10 Things to Include in Your Book Trailer

You finished writing your novel tens of thousands of words long, but now that you have to sit down write the script for your book trailer, you don’t know where to start. The greatest book trailers all have a few common denominators. These are ten things you should be sure to add to your book trailer.  

Quotes

Have you had advance copies of your book reviewed? If so, what did the critic say? If not a critic, then a fellow author? teacher? friend? dentist? Get someone to look at your book and hopefully love it. Consider adding one or two strategic quotes from someone who is enthusiastic about your book.  See the following example:

Watch the book trailer for the novel “The School for Good and Evil“.  Toward the end, there are quotes from people who loved the book. Your reviewer doesn’t have to be as famous as R.L. Stine, but if your book trailer has a well written testimonial, it will only help encourage other readers to pick up your book!  

These quotes are often added toward the end of the trailer just before the cover art reveal. Sometimes, as with the case of the Insurgent Trailer, the quotes appear in the beginning. 

The Book Cover Art

Again, this is something that should go toward or at the end of your trailer. Why is your actual book cover art important to add? Can’t you just add the title in regular font? No! You want to help your reader recognize your book instantly when they go shopping for it!!!

You don’t just have to plop your cover art file in the middle of a black or white background: you can make the background of your book trailer compliment your artwork! Look at this example from the Renegades book trailer:

The book trailer for Renegades by Marissa Meyer. Watch the trailer here. 

Location, Location, Location

Where does your novel take place? In what kind of world? Set the stage for the landscape in which your main character finds him or herself. Use video, animation, illustration, or even plain text to emphasize this. It doesn’t have to be an actual city or place, but you should describe something about the world you are introducing the reader to. Here’s a blatant example:  

The above is from the book trailer for Insurgent by Veronica Roth. First, the cityscape comes into view followed by the words, “In a futuristic Chicago, the factions are crumbling…”

There is a lot of information packed into this one line and image, and it perfectly sets the stage. Also pay attention to the font used here and see how it compliments the rest of the imagery. Whatever font you are going to use for your trailer, don’t just automatically go with something like comic sans because it’s already installed on your computer. A stylized, professional font can make a big difference. See my blog on Top 10 Book Trailer Mistakes to read more about that. 

Introduce Your Main Character

This is a big one: introduce your reader to the character they’ll be cheering for. You don’t have to hire an actor if you don’t want to, thought that certainly is an option. At least give us their name and describe who they are. What are they struggling with? What are their hopes and dreams? 

From the book trailer for “We Own The Night

Introduce Supporting Characters

This works whether your protagonist has only one best friend, no friends and just a school bully, or if you have a giant ensemble cast that would make The Sound of Music feel inadequate. Introduce someone else besides your main character. Here is a great (albeit extreme) example:

This example is from the book trailer for “The Thousandth Floor“. It introduces a large ensemble cast without showing a single person’s face. This is a creative way to hitch a ride up the elevator and meet the people who will be your new neighbors over the course of the book. Watch the book trailer here.

A Great Script and Compelling Voiceover

With simple videography, no discernible set, only one actor, and one carefully chosen prop (the crown): the book trailer for “Red Queen” still manages to hook viewers in instantly and delivers quite the punch.  The key is a great script and vocal performance. It doesn’t give away the whole story: there are no major spoilers and yet it is captivating in its execution. Watch the Red Queen book trailer here and listen for yourself. 

Dissecting what makes a great book trailer script will take a whole blog entry unto itself. Look out for that one in the future. 

A Carefully Chosen Prop

One carefully chosen prop can make a world of a difference. In the Red Queen book trailer, the crown compliments the cover artwork of the book.

The actor interacts with the prop throughout the entire trailer and even creates conflict with it when she cuts herself on the crown and her finger bleeds. She clenches her fist: obviously preparing for a fight. 

The Author’s Name

I’ve seen a lot of book trailers and it always shocks me when I get to the end of it and the author’s name is nowhere in sight. Yes, it’s an opportunity to get readers interested in your book, but it’s also a chance to cultivate a following of people who love your larger body of work and will buy your next novel. Even if you only plan to write one book and never write another: you can help readers find your book more easily if they know the author’s name. 

Video (or Animation)

This would seem like common sense to put video in a book trailer, but I see a lot of book trailers out there that are slideshows of still photographs. Add some movement, and you don’t only have to rely on the ken burns effect!

If you truly can only use still images instead of video, take a page from picture book trailers on this site and use the parallax effect. The parallax effect will create a sense of depth that will make your images pop off screen! Look at this beautiful example here: Wherever You Go Book Trailer . All of the beginning shots are tight, ken burns style effects. However, when the rabbit goes outside the world is bright and multidimensional until it finally builds to the last shot where there are many layers of depth. 

This is the transition scene where the depth really begins. Notice how the trees outside move independently of the building in the foreground. Watch the trailer here.

A Call to Action

Where is your book available? When will it be available? If the reader watched your video to the very end, it means you’ve got their attention. Ask them to buy your book and tell them when and where they can get it. Or if you don’t want to do that, ask them to sign up for your mailing list! Don’t bombard them with too many things, but use the opportunity to change someone who wants your book to someone who has your book.

Now that you know what to include in your book trailer… what mistakes should you watch out for? Read my article here about the 10 mistakes to avoid when making your book trailer and the one dead giveaway your book trailer isn’t professional!

Top 10 Book Trailer Mistakes
Here's what you can do to make your book trailer instantly better

I hope these Ten Things to Include in your Book Trailer help you make your book trailer awesome! Did this list help you? Send me a link with your book trailer, and I’ll watch it! Submit your book trailer here.

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Did I leave anything out of this list?

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