Spoilers in Book Trailers and How to Avoid Them

A great book trailer will entice a reader to pick up the book, not make them feel like they’ve already read it cover to cover. Book trailers are NOT movie trailers! Movie studios don’t need to leave much to the imagination because they’re inviting us to see a big budget spectacle, not experience a character’s journey.

Also, Hollywood is currently in the golden age of re-makes and regurgitations. Painfully predictable, recycled plots have become the status quo. We’d likely know the ending anyway even if we haven’t watched the trailer that gave away the whole 90 minute plot in under 2 minutes…

But a book is a different story (pun-intended!). As ironic as it seems, your book trailer must held to a higher standard than the trailer of a multi-million dollar movie because a Hollywood blockbuster has got an arsenal of marketing experts and dollar signs pushing it in front of the masses…. your book only has your wit, creativity, and elbow grease. If you’re lucky, maybe you even have some social media followers that aren’t just your friends and family…

And contrary to what Effie would wish you in The Hunger Games… the odds aren’t ever in your favor.

Between six hundred thousand and one million books are published every year! How are you going to convince a reader who has never heard of you to pick up yours? Why should they spend their time reading your book instead of playing Fortnite? That’s the question your book trailer needs to answer.

If you’re on this blog, you already know you need a book trailer. It’s not the end-all-be-all, but it’s a powerful tool that’s going to help your book get in front of the people who want to read it. 

Once you get their attention: it’s up to you not to ruin your book for them. So, let’s talk about spoilers and how to avoid them like the plague.

If you are boiling down your entire plot, you’ve likely got spoilers 

Think about your book trailer more like a pitch you’d give to a publisher than a book report you’d give to a teacher. It should not watch like visual Cliff Notes. It should not be a play-by-play of what happens.

How do you talk about a book and get people excited about the plot without revealing your best plot points? As an author, it may be tempting to share what you feel are the most intense parts of your book. Resist that urge. You have to dig deeper and be as resourceful as your characters… do not give away the best moments of your book because they are the most visually stunning. When you’re writing your book trailer script, consider explaining the premise of the book instead of the plot.

Use broader strokes instead of fine details.

Let’s take a look at how the book trailer for Sara Holland’s Everless does it. Here is the book trailer script:

“In the land of Sempera, the rich control everything… even time. Days and years are bled from our veins and turned into coins that they greedily devour. We perish. They live on for centuries. I once worked for a powerful family at Everless, the wealthy estate I escaped long ago. Now, in order to save the people I love, I must return to earn more time and face the boy I thought I’d never see again… but time is a slippery thing and I feel myself spiraling down a dangerous path. I must uncover the secrets of my past before time runs out.”

Everless Book Trailer

She starts off with a hook that tells us a crucial detail about the world the main character finds herself in… that the rich control time. She goes on to explain that it’s a literal currency in this world. She hints at things: the boy who she thought she’d never see again… some secret in her past. She also reveals a motivation to save the people she loves, so we know the stakes for this character are very high. But she doesn’t get into specifics. Why didn’t she think she’d see the boy again? Did she want to see him again or did they part on bad terms?

The visuals show scenes within an hourglass, which plays on the concept of time and does a beautiful job of visualizing the book covers official artwork, which also features an hourglass.

This is a great example of broad strokes in a book trailer. Watch the Everless book trailer here.

Introduce us to your world

One tactic to avoiding spoilers of the plot is to introduce us to the lead-up of the events that set the stage for chapter 1.

The book trailer for Truly Devious does a brilliant job with this. It tells us of a crime that happens before the start of the present-day part of the story. It sets the stage: a woman was murdered, a little girl went missing. The murderer left a note, but the crime was never solved. Now, after another murder takes place, a student is determined to take the case and unravel the mystery once and for all! The trailer explains the premise, introduces the main character through a first-person narrated voiceover, and gives us many questions without answers. It’s perfectly paced with just the right amount of information to be intriguing.

Truly Devious Book Trailer
Truly Devious Book Trailer

If you do have an amazing moment you have to put in your trailer… there is a way to do it. Scroll down to the bottom of this blog and read “A Problem Without a Solution is Not a Problem.”

Get creative: write a poem!

If poetry is your strong suit, consider taking a page out of ‘The School for Good and Evil” book trailer which opens with a child’s voiceover hooking you in with a rhyme that explains the book’s premise:

“In the forest primeval

 A school for good and evil

Two towers like twin heads

One for the good, one for the wicked

Try to escape, you will always fail

The only way out is through a fairytale”

There are no spoilers, just enough to entice you with the premise of the book presented in an extremely creative way. What do we know from this poem? There are two schools, one good and one evil. (We also know this from the title of the book.) It also tells us that the schools are located in a forest and the only way out of either school is through a fairytale.

The School for Good and Evil Book Trailer
A very clear visual depiction of the two schools: The School for Good and The School for Evil set out side by side.

After the poem, the text finishes out the rest of the script without a voiceover. It reads:

“This summer the gates will open to the school of your dreams…”

Several quotes are then sprinkled from critics who read and loved the book. There are visually stunning images of fairies, swordfights, princes getting down on one knee… but not a spoiler in sight!!! It finishes with the date that the book launched so the reader will know when they would be able to buy it!

Book Trailer Quote from R.L. Stine
Even the quotes from the book trailer that encourage people to read the book do not contain spoilers!

This is a great example of a book trailer that doesn’t have any spoilers. Watch the book trailer for “The School for Good and Evil” here.

Speaking of Quotes…

Adding quotes to your book trailer is a great way to generate interest and avoid spoilers. If your book is a sequel, you can begin your trailer with press quotes and reader reviews from your first book. This is how the book trailer for Veronica Roth’s Insurgent opened: with an avalanche of quotes that ramped up in order to generate hype for the second book of the wildly popular Divergent series.

If you don’t have this many quotes, it doesn’t matter. Just pick one or two well written (and short) testimonials and integrate them into your trailer. Spoiler avoided! Watch the book trailer for Insurgent here.

A Problem Without a Solution is NOT a Problem!

You’ve got an amazing plot point you MUST put in the trailer… how can you possibly get away with it without spoiling the story for the reader?

Present the problem, but withhold the solution.

If you show your character falling from a building, don’t show them opening their magic parachute and landing safely on the ground. If you show your character trapped in a metal cage, don’t show them breaking the lock and jumping out.

Present the problems your character faces, but withhold the resolutions. A great example of this is in the Serafina and the Twisted Staff book trailer. We see Serafina reach for the staff, but just before her fingers touch it, the camera cuts to black. We have no idea if she actually gets the staff or what happens once she does. Sometimes the lead up to an intense moment will get the reader hungry to know what happens. And that’s the whole point of your book trailer: you need to make the (potential) reader curious enough to pick up the book.

Avoid Spoilers in Book Trailers
Serafina and the Twisted Staff Book Trailer

I hope this blog about Book Trailer Spoilers and How to Avoid them helps you make your book trailer spoiler-free! 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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Don’t forget to check out our other articles about book trailers, like the top 10 book trailer mistakes and how to avoid them!

Top 10 Book Trailer Mistakes

Did I leave anything out? What do you consider a spoiler?

Comment below!