cracked Up to Be is 1 minute, 20 seconds long. People who are interested in your novel don't want to sit through a ten-minute explanation. Include enough information to grab the potential reader's attention, and let it go. The average length of most book trailers is between 45 seconds and 2 minutes. Any longer than that and you risk losing your audience.
Courtney's trailer consists of music, text, and slides. Though other elements are often used effectively (dialogue, actors, etc.), she keeps it simple, and the end result works. Whatever elements you choose to include, make sure they work together to get your point across. The viewer doesn't want to interpret fancy fonts or turn down the volume because the music is distracting. Remember that the story is the most important thing. Everything else is a means to that end and shouldn't detract from it.
You can see the what-not-to-do's all over the internet: cheesy real-life actors performing the summary, accompaniment that was written by the author (who's also an aspiring singer), slides that look like they were created with WordArt. Typos. *shudder* If you're going to promote yourself with a trailer, make sure you put your best foot forward. A second-rate trailer is about as effective as a shoddy query letter.
It ends on a good note
Just like a novel, ending a trailer can be tricky. You don't want to tie everything up too nicely, or why would people bother buying the book? You also don't want it to end abruptly; clunky is not a word you want associated with your video. The last pre-credits line of Courtney's trailer asks the viewer: "What's the worst thing you've ever done?" What a great line! It summarizes the plot, leaves you thinking, and immediately ties the viewer to the main character, because we all have regrets. Who doesn't want to find out what this girl has done??
So good job, Courtney, and thanks for letting me reference your video. It's a great example of how to market your soon-to-be-published novel via a book trailer. But I have a question for the rest of us: why wait for your book to be accepted before you create one?
You see them all over YouTube: the singer performing an original song, the would-be dancer jazz-handing his way through his own choreographed number. A lot of these people are merely amusing, but some of them have gotten discovered, and all because they took advantage of the wonderful world of the Internet.
So once your book is ready to be read by the world at large, why not create a trailer to promote it? Make it professional. Post the trailer on your blog or website. Include the link in query letters so agents and publishers can get an extra inkling about your book. It seems like an underutilized marketing tool for those shopping around their work. As someone who would love to see all of her friends published, I pose the question: Why not? What's keeping you from creating a trailer for your ready-to-shop book right now?