To Book Trailer Or Not?

This post, by Bob Mayer, originally appeared on his Write It Forward blog on 1/9/11 and is reprinted here in its entirety with his permission.

I recently got caught up in a ‘discussion’ on Twitter about book trailers.  Not that you can really discuss anything on Twitter.  I’m not a 100% one way or the other type of guy on most things and that’s hard to do on Twitter.  Plus, it’s hard to convey sarcasm or irony in 140 characters, and once in a while I slide into both.

I call my book on writing a Toolkit because I don’t think there are any rules to writing.  There are guidelines and suggestions, but if you use the wrong tool, it’s you who are wrong, not the tool.  In fact, in Warrior Writer, I end the book and presentation pointing out that you have to break rules to succeed give and the paradoxical three rules of rule breaking.

Some people swear by book trailers.  These are usually:  people who’ve made one; more so, people who make money making them.

One comment several people made who’d done them was that they were ‘fun’.  That’s fine.  I’m not a Grinch.  But I’m also a professional writer.  I recently posted on the PAN loop of RWA a link to the Harlan Ellison video about Pay The Writer in response to a lot of writers talking about how they never charged speaking fees.  I was surprised at how many people suddenly spoke up after I posted that and said they agreed that we all needed to act more like professionals as writers.  (Ok, I’ll do another blog later about paying the writer) Hmm, interesting, I’m talking about book trailers and linking to a video.  So videos have a place.  Yes, they do.  I teach part-time at the University of Washington.  I try to show a video, usually from YouTube, every class to emphasize a teaching point.

But are videos useful for selling books?

Overall:  NO.


It’s a different media.  Check out professional promoters and advertisers.  How many promote across media?  How many book advertisements have you seen over the years on TV?  Very few.  Do you think the publicity departments at the big publishers were stupid?  They’ve tried it.  Rarely does it translate.

Someone sent me links to trailers they thought were well done.  And they were.  Except the number of hits was in the hundreds.  I’ve had over 52,000 hits on my video regarding Special Forces, which is excerpted from my appearance on the Discovery Channel.  I’ve seen zero cross-over from that to either my books or my Who Dares Wins consulting business.

To argue the other side:  you’ve got to do something different to break out.  If I knew what that different thing was, I’d be doing it.  If I had an idea for a really weird and unique video I thought would go viral, I’d do it.  But if we knew the formula to make things go viral, we’d all be doing it and thus it wouldn’t work.

The Wall Street Journal weighed in on trailers and overall, the consensus was a waste of time and money.

Here’s something writers have to realize:  when you read blogs, articles, etc. often you hear about the 1% of people who did something and succeeded.  Rarely do they write articles or do people blog about failure.

I’ve got nothing against making them for fun.  But also consider the time, money and energy you put into them and think what else you could be doing to achieve whatever your strategic writing goal is.

So, the forum is open regarding book trailers?  Love ‘em, hate ‘em, could care less?