Let’s face it: there are a lot of terrible book trailers out there. The good news is that there are a lot of amazing book trailers too. What makes a book trailer effective or awful? We’ve compiled a list of the top ten mistakes people make when creating a book trailer. Check out our list below so you know what to watch out for! 

Calling it a book trailer when it’s just a promo spot

A book trailer by any other name will still be a book trailer. However, I have seen many videos that claim to be book trailers that are actually just commercial spots or interviews. The following are NOT book trailers:

  • A book-signing promo of fans standing in a line screaming the celebrity author’s name.
  • Someone being interviewed talking about the book. If Sir Peter Jackson had an interview on Lord of The Rings,that video is not then automatically a book trailer. Even if the author is talking about the book, it’s still just an interview.
  • A video that doesn’t give you any insight to the characters, world, or story.

If you make a promo video, it’s ok to call it that. It’s important to be clear on what type of marketing materials you have got in order to help you better understand the best way to leverage those tools in your marketing toolbox. If your video is an interview, it’s ok to call it an interview! If it’s a book cover reveal video, that’s cool! If it’s an unboxing video of your first print run, that’s awesome! A book blog? Neat!

“Cover Reveal Video” “Unboxing Video” “Teaser” “Interview” “Promo”… your video might fall into one of those categories. Using a spray paint approach with the term “book trailer” just frustrates and confuses your audience.

A book trailer is a specific kind of book video that can be defined by five key elements. If you want to know exactly what a book trailer is, read this.

But of course if you still want to call your not book trailer a “book trailer” you are free to do that … for now.One day the dystopian future oppressives will begin cracking down on non-book-trailers.The apocalypse will occur from all the readers going crazy for being tricked into watching commercials when they were looking for book trailers… Or people might just get frustrated and not read your book… 

Incorrect Aspect Ratio

This is a very easy problem to fix, but all too common. If you import a clip or image into your video editor/maker and see those unsightly black bars on either side of it, you have an aspect ratio problem. Unless you are doing it on purpose for some creative reason, it only hurts your trailer not to fix it.

I’ve written a blog on this subject. Check out how to fix your aspect ratio problems here.

Outdated Fonts & Transitions

1990 called: it wants its fonts and this joke back. You don’t have to settle on your default system fonts. There are many websites were you can download cool fonts for free. Find a font that is both eye-catching and easy to read.

Outdated transitions is a harder problem to fix. Fuzzy X wipes, fades, and slides a-la-B movies from decades past only truly work if that is a stylistic choice you’re going for because the book is a science fiction novel set in 1970. 

If you can’t afford fancy video-editing, keep the transitions simple and your video will still look high quality. Do a clean cut/splice from scene to scene and make the visual hit on the beat of the music or at a points that punctuate what’s being said in the voiceover.

Using Celebrities to Represent Characters

There are book trailers out there that will try to use celebrities to represent the main characters by using a picture they found on the internet or by using clips from a movie. Unless that celebrity actually acted in your book trailer video, don’t use their likeness. Sometimes celebrities do act in book trailers (Like Zendaya!) but if Ryan Reynolds didn’t agree to be in your book trailer, you shouldn’t use his face even if he inspired the character you wrote. Besides, it’s distracting to the audience because anyone who has seen the movie will be thinking about that movie and not the story you’re trying to tell… If you can’t afford to do your own professional video shoot, there are plenty of professional royalty free video and images out there that you can and should use.

Shock Value That Has Little to Nothing to Do with the Story

We get it: everyone wants their video to go viral. However, including things in the trailer that are overtly graphic or sexual for the sole purpose of increasing views doesn’t actually make your book trailer better. It’s the book trailer version of clickbait:nobody likes clickbait and it might turn off a reader who would have been otherwise genuinely interested in your book.

Text that Flashes Too Quickly

This is again a very simple problem to fix, yet I can’t tell you how many book trailers I’ve seen that have this issue. Give the viewer’s eyes time to read what you’ve written. Additionally,you can include a voiceover to reinforce the message. When writing, we as authors know that it’s our duty to inform the senses of our audience. We have all five at our disposal through writing, but you only have two in a book trailer:sight and sound.   

Inconsistent Characters

If you are going to use stock photography or video to make your book trailer, use shots that obscure the model/actor’s face otherwise it will be confusing to the audience if you try to represent one character by two different people. The odd exception to this is if you are showing a character aging: then it would be appropriate to use two different actors. 

Using Static Photos + Slides

Not many people love sitting through powerpoint presentations. If your book trailer looks like it could be presented at a board meeting, maybe you might want to spruce it up with some motion. 

Making it Too Long

Imagine an editor chopping half your super-long manuscript and throwing it in the garbage: now do that to your book trailer. Long, drawn out slides of text that slowly fade over the course of fifteen agonizing seconds won’t keep anyone on the edge of their seat.

Keep it short and to the point. Every second of your book trailer counts and there’s no room for filler. Fight to keep their attention all the way to the very end. I’ve seen great book trailers that were only 30 seconds but still gave great insight into the characters and world building.

Generally 1 to 2 minutes is a good length for most book trailers. 

Too Many Spoilers

A book trailer shouldn’t give away the whole story. It needs to be enough to excite and interest the reader without cheating them from the experience of actually reading the book. Movie trailers are guilty of this constantly, and don’t you hate that? You think “why bother going to the theater! I just saw the whole film…” Don’t make your readers feel the same way about your book. Think carefully about what you include in the trailer with that in mind. If you’re stuck, start with the text on the back cover and use that as the basis for your book trailer script. Write your script first then decide what your most important elements are and hit those key points.

In the book trailer for “Serafina and the Twisted Staff” – we see the main character reach for the staff, but the camera cuts away before she actually gets it. 

Get creative with your visuals and leave things ambiguous. Two great examples of this are in the book trailer for “Serafina and the Twisted Staff.” The trailer shows Serafina reaching for the staff but cuts away just before her fingers touch it. (I talk about this in my book trailer review here) At another point, we see two main characters in cages, reaching for each other. We don’t know why they are in in cages or how/if they get out. It’s just enough to be visually interesting, without answering any of the important questions as to what happens in the plot.

I hope these Top 10 Book Trailer Mistakes help you on your journey as you make your book trailer. I’ll write future blogs with more book trailer advice, so please make sure to sign up for the newsletter!

Did I leave anything out of this list?

Comment below!

Now that you know what mistakes to avoid, head on over to my article about the 10 Things You Should Include in Your Book Trailer!

10 Things You Should Include in Your Book Trailer