A large part of achieving success as an ebook author is discovery. Getting noticed amidst the huge volumes of authors and ebook titles might seem as though you’re walking around the streets of Shanghai wearing a sandwich board, marching by an oblivious crowd. There are smart things you can do as an author to raise your visibility and some are even free. Keywords, for example, are an under-utilized tool for finding readers (as Beth Bacon explains in this Digital Bookworld article).

Or, you can take more proactive steps to make an immediate impression and spark interest in your target audience. Book trailers leverage the principles that have been used in movie trailers for many years. By using strong visuals, a powerful narrative, and inspiring music, you send a message directly to the the brain’s limbic system, triggering a range of emotions. As an indie author, you may not feel entirely comfortable moving from the more cerebral world of words to the domain of cinematic stimuli, but the same techniques that work effectively in a book have an equivalent mode of shorthand expression in a video: empathy, surprise, mystery, atmosphere, danger, character, excitement. But, instead of having a few hundred pages to work with, you’re compressing the narrative energy of a book into a 60-second collage of music, speech, and visual dynamics.

Do-It-Yourself Possibilities

What used to be limited to the realm of full-fledged video production studios is now available to everyone and even kids are using computer tools to create book trailers. But, of course, the fact that anyone can do it doesn’t mean that anyone can do it well. We’re all awash in multimedia content daily and, because of this, we all have an instinctive reaction to this type of content, whether good, bad, or indifferent. It wasn’t too many years ago that authors gained claim to the liberating possibilities of electronic page design and began self publishing books instead of relying on vanity presses or mainstream publishers. Some did it badly. Others mastered the art and produced successful, attractive titles. The point is that producing cogent, compelling video content in the form of a book trailer is a skill that can be learned and one that can become part of the marketing toolkit for an indie author. Or, soliciting the services of a production company comfortable working within a limited budget can be effective approach as long as you have a sense of what can be done on a small budget. Photographic stills, kinetic typography, basic motion graphics, smooth transitions, quality music, effective voiceovers—all of these can combine to create a video that communicates the essence of a book to prospective readers. Here are some Tips for Producing An Effective Online Book Trailer from Valerie Peterson.

Tapping the Popularity of Video and Mobile

The popularity of Internet videos is skyrocketing, as is the use of smartphones as the go-to computing device. A placed article on The Guardian, Why online video is the future of content marketing, cited a statistic from Cisco that by this year, 2017, video will represent 69 percent of all consumer Internet traffic. Other stats from the article: YouTube garners more than one billion unique visitors each month. And, Nielsen claims that 64 percent of marketers expect video to dominate their strategies in coming years. Other more recent stats confirm the rising importance of both video and mobile (for example, The Top 10 Stats from 2015 Show the Importance of Video Marketing).

Creating book trailers for mobile, of course, presents a challenge. To work well on the limited geography of a smartphone screen, a video book trailer has to be skillfully designed. Keep the detail to a minimum. Don’t rely on bombastic music that might not translate well to a pair of ear buds. Make sure any print is large enough to read on a 5.5-inch screen. But, in keeping with the trends evident around online video consumption, think mobile first for your book trailer design.

How effective are book trailers at selling books? From initial indications, it’s still an open question. I saw various statistics being passed around the Internet, usually from ComScore or Forrester’s Research, but neither of those sources appears to corroborate the rather impressive sales boosts that others were citing. My guess is that somebody made up some numbers and others rushed to copy these statistics without actually verifying the source. Such is the state of veracity on the Internet these days.

From the perspective of an indie author seeking a path to greater readership, a book trailer offers an opportunity to tap into the burgeoning lingua franca of the Web: video. There are many other marketing tools available, but a video can provide a concise, emotion-packed preview of your book and, once created, can be used in a variety of ways to help increase the visibility of your work. As with any speculative marketing campaign, success isn’t a guarantee, but imagination and innovative communication can tip the scales in your favor.

Book trailers can be a reflection of your art that is as expressive as the book itself. No one knows your book as well as you do. If the creative work you do is simply explaining precisely to someone else what you want to see in a video or developing the video yourself based on your own ideas, let it be a true expression of your artistic vision.

The one thing you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision.
– Neil Gaiman