What I’m about to say shouldn’t be controversial.

Just because a video has a book in it, doesn’t automatically make it a book trailer.

Before people bring out the pitchforks, hear me out.

You can have a commercial for any productincluding a book. The book video you made to promote your new novel might actually be a commercial, and that’s ok!

An author can do a video interview talking about their book. In fact, that’s a great idea, and you definitely do it and put it all over social media. But that interview isn’t automatically a book trailer just because you’re promoting a book on camera…

Actors do tons of interviews to promote their movie on a press tour. Is every one of the actor’s interviews a movie trailer? Of course not.. an interview an interview. The movie trailer is something separate. No one disagrees with that. But when it comes to books, there’s some confusion.

An author can do a video interview talking about their book… that doesn’t make the interview a book trailer.

… So where did the confusion stem from? Why do so many people think that any promotional video regarding books is automatically a book trailer?

The root of the confusion is because (as I’ve mentioned so many times before) authors are being forced to promote their own books. In most cases, this means that people who aren’t professional video editors are struggling to make videos with the limited tools they have at their disposal often on shoestring budgets. These authors aren’t marketing experts, directors, or cinematographers: they are authors. Yet, the publishing industry has demanded that these writers get out there and convince people to buy buy buy.

“These authors aren’t marketing experts, directors, or cinematographers… they are authors. “

Book trailers have been around for more than 10 years. Even some of those early ones are incredible (Check out this 2009 Book Trailer for Leviathan)

Book Trailers were conceived to be like their namesake: movie trailers. Yet hundreds of photo slideshows have been uploaded to the internet with the title “Book Trailer” because the authors who made them didn’t have a dump truck full of marketing dollars and a team of filmmakers at their disposal. They couldn’t make book trailers, they could only make photo slideshows. They did the best with what they could at the time and there’s no shame in that.

But the tide is turning. More and more affordable book trailer companies are popping up, and the tools that authors have to learn to make their own DIY book trailers (including this blog!) are making it easier for authors to make actual book trailers for their books.

As book trailers move into 2019 and beyond, photo slideshows are rapidly going to go the way of the dinosaurs and myspace.

Bestseller Trailers was conceived as a place to showcase and critique the best book trailers in existence. Book trailers are an evolving art form that should be celebrated and discussed. They’re an important tool for authors and in the future will be the primary way readers search for books.

I have personally watched many hundreds of book trailers and have drawn conclusions about the past, present, and future of book trailers based on this research. The publishing community has been disjointed on the definition of a book trailer for a long time. That ends now.

Book Trailer Definition:

To be a book trailer, the video must meet these requirements:

  1. A book trailer is a promotional video made expressly for an upcoming or already published book in any genre including but not limited to MG, YA, NA and Adult fiction or non-fiction as well as children’s picture books and graphic novels.
  2. A “book trailer” is a visual representation of a book’s content.
  3. The video must give some insight into the world, characters, and/or plot.
  4. It must be a video comprised mostly or entirely of moving pictures. (ie. video footage, animation, moving graphics, etc.)
  5. While a book trailer may employ the use of still photos (see this example and also this one), a slideshow of entirely still photos with no other video or animation is likely a slideshow.

Regarding #2: There is some flexibility to the visualization of the book’s content depending on the sub-category of book trailer. A ‘Cinematic’ Book Trailer for instance looks like a movie trailer with actors, costumes, props, set design, etc. But a children’s picture book trailer wouldn’t need those things because it is, in its nature, already illustrated. The purpose of that book trailer is then to turn those illustrations into moving pictures. (See the parallax example here). There are also Dynamic Graphic book trailers that introduce the world with computer graphics that often reinforce or bring to life the visual of the book’s cover art. See this example and also this one. (See the Book Trailer Style Guide for more information.)

Slideshow Book Teasers

If you have made a slideshow about your book from pictures you found on the internet, that is a great start! Think of it like an inspiration board or a mock up for your book trailer. You can either use it as a frame of reference for storyboarding your DIY book trailer or give it to a professional book trailer company and ask them to make a book trailer with comparable elements. If you release it as-is as a promotional slideshow or book inspiration album (given that you have proper permissions for the photos)… it’s ok to call it that! You can call it a slideshow teaser. That sounds cool.

Types of Book Trailers

Now that we know the definition of what constitutes a book trailer, read my subsequent article about the various styles of book trailer which explores examples of sub-categories of book trailers and breaks down the classification system even further. Now that you know your video is a book trailer, what kind of book trailer is it?

Book Trailer Style Guide
Book Trailer Style Guide

If you have a book trailer (or author trailer) you would like to submit for inclusion in our library, please fill out this form.

Please don’t forget to add yourself to our email list and follow us on twitter (@bestbooktrailer) and facebook (@booktrailerlibrary).

Do you have something to add about the definition of book trailers? Weigh in on the topic by leaving a comment below!